The starting point is the 1870 Education Act which provided for the creation of School Boards, elected by ratepayers, to provide schools where existing educational provision was inadequate.
Framwellgate Moor has according to the 1st Edition of the Ordinance Survey of 1857, a parochial school and by 1873 a local directory mentioned a National Mixed School. This can hardly have been adequate since the records of St. Margaret’s school in the city state that children from Framwellgate Moor made the two mile journey to that school.
The School Board was first elected in May 1975 and held monthly meetings which were reported regularly if not always accurately in the Durham Advertiser. The minutes of the School Board reveal the early priorities – the search for and purchase of a suitable plot of land, the appointment of staff and the provision of the necessary stock and equipment.
The site was bought from the Rev. R.H. Williamson of Hurworth whose family has owned land at least since the beginning of the century. The transaction was not without complication since Williamson’s agents made it a condition that the east end of the School should be out of line with the east end of St. Aidan’s Church, its neighbour on the east side of the turnpike road. The site, about3 acres of land, cost £376 and provided enough space for the three separate parts of the school (boys, girls and infants), a house for the master and two spacious playgrounds.
The cost of constructing the School amounted to £3,133.16.3. The Advertiser carried an advertisement in November 1875 inviting tenders for the job and mentioned the name of the architect – J. Henry of 11 North Bailey, Durham. Clearly the School Board lacked the capital to pay the full cost and so in December 1875 they applied to the Public Works Loan Commission who agreed to a loan (according to the Advertiser) of £3,800 to be repaid over 50 years at 3.5% interest.
By the autumn of 1876 the building work was progressing and the Board advertised for a schoolmaster and from 190 applications the produced a short list of 5. The successful candidate was Mr. John Hamer, then employed at Seaham Harbour by the National School.
By November 1876 the mistress for the girls and infants had also been appointed. Miss M.J. White of the Female Training College, Darlington was the successful applicant being preferred to the eleven other candidates. Her salary was £80 p.a., that of the schoolmaster £120 p.a.
With staff appointed the Board were anxious to finalise arrangements. After enquiries from adjacent districts they fixed the school fees at 2d. per week for those under 7 and 4d. per week for the others, though they took advantage of the power given to Boards in 1870 to enable parents to apply for aid in paying fees where there was hardship. By January 1877 the Board had bought all the necessary stock but were anxiously seeking assurances from the architect that the joiners would overcome their delays and have the school ready for the beginning of February. The Board went ahead with its plans and displayed posters announcing that the new Board School would open on 12 February 1877, and they also appointed a cleaner to start work. However the grand opening did not happen on time and it was 19 February (according to the Girls Department log book) before the School actually opened its doors to the local children.