Lady Frances Anne Always Took An Interest In
A fascinating picture was reproduced this week of the old coast
road, intersected by a foot bridge close to the area known, I
believe, as “Bessie’s Hole” and the buildings which, after all, were
the first public baths. I found that these were mentioned about 1856
by Fordyee and so there is no doubt that they were used for bathing
and not merely for washing linen, as has been suggested. We are now
in the vicinity of the North and South Terraces, according to the
plan drawn by John Dobson and William Chapman. The South Terrace
project, however, hung fire and in 1831 William Chapman produced
another plan to show the extent of the township’s progress to date.
I am obliged to a pupil, David Reed of Bede Boys’ Grammar School for
a skilful reproduction of the whole setting. The area teems with
interest which will, without doubt, be increased by numerous
pictures of the old docks, steam and sail, buildings long sice
vanished, former street scenes, the Londonderry Volunteers,
railroads, collieries and their sad disasters, sporting events and
many other items belonging to Seaham’s eventful history. For these
our gratitude to Mr J.C.Currie is profound.
Soon after the Crimean War, of which we shall hear more later of its
bearing on Seaham, there were at least two boarding schools for
young ladies, as well as a number of day schools kept privately for
boys and girls.
The “National” School was in Church Street, opened, I believe, in
1848 and was under Government inspection. Perhaps we might
profitably digress here a while for a very brief summary of the
types of education which prevailed before the advent of the board
schools of 1870. Most children in the 18th Century did not go to
school at all for there was no comprehensive (horrible word!) system
of education in England. A number of charity schools, supervised by
the S.P.C.K., taught the “three R’s” and vocational interests to
poor and orphaned children with partial success but they soon ceased
The grammar schools catered for the middle classes only, the main
item in their curricula being classics. Public schools did the same
for the upper classes. By the end of the 18th Century the grammar
schools were declining and in the early 19th Century were often very
sparsely attended. However, the Municipal Reform Act of 1835 opened
the way to better progress and, thanks to the evangelical movement,
a far greater interest in education arose, and in 1869 the Endowed
Schools Act was passed whereby dormant charitable funds helped to
revive such moribund institutions and their curricula.
Soon the public schools found new life and fees from the wealth
forthcoming from those enriched by the Industrial Revolution. Great
headmasters such as Arnold, Butler, and Thring, left a trail of
light behind them (post tenebras lux); but there was still no
progressive system of education laid down for the children of the
poor. When the charity schools ceased to function or were on their
last legs, the Sunday schools, founded by Robert Raikes in 1780,
performed yeoman service. Side by side with these were the Dame
schools kept by old women who taught the “three R’s” for a meagre
profit in basements or garrets, as did the Common Day schools in
certain large towns.
Here we come to the so called “National” school, opened in 1848 in
Church Street, Seaham. This type of school was a great step forward;
in fact, those run by the National Society for those of the Anglican
persuasion and those run by the British and Foreign Society for
nonconformists were the only really effective schools for the
education of the poor in the early 19th Century. Their system was
the Lancaster or Bell method for a master aided by monitors, the
master being responsible for the main teaching, the Monitors
assisting in spelling and learning by rota.
By the time the Seaham school was in operation, Government grants
were available for education though religious differences were a
barrier to the proposed maintenance of schools out of the rates. The
Newcastle Commisions had in 1858 already advised the setting up of
Local Boards of Education, with powers to obtain finance for the
rates - but all in vain. In fact, in 1860 a proposal by the same
committee was adopted to the effect that “teachers should be paid by
examination results”, a most iniquitous practise which often led to
a mere cramming for examination set by the school inspectors.
One has only to read the old log books to realise the upset caused
by the visit of an overbearing inspector. It was not until the
Foster Education Act of 1870 that elementary education was
controlled by the local school boards, financed from the rates at
first, but soon to be a “free for all” and with a religious teaching
which was no longer denominational. So far as we are concerned here,
the last step came in 1902, when under the Balfour Act the school
boards relinquished their control for better or for worse - in
favour of local education authorities.
But to revert to the National School at Seaham, an inspection was
held in 1853 when 139 boys and 186 girls took the examination.
Incidentally, 38 boys and 34 girls had already left school before
June 6 when the examination began! The report was bleak and, as
usual, consisted of general observations. We read that the boys’
department contained a good-sized room, but no classroom. Furniture,
books, discipline and instruction were classed as “fair” only. The
apparatus consisted of four blackboards and easels and two card
The “three R’s” were taught, with some geography, grammar and
scripture. There was one master and two pupil teachers or monitors.
The master was responsible for five classes in all subjects. For the
girls the report was similar except that they did possess a
classroom but only one blackboard and easel. A perusal of this and
other similar reports would seem to indicate that the Inspector set
out to apportion blame rather than praise; possibly to conceal his
own inadequacy for such commitments as well as to keep the salaries
Here is a picture of the old school premises in Church Street as
they were long ago. Compare it with a recent picture of the new
Technical Grammar School, built just 116 years later and think of
the present-day total of more than 5,000 children attending the 21
schools in this township under the North-Eastern division of Durham
County Education Committee wherein every aptitude and skill are
catered for. One cannot bu feel profoundly grateful to members of
the Londonderry family, and, in particular, to the third
Marchioness, Frances Anne, for their generosity and foresight in the
cause of education, which would, surely, have been slower to rear
its head in the villages and towns in receipt of their manifold
amenities, both sacred and secular. We shall be describing some of
these next week with pictures, old and new.
Meanwhile, have you heard the true story of the Seaham woman who
fell dead while she was making a cake for her husband, who for all
his life preserved a piece of the cake as a memorial for her? When
he died in January, 1851, he left instructions that he should be
buried beside her in his wedding suit, with the piece of cake in his
pocket, in the cemetery of Saint John’s Church. Seaham wives
obviously knew the best way to a man’s heart! (To be continued)]
A LIST OF SEAHAM SCHOOLS AS THEY APPEAR IN THE TRADE DIRECTORIES
1844 National School
1844 T R Woodfield Boy’s and Girl’s School, North Tce.
1847 Elizabeth Baxter School, Church St
1847 John Ellemore School, Railway St
1847 John Marley, Day School, Back North Terrace.
1848 Stephen Waller Day School, Back North Tce
1848 T R Woodfield School, North Terrace.
1848 Lucy Nicholson School, North Tce
1851 John Ellemore Day School, John St
1855 Seaham Harbour Academy
1856 Misses Dodds Ladies School, Blandford Place.
1856 Miss C Irwin Ladies School, Frances St.
1862 Misses Hodges and Irvine Boarding and Day School, 22
1864 Colliery School, Seaham Colliery
1864 Infants School, Seaham Colliery
1864 Londonderry School, Seaton Colliery
1864 Infant’s School, Seaton Colliery.
1864 John Marley School, Tempest Place
1864 Roman Catholic School, Back North Tce
1871 Londonderry Cottages Infant School (later New Cotts/ Swinebank)
1871 St Mary Magdalene’s Catholic School
1873 Young Ladies Boarding School, Seaton House (Hall)
1871 Seaton Village School
1873 Sarah Archer’s Ladies School, Sea View, (North Tce?).
1873 Todd’s Buildings School
1879 Colliery National School, Boys and Girls
1879 Ropery School (mixed)
1890 Ropery Walk Voluntary School
1890 Londonderry Colliery School Boys (Stockton Rd)
1890 Londonderry Colliery School Girls “
1890 Elizabeth Jane Foster Preparatory School for boys and girls, 2
1890 Misses Hannah, Frances and Mary Mitchison Preparatory School, 9
1902 National Sophia St Infanfs
1910 Station Rd Girls and Infants
1910 Back Viceroy
1910 Bottleworks Road Girls School
1910 Queen Alexandra Rd, Boys, Girls and Infants (Dawdon Schools)
1910 Emily St East (special subjects)
1914 New Seaham Council School, mixed and infants
1914 Saint Cuthbert’s Catholic Infants
1914 Seaham Harbour Upper Standard Princess Rd (later Girl’s
1914 Central Council Infants
Please use this list as a rough guide only as some of these schools
may be duplicated under different names at different times and some
may be missing as it is not always clear from the directories
whether it is a school or a teacher residence listed.
The dates given are of the first entry in the Trade Directories and
not necessarily the opening date of the school but should be close.