125 Years of Children North East

125 Leaflet


John T Lunn – Founder

Established in 1891, Children North East has been working for 125 years to improve the lives of children and their families. Originally known as the Poor Children’s Holiday Association our purpose was to offer support to the poor children who lived in Newcastle and Gateshead to give them a ‘hand up, not a hand out’, and this ethos is something we continue to pursue.

Our founders – John H. Watson, a clerk and Mission Worker and John T. Lunn, a Quayside merchant – talked about the welfare of poor children in Newcastle in the 1880s. In 1891, Lunn wrote to Watson, making a practical suggestion on how to help:

‘If there is anyone in your district convalescent or feeble to whom a fortnight’s stay at the
would be of benefit, I shall be glad to pay for their lodgings, and, if necessary, their board as well. Are there any street lads in your Mission to whom a day at the seaside would be a treat? If so, we might organise a trip”.

Yours truly, (Signed) John T. Lunn

John Watson

John H Watson – Founder

Following this letter in July 1891, 120 children from inner city Newcastle & Gateshead set sail in river steamer boats to the clean air of the North East coast for a one day, once in a lifetime experience, changing their lives in so many ways.

The charity soon grew to support many more hundreds of children throughout the decades, through a range of support, in response to the poverty and disadvantage that children were facing in the north east.  In 1933, our new building on Percy Street was opened by HRH Prince George – footage of the opening can be seen courtesy of the North East Film Archive.

Unlike 1891, today child poverty is hidden from view. No one knows how many children go without meals; or live in houses their parents cannot afford to heat; or go without a winter coat; or wear ill-fitting hand-me-down shoes; or share a bed. Children North East frequently comes across children and young people experiencing all these deprivations.

To help celebrate our 125th anniversary we have events running throughout the year which can be found here.

Contact us if you’d like to know more about the history of Children North East.