Ancestry UK

South Shields Council Homes

In 1930, the Boards of Guardians, who had administered the poor relief system in England and Wales since 1834, were abolished and their responsibilities were taken over by county and county borough councils. Each council set up a Public Assistance Committee to oversee its new duties, which included the operation of the various children's establishments previously run by the poor law unions in each area. The South Shields Council's Public Assistance Committee took over the South Shields Union's Cottage Homes at Cleadon, where around 165 children could be housed, together with its accompanying convalescent home, and a 40-bed receiving home adjacent to the union's workhouse on Harton Lane, South Shields.

Cleadon Cottage Homes, c.1910.
© Peter Higginbotham.

The cottage homes were renovated in 1934. So that the general public could make a contribution to the cost of the project, a sale of work was held at the homes to help fund the work on the children's recreation hut.

Following the passing of the 1948 Children Act, councils were required to provide care services for all needy children in their area, especially those who lacked a normal family home. In common with other local authorities, the council established a new Children's Committee, whose responsibilities had previously been spread across separate Health, Education and Public Assistance Committees. The Committee took over responsibility for the cottage homes, whose address was now usually given as 10 Oakleigh Gardens, Cleadon.

The 1948 Act had recommended that where children needed to be in residential care, they should be in 'family group' homes, which ideally accommodated no more than eight children, or twelve at most. Beginning in 1950, the council gradually began to expand its accommodation in this direction, beginning with a house at 214 Westoe Road, South Shields. This was followed by 23 Henderson Road (1951) and 14 Edhill Avenue (1954), both of which were on newly built council housing estates. An older property at 277 Stanhope Road was added in 1956 and another council estate house at 16 Lewis Gardens in 1957. In around 1953, the Gabbitas Residential Nursery was opened at the Cleadon site, named in memory of the cottage homes' long-serving former matron, Mrs B. Gabbitas. The cottage homes at Cleadon closed in 1962, but the nursery continued to operate their until 1965 when it moved to new premises at Bisley Drive, Brinkburn Estate, South Shields. The Stanhop Road home also closed in 1962 and was replaced by a new estate home at 39 Grotto Gardens, Marsden. A new home was opened in 1967 at 140 Whiteleas Way, on the Whiteleas estate. The Westoe Road home subsequently became a reception centre.

The council's children's accommodation in 1972 is listed below:

Reception Centre, 214 Westoe Road, South Shields12
23 Henderson Road, Simonside, South Shields11
14 Edhill Avenue, Simonside, South Shields11
16 Lewis Gardens, Whiteleas, South Shields9
39 Grotto Gardens, Marsden, South Shields9
140 Whiteleas Way, Whiteleas Estate, South Shields8
The Gabbitas Nursery, Bisley Drive, Brinkburn Estate, South Shields2

In 1974, South Shields became part of the new metropolitan borough of South Tyneside. The South Tyneside council took over the running of the homes in its area.

Children's establishments run at some time in their history by South Shields Council.

  • Convalescent Home, Sunniside Lane, Cleadon*
  • South Shields Union/Council Cottage Homes, Sunniside Lane (later 10 Oakleigh Gardens), Cleadon*
  • The Gabbitas Residential Nursery, 10 Oakleigh Gardens, Cleadon, South Shields
  • Family Group Home, 14 Edhill Avenue, Simonside, South Shields
  • Family Group Home, 140 Whiteleas Way, Whiteleas Estate, South Shields
  • Family Group Home, 16 Lewis Gardens, Whiteleas, South Shields
  • Family Group Home, 214 Westoe Road, South Shields
  • Family Group Home, 23 Henderson Road, Simonside, South Shields
  • Family Group Home, 277 Stanhope Road, South Shields
  • Family Group Home, 39 Grotto Gardens, Marsden, South Shields
  • The Gabbitas Residential Nursery, Bisley Drive, Brinkburn Estate, South Shields
  • Receiving Home, Harton Institution, 1 Moor Lane, South Shields

* indicates link to pages on


The involvement of local authorities in the running of children's homes dates from 1930, when they took over the running of the poor relief system previously administered by Boards of Guardians. Surviving records for council-run children's homes may be held in each council's own internal archives. Prior to 1991, however, when a legal requirement was introduced for councils to retain records of children leaving their care, the survival of such records is very variable. Contact details for local authorities in the UK can be found on the website of the Care Leavers Association (CLA). The CLA also provides guidance on accessing childhood care files, which are normally only open to the individuals they relate to.

Locating local authority records has been complicated by the various local government reorganizations that have taken place in recent times, such as the abolition of the London County Council in 1965, and the major nationwide restructuring in 1974 in which many administrative areas were created, amended or eliminated.

Older records may sometimes be placed with the relevant county or borough record office. Many of these repositories have online catalogues of their holdings and also contribute to the National Archives' Discovery database. Note that records containing personal data usually have access closed for a period of fifty years or more.

Older material relating to South Shields Council homes may exist at:

Some records relating to council-run homes, for example inspection reports (though not resident lists etc.), are held by The National Archives (TNA). A closure period may apply to these records.