Spennymoor Settlement Papers

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 more generally to the British Association of Residential Settlements. Correspondence from former members includes lettersfrom several who in the 1930s 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 include records of Bill Farrell'stheatrical career prior to 1931, and give some information on cultural life in Co. Durham more generally, and on the Farrells' involvement in retirement with cultural activities based at Ormsby Hall, Teesside, under the patronage of Mrs RuthPennyman.

Administrative / Biographical History

Papers concerning the Spennymoor Settlement, Spennymoor, Co. Durham, 1930-1972, collected by its first (and only) resident warden, William (Bill) G. 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 1931, 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 creativepowers 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 andwelfare 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 departed from County Durham in the mid-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 of the Farrells
  • 4. Personal papers (chiefly of Bill Farrell)

Access Information

Open for consultation, with the exception of two files to which access is restricted under terms of the UK Data Protection Act 1998: SPE 3/E/3; SPE 3/F/2-41.

Acquisition Information

Presented by Mrs. Elizabeth Farrell, 1986.

Other Finding Aids

Separated Material

Durham County Record Office: D/DRCC 52, 149: Correspondence, 1935-1967. D/DRCC: 146-148: financial records. D/DRCC 141-145: Durham House and Spennymoor Settlements Joint Council minutes, accounts and correspondence, 1933-1948.

Private Collection: Diaries of William G. Farrell, 1940-1954.

Private Collection: Spennymoor Settlement Members' Association Minute Books.

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 assistwhere possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


The Spennymoor Settlement. 21st birthday commemorative magazine (Durham, 1951). Abley, Bob, Spennymoor remembered, Book 2 (ARB Publications, 2000). Armstrong, Keith, ed., Homespun: the story of Spennymoor and its famous Settlement told by local people (North Shields, 1992). Cornish, Norman, A slice of life (University Gallery Publications, 2005). Farrell, W.G.,The first seven years at the Spennymoor Settlement: a historical sketch and an appeal(Spennymoor, 1938). Freeman, M., No finer school than a settlement in History of education, Volume 31, p245-262 (2002). Harrison, J. F. C., Learning and living, 1790-1960; a study in the history of the English adult education movement, (Routledge and Paul, 1961). Johnson, Christian, Strength in community : an introduction to the history and impact of the International Settlement Movement (IFS, 1995). Mason, William, A study of one aspect of adult education: the residential settlement (Dissertation, 1954). McManners, Robert, and Wales, Gillian, Tom McGuinness: the art of an underground miner (Gemini Productions, 1997). McManners, Robert, and Wales, Gillian, Shafts of light (Gemini Productions, 2002). McManners, Robert, and Wales, Gillian, Way to the better. The Spennymoor Settlement (c. 2008). Robertson, Wendy, Where hope lives (Headline, 2001).

Geographical Names