Thomas Wilson, was born on 14 November 1773 in Low Fell, now a suburb of Gateshead into a very poor family. Like many from the North East, he began his working life down the mines at one of the many local pits, starting as a trapper-boy at around the age of around 8 or 9 years old. He had the determination to better himself, and wanted to improve his life and so studied, educating himself to a high standard, before moving on to become a schoolmaster at an early age.
After a short stay in this job, he moved to a clerkship on Newcastle’s Quayside.
In 1803, Wilson followed this with a move to join a Tyneside engineering company run by Mr John Losh. He became a partner in the company in 1807 and the partnership changed its name to Losh, Wilson and Bell, manufacturer of alkali and iron.
In 1826 the first part of his most famous song The Pitman’s Pay was published in a Newcastle magazine. Subsequent parts appeared over the next two years. Other well-known works include The Weshin’ Day; his last poem was The Market Day.
Wilson never lost his love of the area, or its people. He moved to Fell House, close to his birthplace, and spent the remainder of his long life there. He went on to write many other songs and pieces of prose, usually in the Geordie dialect; these were mostly published by George Routledge & Sons.
Wilson died on 9 May 1858 at the age of 85.
Thomas Wilson wished to help children to get a better education with less difficulty than he had known and also to encourage adult education, therefore as soon as he was in a position to do so he set to work to establish a reading room and school in Low Fell.
On the opposite side of the new Durham Road to Fell House there was a level open piece of land, with the Crown Inn on its north side. The site was bought from William Laing in January 1841.
Money was raised by two issues of five shilling shares, which produced two-thirds of the amount required, and the remaining third was raised by public subscription. The chief organisers in the project were Thomas Wilson and Mr. Hetherington, the landlord of the Gateshead Arms. It may be remarked that there was a staircase leading from the reading-room to the Crown Inn, but this was subsequently closed. The architect was Thomas Oliver of Newcastle, and the builder Thomas Liddell of Low Fell. There was a grand opening dinner on 9th November 1841. The building contained a reading room, lecture room and schoolroom. Seven trustees, headed by Thomas Wilson, were appointed to manage the use of the building for its proper purposes.
The building in now The Bank Restaurant & Bar