Leam Lane Estate
by Marie McNichol
Leam Lane Estate was developed and built between 1954 and 1966 to accommodate people who had to find homes due to slum clearances and an increased population in Felling and across Gateshead by Felling Urban District Council on land belonging to Leam farm, North Leam farm and Lingley House farm.
The land surveyed revealed potential problems of subsidence due to mine shafts from a number of collieries surrounding the area, but it was decided that these problems could be dealt with in the way of avoidance of the most severe areas of potential subsidence and so the decision was taken to proceed with plans to build a housing estate and facilities for approximately 17,000 residents.
Leam Lane Estate was an ambitious plan for its time. Its chief architect, Mr Fewster, had grand plans for the estate, with accommodation ranging from 1 bed roomed bungalows, maisonettes, up to large 3 bed roomed houses. The facilities for the estate were to include a shopping centre, various small shops, a community centre, a medical centre, doctor’s surgery, a branch library, a social club, 4 public houses, police houses with holding rooms, a petrol station/garage, 5 schools, 3 churches of different denominations and a swimming pool impressive by anyone’s standards!
The street names were chosen by council employee and local historian, Mr Charles Taylor and are all one worded with the exception of Leam Lane and Grange Crescent.
The estate was initially divided between Felling Urban District Council, Durham County Council (Felling and therefore Leam Lane Estate falling within the boundaries of County Durham pre 1974) and a housing association. In 1974, with the change of the county boundaries and the creation of Tyne and Wear County Council, the estate was then divided between the ownership of Gateshead Metropolitan Council (approximately 2/3) and a housing association approximately 1/3) a situation which remains to this day.
When a show home was opened on Turfside so potential residents could view the new homes, the queue was so long it went around the block! So much was the demand of these desirable new homes which were comparative luxury compared with the properties they were currently living in
On completion of Leam Lane Estate it had, for a time, the distinction of being one of the largest housing estates in Europe.
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Fewster Square is the main shopping area on the Leam Lane Estate. It was named after the chief architect that designed the estate, Mr Fewster. The square has shops on 3 sides with flats built above the shops, which proved to be unpopular, and the swimming baths on the 4th side. The residents of the estate were well catered for with the range of shops it could provide, such as the Hadrian supermarket (later Safeway, now Nisa); Don’s the bakers, Dewhirst butchers, Bell’s Drapers, a wool shop, Lawson’s fruit and vegetable shop, Brennan chemist (now Ashchem), Coop store, a post office and Roy Burns electrical store and in later years an Indian take away, Chinese take away, pizza takeaway, fish and chip shop, sandwich shop, pet shop, vets surgery, DIY shop, clothing store, newsagent , general dealer, hairdressers, tanning salon, tattoo artist, Book makers, florist and frozen food store (for those of you who remember other shop names or stores I apologise for any omissions I may have made)
Fewster Square also contained Leam Lane Social Club and the Bugle public house (now Heron’s Frozen Food store, converted in 2013)
In later years a housing/rent office was built in the centre of the square, but this was closed and demolished in about 2004 and the housing/ rent office relocated to a newly built integrated centre containing the community centre, Sure Start / nursery and library on the site of the old library, community centre and tennis courts, later a car park. The site was then covered by a purpose built dental centre.
Because of the size of the estate other smaller shops were built around the estate.
There were shops on Stileford (now houses), Meresyde (known as the Grange shops), Ridgeway, Cotemede (Minnie Cauldwell’s), Glynfellis, and Kellsway (a Coop store).
Oliver Henderson Park
Oliver Henderson Park or more commonly known as just the park, is land that was discovered in the initial survey of the estate to be particularly unstable due to potential subsidence so unsuitable to build on, therefore it was decided to turn the land in to a park and green space to be used by the residents of the estate.
The park was named after Oliver Henderson, long standing councillor and leader of the Parks and Open Spaces Committee.
The park had its own manmade lake, to encourage birds and wildlife but many a youngster would swim in it which is not recommended! A children’s play area complete with sandpit was also built as well as tennis courts and a bowling green. Over the years some changes have been added and others alas lost. A hut was built by the lake so that people could hire boats and row around the island this lasted approximately 10 years before being removed leaving only the jetty. The play area has been updated over the years but sadly lost its sand pit. The tennis courts have also been lost, replaced by a car park and a small enclosed football/basketball court.
A skate board park and football/sports building have been built in recent years and are quite popular as is the immaculate lawns of the bowling green.
Felling Swimming Baths
The swimming baths were very controversial when they were first planned and built in 1959/1960. The National Coal Board (NCB) strongly advised against it due the instability of the land and risk of subsidence, but this advice was ignored which was to prove costly over the lifetime of the baths, as not long after the swimming baths was opened remedial work was needed due to subsidence as well again in the late 1980’s at great expense to the council.
The design of the swimming baths, by the now discredited architect John Poulson, was also criticised as being unsightly and not in keeping with the area and its surrounding buildings, the swimming pool being made from concrete and the rest of the surrounding buildings being built from red brick .It was also hugely expensive to build at the cost of £200.000.But the scheme was promoted by Councillor Andrew Cunningham (later to be found guilty of corruption) as being great asset for the Felling area, as when completed it could host Olympic, international and national swimming events( but alas this was not destine to be as the pool was some inches short of the required Olympic standard).
The Swimming Baths were eventually built with a full size pool (albeit a bit short), a teaching pool, 10 metre diving board, a spring diving board and capacity for 1,000 spectators.
The Felling Swimming Baths was opened in 1963, and closed and demolished in 2010; a new pool was created within Heworth Leisure Centre, High Lanes, Heworth which opened 2012. A new housing development (Prince George Square) now covers the site which was built and completed in 2014.
Leam Lane Estate had its own well stocked branch library which was next to the community centre, this like the community centre was closed and demolished, and a multi-use building built on the site which contains the community centre, library, rent/housing office, and Sure Start / nursery, which was opened by Cherie Booth (former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s wife) in September 2005.
Leam Lane Estate has a health centre, Grassbanks, on Grassbanks and a doctor’s surgery, Longrigg Medical Centre on Longrigg.
Grassbanks is a multipurpose building which had a dentist (no longer there), chiropodist, toddler groups, and a base for health visitors. You could also get, baby milk, children’s vitamins, contraception and incontinence pads.
Longrigg Medical Centre began life as a simple doctor’s surgery with the doctor living above the surgery. Over the years it has expanded to accommodate more doctors, nurses and an increasing amount of patients. The doctor no long lived above the surgery and the living accommodation was converted in to clerical offices and doctors consulting rooms. The building itself has being extended to provide even more doctors consulting rooms and extra treatment rooms. Longrigg Medical Centre has patients from not only Leam Lane Estate but from surrounding areas such as Felling, Wardley and Wrekenton.
A new purpose built dental centre was built on the site of the old housing/rent office in the centre of Fewster Square and was officially opened on 27th May 2010. This replaced the old dental surgery which was above one of the shops in Fewster Square.
Leam Lane Estate has 5 schools, 4 primary schools and a senior school, all of which when opened came under Durham County Council, pre boundary changes of 1974 when the schools came under Gateshead Metropolitan Bough Council.
Colegate Community Primary School (Colegate Infants and Junior Mixed School) on Colegate West opened on 29th September 1964 and was one of the biggest schools in Gateshead. The infants and junior school was amalgamated and a nursery added in 1991 when it became Colegate Community Primary School.
Lingley Lane Primary School on Millford opened in 1959.
Roman Road Primary School (Roman Road Infants and Junior mixed school) opened on 8th December 1959.
St Augustine’s School is a catholic primary school
Leam Lane Secondary Modern School
Leam Lane Estate has 3 churches of different denominations, St Andrew’s, St Augustine’s and The Leam Methodist Church.
St Andrew’s is an Anglican church and was opened on the 7th July 1960 and its first curate-in-charge was the Reverend Joe Green. St Andrews has its own church hall adjoining the church.
St Augustine’s is a catholic church which was opened on 9th March 1962 under the care of Father John Daley. St Augustine’s was listed in * as an example of *.
The Leam Methodist Church was opened on 24th January 1959 with the Reverend Vernon Wood in charge. The church was built not only to accommodate the methodists of the estate but to replace the chapel at Heworth Colliery. The Leam Methodist Church also has its own church hall.
Leam Lane Estate has 5 watering holes for the parched residents The Eagle on Wealcroft, The Bugle in Fewster Square (now a Herons Frozen food shop), Deuchars Arms on Redemarsh, Durham Ranger on Cotemede and Leam Lane Social Club again in Fewster Squrae.
Actresses Jill Halfpenny and Chelsea Halfpenny and professional footballer Chris Waddle
Files on Felling (Joan Hewitt)
More Tales From Around Felling (George Law)
Memories and photograph from the late Mrs Mary White
Felling Tenants Handbook
Gateshead Post (Gateshead Library Archive)
Leam Lane Estate brought to you by
The Felling Heritage Group