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Pearey House 150th Anniversary

Between the summer of 2022 and summer of 2023, Remembering the Past has had the privilege of working with the Pearey House Centre and the contributors to this project.  In 1973, a booklet was produced to celebrate the centenary of the Pearey House Centre and it’s forerunners.  The aim of this project was to collect memories from current and former staff members, trustees and service users to produce a new 150th anniversary booklet that tells the story of the past 50 years.

Those memories have now been added to our archive as an important part of this valuable record of our local history.  They tell a story of how the Centre has helped so many people with visual impairment in North Tyneside of all ages.  The social aspect of the activities and services offered and the pleasure they bring runs through many of these memories.

Image of Pearey House Anniversary booklet cover.

About Pearey House

Pearey House is a Centre for adults that live in North Tyneside who have a visual impairment.  The Charity was established in 1873 as Northumberland and Durham Home Teaching Society.   In 1884 the name was changed to the Northern Counties Blind Society, and in 1924 became Tynemouth Blind Welfare Society.  Today we are known as the Pearey House Centre for Visually Impaired. We provide a social hub for blind and visually impaired adults in North Tyneside.  Our facilities include a gym, computer suite, therapy room and a library of talking books.  We aim to recognise and be responsive to all our service users by providing a high quality service. 2023 was an exciting year for us as we celebrated our achievements over the last 50 years and looked forward to more exciting developments in the future.

Helen Farrow,
Centre Manager

Scroll down to listen to or read these memories.

Photo of Pearey House and grounds

Carole Robson

Memories of Pearey House – Carole’s story

I’ve been involved with Pearey House since 1970 when I went as an assistant to Mary McQueen who was then the home teacher for the blind. She was wonderful, charismatic person who gave over 40 years’ service to the society and it was a joy to work with her.

Photo of the Lord Mayor at the summer fair.

The Lord Mayor at the annual Garden Fete

Marjorie Dalgarno

Memories of Pearey House – Marjorie’s story

I applied for a job; it could be 30 to 40 years ago. It was when Fred, and his assistant was only the 2 of them and we had a driver, and my place was an entertainment organiser for the people who were coming in each day to do something like quizzes or dominos things like that. Whatever Fred needed I tried to assist and that’s how it started.

Photo of Pearey House Gym

The Gym at Pearey House.

Arthur Turner

Memories of Pearey House – Arthur’s Story

I was born in 1960 and by the age of 3, because I was born with one eye, I was registered blind.  In first school we had a home teacher who was attached to Pearey House called Mary McQueen. She really looked after me up to 1978 when she retired but a bit beyond that.

Newspaper cutting of charity picture auction

Eric Nixon

Memories of Pearey House – Eric’s Story

This chap John Briggs gave us I think it would be perhaps 20 or 30 pictures to be auctioned. Bobby Pattinson, I can still remember him and thinking he’s not coming, he’s not coming. On the dot of 12 o’ clock, he arrived, and he was fantastic. He auctioned all of these pictures…..

Photo of celebration event for the Queen's anniversary

The Queens Jubilee celebrations

Jean Thomas and Joan Ritson

Living at Pearey House – Jean and Joan’s Story


I had a big fire in my house and lost everything and asked if there was any vacant flats and there was and that was 13 years ago so I am still here.


I was in a bungalow on my own and they used to pick us up, but I was offered the flat, they showed me around it and I accepted it and that was almost 7 years ago.

Photo of the flats at Pearey House

The Pearey House flats

Peter Thompson

Peter and his family have had a long connection with Pearey House.  Peter’s collection of memories tells us about that family connection, their involvement  in the flats (old and new) and his time as Treasurer.

My father and my mother in 1963 had a lot of interest in local charities and they got connected with Pearey House that year.

The flats, that was one of the major things.  You probably notice one is named after my father

I was the treasurer of Pearey House, the Honorary Treasurer, from 1991 to 2016, 25 years.

Photo of the talking books library at Pearey House

Talking Book library

Samantha Rice

Living at Pearey House – Samantha’s Story

I moved in the flats on August 22nd I really love it there, I’m really happy living there.  I have been coming to the day centre for about 7 years.  I lived with my mum but she had to move into a home so it just worked out better to get a flat here and I really like it here.  It’s all open plan so it’s really easy to find your way around and the kitchen is easy to manage because it’s open plan.  There’s also a big talking book library because I love listening to talking books.

Photo of Pearey House main entrance

Pearey House

Ken Graham

Memories of Pearey House – Ken’s story

I’ve been sort of partially sighted since I was a child. I’ve got tunnel vision and I got recommended to go down to Pearey House.  I became part of the committee and that led on to me becoming chairman in the late 2000s and I was chairman for about 12 years.

Image of mobile phone displaying "Go ahead I'm listening."

Technology is making a big difference for some

Jonathan Nesbitt

Living at Pearey House – Jonathan’s story

I had been on the waiting list for a few years to get a flat here and it worked out really well that I got a flat just when I needed it. It was carpeted but you had to bring your own furniture.  The flat is an open plan kitchen and living room, one bathroom and a bedroom.  I don’t really need that much adaptation and the kitchen has a really bright fluorescent light and that helps me quite a lot.

Photo of guide dog Albie, a golden Labrador

David Clithero

Living at Pearey House – David’s story

I have lived in a flat before for about 10 years. I was moved downstairs because my guide dog at the time had problems with his back legs, so as soon as a ground floor flat became available Helen thought it might be best for me and Albie to move down, they are lovely flats.

Photo of an activity session at Pearey House

An exercise class at Pearey House

Susan and Craig Barrass

Living at Pearey House – Susan and Craig’s Story

I heard about the flats when I first started becoming a service user in 2011.  I was put on a waiting list and luckily one came up the following August.  The flats we have now were rebuilt in 1995, a standard one bedroom, self-contained flat.  We furnish them ourselves.

Photo of a games session at Pearey House

A games session at Pearey House

Joyce Holmes and Margaret Clarke

Living at Pearey House – Joyce and Margaret’s Story

About three and a half years ago, I found out about it through another lady that lives down in the village and I thought, well I’ll have a try and I just kept on going and it’s been wonderful. We have different days for different people for different areas.  Wouldn’t miss it.

Photo of Alan Rowley 2013

Alan with North Tyneside Council Chairman’s gold award

Alan Rowley

Alan has been involved with Pearey House and it’s predecessor for more than 60 years.  His involvement began as a service user, later becoming a volunteer and eventually a trustee.

I’ve been involved with Pearey House from the age of 5 years old.  My first experience was to be asked to open the 1956 garden fete along with the Mayor of Tynemouth.

I became a volunteer at the age of 12 in 1963.  I was helping a lot of blind and partially sighted when I was very young.  To date I have been a volunteer for 66 years and I don’t think I’ve missed a year of Pearey House, maybe covid was the only one that I missed.

Photo showing Pearey House garden prepared for the summer garden fete

Pearey House garden ready for the fete

St Columba’s Church H.A.N.D.S. Ladies

H.A.N.D.S. Ladies and Pearey House

In 1978 a new group for the younger ladies of St Columba’s Church was formed and took the name H.A.N.D.S. (Here And Now Doing Something) with the aim of being active in the church and in the local community. Shortly after our formation we were approached by Alan Rowley who asked if we would take over providing the teas at the Pearey House Féte from the ladies of Howdon Methodist Church, and we agreed.

Photo of a group outing to Tynemouth Longsands

A group outing to Tynemouth Longsands

Exterior view of the new Iris Centre

The Iris community hub in North Shields

Photo of the new Miller Conservatory

The new Miller Conservatory

Helen Farrow (manager)

Helen has been employed by Pearey House since 2009 and took  over the role of manager in 2011.  Her account of the services offered, the challenges faced and the changes made since then is presented below in it’s entirety and in shorter excerpts for readers to choose from if they wish.

Managing Pearey House

I started November 2009. The manager retired two years after me being here and I was offered the role of Manager which I accepted. I wish I had done this sort of job from leaving school, it’s great. Lovely environment lovely people.

Activities and Outreach

The first year I said, “Who’s up for a holiday, let’s sort this out.” There wasn’t many people at the time using the service so I arranged to go to Llandudno.

The Challenges – Covid and cost of living

It made you sit down and think why are we doing that, why have we done that for the last 10 years when we could be doing this?  I think it was a bit of a shake-up at the time.

Managing Change

The first thing was to modernise it, so I just went about getting funding in.  I could see the potential; I could see what the focus was all those years ago and I think it had just got into a rut.

In Memory of Fred Hodson

Manager of Pearey House

1976 – 2011

Photo of Fred Hodson

“Fred Hodson was an integral part of Tynemouth Blind Welfare Society for 35 years and guided it through many challenges and changes.  He was the link between Pearey House’s past, present and future.  He was a joiner in his younger days and one day, when he was driving he realised his eyesight was not as it should be.  He was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa and retrained as a rehabilitation officer.  Fred moved from Lincolnshire to North Shields and began work at Tynemouth Blind Welfare Society in 1976.  In 2011 Fred retired and he passed away in April 2023.

Sadly, his illness meant that we were unable to record his story before he died.  It would have been a wonderful recollection to have.  We’d like to dedicate this to him as an acknowledgement of and appreciation for all the work he did for the society in his long career.”

Helen Farrow (current manager)

“Fred was a dream.  When I started work there was only Fred, his assistant and a driver.  Around this time Fred decided to serve a hot meal.  My comment was, “Well who is going to cook!!”  He just looked at me!  I caught his drift and said, “I’m not a cook!!” – but I ended up as one.  So, it started like that, whatever Fred needed I tried to assist.”

Marjorie Dalgarno (former staff member)

“Fred put me forward to a college for training for work with blind and partially sighted people in Leeds.  I was very successful there and I became a qualified rehabilitation officer.  I got a job in Gateshead which lasted 30 years.  I was very, very grateful to both Fred and Mary McQueen.  It’s an honour to have known them both.  Pearey House started my young life and ended with my working career and I wouldn’t have known what to do without those two people.  They certainly were the people who pushed me on and really made me the success I was at that time.”

Alan Rowley (service user and former Trustee and Chairman)

If you would like to know more about Pearey House visit their website here