Institutions for Education: Sunday schools

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: Sunday schools', Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead, (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827), pp. 457-460. British History Online [accessed 19 June 2024].

Eneas Mackenzie. "Institutions for Education: Sunday schools", in Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead, (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827) 457-460. British History Online, accessed June 19, 2024,

Mackenzie, Eneas. "Institutions for Education: Sunday schools", Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead, (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827). 457-460. British History Online. Web. 19 June 2024,

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The first Sunday-school in Newcastle was formed for boys and girls in 1784, by the Rev. W, Turner, assisted by some of the young members of Hanover Square Chapel. It has ever since been steadily supported. There is a master for the boys, and a mistress for the girls. On October 1, 1785, a Sunday-school was established in St. John's parish for 40 boys. In 1796, it was given up, but resumed December 17, 1817, through the zealous exertions of the Rev. C. Benson. (fn. 1) It is supported by an annual subscription of 50 to £60, and an annual sermon, when a liberal collection is usually made. In 1824, a school-house was built, on church-land in Rosemary Lane, containing two large rooms, the one for boys and the other for girls. It cost above £500. (fn. 2) The master is assisted by several young men, and the mistress is often aided by young ladies. In 1785, some active and benevolent individuals organized a Sunday-school for boys and girls in All Saints' parish, which continues to flourish. At first, both sexes assembled and were taught in a large room of the parish work-house. The girls, who are under two mistresses, now meet in the Surgeons' Hall; and the boys, under the superintendence of two masters, in the former place. St. Andrew's Sunday-school for girls, which was established in 1816, is held in the Joiners' Hall, High Friar Street. The Society for the Encouragement of Parochial Schools gave £10 towards its support in 1817, and also grants two guineas annually to the mistress. The school for boys in this parish was opened in 1819: they are taught by a hired master, in the Charity-girls' school-room. There is no established Sunday-school in St. Nicholas' parish; but as many children as can be accommodated assemble with the free scholars in the old school-rooms in the Manor Chare, the other children being requested to attend the Church Sunday-schools in their respective parishes.

The Wesleyan Methodists, at the suggestion of the Rev. Charles Atmore, then superintendent preacher in the Newcastle circuit, opened a Sunday-school in the Orphan House, early in the year 1790; and which has been continued with unrivalled zeal and success. (fn. 3) On the day it was first opened, seventy persons volunteered as teachers, and one thousand and twelve children were entered as scholars. Taking seven hundred to be the average number that has attended this school since its commencement, and calculating that each child remains only one year at school, then upwards of twenty-five thousand children, betweeu the ages of six and fourteen years, will have had the benefit of at least one year's education and religious instruction. A second Wesleyan Sunday-school was established in Sandgate in 1812; but which was, in 1814, removed to its present situation in the Carpenters' Tower. Another Wesleyan Sunday-school was opened in 1817, in Westgate Street, which was subsequently removed to the Nuns-gate; but in consequence of the formation of many similar institutions in the town, the number attending decreased, and, in 1820, it was incorporated with the Orphan House school.

In 1811, the Methodists of the New Connexion opened the Bethel Sunday-school. The Scotch Presbyterians, and other Dissenting bodies, soon after began to perceive the necessity of forming similar religious nurseries. Accordingly, the Secession congregation of Sallyport established a Sunday-school in 1817, which example was followed by their brethren of the Close meeting-house in 1818. Since that time, the number of Sunday-schools in this town has rapidly increased. It ought, however, to be noticed, that the Baptist Sunday-school in the Tuthill Stairs commenced in May, 1807, and was therefore one of the first formed by the Dissenters in Newcastle.

The Newcastle Sunday-school Union.

This society was instituted in 1815, for the purpose of more generally establishing and encouraging Sunday-schools for the religious instruction of poor children. The Union sell to Sunday-schools Bibles, Testaments, Catechisms, Hymn Books, School Books, and other requisites; but schools connected with the Union have the privilege of purchasing 10 per cent. below the price at which other schools are supplied. The committee and officers of this institution have been peculiarly zealous and active. In 1820, they canvassed the town and suburbs for scholars. They regularly visit the schools, and make frequent journeys, at their own expense, through the counties of Durham and Northumberland. Disapproving of the principle of Mr. Brougham's Education Bill, as being unjust and oppressive to the Dissenting part of the community, the committee, in 1823, completed the survey of Newcastle and Gateshead, and twelve of the most considerable parishes in the county of Northumberland, in order to shew the inaccuracy of the returns made by the different parishes to the Education Committee in 1818, and that the deficiency of the means of education did not exist to the extent alleged.

The 17 parishes surveyed contained 113,394 souls; of which 16,885, or 6 7/10 of the population, were receiving instruction in day-schools. There were found, besides, 10,645 children in Sunday-schools; about one-third, or 3548 of whom, did not attend day-schools, which shews that 1 in 5½ are actually under instruction. Hence it follows, that, at that period, only 1 child in 3½, above 5 and not exceeding 15 years of age, were destitute of instruction. Even this deficiency is not to be attributed so much to the want of the means of instruction, as to the early age at which children are sent into the coal-mines, and to the ignorance and depravity of the parents. These calculations shew that the counties of Newcastle and Northumberland are amongst the best educated districts in the kingdom.

The following is a statement of the parochial returns of children in day-schools and Sunday-schools in Newcastle and Gateshead, made to parliament, compared with those made to the Sunday-school Union:—

St. Nicholas. All Saints'. St. Andrew's. St. John's. Gateshead. Totals.
Parochial Returns made to Parliament Population in 1821 5,105 20,877 8,115 9,410 11,767 55,274
No. of Children in Day-schools 74 628 87 966 350 2,105
No. of Children in Sunday-schools 494 300 794
Returns made to the Union No. of Children in Day-schools 513 3,270 870 1,406 1,558 7,617
No. of Children in Sunday-schools 411 1,253 1,226 898 1,257 5,045
Numbers short returned to Parliament Day-schools 439 2,642 783 440 1,208 5,512
Sunday-schools 411 759 1,226 598 1,257 4,251
Sunday-schools in Connexion with the Newcastle upon Tyne Sunday-school Union. (fn. 4) 1823. Sunday-schools not in Connexion with the Newcastle upon Tyne Sunday-school Union.
Children. Teachers. Children.
Orphan House 497 50 All Saints' (boys and girls) 320
Carpenters' Tower 277 28 St. Andrew's (ditto) 250
Bethel 88 14 St. John's, with Benwell (ditto) 260
High Bridge 337 31 St. Mary's, Gateshead (ditto) 60
Sallyport 115 12 St. Edmund's (ditto) 160
Close 83 13 Hanover Square (ditto) 75
Clavering Place 164 20 Catholic Chapel (ditto) 90
Zion Chapel 91 10 Tuthill Stairs (ditto) 190
Postern Independent 159 29 Independent Methodists (ditto) 145
New Court 123 28
Gateshead Presbyterian 153 23
Gateshead Methodist 201 22
2288 280

[The returns for these schools are taken partly from the general survey, and partly from information subsequently obtained. The county townships are not included.

Gateshead, although in the county of Durham, could not be omitted in this statement without rendering the returns for Newcastle incorrect. It ought to be observed, that St. Nicholas' enlarged Charity-school, the Carpenters' Tower day-school, and the Union day-school, containing in all about 700 scholars, were formed after the paro chial returns were made; but, on the other hand, the committee of the Sundayschool Union found, in surveying Newcastle and Gateshead, that from 15 to 20 day-schools, principally of the lowest order, had gone down. It is also necessary to remark, that the townships of Byker, Jesmond, Fenham, Westgate, Elswick, Benwell, and Gateshead Fell, are included in the above enumeration.

Exclusive of the royal, corporate, and charitable foundations described in the preceding pages, there are, in Newcastle and Gateshead, as near as can be calculated, one hundred and forty-five DAY-SCHOOLS, of which fifty-five are kept by masters, and ninety by mistresses. In these schools, some of which are highly respectable academies, nearly 5000 scholars are taught. The committee of the Sunday-school Union, in 1823, had the names, residence, &c. of above two hundred masters and mistresses (including schools of every description) in this town and Gateshead upon their books, and which are now before the writer; but the above statement is at the present time very nearly correct.

The Ladies' Boarding-schools are, in general, well attended, and ably conducted. The facility of procuring good masters, in every branch of polite education, renders Newcastle a very proper place for such seminaries. Miss Kemp, Miss Kitteridge, Mrs, Ogilvie, Mrs. Gibsone, and Miss Robinson, have respectable establishments. Scarcely any masters, excepting Mr. John Bruce, whose academy is in Percy Street, take boarders. On the whole, perhaps, there is not a town in England, considering the population, where the means of obtaining a good education are better or more various.


  • 1. On Sunday, January 24, 1819, the Rev. C. Benson delivered "An Address to the Scholars belonging to the Sunday-school of the Parish of St. John's," which was printed. The superintendents and teachers of the school afterwards presented Mr. Benson with Ackermann's History of the University of Cambridge, value 20 guineas, as a token of respect for his valuable services, in the formation of the school and of its rules, and for his unwearied and unceasing attention to its interests.
  • 2. The Society for the Encouragement of Parochial Schools in the Diocese of Durham and Hexhamshire, under the patronage of the bishop of Durham, and the superintendance of the parochial clergy, was established in 1811. This institution gave £40 towards this building, and also £40 to assist in building a branch Sunday-school-house at Benwell, and which cost £124, 4s. 8d. Both schools are supported by the same funds.
  • 3. Dr. Coke preached the first sermon for the benefit of this school, from the words, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." The collection was £14. Mr. Wesley called Sunday-schools "noble institutions," and considered them "among the best means, under God, of training up children for heaven." At an early period of Methodism in Newcastle, he preached a sermon to children, in the Orphan House, from "Hearken unto me, ye children," in words composed of not more than two syllables!
  • 4. By the report of the parent society of Sunday-school Union, the numbers in England alone, of Sundayschools, children, and teachers, stood, in 1822, as follows:—4259 schools, 56,647 teachers, and 573,085 children! The Newcastle branch, in 1823, comprised 108 schools, 1907 teachers, and 11,584 children. There are, at present, 21 Sunday-schools connected with the Wesleyan body in the Newcastle circuit, which, with one or two exceptions, does not extend more than four miles from the town, containing between 3 and 4000 children, and 500 teachers. Not more than 1000 of this number attend a day-school, and nearly 800 of them are daily engaged at work in the coal-pits. Thus, upwards of 2000 children, belonging to these schools, are without other means of instruction than what they receive in them. But this mode of teaching has lately been solemnly arraigned by the Rev. John Lockhart, M. A. a Presbyterian minister in Newcastle, who, in his Plea for the purity of the Sunday-school system, seems to argue that the teaching of poor children to read the Scriptures in these schools is a profanation of the Sabbath, and consequently an impiety highly displeasing to "the mighty and terrible God!" He would confine all religious teaching to "regularly ordained ministers of the Gospel," and severely condemns the abominable intrusion of laymen "on cones, crated ground." The bold avowal of this startling doctrine has given rise to a very warm controversy. In October, 1814, a school was opened for the instruction of the "uneducated adult poor" In the first year, 45 men and 60 women were entered. This charity was given up after a few years' trial. Anthony Clapham, and the late Thomas James, Esq. gave £100 each towards the permanent support of the Royal Jubilee School. This was omitted in the proper place.