Heritage Schools Case Study: The architecture of Wallsend

Summary: Pupils from Burnside School learned how to identify and record key historical architectural features in their town of Wallsend so they were preserved for future generations.

Where: Burnside Business and Enterprise College, Wallsend, North Tyneside

Who: Year 8

Intended outcomes

  • Teach children about different architectural styles and what that tells us about how people lived in the past
  • Foster a sense of identity and pride in the town where the children live
  • Raise aspirations
  • Encourage pupils to value and protect their local environment

The town of Wallsend has a rich history: its architecture speaks of the wealth which industry brought to the region in the 19th and 20th centuries. However, Wallsend is rapidly changing as old buildings are demolished and new businesses move into the town. With this change, crucial clues - the texture of the town's history, are being lost. As a result, pupils from Burnside School decided to record pertinent architectural features of Wallsend to make sure they were preserved for future generations. Pupils from year 8 worked with a local archaeologist. They learned how to spot and describe a range of architectural features.

They then went out into the community to record what they could find on houses and buildings. The children used iPads to take pictures of what they found. The architectural features of the houses gave the children clues as to the type of person who would have lived there 100 years ago. The children compared the data they had recorded with information from Census and Trade Directories to build a comprehensive understanding of how the architecture which has been recorded relates to the people who lived in those houses a hundred years ago. The children were able to work out which houses belonged to the factory owners and which properties housed the working class families who worked in the shipyards on the Tyne. The pupils held an exhibition of their work at the annual Wallsend festival.

What we did

  • Pupils worked with an archaeologist to learn how to identify and describe historical architectural features
  • Students recorded and photographed pertinent historical architectural features that they found on the streets around the school
  • Pupils used census and trade directories to find out who lived in those streets 100 years ago
  • The school held an exhibition of the children’s work at Wallsend Festival in order to share the findings with local residents


  • Getting pupils to understand and use sophisticated vocabulary to describe architectural features
  • Ensuring that the school got permission from local residents to take photos of their homes
  • The weather conditions in the North East of England!


“Now when we walk down the streets beside school we know they tell a kind of story”. (Luke & Kieron, Year 8 students)

“Knowing that the details we found when we looked at the buildings and streets nearby are going to be used makes us feel powerful - to think that in 100 years people will maybe read our work to find out about Wallsend. I feel as though our work will have an impact – a big impact on the future”. (Year 8 student)

  • Several fascinating details were observed and recorded by pupils such as the last remaining window shutter hinge in Wallsend
  • Students commented that they thought their town had an interesting heritage and that they felt proud of where they lived
  • Pupils felt empowered knowing that their findings would go on record for future generations

Resources and web links

Next steps/extension activities

  • Students and teachers are putting together a resource pack that can be shared with other schools
  • The children will soon be sharing their finding with the Historic Environment Record department
  • The project is embedded in the school’s curriculum and will be extended and developed each year