School History

Ward’s Directory of Newcastle for 1893-4 records that Tankerville Terrace, Jesmond, contained 16 properties, 15 of which were residential dwellings. The 16th property, recorded in the name of Miss C. Ackerley, Schoolmistress, is “Newcastle High School for Girls.”

Extract from 'Ward's Directory of Newcastle 1893-4' courtesy of Alan Godfrey Maps, Jesmond 1895 (www.alangodfreymaps.co.uk)
Extract from ‘Ward’s Directory of Newcastle 1893-4’ courtesy of Alan Godfrey Maps: Jesmond 1895.

The Newcastle High School was founded in 1884 when the Church Schools Company received a request from Newcastle to establish a school in the City ‘of much the same type as the G.P.D.S.T schools but in which definite Church teaching should be given’ as The Newcastle upon Tyne Church High School Jubilee Book covering the years 1885-1935 makes clear. This first school history also tells us that ‘On May 29th, 1884, the Council of the Church Schools Company resolved “it is desirable to establish a High School for Girls at Newcastle.”‘

The decision was taken to purchase a small but flourishing private school in Jesmond Road as the nucleus of their new Newcastle school. This thriving private school, originally owned by a Miss Hewison, was chosen because it had an excellent reputation in the City and so ‘on October 10th, 1884, an agreement for the purchase of the goodwill of the school was drawn up. The school was to be carried on in the same buildings, numbers 54, 56, 58 and 60 Jesmond Road, and it was arranged that Miss Hewison should stay on as House and Music Mistress and that some other members of the staff should be retained.

Three of the original houses on Jesmond Road still survive today, Numbers 56, 58 and 60. (The remaining evidence of Number 54, now demolished, can just be seen to the right of the picture behind the tree).
Three of the original houses on Jesmond Road, all with green doors, still survive today: Numbers 56, 58 and 60. (The remaining evidence of the chimney of Number 54, now demolished, can just be seen to the right of the image behind trees).

Fifty-nine girls were entered for the first term to start in the January of 1885 and on Wednesday, the 21st January, the school was formally opened under the name The Newcastle High School for Girls.’ The new Bishop of Newcastle, Dr. Ernest Wilberforce, was asked and agreed to become the School’s Patron and, representing the Church Schools Company at the Opening Service in Jesmond Parish Church, Canon Francis Holland stated that ‘the Newcastle school stood first in the interest of all the Company’s schools, for it was founded on an already good school ….. and promised on behalf of the Company that if the numbers increased the school should have new buildings.

‘By the end of 1886 the numbers in the school had reached 80 and negotiations were begun for the purchase of a new site. Early in 1887 the present site in Tankerville Terrace was secured, but for some now undiscoverable reason, building was not immediately begun ….. It was not until a year later, June 1888, that Messrs. Oliver & Leeson were appointed architects, and their plans were approved shortly afterwards’.

Oliver & Leeson’s architect drawing of the North Elevation of Newcastle High School for Girls for the Church Schools Company, 1888. [Image used courtesy of Tyne & Wear Archives]
The Venerable Archdeacon Emery of the Church Schools Company formally laid a foundation stone on May 23rd, 1889. Initially positioned to the left of the side door, traditionally the pupils’ entrance (see photograph below), it now sits to the left of the main entrance.

Newcastle High School building dedication stone.
Newcastle High School Tankerville building Foundation Stone.

On May 3rd, 1890, the new purpose-built school was opened by Miss Helen Gladstone, Prime Minister Gladstone’s daughter.

Newcastle High School girls around the time of the new building's opening, with the two dedication stones visible either side of the side-door (traditionally always the pupils' entrance) behind them.
Newcastle High School girls photographed around the time of the new building’s opening, with the surviving two dedication stones clearly visible either side of the side-door, traditionally always the pupils’ entrance. [CH School 1985 prospectus]
The building originally featured a bell tower at its very centre; sadly, in later years, the tower was demolished after falling into disrepair.

Newcastle High School c 1900 with its bell tower.
Newcastle High School building c1900 with its bell tower.
Google Maps image 2014 of Church High main building; the lozenge-shaped area denotes the site of the dismantled bell tower.
2014 Google Maps image of Church High main building; the site of the bell tower was near the lozenge-shaped area.

Interestingly in 1894, according to Olive Carter’s History of Gateshead High School & Central Newcastle High School, the G.P.D.S.T. made an ‘offer to buy the Church Schools Company’s building to use for its own new school; the offer was refused.’ As a consequence of this refusal, the G.P.D.S.T., keen to gain a foothold across the Tyne in Newcastle, purchased a parcel of land on Eskdale Terrace, a little over two streets away from the Newcastle High School building and just outside of the Jesmond Ward. Their intention was to create a ‘feeder’ school for Gateshead High School, where the pupil numbers had markedly begun to fall. Perhaps because of its position within the Central Newcastle Ward, the building was opened under the name of the Central Newcastle High School. Olive Carter also goes on to tell us that ‘later, in 1910, the name of Central was altered to “The Girls’ High School, Newcastle upon Tyne”, but a year later it not unnaturally had to revert to the original as a result of objections by the Church Schools Company’ (there already being a High School for Girls in Newcastle upon Tyne!). It is strange to think that the two schools could possibly have become one so near the start of their histories.

Miss Gurney in the main doorway with Churchmen of the Local Committee, 1907: Archdeacon Henderson, the Archbishop of York, the Bishop of Newcastle (School Patron) & Canon Gough. [Image used courtesy of Tyne and Wear Archives]
By the tenure of the School’s third Head Mistress, Miss Louisa Gurney, who had previously taught at the North London Collegiate School for Ladies and would later attempt to model Newcastle High on Cheltenham Ladies College, a flourishing Newcastle High School for Girls decentralised administratively from London in 1909 and became a self-governing Independent Church School in 1925. At this point in its history, a Company, limited by guarantee, was formed and the School was renamed The Newcastle upon Tyne Church High School. The Centenary Book tells us ‘the Association consisted of parents, Old Girls and friends of the School, whose liability was limited to £1 if the School were to cease operating’. The School buildings were bought for £10,100 and a Board of Governors now controlled affairs: ‘The Bishop of Newcastle was to be President of the Association, thus continuing his patronage of the School. The Provost of Newcastle and the Vicar of Jesmond were ex-officio Governors. The remaining Governors were to comprise one member of the Association appointed by the President, one member appointed by the residentiary Canons of the Cathedral, six lay members of the Association, of whom three at least were to be ladies, elected in the annual general meetings and up to four members of the Association co-opted by the Governors’. The School was run successfully in this format for the rest of its time.

New photographic postcards were produced in 1925 following the change of name on gaining Independent status. This one is of the School Hall with its recently acquired House Brackets depicting the Four Virtues mounted on the South wall. The brackets were carved by Mr John W.M. Reid, Master of Modelling & Sculpture at Armstrong College, Newcastle.

Post Millennium, the Newcastle upon Tyne Church High School continued to thrive by evolving with the times. The ‘New Century Challenge’ led to extensive redevelopment of the Tankerville site infrastructure under Mrs Lesley G. Smith and the School roll was greatly expanded following the closure of La Sagesse School in 2008, when the majority of pupils transferred to Church High. Academic links with China were investigated and, at Sixth Form level, an arrangement with Newcastle School for Boys saw males studying for A Level in some subjects on Tankerville Terrace for the first time. In late 2012, territory ventured into in 1894 was revisited ‘in reverse’ when Church High approached G.D.S.T. and a merger with Central Newcastle High School was brokered by which Tankerville would once again become the home of a Newcastle High School for Girls.

Thriving and feeling strong: Newcastle Church High School with its iconic ivy cross cultivated for the School’s 125th Birthday as it looked when the possibility of a merger was being investigated with the Girls Day School Trust in 2012.

Until the mid-19th Century, Jesmond was mainly an agricultural and coal-mining area, so the land on Tankerville secured by the Church Schools Company as the site of the new Newcastle High School was once crop land. By 1631, it can be traced to one of three common fields, the North Field, which roughly extended from St George’s Church to Brandling Park. From Alan Morgan’s book Jesmond from mines to mansions, we learn that each of these fields was divided up into half-acre strips or rigs, then consolidated into larger units of land known as ‘flats’ and ultimately into fenced fields. These common fields all had local names. According to the 1902 plan of Jesmond field names published in Frederick Walter Dendy’s An Account of Jesmond, 1904, the land on which the Victorian Senior School was built was part of South Pigs Close. The modern Junior School would later be built on adjoining North Pigs Close and the residential houses (Tankerville & Westward) the School purchased on Tankerville Terrace, on the more whimsically-named Long Friday.

Detail of ‘Plan Shewing (sic) Field Names of Jesmond’, 1902, from F.W. Dendy’s ‘An Account of Jesmond’, indicating the positions of North & South Pigs Close and Long Friday.

By 1800, this land was owned by John Blenkinsop Coulson, the largest of three chief landowners in the area. At this date, there were in the region of 80 named fields in Jesmond, which was by now divided into five farms. Our land was almost certainly part of Friday Farm. Its buildings were situated near the present day junction of Haldane and Otterburn Terraces. Alan Morgan’s book reproduces Thomas Oliver’s slightly later 1844 map of Jesmond Township (on page 12) which shows Friday Farm as the building to the left of Burdon Place in the lower left-hand section of the very small segment shown here.

A small section of the 1844 map reproduced by Alan Morgan in his book which shows Friday Farm just to the left of Burdon Place.
Small section of the 1844 map reproduced in Alan Morgan’s book showing Friday Farm just to the left of Burdon Place, Jesmond Grove (top right), with Friday Fields Lane running down from centre top to bottom left .

From Alan Morgan’s book we also learn that there were five recognised footpaths in the township at this time, what we now know as Tankerville Terrace once comprising the lower part of one of them, Friday Fields Lane. Also known as the Lovers’ Walk, Friday Fields Lane ‘branched east from the Great North Road near to the coal staiths [just north of Brandling Village] to follow present day Burdon Terrace, then headed north along Tankerville Terrace (past Friday Farm), St George’s Terrace and North Jesmond Avenue to Jesmond Dene Road.’

Mixed within those original fields c. 1800 were rigs bordering the Town Moor from Barras Bridge to St. Andrew’s Cemetery and extending eastward. These had been leased to tenants, but actually belonged to the St. Mary Magdalene Hospital, founded in the 12th Century for the sufferers of leprosy. By 1813, these rigs had been partitioned off and re-apportioned to the Hospital. Others were returned to the Corporation of Newcastle, Robert Warwick and Sir Thomas Burdon. The St. Mary Magdalene Trust thus found themselves owning a lot of valuable land in the township of Jesmond.

The St. Mary Magdalene Hospital (above) was situated in the Barras Bridge area of Newcastle, near where St. Thomas’ Church now stands. All that exists of this structure now is a piece of carved stonework (below) incorporated into the wall of one of the university buildings to the rear of the Great North Museum. [Image: p.20 in Ken Hutchinson’s ‘Secret Newcastle’ (2015), copyright of Amberley Publishing]

Via a land award to Robert Hopper Williamson dated 6th November, 1813, we know that Pigs Close was amongst the lands now considered the property of the Hospital (F.W. Dendy, p 153). From papers in Tyne & Wear Archives concerning the building of Church High’s Junior School, we know that this land also belonged to the Magdalene Trust. Indeed, a land map of owner’s names drawn up by T.W. Bell in 1847 (F.W. Dendy, p 176) shows that the whole School was built on Magdalene Trust land. In contrast, Bell’s map (below) shows that the land on which Tankerville Terrace and House were built belonged to a Mrs J. Cleugh, then the owner of Friday Farm.

Detail of ‘Plan Shewing (sic) Owners Names of Jesmond in 1847’, taken from T.W. Bell’s Map in F.W. Dendy’s ‘An Account of Jesmond’, showing the relative position of the land owned by the Mary Magdalene Hospital and Mrs J. Cleugh which lie facing each other on opposite sides on Tankerville Terrace.

Jane Cleugh owned 21 acres of land in total. Widow of Mr Thomas Cleugh, last owner of Friday Farm, she sold both farm & lands (“The Fridays”) in the 1870s to Richard Burdon Sanderson II of Jesmond Towers, a direct descendant of Sir Thomas Burdon. Thanks to F.W. Dendy, we know that ‘Richard Burdon Sanderson II, who had purchased Miss Cleugh’s land near what was formerly Friday Farm, re-sold it and a parcel of his own land for the building sites on which Haldane Terrace, Burdon Terrace and Tankerville Terrace were built.’

Detail of the 1880 Abstract of Title to a farm and lands called “The Fridays” belonging to the Devisees of Tho. Cleugh, deceased, drawn up by J. & R.S.Watson & Dendy, Newcastle upon Tyne. The Dendy in the firm’s name is the father of F.W. Dendy who wrote the 1904 Jesmond history.

Moving forward to the 20th Century once again, in the accompanying editorial commentary to the 1913 Old Ordnance Survey map of Jesmond published in December 2014, Alan Godrey includes the following account of the Newcastle High School building’s history. The details clearly bring to mind two well-known old adages: ‘The only constant in life is change’ & ‘Everything comes full-circle’.

Godfrey writes: “Jesmond’s first purpose-built school, the High School for Girls, was opened in 1890 in Tankerville Terrace, a development of a school set up in Jesmond Road by the Church Schools Co. in 1885.

Etching of 'The New Church School, Jesmond' published in The Monthly Chronicle, June 1890.
The earliest etching of ‘The New Church School, Jesmond’ was published in The Monthly Chronicle, Newcastle, June 1890.

“It was designed by the Newcastle architects Oliver & Leeson, the ornate cupola and Flemish gables giving it the bravado of the Moor Edge institutions [Fleming Memorial Hospital for Sick Children, Northern Counties Orphanage and Northern Counties Deaf & Dumb Institution]. Boarders lived at The Grove, where there was also space for playing fields.

The Grove, Newcastle High School Boarding House
The Grove, Newcastle High School Boarding House c1916.

“In the 1920s the school became independent and was renamed the Newcastle Upon Tyne Church High School, or ‘Church High’. There were extensions across the years [most notably the Infant & Junior School buildings opened in 1975 financed by the sale of The Grove playing fields on Reid Park Road] and in 2014 the school merged with the Central Newcastle High School to form Newcastle High School for Girls.”

The Church High Junior School extension was built on land which had once served as the Northern Counties Orphanage gardens.

Moor Edge properties, Newcastle High School and Tankerville Terrace, 1895 (www.alangodfreymaps.co.uk)
The three Moor Edge institutions (including the Northern Counties Orphanage) adjoining Newcastle High School and Tankerville Terrace, 1895 (www.alangodfreymaps.co.uk).

The southern section of the Northern Counties Orphanage (the Philipson Memorial Orphan Asylum for boys) had by that time become the Princess Mary Maternity Hospital, the place where I was later to enter the world. Thus began my connection with Tankerville Terrace, later reaffirmed, as fate would have it, by a happy and fulfilling 29 year teaching career at Newcastle Church High School.

I joined Church High as a teacher of English in September 1985, which turned out to be the School’s Centenary year. Sadly, I missed the main celebrations which all took place in the second half of the previous academic year. However, I clearly remember an excited buzz about the place when I arrived for my interview in May – one of the reasons I was so pleased when my application was successful. In my time there, the old High School building was extended on two further occasions, either side of The Millennium, before merger was to change its administrative history once again. This blog records the physical changes to the Tankerville site in preparation for its reopening as Newcastle High School for Girls in September 2016. I really do believe that everything in life comes full circle, a belief that has only been strengthened by this research. As I blog about the ending of Church High School, it was fascinating to discover that the person who wrote the letter which brought the School into being, Sir Benjamin Chapman Brown, and I partially share the same name.

In 1984 to mark the Centenary, Kevin Brown was commissioned to research and write an updated School History and to catalogue the School Archives. The former was published as part of The Centenary Book of the Newcastle Upon Tyne Church High School, 1885-1985 compiled by Helen Scott and Elizabeth Wise; after cataloguing, the latter were deposited with Tyne & Wear Archives.

Anyone wishing to view the Newcastle High/Church High School Archive for themselves can do so between 10.00am and 4.00pm, Tuesday to Friday at The Discovery Museum. The archive catalogue (Reference E.NC17) can be accessed in person or online. Following my deposit of documents on the final year of Church High and the transition to Newcastle High School for Girls, the catalogue has recently been updated to list accessions related to Newcastle High School (1885-1924) and The Newcastle upon Tyne Church High School up to July 2014. Although the updated catalogue is not yet available at TWA online, it can be viewed via our Heritage site.

Sources:

  • Abstract of Title to a farm and lands called “The Fridays” in the township of Jesmond within the Borough & County of Newcastle upon Tyne belonging to the Devisees of Tho. Cleugh deceased, J. & R.S. Watson & Dendy, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1880
  • An Account of Jesmond, Frederick Walter Dendy, R. Robinson & Company Ltd, Printers & Publishers, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1904
  • Jesmond from mines to mansions, Alan Morgan, Tyne Bridge Publishing, Newcastle Libraries, 2010
  • Bygone Jesmond, Jimmy Donald, Newcastle Libraries and Arts, 1987
  • Old Ordnance Survey Maps of Tyneside and Wearside: Jesmond 1895, Tyneside Sheet 4, Alan Godfrey Maps
  • Old Ordnance Survey Maps of Tyneside and Wearside: Jesmond 1913, Tyneside Sheet 5, Alan Godfrey Maps
  • Google Earth, 2014 and 2016
  • A History of the Church Schools Company 1883-1958, E. Moberly Bell, S.P.C.K. 1958
  • ‘The First Hundred Years of the Church Schools Company’, by Valerie Hope, published in 1884 by Queenprint Ltd
  • The Newcastle upon Tyne Church High School Jubilee Book, 1885-1935, A.C. and F.M. [Alex Cowey and Florence MacKenzie], 1935
  • The Centenary Book of the Newcastle Upon Tyne Church High School, 1885-1985, compiled by Helen Scott and Elizabeth Wise, 1984
  • The Newcastle upon Tyne Church High School Prospectus, 1985
  • Own records and photographs as Editor of The Newcastle upon Tyne Church High School Senior Magazine, 1986-2014
  • History of Gateshead High School and Central Newcastle High School, Olive Carter, 1955