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DURHAM SCHOOL. .
From the “Durham County Advertiser"
of Friday, June 17th, 1881.
We hail with pleasure a little magazine by name “The Dunelmian,” intended not for publication, but for circulation among old and present members and other friends of Durham School, which appeared in January last, and of which we are told to expect a second number in the course of next month, giving an account of the chief events" which have taken place in the School during the past half-year. Although these events will not be interesting to any but Dunelmians, we think that the account of the origin of the School, which appeared in the first number, bearing the signature of the Head Master, will be received with interest by some of our readers, those especially who delight in the antiquities of Old Durham, and we therefore are glad to have permission to reprint it:
In the short account which we propose to give of Durham School, we will state what we have been able to ascertain respecting
1st.-The origin and subsequent history of the School buildings.
2nd.-- A few particulars respecting the Masters of the Scbool and the Scholars.
King Henry VIII. is commonly reputed as our founder. His arms have been put over the new gateway, erected 1876. The Seal impressed on all our School documents bears date 1541. The 18 Foundationers are called after him, King's Scholars. It will, therefore, surprise our readers, to be told that we claim for our School a much earlier foundation; and that it can be satisfactorily shown that it was flourishing from the early days of the great Benedictine Monastery, which King Henry suppressed, when he continued and re-endowed the Benedictine School.
None of the historians of Durham, so far as we have been able to ascertain, seemed to have turned their attention to this fact. But that it may be established beyond all doubt is, we think, clear, from the Mickleton MSS. preserved in Bishop Cosin's library, bearing date 1691. As the point is a most important one, we must take leave to quote Mickleton bimself, than whom, if we may judge by what he has left us, there never was a more laborious or painstaking investigator of antiquity. He was himself, as he tells us, a scholar of the School in the year 1640.
“There were," says Mickleton," " in ancient times in the Monastery two schools, one for the young brethren and novices on the west side of the Abbey Cloister, the other for the poorer class, who were educated gratuitously at the expense of the Monastery on the north side of the gate of the Abbey,” possibly on the very site of the School, afterwards built or re-built there by King Henry VIII. And then follows this very important statement: "It should be noted that the record informs us that the aforesaid School of the Novices afterwards became the Gramma School of the Dean and Chapter of Durham."
Those who would know more about these novices may consult the "Rites of the Monastic Church of Durbam," written A.D. 1593, and published by the Surtees Society.
It is there stated that the novices went daily to School for seven years
“And yf,” says the old writer, "the Maister dyd see that any of them weare apte to lernyng, and dyd applie bis booke, and had a pregnant wigt withall, then the Maister did lett the Prior bave intelliggence; then streighte way after he was sent to Oxforde to schoole, and there dyd lerne to study Devinity. And the resedewe of the novices was keapt at there books tyil they could understand there service and the scriptures."
3 Is not this, we may ask, in some respects a parallel to our own system by which the Master of the present day recommends to the Dean and Chapter, who are the successors of the ancient Prior, some of the most intelligent of the scholars to be furnished with Exhibitions, by the help of which they may still pursue their learning at a University.
But another claim to the honour of fouuding our Durham School some hundred years and more before the days of King Henry has been brought forward in behalf of Bishop, afterwards Cardinal, Langley, that famous builder and restorer of edifices, both secular and ecclesiastical, throughout his Durham diocese, whose stately tomb is so conspicuous in the Galilee Chapel. The authority for this claim is derived from the recorded fact that Bishop Langley founded on the Palace Green A.D. 1414, two schools-one for music, the other for grammar.
But though no one disputes this fact, it may be clearly shown that these two schools were quite distinct foundations from our Darham School. When Bishop Cosin, some 250 years afterwards, rebuilt these two schools of Bishop Langley's. foundation, it is expressiy mentioned that they stvod on the east side of the Palace Green, not on the west side, where King Henry built or re-built our Durham Scbool. Enough still remains of them to this day to show that they closely agree with the plan of Longstaffe, Bishop Cosin's architect, which is still to be seen in the Mickleton papers (vol. 91), and over each of the two school-houses there is still visible the coat of arms placed there by Bishop Cosin, not bis own, but Bisbop Langley's, that posterity might not be led into any error respecting the founder.
But though, from what has been said, it is clear that we cannot call either King Henry or Bishop Langley our founder, yet King Henry certainly, when he suppressed the Monastery, did not suppress but re-constituted and re-endowed the School, and erected a school-room and a Master's house, where they now stand, on the west side of the Palace Green, opposite the north door of the Cathedral.
It may be true that very little now remains of King Henry's original structure, for after the lapse of 100 years we are told by Mickleton that in the year "1640, “The Scotch destroyed almost all the School buildings." (Scholae ædificium poene totum diruerunt Scoti.) That was the year of the invasion of the Scotch Covenanters. After defeating the Royalists at the Battle of Newburn, close to Newcastle, they occupied first that town and afterwards Durham, which latter, says the historian," became then a most depopulated place;" and it is not surprising therefore that its buildings, even the Cathedral and the adjoining Grammar School, should have suffered from, and to this day bears witness to, the effects of the Scottish inroad. But though the Schoolhouse was destroyed, the teaching and business of the School was uninterrupted. The historian is most precise on this point. The Rev. Elias Smith (who had been appointed Head Master that year) taught his pupils and King's Scholars (Discipulos et Scholares) in the precincts of the College, sometimes in the third Prebendal house, sometimes in the first. What Mickleton has here recorded respecting his master, the same Elias Smith, is so interesting that we must be pardoned for interrupting the thread of our history, in order that it may be recorded as it deserves to be.
"He also in those very evil times, after the execution of Charles I., had charge of the books in the Chapter library, and also of the copes and vestments and other property belonging to the Cathedral, and preserved them all safely throughout that period."
After the restoration in the year 1660, Elias Smith being still the Master, the Dean and Chapter soon doubtless rebuilt their ruined school-house on King Henry's foundations. But after this
period we can find no further mention of it, and for the next 180 years the only record of it known to us is in the registers of the Dean and Chapter, where the stipends annually paid to the Masters are duly entered.
But we now come to a very great change, both in the site and character of the School.
When the Durbam University, founded in the year 1832, had been at work some eight or nine years in the immediate neighbourhood of the School, the Dean and Chapter being governors of both institutions, and seeing them both increasing in numbers and not deriving any advantage--but rather the contrary--from their proximity to each other, wisely determined to remove the School and Master's house across the river to the Belasyse estate, which they purchased for the purpose.