Friday, 9 March 2012

Northumberland Village

I'm going to leave the seaside for a moment and talk about a quaint place we discovered off the track of our tour guide.  I've passed by the entrance to Village Court many times, but never realised what an amazing oasis of quiet and gentility it is just on the edge between busy Whitley Bay and posh Monkseaton. 




The guide informed us that the Village Court was in fact  
"...the former Northumberland Village Homes. Opened in the 1880`s, the Homes were occupied by up to 150 girls who were kitted out in a distinctive uniform of a blue serge dress and a red cape and were given instruction in household duties. The Homes closed in March 1985 and have now been tastefully converted for housing..."




With a little digging I discovered that it was in fact the  "Northumberland Village Homes for homeless and destitute girls unconvicted of crime" and in 1884 the inspector commented that





"Five girls emigrated to Canada in the year, and were judiciously placed out in situations."


This sounds a bit sinister to me, given the tales of supposed orphans who were shipped abroad, when their parents were not dead, only destitute. 



One wanders down a single little street.  On one side are large houses with dates in the late 19th Century.  The are unique in my experience for having been built with rooms over a garage, though it is possible that the re-development, which built blocks of small ground floor flats on the opposite side of the road, included amending each of the large houses in this way.  They back on to large south-ish facing gardens beyond which is a pedestrianised road.    There is an interesting arch at the west entrance and a quaint little gate at the east entrance, leading into Duchess Street. 



It's just opposite from the Monkseaton metro station, another Victorian structure. 



Vivien and I agreed that if we couldn't live where we did, this would be a great choice.   She thought the small apartments would be attractive if she were living on her own.  I have to say I'd still be greedy and want one of the grand houses! 



The one-bedroom flats are listed at about £80K each, but I couldn't find any information about the value of the houses.  It doesn't look as though they change hands very often and I'm not surprised.  Vivien was told that these properties were only sold to persons over 50, which would make it even more attractive to many.  Village Court also appears to be one of the rare streets that Google Maps has overlooked.  There are photos at the entrances, but not inside.

The house at the Duchess Street entrance had an amazing conservatory, this intricate mock Tudor detail and a name: 



Fleming Memorial Lodge AD 1891. 



I've been unable at this writing to find out anymore about the history of this lodge or who were the Flemings, only that there was also a Fleming Memorial Hospital in Newcastle.  That is a mystery that will have to wait until I have time to visit the Local Studies people at the library or the Tyne & Wear archives, which apparently has rules, journal, case records, admission and discharge records and photographs.  I suspect it would remind me a great deal of Owatonna.



There appears to still be a Northumberland Village Homes Trust, registered as a charity in 1963 with a stated aim of 

... THE RELEIF OF POVERTY, DISTRESS AND SICKNESS AMONG CHILDREN AND YOUNG PERSONS UNDER THE AGE OF EIGHTEEN YEARS AND TO PROMOTE THE EDUCATION AND TRAINING OF SUCH CHILDREN AND YOUNG PERSONS LIVING IN THE NORTH EAST AREA. NO GRANTS ARE GIVEN FOR MEDICAL PURPOSES OR FOR "GAP YEAR" PROJECTS. 

(Their full accounts make for interesting reading, if you are as nosy as I am.)

If Vivien and I had made this discovery alone, I would have considered our time together that day very well spent!

6 comments:

Beryl said...

Did this place operate until 1985, training girls for service? What a colorful story. I would love to live in an over 50's neighborhood.

Ameli Nixon said...
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jacqueline kerr said...

I lived at the village homes from 1974ish to 1983, and the homes grounds where amazing, the houses where wonderful but living in care was horrible. it was an institution with lots of sad and damaged young girl who did not stand a chance living in care. The money from the sale of the homes and its ground went to the trust, the trust is run by upper class people who have no clue about the suffering of children going into care then or now.

jacqueline kerr said...

I lived in the village homes and am more then willing to give you some more info xxx

Shelley said...
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Shelley said...

Jacqueline - Thanks for sharing a bit of your experience. I don't doubt that it was an unpleasant place to live for all that it was pretty to look at. And though the historical documents I found say it was about training girls for servant jobs, I can't imagine there were any such jobs around in the 1980s. As you say, people with privilege and money have little understanding of the other end of the spectrum.