Going back to school for a history lesson

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MOST natives of the town know that the first school was built somewhere about the site the Central Stores now occupies.

So wrote local historian and teacher Robert Wood on March 21, 1960, continuing: “But very few know the story behind it. It dates back to the time of William and Mary.”

The Fulthorpe family had owned land in Stranton, which they called their Catcoat, or Cadcote, estate, since the fifteenth century.

According to Mr Wood, the owner at the time of James II, John Fulthorpe, sold the whole estate to his brother Christopher, for a “trifling sum” while “melancholy” at the death of his son.

This angered other relatives and caused a family rift.

“Whether Christopher, who was a parson, was a generous man or suffered from an uneasy conscience, we shall never know,” wrote Mr Wood.

Whatever his motives, when he died in 1707, Christopher willed that a schoolhouse should be built with the residue of his estate, with funds set aside for paying a schoolmaster £20 a year, in equal portions at the feasts of Pentecost (which is seven weeks after Easter Sunday) and St Michael the Bishop (which is 19 weeks after Pentecost).

At each feast there was also to be £8 to buy coats, shoes and hats for the poor scholars and £2 for prayer books and Bibles “for those who have made the best improvement”.

Parson Christopher was a wise man, according to Mr Wood, but “unfortunately he was not so wise in choosing his trustees”.

Over a hundred years later, in 1820, the eminent local historian Surtees stated regarding the bequest: “No such establishment was ever made.”

Instead, Surtees wrote, a school by this time been created independently of the Fulthorpe legacy in the North Porch of Stranton Church.

Mr Wood found a translation of a Latin epitaph, written in 1779 by two brothers, aged 11 and nine “for the sake of those who are not versed in classical learning”.

This included the name of their teacher, Anthony Tiplady, classical preceptor at Stranton.

As for the original bequest, it was not until 1841 that the proprietor of Catcote at the time, W Robson, paid for a schoolhouse, called Fulthorpe School, and gave £30 annually for its upkeep.

By 1854 the school was attended by 80 children but was demolished around 1890 when lower Park Road was built.

Contact Andrew Levett by emailing andrew.levett@northeast-press.co.uk or write to him at Hartlepool Mail, New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX.