75 years of settling

Swarland, July 26, 1986, left to right: Vera Vaggs, Molly (Reavell) Cahill, Alan Hope
Swarland, July 26, 1986, left to right: Vera Vaggs, Molly (Reavell) Cahill, Alan Hope

A ROYAL visit to what is now a thriving rural village marked a significant change in the fortunes of unemployed Tyneside families who were given a chance to build for their future.

Saturday marks 75 years since the Duke and Duchess of York – who became King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother – visited the settlement of Swarland, the brainchild of Commander Clare Vyner.

The Square, Swarland, 50th celebrations, July 26, 1986.

The Square, Swarland, 50th celebrations, July 26, 1986.

Cdr Vyner, despite being affluent, wanted to do something to help those on Tyneside who were the worst hit by the inter-war depression.

And so he created the Swarland settlement.

On Saturday, July 30, The Duke and Duchess of York, friends of Cdr Vyner and his wife Lady Doris, paid a visit to the village which they had heard so much about.

Accompanied by the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, the Countess Grey and others, the Royal party was first shown the village store, followed by cottages where they met residents before visiting the Swarland Tweed Mill where the Duchess bought cloth of Swarland blue and grey. They also met pupils from Newton on the Moor School.

The Duchess of  York leaving Swarland village store, July 29, 1936

The Duchess of York leaving Swarland village store, July 29, 1936

But the day also marks another occasion.

The Duke of York had to leave for London instead of travelling to Glamis in Scotland, as a sequence of events resulted in the abdication of King Edward VIII and the accession of King George VI.

In 1986, a 50th anniversary celebration was held to mark the visit.

Local historian Vera Vaggs, who has lived in Swarland most of her life, said: “The 50th anniversary was such a wonderful day.

“It was superb and the people who came all laughed and reminisced and renewed old friendships. It was just so wonderful and people came from all over the country.

“It is nice with the anniversary coming up again to remember how good it was then.

“But it would not be possible to replicate it now because so many of the people who where there then and remember the visit are no longer with us.

“It keeps the history of Swarland alive and people are coming here with a link to the village.

“Several children of settlers still live in the village and several grandchildren or great grandchildren have relocated to Swarland.

“But it is a very different place now from what it was then.”