This is a photograph of a school, established by the London Lead Company in 1861. It is located on the Alston Road in Middleton in Teesdale. Now, Middleton in Teessdale is a small market town in Upper Teesdale. Rural is an apt description. However, it is, or was a company town, meaning that, from small beginnings, the arrival of the London Lead Company transformed it into a significant town, at the centre of the Teesdale lead mining industry. The company funded the building of houses, brass bands, reading rooms, and the school.
It provided an elementary education for boys between the ages of 6 and 12, and for girls between the ages of 6 and 14 at a cost of 1d per week, per child. This was almost 10 years before the 1870 Elementary Education Act, and nearly 20 years before education was made compulsory for children up to the age of 10. The London Lead Company did not have to provide a school, but they did. It could be seen as an act of benevolence. They certainly invested heavily in the communities in which they had mines, and from where they recruited their miners. The London Lead Company had Quaker origins. Certainly, Quakers have been associated with social reform, and the schools, the reading rooms and the other ‘good works’ may well be evidence of this.
There is another story, that poverty was rife, and living, and working conditions of miners were appalling.
The school itself, is rather grand, it looks like a church – the established church that is, and it could be argued that a school like that reflects wealth and prosperity, not what you would immediately expect from Quakers.
The school building now serves as an outdoor activity centre.