|The Glebe Secondary Modern
School in 1950
(Washington, Tyne Wear)
By John D. Hall
I sat for the 11+ exam up at the old Grammar School, in Spout Lane. It was a red
brick building which has now been pulled down. I passed the exam but wasn’t
offered a place. A second opportunity occurred later in the term to sit the 11+
again. Once more I passed, and once more I wasn’t offered a place. It was
Ronnie Hill, a lad in my class, who was fortunate enough to gain a place this
So the cards had been dealt and I was destined to go to the Glebe Seniors.
|Me, John D. Hall, in the First Form at the Glebe Secondary Modern
Portrait photographer unknown. Buildings photograph courtesy of Audrey Fletcher
The school uniform, which was dark blue with light blue braiding, was optional.
The badge on the breast pocket was an interlinked GM which stood for “Glebe
Modern”. The uniform was first introduced in 1948/49 and was at first a novelty
worn mainly by the students from the better off families. However, even by the
mid 1950s many pupils did not wear the full school uniform.
|First Form students, at the Glebe Secondary Modern: 1955 intake
The blazers looked very smart but not every family could afford them. The
school understood this and made allowances. My younger brother Ronnie Hall
is on the class photograph above, and also Margaret Daglish who lived a few
doors from us. She is the daughter of my mam’s best friend.
Even after all these years I remember my teachers well. The headmaster was
Mr. Porter, and he later became a school inspector.
My subject teachers were:
Mr. E. Robson ... Woodwork
Mr. J. E. Robson ... Geography
Miss Davison ... Music
Mr. Arnold Walmsley ... Art
Miss Soppitt ... History
Miss Mary Baker ... French
Miss Self ... English then later
Mrs. Hope ... English
Mr. Bryden ... Maths
Mr, Swinney ... Science and Gardening
Of all of my subjects, Science and Gardening with Mr. Swinney were my
The Glebe Modern was the only school in the area to have a Young Farmers' Club
so we were very fortunate. It was run by Mr. Swinney. As well as there being a
huge garden at the school, there were also greenhouses. A variety of flowers and
vegetables grew in abundance and as club members we spent many hours
engaged in farming experiments. The club was open to both boys and girls.
|The Young Farmers’ Club in 1950. That is me, John Hall, in the back row.
I remember a competition was held for entries from all of the Young Farmers'
Clubs throughout County Durham. As I was good at Art I decided to enter the
Advertising Poster Section. I hit on the idea of creating a poster of the Young
Farmers' Club badge, which was round, blue and silver, and had a farmer
behind a horse and plough. Around the circumference were the words “Young
On my poster I accurately recreated a badge 12 inches in diameter. I won
second prize in the competition and received five shillings from the old Marquis
of Londonderry at Houghall Agricultural College, on the other side of Durham
City. Alas I never received a photo of the presentation. Ronnie Speck won the
cup for the school, for his farming experiments.
All of the boys did Woodwork, while the girls did Cookery. Mr. E. Robson was
my Woodwork teacher and I learned such a lot from him. I remember making a
coffee table, a clothes horse and a trinket box to start with. I still make inlaid
wooden trinket boxes today, with beautiful fretwork, and also dolls’ houses.
I always enjoyed our 45 minute dancing lessons once a week with our French
teacher, Miss Mary Baker. We learned the Dashing White Sergeant, Military Two
Step, Waltz and the Square Tango with records played on a gramophone for
accompaniment. It was good fun and a break from the usual classroom routine.
We walked across to the Miners’ Welfare Hall for our dancing lessons.
Me, John D. Hall, age about 14. I enjoyed my dancing lessons over at the Glebe Miners’ Welfare Hall
Photographer unknown Photograph courtesy of Audrey Fletcher
With my Music teacher Miss Davis I learned an appreciation of opera, how to
play the recorder and how to sing along with the music. I am sure that everyone
who went to the Glebe School will remember singing “Nymphs and Shepherds”
and “Oh for the Wings of a Dove”.
I was good at sight reading music and humming out the notes. Music was a
subject in which I often came top of the class. At home I was taking piano
lessons, with Mr. Watson who lived along at The Poplars, and a few years later I
learned to play the Hawaiian guitar.
Mr. J. E. Robson, my Geography teacher, lived in Glebe Crescent. He was just a
little man. In his classroom he had an accurate model of a ship, a tramp steamer
with a single funnel, about four feet long. It had been made in one of the
|Glebe Crescent where my Geography
teacher, Mr. J. E. Robson, lived.
Photograph courtesy of Audrey Fletcher
Mrs. Hope was my English teacher. She later went to teach History up at the
Washington Grammar School. Her husband was Manager of the NCB Training
Centre at Dame Margaret’s Hall. He and Mrs. Hope had been in India in the
Colonial Service and I believe that their two children were born over there. I
had heard that all managers at the NCB had been army majors. Mrs. Hope used
to keep bees and the hives were in the orchard next to Dame Margaret’s Hall,
where the nursing home is now.
|Mr. and Mrs. Hope lived in a ground floor
apartment at Dame Margaret's Hall.
Photograph courtesy of Audrey Fletcher
|Mrs. Hope, in the centre of each
photo, was my English teacher.
Mr. Arnold Walmsley was my Art teacher. His mother lived in my street, only a
few doors away, and he often went to visit her during his lunch time. He had
served on the submarines in WW2 and twice he was torpedoed. Later he was to
become headmaster at the Glebe Modern.
Mr. Arnold Walmsley His mother’s house Mr. and Mrs. Walmsley in 1968
Photographs courtesy of my brother-in-law, Edwin Fletcher
I was always good at exams and never came less than fourth off top. One year I
managed to come second. I was always beaten by Margaret Miller. Mrs. Hope
always said that I should have been at the Grammar School. I was born about
four years too soon.
September 1951 saw the introduction of the GCE and the Glebe Secondary
Modern was one of the first schools in the area to have a GCE class. Students
came from Hetton, Houghton, Penshaw and Newbottle to be in that class. I had
to wonder if there were enough places left for the Washington Station students!
And so it was that my destiny to work at the pit was fulfilled. I left school at the
Christmas after I had turned fifteen and went to work at the Glebe Pit, for mines’
training on the screens.
I sometimes wonder how my life would have turned out had I been given the
opportunity to go to the Grammar School ... after all, I had passed the 11+ twice.
|By John D. Hall
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