Jubilee School

The Jubilee School

The Jubilee School was established on Green Batt by Hugh, Second Duke of Northumberland, to honour the golden jubilee of King George III. The foundation stone was laid on 25th October 1810, the 50th Anniversary of George III’s accession to the throne, and newspapers describing the celebrations, which took place in Alnwick that day, reported, “…….but the better to commemorate the day, the Duke of Northumberland caused the first stone of a school to be laid, capable of containing 200 boys, to be educated under Mr Lancaster’s plan, and supported at His Grace’s sole expense.”  One old boy of the school reminiscing said  “I can recollect perfectly well of the day on which the foundation stone was laid.  It is in my mind – the booming of the guns at the laying of that stone.”

The single school room was opened to scholars on 12th August 1811 (the birthday of the Prince Regent) when 179 boys were registered.

The school soon became known as The Duke’s School.

During the early years the education given at the school was based on the monitorial system promoted by Joseph Lancaster where, under the guidance of a master, the most able pupils acted as monitors and imparted their knowledge of reading, writing, arithmetic and English grammar to the other students.  Junior pupils practised their writing by tracing letters in fine sand, senior pupils used slates and the more advanced had books.

Good work was rewarded with merit cards.  When 40 had been acquired, the pupil could exchange them for a red vest; 50 a pair of cord trousers and 60 a grey jacket.  A cap was then added to these to complete a suit.  The merit cards could be exchanged for ‘prizes’ such as knives and purses and were greatly sought after by the boys.  At the reunion of 1886, one old boy, aged 85, produced a knife, which had cost him 20 merit cards.

Bad behaviour and poor work were punished in ways that seem very odd to us today.  One old boy, admitted to the school in 1812, reminisced, “……. The modes of punishment were most amusing.  We had the basket, the cradle, …….the truant clogs and thick wooden collars, which were put around the neck, the bearer having  to walk round and round the room for more than an hour.  For truant playing, the offender generally received a good flogging.”   The basket, which held six or seven boys was suspended from the roof where it stayed for hours.  The cradle also held about six boys, who, once in, had to rock non-stop.

Richard Flint, of whom little is known, was the school’s first master.  He was followed in 1814 by John Bielby.  The 1840s saw an end to the monitorial system when an assistant master was appointed and, under the leadership of John Holland, geography, history, drawing and vocal music were added to the curriculum.  Staff consisted of Headmaster with a salary of £80 plus a rent-free house, a garden and coal; an assistant master who earned £45 and a boy-teacher who was paid £10 per annum.

The headship became vacant again in 1851 and from a large number of candidates, Mr Thomas Collinson was chosen – a position he was to hold for 47 years.  Many changes took place, one of these was a move to being an industrial school.  Each boy in the first form was given a plot of land to look after and, in order to encourage them, an annual show of their produce was held the day before The Alnwick Flower Show.  An open-air gymnasium was built in the playground and a gym instructor was employed for one day each week.  By 1898, the year of Thomas Collinson’s retirement, the number of staff had increased and the large range of subjects taught clearly indicated that the school offered more than elementary education.  The majority of boys at the school were from Alnwick but now boys from the district also attended. 

Mr Frederick E Skinner-Jones succeeded Thomas Collinson as Headmaster,

An educational dispute took place in the town at the latter part of the 19th Century, during which time the Duke of Northumberland put forward a proposal to provide a “technical school on a new site”, promising to “provide staff, equipment and be financially responsible for its maintenance”.  After many years and many meetings, the Duke’s School was, in 1901, finally awarded secondary school status in the town and the new school building promised by the Duke was built in Hope House Lane and officially opened on 27th July 1904 for boys’ secondary education.

Following the opening of the new school building, the school in Green Batt continued as a preparatory school where boys received a standard of education sufficient to enable them to proceed to the ‘new’ school.  Pupils who were not so academically able were encouraged to remain at the preparatory school where they were equipped to go into the world with a good elementary education. 

Newspapers in July 1922 reported that the Jubilee school had closed as a preparatory school.

In December 1931 the building was opened as the Alnwick branch of Northumberland County Library.

The library closed in 2019, when it was transferred to the Playhouse. The Jubilee School building has subsequently been converted to a residential property.