Institutions for Education: The Trinity-House School

Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead. Originally published by Mackenzie and Dent, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827.

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Eneas Mackenzie, 'Institutions for Education: The Trinity-House School', Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead, (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827), pp. 443-445. British History Online [accessed 16 June 2024].

Eneas Mackenzie. "Institutions for Education: The Trinity-House School", in Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead, (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827) 443-445. British History Online, accessed June 16, 2024,

Mackenzie, Eneas. "Institutions for Education: The Trinity-House School", Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead, (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827). 443-445. British History Online. Web. 16 June 2024,


The erection of a free school in the Trinity-house was ordered by the master and brethren on May 9, 1712, for the instruction of the children of brethren in Writing, Arithmetic, and Mathematics. The apprentices of brethren are also admitted. The school-house was rebuilt in 1753, as appears by the following inscription on a stone built up in it:—"This School House rebuilt 1753, Francis Pemberton, Esq. master; elder brethren, James Carr, John Welford, Matthias Giles, William Errington, William Harrison, Charles Liddell, Thomas Proctor, Robert Hudson, Francis Heath, George Stephenson, John Cole, Henry Shadforth; Thomas Aubone, secretary."

The following names of schoolmasters occur:—In 1712, Mr. Manell, salary £16; in 1756, Robert Harrison, salary £20; in 1771, John Fryer, salary £20; in 1788, W. Drysdale, salary £40; in 1804, John Rutherford, salary £60; in 1814, Edward Riddle, salary £80; in 1821, Anthony Cook, salary £80; in 1824, Andrew Tinwell, salary £80. (fn. 1) The masters have also a dwelling-house and coals, and are permitted to teach, for their own benefit, 20 scholars, exclusive of those belonging to the society. The present master likewise enjoys the privilege of writing all the petitions to be presented to the board, for each of which he is paid one shilling. In Mr. Riddle's time, a convenient platform was made on the roof of the school-house, for taking lunar observations.


  • 1. The following brief notices of some of the above masters may not be uninteresting:—Robert Harrison is admitted to have been a profound mathematician. When master of the Trinity School, he also took private pupils, of whom, amongst others of great respectability, were the present Lord Chancellor and Lord Stowell. He possessed a most retentive memory, understood Greek and Latin, and had a competent knowledge of the Oriental languages. On resigning the mastership of the Trinity School, he removed to Durham, where he continued till his death. He was a member of a newspaper or coffee-room in that city, where he sometimes smoked a pipe. This indulgence being prohibited by a general order, he struck his name out of the subscription-list, adding, "Vanished in smoke." He dressed very neat; wore a dark blue coat without a collar, with a triangular hat; and carried a cane with a large amber head to it. For some time before his death, he suffered his beard to grow, and lived in a state of strict seclusion. When in Newcastle, he was called Beau Harrison, and in Durham, Philosopher Harrison. This able but eccentric man died in November, 1802, aged 88 years. He left a very valuable collection of Mathematical books. He is mentioned in Nichols' Lit. Anec. vol. viii. p. 326. John Fryer was the pupil and assistant of Charles Hutton, when the latter occupied the school-house near the foot of Westgate Street. While in this situation, he measured and drew a plan of Newcastle, which his master published in his own name in 1770. In 1773, and after Mr. Fryer had become master of the Trinity School, he published "A Plan of the Low Part of the River Tyne, shewing the Rocks, Sands, &c." He also published, in 1786, "A Plan of the River Tyne, from the Bar to the Head of South Shields." His early plans were justly admired for accuracy and beauty; and, on devoting himself to the business of land-surveying and valuing of estates, he soon rose into eminence; being not less distinguished for skill than for soundness of judgment, unremitted industry, and the most unbending integrity. His map of the county of Northumberland, which appeared in 1820, is certainly not equal to what he was able to execute; but he was probably dispirited by the apathy of the gentlemen of the county, and therefore finished this laborious work with haste and indifferency. He died in Newcastle, on October 5, 1825, in the 80th year of his age. William Drysdale was a very singular character. He was a slender, dark-complexioned, sharp-featured man, and had much the appearance of a quack doctor of the old school. He had a knowledge of Latin and Greek, was skilled in Hebrew and the cognate languages of the East, and was a master in Rabbinical learning. He was fond of mystical metaphysics, and, if permitted to assume the necessary premises, could demonstrate mathematically any proposition he pleased. He published a vindication of the Mosaic Theory of the Earth, which he dedicated to the bishop of Durham. This work, which is thickly interspersed with Hebrew and Greek quotations, is sublimely unintelligible. The writer has seen one of Mr. Drysdale's Metaphysico-Mathematical performances in manuscript, which would puzzle the most profound masters in the occult sciences. He died during the ravages of the typhus fever in Newcastle, in November, 1803, aged 58 years. John Rutherford was born in 1770, at Bournhope, an obscure place at the head of the river Wear; and was taught by his uncle, Thomas Kidd, master of Wearshead school, to read, write, and the first rules of Arithmetic. When about 11 years old, he was sent to work in the lead-mines, where he continued till he was upwards of 20. During this period, he continued, under very discouraging circumstances, to work and study with the most unwearied industry; until, having acquired a tolerable degree of Mathematical knowledge, he ventured to become a candidate for Lanchester school, which he obtained. Here he continued his Mathematical pursuits with renewed spirit, being kindly assisted by the Rev. Mr. Dent, the incumbent of the parish. He became master of the Trinity School at the close of 1803, and was a contributor to the Ladies' Diary from 1806 to the time of his death. In 1813, he obtained the prize. He died on July 31, 1814, aged 44 years. He was twice married, and left a widow with four children. Edward Riddle, a native of Troughend, in Elsdon parish, co. of Northumberland, commenced the business of teaching when only a boy. In September, 1814, he was appointed master of the Trinity-house School; in which situation he continued until September, 1821, when he removed to Greenwich, having been chosen head master of the Royal Naval Asylum. Since 1810, he has been one of the ablest Mathematical writers in the Ladies' Diary, and obtained the prizes both in 1814 and 1819. In 1821, he printed a tract which he had written in Newcastle, entitled "Observations on the present State of Nautical Astronomy, with Remarks on the Expediency of promoting a more general Acquaintance with the modern Improvements of the Science among Seamen in the British Merchant Service. Dedicated to the Worshipful the Master and Brethren of the Trinity-house, Newcastle upon Tyne, in grateful Remembrance of numberless Acts of Kindness." In 1824, he published "A Treatise on Navigation and Nautical Astronomy, adapted to Practice, and to the Purposes of Elementary Instruction." This useful work is inscribed "To the Right Honourable and Honourable the Commissioners and Governors of the Royal Hospital of Seamen at Greenwich." Mr. Riddle also writes occasionally in the Philosophical Magazine, and has furnished some of the Mathematical articles in the London Encyclopedia, now publishing. He takes celestial observations with surprising quickness and accuracy. At present, he is a member of the council of the "Astronomical Society of London," an institution that comprehends in its members and correspondents "every eminent astronomer in Europe."—See Hist. of Northumb. vol. ii. p. 214. Anthony Cook left the plough at his native place, Woolley, in Slaley parish, co. of Northumberland, to succeed his friend, Mr. Riddle, as master of the Trinity-house School; and certainly his election reflected honour upon the establishment. He obtained the prizes in the Ladies' Diary for 1817 and 1822, and in the Gentlemen's Diary for 1818 and 1821. His abilities were admired by the first mathematicians in the kingdom; and it has been stated by good authority, that, considering his age, he had not an equal in Mathematical science. He died on July 17, 1824, at the early age of 30 years.—See Hist. of Northumb. vol. ii. p.356.