Reader memories of the mad monk at Middleton Camp

Girls posing beside the camp entrance sign.
Girls posing beside the camp entrance sign.
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You ate too many sweets there. You had fab times there. And you spent all your pocket money there.

And when we asked you for memories of Middleton Camp, you got in touch by the dozens.

Redby boys at Middleton camp in 1950.

Redby boys at Middleton camp in 1950.

And you even told us about a ghost who was said to haunt the place.

Thank you to the 13,000 people who followed our post about the venue, which was one of Sunderland’s major venues for outdoor activities, along with Derwent Hill.

We hoped you would think back to the activities you did while you were at the camp which was in Middleton-in-Teesdale.

Bill Hawkins, of the Sunderland Antiquarian Society, remembered his own days there and filled us in on the tale of the resident ghost.

Ate too many sweets.. bought a dartboard shaped fruit smelling eraser from the local shop .. couldn’t get to sleep because of the cold and the mad monk

Phil Bowden

“I was up at Middleton Camp in 1967 with my school Thorney Close Secondary Modern.

“We were little first years travelling up with third and fourth year lads. On the way up the older lads told us about there being a resident ghost, a nun she was murdered in the 13 bunk down on the right, or so the story went.

“And she was due to walk that very Tuesday when we were there.

“Well we arrived and needles to say who got that very bunk – yes, me. I never slept at all that night!

Middleton Camp.

Middleton Camp.

“When we were there it was pretty sparse. But it was the most enjoyable week I ever had, bonding with mates and older boys, and the teachers.”

Highlights included “tattie peeling” for the tea, and competitions which were organised by the teachers.

“I carry some great memories’ from that period. They were very very happy days.”

Phil Bowden was another to have great memories.

He said: “Ate too many sweets ... bought a dartboard shaped fruit smelling eraser from the local shop ... couldn’t get to sleep because of the cold and the mad monk ... apart from that.”

Helen Beattie told us: “Can’t remember the month but we were definitely the last school there. 28 years ago ... How old are we!”

Joanne Cook said: “Brilliant memories, good times”, and another visitor, Danielle Elliott, said: “Not a care in the world back then... Fab times.”

Anne Neville told us: “Loved it. Went three times in the 50s. Seemed million miles away by coach. Traveling so far away! Left mams and dads, brothers and sisters behind. Great adventures.”

Carol Anne Giles went with West Southwick School in the 1961-62 period and asked: “Can anyone remember Miss Wright one of the teachers.”

Perhaps Echo readers can help.

Maureen Henry told us she was at Middleton Camp in the forties. “They took us to Barnard Castle on the Wednesday. Spent pocket money in Woolworths. We pass it quite a lot in summer.”

Thanks to Maureen and to Marie Ann Bestford who said: “Loved Middleton camp and Derwent Hill.”

George Mustard commented: “Happy memories. The building is still there and looks exactly the same.”

Hilary Buttigieg said: “Went with Seaburn Dene Primary School. Think it was 1977.”

Thank you too, to Alan Carney, who sent us a photograph of Redby boys at Middleton camp back in 1950.

It was Phil Curtis, of the Sunderland Antiquarian Society, who started the ball rolling with his original article last week.

He told us: “For many children, it was the first time that they had been away from home without their parents, so it felt a little like the adventure of a lifetime for them.

“Perhaps the popularity of Middleton Camp can be illustrated by the way that children were sometimes chosen to visit it.

“There were often so many pupils wanting to attend that ballots had to be held in schools.

“Inter-school competitions were often organised at the camp by the accompanying teachers and, during the day, all pupils took part in outdoor activities which included walks to Kirkcarrion, Wynch Bridge, Fairy Dell and Cow Green.

“A day trip to Barnard Castle was also usually on the agenda.”

You have provided us with lots of great memories of the camp. We are always interested in hearing more, especially if you have photographs from those good old days as well.

Get in touch about Middleton Camp, or any other aspect of Sunderland history you would like to share. Email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk