JUST over 300 years ago, tobacconist’s widow Eleanor Allan fulfilled her pipe dream of opening schools for poor children.
And yesterday her statue looked down on the unveiling of a plaque which marked the schools’ long links with Newcastle. Newcastle Lord Mayor Brenda Hindmarsh unveiled the plaque on the Queen Anne-style building by architect R J Johnson in the city’s College Street, which was home to the Dame Allan schools from 1883 to 1935.
The statue of Dame Allan, who died in 1708, is mounted in a niche on the wall of the adjacent headmaster’s house. It is the only statue to a woman in Newcastle apart from those to Queen Victoria.
Dame Allan sold her farm in Wallsend to open her schools, which were founded in 1705, for 40 poor boys and 20 poor girls.
Today, the schools are based in Fenham and have a total of 920 pupils.
The first schools are believed to have been sited near St Nicholas Church, now the city’s Anglican Cathedral, with moved in 1786 to Manor Chare near All Saints, 1821 to Carliol Square, 1861 to Rosemary Lane off Pudding Chare, and 1875 to Hanover Square before moving in to the purpose-built College Street building. It is now owned by Northumbria University and part is let to the Newcastle Law Society and part to the city council’s youth offending team.
Dame Allan’s principal Dr John Hind said yesterday: “We felt it was important that the schools’ links to the city were marked.”
Coun Hindmarsh said: “Dame Allan’s Schools have played a significant role in the life of our city’s education and I am delighted their connections to the city centre are being marked at this plaque unveiling.”
Today, demolition begins on the 1893 Hunters Moor Hospital in Spital Tongues, Newcastle, with the six-acre site being redeveloped as a 300-pupil junior school for Dame Allan’s and a 20-pupil nursery, due to open next September.
At present, the junior school is split between sites at Forest Hall and the main Dame Allan’s School in Fenham.