Dukeshouse Wood Camp School Hexham (Part One)

A Memory of Hexham

My school was one of the first to go to Dukeshouse Wood Camp School just outside Hexham. This was in November 1945 shortly after the Second World War with the lads from  Gateshead at Alexandra Road school. Our dormitory was named Poplars at the top left, next to Oaks. On the opposite side was Hawthorns, Chestnuts, Beeches and the hospital Sycamore. The games room was next to Sycamore where we could play table tennis and other indoor games. There was usually a dance held at least once in this building when we were there organised by I think teacher Mr Chicken. Other teachers  at the camp were Mr Simpson, and Mr Speed, both from our school. The meals area was at the bottom. At the very top was a playing field where I recall our lads representing Gateshead played South Shields lads in a football match. We got hammered 5-0. The headmaster at the camp then was Mr Mighalls who incidentally became headmaster at our school less than two years later. There is a headmaster's house less than a 100 yards from the main gate. Our first venture into Hexham was on the following Sunday morning when the whole camp walked down the mile long treck to Hexham Abbey. We walked back and it was quite a steep incline. During our stay at the camp we visited the area next to Devil's Water, about a half mile walk going west from the camp. This was ideal for the swimmers in our group. I was at Dukeshouse Camp on another two occasions and a trip to the Roman wall with everyone at the camp, on my last visit. We, representing  our school, played cricket against the teachers and camp staff on the big field near the old oak tree. I recall taking three  wickets but was outgunned by my colleague John Clifford Forster who took four wickets. I bowled first but I couldn't somehow get the range of the wicket. I had been bowling for a long time on the derelict North Durham cricket field a stone's throw form our street. but we played on a shorter pitch for years. John came on after I had bowled a dozen overs and it was a good move by captain Harry Wilkins as John got the measure of the wicket instantly. I can't recall the result of this match. I left school on my fifteenth birthday July 20th 1948 while at the camp. South street and Lady Vernon Schools were the other schools at there in 1947 and 1948 respectively. The second visit  we were in Hawthorns and my last visit in 1948 it was Chestnuts. We visited the Roman wall I think it was the last visit or maybe in 1947. Me and Kenny Story were lagging well behind the rest of the camp along the wall but we managed to catch up in good time but very exhausted.
I have been back to visit the camp a couple of times since, the last time about four years ago with my wife, son, and grand daughter Rachel who is now fifteen. There was a tank at the top where the playing field was for swimming but it wasn't there on my next visit. I have very good memories indeed. Some of the lads at the camp from our school included my cousin Harry Charlton, Norman Sutton, Harry Wilkins, Harry Nickerson, (Later Barry's Bakeries) Arthur Scorer, (Later North Durham CC spin bowler) Geordie Watson, John C Forster, Kenny Storey,  John Purvis, Stan Turnbull, Davy Heron, Geordie Irving, Robert Parmley, Alfie Bruce,(later Chrissie Waddle's brother-in-law) Billy Liddle, and Robert Brown, who later in 1950 was capped for England boys' football team. Also Matty Hall (South street) and Eddie Waite (Lady Vernon)
Les May.    lsmy59@aol.com

A memory shared by Les May , on Aug 15th, 2009.

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