St Aidan's Parish History

1856 –The seeds of the church in Wallsend

The inception of the parish began in 1856 when Fr Thomas Gillow then a priest serving the North Shields area along with Fr Bewick (who later became Bishop) initiated a fund to establish a school in Willington Quay. This fund was used to rent a temporary school room at the nearby Red Lion Inn. At the same time, a room at the Old Rose Inn in Willington Quay was acquired on a Sunday for the celebration of Mass. This was funded by the congregation who agreed to pay one shilling a week until each had paid a sovereign. This was the only service available to the Catholic population of Wallsend at this time.

1865 – Willington Quay was made a separate mission. Fr Henry Riley was appointed to look after the congregation which was still centred on the Old Rose Inn. On the 8th December 1865 the foundation stone of the school chapel was laid by Fr Antonius Williams OP in the absence of the Bishop. The building was completed in 1866 and continued to be used until Our Lady and St Aidan’s Church was opened in 1907. The land upon which the school chapel stood was at that time leased and those costs were borne by the parishioners. This building was extended over a period of time and later became St Aidan’s Junior School.

1886 – Fr G Van Kippersluis appointed to the parishBetween the years 1886 and 1899 Fr Van Kippersluis worked to build up the church, extend the school and clear the debt that had accrued to the parish. At the same time, he established a fund to build a new church. The school was funded through payments made by the families of the children who attended the school – education was not free. Alterations to the buildings were financed through fund raising by the parish including Bazaars and Easter teas.


1899 – Fr Savory was appointed to the parishThe 1902 Education Act required the upgrading of the existing school buildings. St Aidan’s became a non-provided school and while supported by the rates the parishioners were still responsible for the provision of new buildings and the repair and upkeep of the existing school.

1903 – Fr Savory bought 3/4 of an acre of land from the Bewicke Estate.This purchase of land on the 1stDecember 1903 made possible the extension of the existing school. As remains common practice today, the title of this land was held in the name of the Bishop of the Diocese who at that time was Bishop Wilkinson.

1904 – The parish began an intensive fund raising drive

1906 – Bishop Wilkinson gave permission for the building of a new church on the provision that the parish bought the lease of the land from Newcastle Council

Fr Savory purchased a further plot of land, ¾ of an acre in size on the 8th November 1906. The parish now owned 1.5 acres of land in total.  The purchase was again made in the name of the Bishop

1907 - The Church of Our Lady and St Aidan was opened on the 6th February. The first marriage in the church took place between Dick Elliott and Meggie O’Neill and the first Nuptial Mass between John Reynolds and Mary Jane Muttrie.


1913 – The opening of a new Infant School costing £3000


1920 – A further piece of land was purchased from the Bewicke Estate.Fr Wheatley purchased the land which was used to extend the infant school. The title of the land was held in the name of Bishop Collins and others.


1928 – The men of the parish built a parish hall on existing land


1932 – Two classrooms were added to the parish hall. CYMS built their own premises on the existing land


1934 - Fr Michael O’Leary is appointed parish priest


1936 – Land is purchased on which to build a secondary school. The purchase of this land from the Bewicke estate was completed on the 12th August 1936. The title to this land was held in the name of Bishop Thorman and the Diocesan trustees.


1941 – St Aidan’s Secondary School opened on the 14thJuly   Prior to the 1944 Education Act, the responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Catholic schools was placed on the parish. During the war, some of the parish buildings were requisitioned for the war effort. The army moved into the parish hall. The CYMS clubrooms became a fire watchers headquarters and part of the high school was used for the same purpose.


1945 –The women of the parish founded a branch of the Catholic Women’s’ League


1952 – The old “Parker’s Chapel” in Western Road was leased and opened as a Youth Club


1953 - Fr O’Leary purchased 3.025 acres of land on Coniston Road on which would be built a school, church and presbytery. In addition, he purchased a corner plot of land at the junction of Sandown Gardens and Perth Gardens


1954 – Fr Michael O’Leary was installed as a Canon of the Cathedral Chapter of the Diocese


1957 – The parish celebrated 50 years of the opening of Our Lady and St Aidan’s in Willington Quay



1957 – Holy Cross Infant School was blessed and opened by Bishop Cunningham

1960 – Significant alterations were made to St Aidan’s Church in Willington Quay.  The old entrance to the Church was sealed up and the porch converted to a more spacious baptistery, a new organ and carillon were installed in the organ loft and as a finishing touch, a statue of Our Lady was set above the new porch on the 8th May.


1964 – The Junior School at Holy Cross was officially opened in September.


1971 – Canon O’Leary died and Fr Terence Kerr was appointed as Parish Priest


1974 – Fr Kerr organised a land exchange with the Borough of North Tyneside involving the land previously purchased by Canon O’Leary. The exchange involved the land purchased on the corner of Sandown Gardens and Perth Gardens and resulted in the purchase of one acre of land and the sale of 0.66 of an acre of land with an equality of exchange payment of £1000 paid for by the parish


1977 – Holy Cross Church is opened by Bishop Cunningham on the 1st April. Fr Kerr was now parish priest of an enlarged parish of Our Lady and St Aidan’s Willington Quay, Holy Cross in High Howdon, five schools, two churches with two curates.


1979 – The Diocesan Rescue Society, later named Catholic Care moved into St Aidan’s Presbytery in Willington Quay 


1987 - Plans are made for a new catholic comprehensive school to serve the children of the nine parishes in North Tyneside. A new governing body is established to appoint the Head master and Staff in preparation for the new school.

1988 - St Aidan’s and St Anselm’s Schools close down and the new St Thomas More High School starts of necessity on a split site.


1989 - Extensions and adaptations (funded 15% by the nine parishes) are completed and St. Thomas More High School is consolidated on the single site at Lynn Road, Billy Mill.


1992 – Land purchased in 1903, 1920, 1936, and 1937 plus some of the land purchased in 1906 totalling 8.2 acres was put up for sale

1994 - Fr Kerr retired and was replaced by Fr John Gibbons


2003 - Fr John Gibbons moved to Boldon and was replaced by Fr John McElhone


2004- The land at St Aidan’s including the church was sold to Persimmons


2004 – Mass was celebrated for the last time in St Aidan’s Church on the 29th December

2004 – Holy Cross Church was renamed Our Lady and St Aidan’s in commemoration of the wonderful record of its predecessor in Willington Quay.


2010 – The Diocesan Trustees gave permission for major work to be carried out at Our Lady and St Aidan’s, after three months of worshipping in the school the Church was re-opened in November 2010


2015 - St Aidan's parish celebrated their Jubilee with a whole host of events throughout the year, from a family fun day and a Songs of Praise service to the installation of a brand new stained glass window.