The earliest school in the town was provided by the Chantry of St Mary which was under the control of Alnwick Abbey.
With the dissolution of the monasteries the Chantry school faced a difficult task but one of its teachers continued to try and educate the sons of poor burgesses in the town.
Now known as the Grammar school, in 1630 it moved to Pottergate where it continued the work of the Chantry. Funded by the freemen, it providied free education for the children of the freemen and, for a period, to the local population. A new school was built on Pottergate in 1687. By the early 1700s the school ceased to provide a free education for the general community. The Grammar School restricted the education for children of the freemen, to Latin and Greek. Separately schools were set up to teach English, writing and mathematics.
During the early 1800s there was a great interest in the provision of education for poor children and several schools were established under endowments from the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, as well as by public subscription. The Jubilee School established in 1811 on Green Batt. In addition many small establishments offered a basic education in return for a fee.
A new building in Infirmary Street brought the separate schools together in 1828 and in 1852, a new school was built on land provided by the Duke on the Barndale Estate. The school was known locally as the Borough School and provided education for boys and girls in a newly built property. The school was expanded to cater, not only for the children of the burgesses, but also for local children.
It was not until the Elementary Act of 1870 that a national system of education was established. An audit of existing educational establishments was conducted and five schools in Alnwick were identified as providing appropriate standards. These were the Duke’s and Duchess’ Schools; the National School; the St John’s Roman Catholic School; the Corporation Grammar School.
The Duchess’ School
Established in 1808 in Walkergate by the Duchess Julia, moving to Canongate in 1820 and to Bailiffgate in 1888. The school was initially established to cater for poor girls, especially the children of workmen employed on the Duke’s estate. Its purpose was to train girls to enter domestic service and ultimately to be better wives and mothers. The School became a state elementary school in 1899 and a state secondary school in 1903.
The Duchess’ School was established in 1808 by Duchess Julia, initially for 20 girls. The school occupied one of the Duke’s houses in Walkergate before moving to larger premises in Canongate in 1820 when the number of pupils reached 50. The school remained in Canongate until 1888 when it removed to the corner of Bailiffgate, opposite the castle. In 1872 the school, with 153 pupils, was recognised under the Elementary Education Act 1870, one of five in Alnwick. It remained a private school until 1903 when it was taken over by the County Council. The school continued at Bailiffgate until 1966 when it moved to a purpose built facility in Howling Lane. As a County Grammar School it continued its relationship with successive Duchesses.
The Duke’s School
The moved to new, purpose built, premises in 1904 on Hope House Lane, where it operated as a County Grammar School.
The National School
Established in 1849 in Howling Lane under the auspices of the Church of England, to provide a religious and secular education to children of all classes. It was funded by public subscriptions. The building was extended in 1854 and an infant school added in 1861.
Our Lady’s Convent School
The Convent of the Sacred Heart was established on Bailiffgate in 1890, in a property adjoining the Roman Catholic Chapel. The convent housed five sisters and, with the establishment of a school, three young lady boarders. The sisters also became responsible for St John’s School in the town.
The Convent of the Sacred Heart was established on Bailiffgate in 1890 in a property adjoining the Roman Catholic Chapel. The Convent housed five sisters and three young lady boarders. In November of 1890 a school was established there and the sisters also became responsible for St John’s school on Lisburn/Howick Street. The school remained in Bailiffgate until 1962 after which it moved into new premises at Spring Gardens, South Road.
St Andrew’s Mission School
In 1893 a decision was taken to close the Ragged School and other premises were urgently required. Pupils were relocated to the upper room of St Andrew’s Hall, especially leased for the purpose. St Andrew’s Hall was a purpose built mission hall for St Michael’s Church, a detached stone property built in 1886 in Pottergate New Row. The school continued there until it closed in 1915.
The 1866 OS map shows a library in the building on the corner of Fenkle Street and Market Street. This was later moved to the Jubilee School on Green Batt. Subsequently it was moved to The Playhouse.