Spennymoor Settlement Papers

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The papers are largely concerned with the period up to about 1954. They contain annual reports and syllabuses of activities, administrative and financial records, correspondence, poems and essays written by Settlement members, cuttings, photographs, etc. They also include some material relating to other settlements, particularly the Durham House Settlement and the Harkness House Settlement, Lanarkshire, and more generally to the British Association of Residential Settlements. Correspondence from former members includes letters from several who in the thirties became involved with schemes of the Land Settlement Association to resettle unemployed industrial workers on the land, in Leicestershire and East Suffolk. The Farrells' personal papers give some information on cultural life in Co. Durham more generally, and on their involvement in retirement with cultural activities based at Ormsby Hall, Teesside, under the patronage of Mrs. Ruth Pennyman.

Administrative / Biographical History

Papers concerning the Spennymoor Settlement, Spennymoor, Co. Durham, 1930 - ca.1962, collected by its first (and only) resident warden, William G. (Bill) Farrell (1895-1971) and his wife Elizabeth (Betty), together with some personal papers of the Farrells.

The Spennymoor Settlement was founded by the Farrells in 1930, at the invitation and with the aid of the Pilgrim Trust, to provide a community centre in Spennymoor, Co. Durham, a small industrial town in the depressed south Durham coalfield area. Its declared objectives were To encourage tolerant neighbourliness and voluntary social services and give its members opportunities for increasing their knowledge, widening their interests, and cultivating their creative powers in a friendly atmosphere. It fostered amateur drama, art, literary and musical activities, provided a children's play centre, a citizen's advice bureau and poorman's lawyer service, and a range of other recreational, educational and welfare activities, and housed a branch of the county library.

The Settlement won particular renown for the quality of its drama and art. In 1938-1939 it built its Everyman Theatre-Art Gallery. Among the painters and writers it encouraged were Norman Cornish, Herbert Dees, Tom McGuinness, and Sid Chaplin. The Farrells retired in the fifties, when the Settlement ceased to have a resident warden.


  • 1. Spennymoor Settlement
    • A. Administration
    • B. Finance
    • C. Settlement activities
    • D. Miscellaneous correspondence with settlement members
    • E. Special occasions
  • 2. Papers concerning other settlements in and outside Co. Durham
  • 3. Other welfare activities by the Farrells
  • 4. Farrell personal papers and papers concerning their theatrical, literary and artistic activities outside the Spennymoor Settlement
  • 5. Miscellaneous

Conditions Governing Access

The collection has yet to be fully sorted and listed, and some files are not open for consultation. Permission to consult material in the collection should be sought in advance from the Sub-Librarian (Special Collections).

Acquisition Information

Presented by Mrs. Elizabeth Farrell, 1986.

Other Finding Aids

This collection description only.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Sub-Librarian, Special Collections (e-mail PG.Library@durham.ac.uk) and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


Armstrong, Keith, ed., Homespun: the story of Spennymoor and its famous settlement told by local people (North Shields, 1992)  Farrell, W.G., The first seven years at the Spennymoor Settlement: a historical sketch and an appeal (Spennymoor, 1938)The Spennymoor Settlement 21st birthday commemorative magazine (Durham, 1951)

Geographical Names