Community celebrates a century of schooling

Elaine Reay-Headteacher at Morpeth first School seen with the war plaques at the school.
Elaine Reay-Headteacher at Morpeth first School seen with the war plaques at the school.
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PARTY plans are in full swing at a Morpeth school to celebrate 100 years of teaching — and the whole community is invited to join in.

Morpeth First School in Goosehill is preparing a year of events to mark its centenary this year, with dances, a street party, Edwardian market and tea party included in the line-up.

But it is seeking help to make the most of its heritage and is appealing for former pupils and other Morpeth residents to get in touch with their memories, photographs and archive material about the school.

Headteacher Elaine Reay said: “We are planning activities throughout the year and as the town school we would be absolutely thrilled if the community could share in our celebrations.

“The school has been at the centre of the community for years and years and we really need the community’s help to make sure our children can learn about its history.

“We have got plenty of material from the 1970s onwards, but before that time we are struggling. Getting hold of old photographs has been difficult.

“The children will be starting a lot of research about the history of the school next term and we will be going to Beamish and Woodhorn museums to look at the archives, but we need help from the community as well.

“We would like to borrow some of our ex-pupils’ pictures and any old articles they have, as well as hear their stories about Morpeth and the school.

“Goosehill needs you.”

The Goosehill school was built as a Council School in the grounds of the town’s jail. It opened with 227 boys on May 29, 1911, but was officially opened by Chairman of the Council Education Committee, Sir Francis Douglas Blake Bart, on June 16 that year.

A report in the Herald from the time reads: “Time was when any stuffy old building was considered good enough for a school, but these days have gone by.

“It is now fully recognised that the mind and body should be both cultivated at school — that a healthy mind cannot exist in an unhealthy body.

“Hence it is that the Education Committee and the Board of Education see to it that our new schools should be lofty, well-lighted and wellventilated buildings and that ample space shall be provided for athletic exercises.”

The school, for children aged seven to 14, boasted modern classrooms, a large hall, domestic science, woodwork and recreation rooms, central heating and flush toilets.

During the First World War part of it was occupied by troops, with schooling only part-time, then at the end of the war the school was closed for eight weeks due to a flu epidemic.

In 1943 children over the age of 11 moved to Newminster School and Goosehill became a County Junior School.

In 1973 it became a first school for five to nine-year-olds and now it also has a nursery, with a total of 340 pupils on its roll.

The school hopes to display extracts from its log books over the years at a history exhibition later this year, and visitors will be able to view its plaques in memory of pupils who were killed in the wars.

Other events will include an open evening for former staff, a coffee morning for ex-pupils and a celebration tea with elderly Morpeth residents, including people from Riverside House care home.

There will be an Edwardian ball, fair and market, music hall entertainment and a dance extravaganza, showing dances through the decades, as well as a summer street party and whole school trip to Beamish, with parents, governors, children and staff all invited to dress up for the occasion.

Pupils will learn about fashion, home life and events in Morpeth throughout the school’s history and it is hoped that experts will be able to visit to teach children traditional Northumbrian crafts such as glass making, proggy mat making and stick dressing.

The school is seeking sponsorship to support the centenary celebrations.

Miss Reay said: “We hope to have lots of open events for ex-pupils, ex-governors and ex-staff.

“In recent years, since the flood, we have really benefited from community cohesion. The children learn how to be good citizens by serving their community and we would like the community to share in our celebrations in this special year.

“We have lots of social events planned, including a community trip to Beamish, an Edwardian street party and community interest days.”

Anyone able to help the school with its history research, or who would like to contribute sponsorship for events, should contact Miss Reay on 01670 512893.