The building was built in 1886 with money bequeathed by Rev. J. Wilson, the vicar of St Mary’s Church, Long Newton, as a church institute and for the education and instruction of the inhabitants of Long Newton. The Marquess of Londonderry bequeathed the site for the building (his estate still owns the car park land). The building was constructed by Mr Kipling at a cost of £380, and named the Wilson Institute after its benefactor. It originally contained one large room, which was used as a reading room, a cloakroom and caretaker’s house. It was formally opened by the Marchioness of Londonderry on behalf of her husband who was, at the time, Viceroy of Ireland and was away at the Viceregal Court.
St Mary’s Church administered the Institute until 2003 when it was decided to discuss its future within the local community. A steering group of local people was set up to explore the viability of maintaining the building as a village hall. This developed into the present situation whereby the building is leased from the Durham Diocese of the Church of England on a 35 year lease, by The Wilson Centre (Long Newton) which is a charity and run by a Management Committee. All committee members are volunteers. A grant of £266,000 was successfully secured from the Big Lottery Community Halls Fund in 2008. The refurbished centre was opened in October 2009.