The History of East Durham College's Houghall Campus

The history of the 476-acre Houghall Campus site can be traced back through many centuries.

Though the opening of the main buildings of the college was in 1938, Houghall farm has actually been the centre of agricultural education in the county for a much longer period.

Reference to a farm at Houghall can be found in records of the early part of the 12th Century when, it is noted, Bishop Flambard gave Houghall to one William Fitz Ranulf whose great grandson - Thomas de Herrington - donated the estate to Prior Richard de Hoton towards the end of the 13th Century.

Although some of the land was leased, most of the area was farmed by the monks themselves. Sheep were a very important part of the farm at this time and also crops, such as oats and barley were grown. The land was very marshy so fish farming took place in the many ponds and the rushes, which grew abundantly, were harvested for use in the Cathedral, Cloisters and Castle.

The Priory let the farm in 1464 to Richard Rackett, and the tenancy remained with the Rackett family until the dissolution of the monasteries. Houghall was then sold to Viscount Lisle, the tenant at that time being Clement Farrowe. The farm was returned to the Church (Dean and Chapter) in 1660.

A survey of the farm was carried out in 1794 and it is interesting to note that many of the fields had the same shape and the same name as they have today. The crops grown at this time were oats, barley, wheat, grass, clover and rape.

The course of the River Wear has changed many times over the centuries, both through natural means and by design. A large area, which is now part of the farm, was once the river bed. The silt deposits left by the river have contributed greatly to the fertility of the farm.

Houghall Hall, plus the attached lands, remained in the possession of the Convent Church of Durham until the founding of the University in the early part of the 19th Century; In 1836 Houghall and other land in the area was endowed to Durham University.

By 1919 the need for a farm to be the centre of agricultural education in the county had become pressing and, accordingly Durham County Council purchased Houghall from the University to provide the site for an agricultural experimental school and training farm.

The minutes from a meeting of the Durham County Agriculture (Education) Sub-Committee held on Wednesday 19th November 1919, report:

"That the County Education Authority be recommended to purchase from the University of Durham Houghall Farm, including Hallgarth Farm and Ryish Field, as now in the occupation of Mr. George Morgan, and containing 460 acres or thereabouts at the price of £18,000 [equivalent to approximately £650,000 today], subject to such conditions as may be considered suitable after further negotiations, and subject also to the approval of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries under the provision of that Board's current regulations fro grants in aid of Agriculture Education and Research 1919."

The provision of a School of Agriculture was conceived by Mr. Peter Lee soon after the County Authority set up the experimental Farm at Houghall. It was intended to erect a new block of buildings with the aid of a grant from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, but for reasons of national economy this was not possible until 1936-38. As a temporary measure the old farmhouse and farm buildings were overhauled and sufficiently well repaired to meet the immediate requirements.

The County Durham School of Agriculture was officially opened on 20th October 1938 and the college, as we know and love it today, was born.

The Name Houghall

The name Houghall is thought to originate in Anglo-Saxon times. The first known historic reference to the site was Hochale in c. 1115 AD in the Durham Episcopal Charters. In 1292, the name Howhale was recorded in the 'Records of Antony Bek, 1283-1322.' The Durham Episcopal Charters referred to the site again in the 15th Century as Houghale.

Watts, V. 2002, in A Dictionary of County Durham Place-Names (Nottingham. English Place-Names Society) defines the name as 'water-meadow by the hill-spur', where the elements of the name are defined as Old English for hoh (hill-spur) and halh (low-lying land). Other old spellings include Hocchale and Houhal and the define name as 'nook on the hill-spur'.

Houghall House/Hall

The farmhouse dated back to the early 14th Century (said to have been built 1290-1308 by Prior Hoton and a new house build in 1373). In the 16th Century it was occupied by the family Booth, lessees of the Dean and Chapter.

The house was extensively rebuilt as a moated stone manor house in the 17th Century by the then owners, the well-known Parliamentarian family of Marshall, who are reputed to have entertained Oliver Cromwell as guest in the house.

Photo taken in April 1956 and shows Houghall manor house slightly to the left of centre. In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Houghall Hall like this: "HOUGHALL, an ancient moated seat in Durhamshire; on the river Wear, one mile South East of Durham. It was built by Prior Hotoun; was occupied, for a time, by Cromwell; and belongs to the Dean and Chapter of Durham."

In July 1958 a report by Chartered Architect Donald W. Insall described the house as constructed of rubble stonework in the magnesian limestone of the district, together with some brickwork of various dates, with a local green slated roof.

An extract from The Lost Houses of County Durham, written by Edward Waterson and published in 1993, describes: 'The front was a typical farmhouse, but the back was a taller 17th Century wing with mullioned and transomed windows under square moulds. Inside was a Jacobean well staircase with bold balusters, a fine Tudor arched fireplace, and a secret chamber in the main chimney.' Insall also noted the quality of the staircase noting: 'From the hall rises an interesting 17th Century staircase, which in fact is the best feature of the house.'

The Durham County Advertiser reported on 7th February 1964 that Durham County Education Committee had sanctioned the demolition of the old farmhouse at Houghall, as a result of Durham City Council deciding not to raise any objection to the proposal. The house was demolished in 1966.

Black and white photo of Houghall Manor House view from April 1956
Houghall Manor House & Farm - April 1956 - Credit Shincliffe Local History Society

Houghall Colliery - 1841 to 1884

In 1840, coal was discovered on the lands of Houghall through a trial boring. The pit was sunk in 1841 and the first coal extracted in 1842.

The owners of the colliery in the 1840s were Elvet Coal Co, then in the 1860s Joseph H. Love & Partners and finally in 1947 the National Coal Board (N.C.B.).

During the first 20 years, the pit workers lived across the Wear on the western edge of Shincliffe village. Soon after 1860, 62 houses were built in three streets at Houghall village. The streets were known as Cross Street (shown in the photo), Garden Street and John Street. There is some suggestion that 153 houses were built housing up to 241 men, however the only available photographic evidence suggests a lower number. There was also a school and chapel built on the northern edge of the village.

Houghall Colliery ceased working in 1884.

Initially, the miners continued to live in the village and commuted to mines in the vicinity. The houses were then used as an 'Aged Miners' Colony'. In 1932, there were 56 people living in Houghall. Sometime before about 1930, the houses of John Street were demolished. Finally, the village was abandoned in 1955 and the remaining houses were demolished.

Black and white photo of Houghall Colliery Terrace Houses from 1800s with some residents on Cross Street
Houghall Colliery, Miners' Housing on Cross Street, circa late 1800s

Houghall Isolation Hospital

In April 1893 the school was converted and reopened as an isolation hospital for people with infectious diseases (such as smallpox, typhoid, measles and scarlet fever). The hospital can be seen in the image below nestled in Great High Wood in the top left.

The isolation hospital had a life of a little over 50 years. In 1949 the Durham Hospital Management Committee decided the hospital was no longer required nor suitable for use as a hospital. In June that year it passed into the hands of Durham County Council for use as a men's hostel for students at the Durham County School of Agriculture. It was named 'Sergeant House' after local councillor, Alderman Peter Sergeant, Chairman of the Agricultural Education Committee that ran the school.

It, along with the miners' old chapel, was demolished in 1965 and today there is no trace of the existence of the hospital. The field where it once stood is used today for grazing and is called Hospital Field.

The photo below: Centre: 17th Century manor house (Houghall House/Hall). Left centre: farm workers houses (Farm Road) built by Durham City Council 1920s. Right centre: Farm buildings. Centre rear (behind the manor house): The colliery houses of Cross Street and Garden Street, with the spoil heap behind them. Top right: The chimney of the pumping station, which pumped Durham's water supply from 1849 from the River Wear to Mt. Joy Reservoir. Top left (behind 1920s houses): Nestling in Houghall High Wood the Isolation Hospital and Chapel.

Black and white photo of Houghall Farm House and Building, Isolation Hospital and Colliery Terrace Housing in the Background from early 20th Century
The photo shows Houghall Farm and Colliery Village, c. 1930. Nestling in Houghall High Wood, top left, is the Isolation Hospital and Chapel.

The Birth of the College

Durham County Council Agricultural Experimental Station

In 1920 Durham County Council bought Houghall Farm from Durham University to provide the site for a much needed agricultural experimental school and training farm.

In the minutes of the Agricultural Education Sub-Committee meeting on Monday 27th September 1920 it states: "Read letter, dated 22nd September, 1920, from the Clark of the County Council stating that the purchase of Houghall Farm was completed on the 21st September, 1920..."

A County Farm, with Dairy, Horticulture, and Poultry Sections was established and until September, 1932, was conducted under the auspices of the Education Committee as the centre of Agricultural Education. As from the 1st October, 1932, the County Council transferred their powers and duties to the Agricultural Education Sub-Committee of the County Agricultural Committee.

A black and white large group shot of Staff and Students at Houghall taken in 1935
Staff & Students at the Agricultural Experimental Station - 1935

Durham County School Of Agriculture - Plans

The new Durham County School Of Agriculture was planned and designed by Mr. William Carter, A.R.I.B.A, the County Agricultural Committee's architect.

The contract to build the new School of Agriculture was awarded to Messrs. W. Pearson & Son, of Burn Road, West Hartlepool, for the cost of £57,988; as detailed in the minutes from the Agricultural Education Sub-Committee meeting held on Wednesday 18th November 1936.

An artist's impression of the plans for the new agricultural college from 1936
Artist's impression of the plans for the college

The Durham County School of Agriculture - Foundation Stones

The foundation stones were laid on Wednesday 7th July 1937 at a ceremony presided over by Alderman P. Sergeant.

There are two stones, one with the inscription 'This stone was laid by Mr C Nathan ESQ, July 7th 1937' the other with 'This stone was laid by County Alderman J. M. Cape, July 7th 1937'. Mr C Nathan was the then Assistant Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture.

The stone-laying ceremony event was detailed in the Darlington and Stockton Times - Ripon and Richmond Chronicle, Saturday 10th July 1937.

Due to illness the committee wrote to Alderman Cape's wife inviting her to lay the main foundation stone. The newspaper article reveals the granddaughter of John Moordaff Cape, of Crook, and Chairman of the Agricultural Education Sub-Committee, and his wife Mary Ellen (nee Gilliland) together laid the stone.

Black and white photo of the foundation stone being placed in 1936
Foundation stone laying presided over by Alderman P. Sergeant - 7th July 1937

The Durham County School of Agriculture - Official Opening

The Durham County School of Agriculture was opened on Thursday 20th October, 1938 by the Rt. Hon. William Shepherd Morrison, M.C, K.G., M.P., then Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, who later became Speaker of the House of Commons, Viscount Dunrossil of Valaquie and Governor General of Australia.

Chairman of the Agricultural Education Sub-Committee, Alderman Mr. P. Sergeant, presided at the opening ceremony.

Black and white photo Mr WS Morrison meeting a group of students in 1938 when he official opened Houghall
Rt. Hon. William Shepherd Morrison meeting a group of students at the opening ceremony
A black and white large group photo of staff and students taken in 1939
Staff & Students July 1939. Mr J.W. Cassels, pictured in the centre of the second row, was Principal from 1938 to 1957.

The Durham County School of Agriculture - The First Courses

The prospectus of 1938-39 stated: 'Young men and young women, desirous of pursuing a career in any branch of Agriculture, may apply for admission to any one course selected from: General Agriculture, Horticulture, Dairying, Poultry-keeping, Dairying and Poultry-keeping Combined and Horticulture and Poultry-keeping (2 years).'

The fees for students resident in the Administrative County for tuition, board and lodging was 25/- per week, 30/- for those outside of the area.

The Agriculture Department: For dairying the college had well-bred pedigree Ayeshires and typical Shorthorns which were being 'graded up'. Shorthorn and cross-bred cows were mated to an Aberdeen

Angus bull for some beef production. The college also had a flock of 100 ewes, mainly Border Leicester-Cheviot half breeds and Border Leicester-Blackface mules. These were crossed with Down rams. There was a small herd of pedigree Large White pigs. The main arable crops were Wheat, Barley, Oats, Potatoes, Mangolds, Swedes, Kales, Cabbages and Clover.

The Horticulture Department: The Gardens covered about 20 acres. There were 8 acres carrying fruit trees and fruit bushes. All the main vegetables and salads are grown as market crops. A range of four glasshouses is used for the cultivation and production of tomatoes, cucumbers, chrysanthemums. There was also a gold greenhouse of the Dutch type, covering approximately half an acre. Annuals, roses, herbaceous plants, flowering and evergreen shrubs are also well represented. A Weather Station was been established and general weather conditions were supplied to the Air Ministry.

The Dairy Department: The Dairy was well equipped to deal efficiently with the high grade of milk production for which the Tuberculin Tested Licence was held. The Dairy comprised of office, butter room, ripening room, cheese room and cheese store, cooling room and cold store, scullery, and steam supply plant. The cheese types principally made were Cheshire, Wenslets and Cream cheese.

The Poultry Department: It was laid out to demonstrate intensive, semi-intensive, free range, fold unit and laying battery practices. The breeds kept were cross and pure stock Rhode Island Red, Light Sussex, White Leghorn and White Wyandotte. Aylesbury ducks, Embden-Toulouse geese, White Austrian turkeys were also bred, reared and fattened.

The Durham County School of Agriculture - The Crest

The College's original crest is shown below. The motto, or strapline as we'd call it today in marketing speak, when the college opened in 1938 was Progress by Perseverance. This was later revised to Progress Through Perseverance as shown on this former student lapel badge shown below.

Houghall  logo vintage emmanuel lapel badge
Houghall lapel pin badge kindly donated by a former student

The Durham County School of Agriculture - British Pathé News Film

This amazing news film about the new The Durham County School of Agriculture was produced by British Pathé and released in 1939. Enjoy!

The Durham County War Agricultural Committee - 1944

The War Agricultural Executive Committees (also knowns as “War Ags”) were government-backed organisations tasked with increasing agricultural production in each county of the United Kingdom, during both the First and Second World Wars.

They were re-formed in the autumn of 1939 following the outbreak of the Second World War, and given more expansive powers over farmers and landowners.

After performing surveys of rural land in their county, each committee was given the power to serve orders to farmers “requiring work to be done, or, in cases of default, to take possession of the land”. Committees could decide, on a farmer’s behalf, which crops should be planted in which fields, so as to best increase the production of foodstuffs in their areas.

Mr. Frank Nicholson, C.B.E., J.P., of Southill Hall, Nr. Chester-le-Street, Durham, is believed to have been the Chairman of the Durham County War Agricultural Executive Committee. He also served as High Sheriff of Durham in 1939. 

An interesting function of the Durham County War Ag was to work with Harperley Prisoner of War (PoW) Camp 93 based at Fir Tree near Crook. Immediately to the right of the entrance of the camp were the Durham County War Agricultural Committee office buildings, staffed by Durham County War Ag employees. These officers would negotiate with local farmers and landowners short and long term contracts for employing PoWs. Each morning the PoWs were transported to their respective locations and returned each evening. Occasionally, farmers and landowners would request to billet a PoW, taking responsibility for their general welfare and employment for a particular period.

A large staff group photo of the Durham County War Agricultural Committee - September 1944
The Durham County War Agricultural Committee Staff - September 1944

The Durham County School of Agriculture - Aerial Photos

Earliest Known Aerial Photo - Taken 23 June 1946

This photo was taken by Northern Air Charter Ltd and is date stamped as 23 June 1946 (Developed by Thomas Clarkson Chemist, 14 Tower Street, West Hartlepool).

As well as the main buildings which are all still standing today (2022), you can also see two tennis courts, which used to exist either side of the boiler house, as well as some temporary structures running parallel behind the two colonnades. The tennis courts were constructed in 1938 by En-Tout-Cas Co. Ltd., Syston, Leicester, at a cost of £461.

A black and white aerial photo of the County Durham College of Agriculture campus buildings taken 23 June 1946
Northern Air Charter Aerial photo of the County Durham College of Agriculture - 23 June 1946

The Durham County School of Agriculture Estate - Taken circa 1957-62

In the centre of the first photo below is Houghall farm, with the The Durham County School of Agriculture campus on the righthand side towards the bottom corner. The image was taken by BKS Air Survey Ltd (Leatherhead, Surrey), who operated between 1957 and 1962. The exact date of the photo is unknown.

It is possible the image was taken on a K-17 reconnaissance camera, a US-made photographic camera, which interestingly was a model widely used by the USAAF during the Second World War.

At the main top college site only one building has been added since the 1946 aerial photo was taken, the science labs behind the conference hall. You can also
see the Burma Road track has now been created. The road was constructed by students a few years later and they named it the Burma Road. This was a 'tongue-in-cheek' reference to the Burma Railway which was constructed by forced labour, including 60,000 Allied prisoners of war, during World War II. Following the road’s construction, repairs to it were handed out as a punishment to students who misbehaved.

Moving across the photo towards the farm, you can clearly make out a number of buildings in Hospital Field. These buildings were originally the school and chapel which were built for the miners, and their families, who worked at the Houghall Colliery.

A black and white aerial image for the Houghall Estate taken 23rd June 1946
Image taken by BKS Air Survey Ltd Leatherhead (Not dated, circa 1957-62)
Black and white aerial photo of the main Houghall campus buildings taken circa 1940-50s
The Durham County School of Agriculture, Houghall, Aerial Shot - (Date unknown, circa 1950-60s)
Aerial shot of the East Durham College, Houghall Campus, in Durham, main campus buildings taken in May 2015
East Durham College, Houghall Campus, Durham, Aerial shot taken May 2015
Houghall from the air
East Durham College, Houghall Campus, Durham, Aerial shot taken June 2019

Harold Macmillan PM Visits Houghall - 1959

Harold Macmillan PM, the then British Prime Minister (1957-63), visited Houghall on Thursday 15th January 1959 for a 40-minute tour of the college.

He visited Houghall along with his wife, Lady Dorothy Macmillan, as part of a three-day tour of the North East. Under the headline ‘Where Fine Farmers Are Made – Houghall’, The Northern Echo reported: During his visit to the school the Prime Minister met students working in white overalls amid the strange smell of the chemical laboratory and others working in wellingtons among the more homely odours of the farm.

At the end of it all he told Mr C. W. Percy, the school principal : “It was very interesting. You are making a lot of fine farmers here.”

Charles Percy was the college's second principal from 1957 to 1982.

Former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan meeting student Miss Judy Brazier in the 1950s
Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan at the County Durham School of Agriculture, Houghall, meets student Miss Judy Brazier who is making butter pats
Former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan meeting Principal Clive Percy in the 1950s
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan with Principal Charles Percy and his wife Elizabeth Percy at the doorway of the Bursar's office

1966 World Cup - Houghall Hosts The Italians

It's a little known fact that the 'ill-fated' 1966 Italian World Cup squad were based at the college during

their Group 4 games against Chile (won 2:0), Russia (lost 1:0) and most notably North Korea (lost 1:0). The team flew back in disgrace to Genoa under the cover of darkness but the fans were waiting for them and pelted the team with rotten vegetables.

A Name Change - Durham Agricultural College - 1967

In 1967-68 the college become know as Durham Agricultural College. The college crest was amended as shown below.

The prospectus of that year detailed courses in Agriculture (Crop Husbandry, Animal Husbandry and Machinery), Experimental Husbandry, Dairying, Horticulture, Veterinary Hygiene, Extra-Mural Courses including evening classes for Amateur and Professional Gardeners.

Residential fees were £240 for 36-weeks and £50 Tuition (students under the age of 18 years at the beginning of the academic year were not required to pay Tuition Fees. £290 equates to just under £5,000 in 2016.

A Second Name Change - Durham College of Agriculture and Horticulture - 1970s

The college then become know as Durham College of Agriculture and Horticulture (Exact date unknown)

Mr Alan Hetherington was Principal from 1982 to 1999.

A Third Name Change - Houghall College - 1989

Although the college was still operating as Durham College of Agriculture and Horticulture, the college officially branded itself as Houghall College in 1989. The new corporate image was designed by New College , Durham, second year design student David Semple - as reported in The Northern Echo on Thursday 15th June 1989. A selection of designs by New College students were displayed before the staff and marketing team, who voted for their choice.

In April 1993, Houghall College became independent of Durham County Council - as reported in The Journal, Saturday 3rd April 1993. The report also details that visitors to Hortico 93 will have their first glimpse of the new French style parterre garden, designed by college lecturer Steve Desmond. The centrepiece is the Raby Pond, based on the original at Raby Castle gardens.

During 1994 the word 'Durham' was added to the Houghall College logo.

A Bronze Age Sword Found At Houghall - 1996

A late Bronze Age sword was found by engineers from the University of Sunderland on 17th September 1996. It is ¾ complete with the hilt and two thirds of the leaf shaped blade present. The sword was sent to Durham University’s Archaeological Department who identified it as a Bronze Age Ewart Park type sword - dated as 900 – 700 BC.

It is possible that the sword was deposited ritually into a wet place, maybe an ox-bow lake of the river Wear, away from contemporary settlements. The sword was deliberately broken prior to deposition and it may be part of a hoard. Further excavation of the site may reveal other remains.

Alternatively, it may be a possibility that the sword was owned by an antiquarian collector who lived in Houghall Manor. The ox-bow lake being, perhaps part of the moat of Houghall Manor.

The sword is still at the University, who are storing it correctly to prevent further deterioration. It may be displayed at Fulling Mill Museum in the future. The legal ownership is yet to be established.

Small Animal Care Courses Launched at Houghall - 1996

The first Animal Care course was the BTEC First Diploma starting in September 1996 with lecturer John Reid. Animal care has since gone on to become the largest department at Houghall with upwards of 300 students and expansion into higher education with a Animal Management foundation degree launched in September 2023. 

Merger - East Durham & Houghall Community College - 1999

On 1 June 1999 East Durham and Houghall Community College was formed by statutory instrument and represented a merger between the former East Durham Community College (formerly known as Peterlee Tertiary College in the 1980s and Peterlee College since 1989) and Durham College of Agriculture and Horticulture (also known as Houghall College).

Developments in the 1990's and 2000's included a new estate workshop, new machinery workshops, the rapid development of the horticultural department and upgrading of the small animal care unit and dog grooming parlour.

Rebrand - East Durham College, Houghall Campus - 2008

In 2008 the college rebranded and become known as East Durham College, with Houghall being branded as East Durham College, Houghall Campus.

Flooding & The Durham Canyon - 2009

On 19th July 2009 an enormous gully was formed in one of the fields. It was so big that locals and the media have called it ‘the Grand Canyon of Durham’. The feature was formed in a matter of minutes when millions of gallons of floodwater from surrounding farmland suddenly tore through the soil towards the River Wear. The area had experienced 80mm of rain in 24 hours, ten times the average, helping to create the new feature.

It is estimated that the water carried into the river up to 12,000 cubic metres of soil, weighing 15,000 tons.

Fortunately no buildings were near enough to be directly affected. However, the general flooding caused 100s of thousands of pounds worth of damage to the College buildings and farm.

There was speculation that the flood had exposed an original course of the Wear, which was altered by monks back in the 13th or 14th century. But Durham University geomorphologist, Jeff Warburton, said it was not an ancient river bed, simply a new gully formed by the vast amount of flood water.

Aerial photo of the 'Durham Canyon' flood damage in a field next to the River Wear at Houghall taken in 2009
The 'Durham Canyon' at Houghall 2009

Campus Redevelopment - 2014 to 2016

Following Durham County Council’s County Planning Committee meeting (Tuesday 1st April 2014), Durham County Councillors gave East Durham College’s Houghall Campus redevelopment planning application unanimous approval.

On Monday 7th July 2014 it was announced that the College would receive £10m capital investment, from funding The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has secured from the Government’s Local Growth Fund to redevelop parts of the Houghall Campus.

Follow enabling works on the summer of 2015, on Tuesday 22nd September 2015 the £12.75 million re-development project officially started.

The development was completed in September 2016 and included refurbishment and extension work to the iconic main entrance building, creating a glass lobby and double-heighted atrium, the construction of a purpose-built small animal care centre, a new agricultural centre and a new equine centre.

The small animal care centre is home to a snake house, lizard house, tortoise house, aquatics, small mammal house, an aviary, a commercial dog grooming studio and 22-bay dog kennels - complete with a dog agility and exercise area.

The agriculture centre includes a cattle unit, including pens for 80 cows and forage store and a large pig unit.

The stunning Houghall Equine Centre boasts a 28-stable block accommodation, training workshops, tack room, automatic horse-walker and an international-standard 40m x 40m indoor arena to complement an existing 60m x 40m all-weather menage.

Campus Redevelopment - Official Opening, 2017

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal official opened East Durham College’s redeveloped Houghall Campus, Durham, during a visit on Friday 13th January 2017. 

You can see all the photos from this historic day in an album on the East Durham College Flickr account >>

HRH The Princess Royal dressed in a green overcoat unveiling the Houghall development opening plaque in 2017
HRH The Princess Royal unveiling the Houghall campus redevelopment opening plaque

Unite Student Accommodation Opens - 2018

The new student accommodation block was built by construction firm Robertson and the project also saw Robertson redevelop the Houghall campuses' Weardale Building, which was originally built in 1937-38.

The new accommodation block offer 198 ensuite bedrooms across three stories, as well as a further 24 studio bedrooms in the revamped Weardale Building. Although it is found on the college's grounds, the building is owned and managed by student accommodation provider Unite.

The Reeds

During the spring and summer of 2023, The Reeds house was demolished and replaced with a new Higher Education unit call The Hive. 

Built in the 1960s as a new residence for the ten Principal Charles Percy and his family and then occupied by Principal Alan Hetherington, Animal Care lecturer John Reid and the last person to live in it caretaker Walter Laing, due to ever expanding student numbers it was transferred into the teaching space stock from 2010/11. With major maintenance and rewiring required, the decision was made to demolish it and, in its place, install a brand-new modular building as a new higher education hub for Animal Management Foundation Degree students when the first cohort joined in September 2023.

The Houghall Campus development is set to continue...


Mr John W. Cassels, O.B.E., 1938 to 1957

Mr Charles Percy, 1957 to 1982

Mr Alan Hetherington, 1983 to 1997

Mr Ian Prescott, June 1999 to April 2010

Mr Stuart Wesselby, 5th April 2010 to December 2011

Mr Eugene McCrossan (Interim), 2012

Mrs Suzanne Duncan, 3rd Sept 2012 to present day