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 initiated a fund to establish a school in Willington Quay. This fund was used to rent a room to be used as a school 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 – 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 leased and those costs were borne by the parishioners. This building was extended over 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 and  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.

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.

1906 – Bishop Wilkinson gave permission for the building of a new church. Fr Savory purchased a further plot of land on 8th November, the parish now owned 1.5 acres of land in total.

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 Muttri.

1913 – The new infant school was opened.

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

1934 – Fr Michael O’Leary is appointed parish priest.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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