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Our Local History

Westoe Village – Full of History

The first recorded mention of the village was in 1072 when it was originally thought to be seven farms. Derwent Lodge, Westoe Hall, the White House, Chapel House and Ivy Cottage are thought to be sites of the original farmsteads and can all be found still standing in the village to this day. Designated as a Conservation Area the Village remains an exclusive terrace of Victorian homes once occupied by business leaders in the town and numerous famous persons over the years.

Sir William Fox (1812 -1893)

Sir William Fox was born in Westoe village and graduated as Batchelor of Arts in Wadform College Oxford in 1839. In 1842 he married his wife Sarah Halcomb and a few moths later they sailed to Wellington, New Zealand, on the George Fyfe where William would make his place in history. After leading the resolution which unseated the then Prime Minister Sewell, he took his first appointment as Prime Minister of New Zealand on the 20 May 1856. He went on to be replaced a further two times as Prime Minister before his final appointment on third March 1873. He is still to this day the only Premier or Prime Minister to have ever served on four occasions. He died on 23 June 1893, exactly one year after his wife.

Catherine Cookson (1906-1998)

Dame Catherine (Ann) Cookson, née McMullen; birth date officially 27.6.1906; also wrote as Catherine Marchant

Born in Tyne Dock, South Shields, an industrial region of the northeast of England. Catherine was determined to become a writer from an early age and she wrote her first short story, THE WILD IRISH GIRL, at the age of eleven. Leaving school at the age of thirteen she began working as a maid in the houses of the elite, witnessing the great class barrier inside wealthy society. From 1924 to 1929 she worked in a laundry and saved enough money to establish an apartment hotel in Hastings. She went onto marry one of the tenants, schoolmaster Tom Cookson, in 1940 at the age of 34. Spiralling into depression after several miscarriages, writing became her release and she joined the local writers’ group. It was here she took the transition from play writing to short stories and her first book, KATE HANNIGAN (1950) was born.

Elinor M Brent-Dyer (1894 – 1969)

Elinor M Brent-Dyer published over 100 books, but is remembered today mainly for her Chalet School series.

She was born on 6 April 1894 in South Shields. Coming from a broken home, her parents separated when she was barely three and her only beloved brother Henzell died tragically aged seventeen.

From an early age, Elinor had shown ability as a writer, and successfully had 101 books published.

She was renowned for untidiness, and was considered eccentric in dress, appearance. Good mannered’ but ‘dottily humorous, a very kind and generous woman. Her final years were spent at Redhill in Surrey where she died on 20 September 1969.

Dame Flora McKenzie Robson (1902 – 1984)

Dame Flora was born in South Shields to a large family, with two brothers, John and David and sisters Eliza (Lila) Margaret (Darge) Helen (Nellie) and Shela. From an early age Flora showed a talent for recitation, mapping the path that her life was to follow and she acted almost into her eighties.

In her later years she gave several outstanding performances for British TV including “The Shrimp and the Anemone”. She also performed in the West End theatre, in plays such as “Ring around the Moon”, “The Importance of Being Ernest” and “The Three Sister”


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