Memories of a Wearside school named after Indian Mutiny hero Sir Henry Havelock are today recalled – 75 years after it opened.
The storm clouds of war were gathering over Europe when Alderman Mrs E.E. Bell laid the foundation stone for Havelock Infants in Ford Estate on March 7, 1939.
One year later, on July 4, 1940, the “rustic style” school was opened. It went on to welcome generations of Wearside youngsters, until closing in 2006.
“Students could join at five, then work their way up through the infant, junior and senior schools – leaving at 14 or 15,” said Echo archivist Susan Swinney.
“I’ve been sorting through old glass negatives and found these photos. A great many readers will have memories, fond or perhaps not so fond, of Havelock School.
“But, while the classrooms, playing fields, science labs and gym may be long gone, at least we still have these wonderful images.”
All three Havelock schools had their roots in the depression of the 1930s, when several Wearside council estates were built – sparking a need for extra schools.
Work on what was originally known as Havelock Senior Council School began in 1935 and, just a year later, the £36,000 institution opened on September 8, 1936.
“It is the first of several schools designed to meet the needs of new estates,” the Echo stated. “It is an ambitious scheme which provides all modern amenities.”
A site at the centre of Ford Estate was chosen for the school, close to Henry Havelock’s birthplace of Ford Hall – prompting the decision to name it after him.
Individual departments for 240 boys and 240 girls were built, with all lessons strictly segregated. Extra space was designated for future expansion if necessary.
“It is single-storey, designed on a quadrangular principle. The walls are rustic brick, in keeping with the rural surroundings,” reported the Echo. “Accommodation provides for manual training, metalwork, craft, science and domestic science - in accordance with the latest Board of Education recommendations.”
Havelock School drew students from across the Pallion and Hylton Road areas, as well as Ford Estate, and quickly proved exceedingly popular with Wearside parents.
Indeed, even as the doors to the new school opened, so plans were being drawn up to expand it – with new additions to include a high-tech gym and swimming pool.
“More accommodation has already become imperative,” revealed the Echo at the time. “The Education Authority will proceed with an extension as soon as possible.”
Plans to build a junior department, infants unit and special school were drawn up too, but did not come to fruition until the Second World War.
“The senior school later became Havelock Secondary Modern, and closed in 1975. But the Havelock name lived on through the junior school for decades,” said Susan.
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