This week, as part of our topic (where we are learning about The Great Fire of London),  Year 2 went on a fabulous, ‘smoking hot!’ trip to St Mary’s heritage Centre, Gateshead and the Newcastle / Gateshead Quayside.

Did you know there was also a ‘Great Fire of Gateshead’ in Queen Victoria’s time in 1854, in which 53 people died?! 

We spent the morning with our workshop guide Simon, who enthralled us all with his amazing story-telling and old  photographs – where we learnt about how the fire of Gateshead started in a factory on the banks of the Quayside, spreading to a chemical warehouse next door (where dried bird poo and various other flammable substances were being stored). We learnt some really interesting facts about how the sulphur produced by the burning dried bird poo burned blue and produced a ‘rotten-egg’ smell, and how the poor residents of the area lived in cramped, timber-framed houses in densely populated living conditions – all of which contributed to the fire spreading ferociously!


We had great fun acting out some of the events from that evening on 6th October 1854 – which would have been very similar to the events of The Great Fire of London – such as practising being fire-tender’s and ‘chopping’ some houses down to make a fire-break (which eventually helped to stop the fire from spreading further across Newcastle and Gateshead!


Simon also entertained us all with his story props – scaring us all with his toy rat when telling us about the spread of The Plague, and how cholera was spread via the unsanitary living conditions experienced by many of the residents of Gateshead who (until the time of the fire) had to use buckets for their toilets!

In the afternoon, we explored the Gateshead Baltic and Sage buildings – looking at some very interesting art and sound installations in the Baltic and using our class ipads to take some photographs of the Gateshead and Newcastle Quayside bridges – to compare what it would have looked like 100 years ago to nowadays.

Finally, we had great fun dressing up and exploring some of the Victorian artefacts which would have been used by residents living in the area at this time!

Our sincere thanks to all the staff at St Mary’s Heritage Centre (especially Simon for his amazing story-telling!) and our parent helpers (who commented on how informative and interesting this trip was and how well-behaved all our children were!).



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