at the Glebe Senior School
during The Great Depression
(Washington, Tyne Wear)
By Blanche Hullyer
I was born in 33 Avon Street, just behind Nelson Street, on 4th May 1918 when
the flu was virulent and lots of people were dying because of it. A couple of
years later the family moved to Middlefield Row down The Waterside. This
came about when the woman who owned the house which my parents were
renting in Avon Street, died, and the new owner who lived in Middlefield Row
chose to move up and live in Avon Street instead. There was a straight
exchange of houses.
|This is the house where I was born
Number 14 Middlefield Row had a front room, two bedrooms upstairs and an
attic with a skylight. Unfortunately there were no toilets, only middens, which
was the reason that disease was rife.
I started the Glebe Infant School in the September following my fifth birthday in
1923. However I attended for only two weeks as I had contracted Tuberculosis,
otherwise known as TB, a highly contagious disease. When I was seven in
1925 (and still not allowed to attend school) my sister Nellie caught Diphtheria
while I caught the Scarlet Fever. On the Sunday I had gone for a walk with my
Haylock Grandparents down through Walkers’ Buildings and along The
Waterside. The next day I was in Chester-le-Street Hospital where I stayed for
about seven weeks. When I left the hospital I was completely recovered from
both Scarlet Fever and Tuberculosis. The doctors said that my having the
Scarlet Fever had cured me of TB.
|The Waterside at Fatfield
Photograph courtesy of my son, Alan Hall
While I was in hospital, sharing a bed with my sister Nellie as was done in
those days, my mam and dad moved into a big council house at 15 The
Terraces in what is now Columbia. I didn’t stay there long though, as I went to
recuperate with my Uncle Herbert, Aunt Eliza and family at Sherburn Colliery,
over Durham way. They lived in a row of houses in the pit yard. What a shock
when the school board man came knocking on their door and said I had to
start school. Well, I didn’t like it. I was put in Standard 3, but not having been to
school for two years, and having to walk a mile there and back, I couldn’t cope,
so I returned to my parents in Washington. I still had to go to school though,
since the doctors said that I was cured of TB. Looking back it was a small price
to pay ... my younger sister Lily was to later die from TB.
|15 The Terraces is the house with the open front door
I didn’t return to the Glebe Juniors, instead I was sent to the Biddick Junior
School down Brady Square. I was always in a “B” class as I was never able to
catch up on my two years lost schooling, but under the circumstances I did
In the September after I turned eleven in 1929, I started at the Glebe Seniors
where Mr. Schofield was the Headmaster. This was the same year that The
Biddick became a Junior School only. Prior to that it had been both a Junior
and Senior school. The following month saw the beginning of The Great
Depression. Demand for coal dropped and lots of our local pitmen lost their
jobs. Money for food, heating, clothing and rent was scarce. Many families
were on the point of starvation and so were some of my friends at school.
Many was the time I would give away my slice of bread.
|In September 1929 I started the Glebe Seniors
Photograph courtesy of my daughter, Audrey Fletcher
There was a food kitchen along from the Biddick School and me and my
school friends often went there. It was a tin hut. My dad would have been
vexed if he had found out because he always considered himself a good food
provider for his family, especially during the Depression years. My dad even
managed to find a secret coal supply, an open outcrop down The Dene.
My dad loved being out in the fresh air. His guns stood next to the fireplace
and, having been brought up on the land in Cambridge, he was skilled in
shooting wild animals. He had a little brown and white terrier called “Lady”,
who acted as a retriever, and a big overcoat with a poacher’s pocket. Many
were the nights the family had hare pie for supper. He would also collect great
bunches of herbs from down The Dene and dry them in the cupboard next to
the fireplace in the kitchen. Every fortnight he would make herb beer in the
boiler after wash day, and store it in a big grey hen in the pantry. We helped
ourselves whenever we were thirsty.
|Many a time we had hare pie for supper
Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia
My dad was a keen gardener too and spent most of his spare time over the
allotment just across the road from The Terraces where Gainsborough Avenue
now stands. The allotment must have been well over an acre. He grew
vegetables in abundance. He also had several greenhouses, dozens of
raspberry and gooseberry bushes, and what seemed to me like an orchard of
apple and pear trees. My dad managed to feed his family of six children but our
clothes were mere rags. I was made to wear a pair of hob nailed boots to
school ... I was never so embarrassed!
|My dad, William Richard Hullyer.
He was a good provider for his family.
I never put in a full week at the Glebe Seniors because I had to take every
Tuesday off school to do the possing. My mam was blind so it was up to me
and my sisters to look after the house.
|Every Tuesday I had to stay home from school
to poss the clothes
Photo courtesy of my daughter, Audrey Fletcher
My Grandma and Granda Haylock, who lived in Nelson Street across from the
Glebe School, had lodgers, one being the brother of the school board man, Mr.
Throughout my time at the Glebe Seniors there were usually about thirty five
pupils in my class. None of us would have been considered outstanding
scholars because when you are hungry and in rags schoolwork is the least of
your worries. Still, the teachers had a job to do, and so we did our best to
concentrate on the work set for us.
Our subjects included Scripture, Geography, History, Arithmetic, Drawing, PE,
Cookery and English. If you were in the “A” class you also got to learn French
and Latin, though really I couldn’t see the point.
|A copy of our school report book.
I didn't keep mine
Photograph courtesy of Audrey Fletcher
I was good at Maths but hated English. We had to read novels, write
compositions and recite poetry. I dreaded being asked to stand up and read
aloud as I had a bad stammer. English may not have been my best subject but I
was the only student in the class who could read using the Moon Alphabet,
which was how my blind mother did her reading.
It was just as well that I was in a “B” class because the students in the “A”
class had to learn French. Instead of French, our class did Cookery. I know
which I preferred! Mrs. Stobbs was my Cookery teacher and because she
knew how our family was on, with my mam being blind, she used to let me
bake pies to take home, instead of fancy cakes and dainties.
The school reports were in a dark red, hard bound booklet about twelve by
nine inches. They were sent home twice a year, in December and July and
always had a comment from the form teacher. They had to be signed by a
parent and returned to the school at the beginning of the next term. As I never
did particularly well I didn’t bother to keep mine.
I was fourteen when I left the Glebe Seniors and went to work for the Wood
family in Glebe Crescent, cleaning, cooking and doing the washing for four
shillings a week. It was July 1932 and I was in Mr. Swinney’s class. In later
years he was to become my son John’s favourite teacher.
|Blanche Hullyer on her 88th birthday in 2006
Photograph courtesy of Audrey Fletcher
|This web page is dedicated to my mam
Blanche Hall, nee Hullyer.
Always loved and remembered
Web page designed by Audrey Fletcher