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 parish. Between 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 parish. The 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
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
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
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
1971 – Canon O’Leary died and Fr Terence Kerr was appointed as
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
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
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.