WITH what the D&S Times described as “a brilliant assembly of ladies” looking on, the men of Richmond gathered in the Town Hall on September 27, 1850, for a solemn ceremony to open the “Tate Testimonial”.

The Tate Testimonial is what has recently been known as “the lower school” in Richmond. It is the ecclesiastical-looking building in a position of great drama overlooking the Swale which has been empty since 2011.

Now the Richmondshire Building Preservation Trust is trying to raise £450,000 in just 12 months to bring it back to life.

On that day in 1850, the mayor of Richmond, Robert Robson, and the Archbishop of York, the Most Reverend Thomas Musgrave, led a procession from the Town Hall down to the grassy area in front of the new school building.

It had been designed by George Andrews, the York architect who had also designed Richmond station, on the opposite bank of the Swale, and the Mercury bridge, which crossed the Swale.

It was dedicated to James Tate, the school’s former headmaster. Tate had been born in the town in 1771, and had risen to fulfil his childhood ambition of heading his own school. He was said to be “a man dripping Greek”, and he turned the school into one of the country’s leading classical institutions.

His scholars regularly reached the top universities, and such was his school’s reputation that Mr Musgrave, the son of a wealthy Cambridge tailor, had been sent north to benefit from it.

As well as dripping Greek, Mr Tate must have been dribbling Latin, because not only did he come up with Richmond School’s motto – “non nobis nascimur” (we are not born for ourselves) – but also, in 1818, he suggested the motto for the Stockton & Darlington Railway: “periculum privatum utilitas publica” (private risk for public service).

In Mr Tate’s day, the school was in St Mary’s churchyard, where it had been since its founding in about 1392. He was headmaster for 37 years and after his death in 1843, his former pupils, including the archbishop, had raised the money to build the Tate Testimonial just beneath his old schoolroom.

On the opening day, “on the open space in front of the new school”, Lord Zetland, who had chaired the fundraising committee, placed the school deeds in the hands of the mayor, thus handing the building into public ownership. At the same time, the archbishop placed into the hands of the headmaster, James Tate who was the son of the man being memorialised, the keys to the new school.

“The parties now entered the school room, which was tastefully adorned with appropriate banners, evergreens etc,” said the D&S. “About 90 were present. After the collation, several toasts were proposed and supported in most excellent speeches.”

The report concluded: “The general enjoyment may be conceived, when we consider that many met their old school fellows for the first time after an interval of some score of years.”

Since 1971, Mr Tate’s boys’ grammar school has been amalgamated with the girls’ high and the secondary modern to form the comprehensive school which has gradually grown along Darlington Road. From 1971, the Tate Testimonial building was used as the lower school with 10,000 pupils passing through its ecclesiastical-looking doors before it, too, was moved up to Darlington Road in 2011.

Now the Preservation Trust, which successfully saved the Station, has received Lottery money to assist with the first phase of the project. The trust is planning a series events over the summer, and is also appealing for memories of those who attended the school. It is also collecting donations – those offering £500 or more will go on a “blackboard of fame” that will hang in the building when it becomes a community hub.

For more details of how to help and donate, go to richmondshirebpt.co.uk or email info@richmondshirebpt.co.uk

Another way in which people can help is by identifying the curious creature who adorns the rooftops of the 1850 building. You would probably expect a winged griffin to be sitting up there, guarding the shield, but this appears to be more of a bear-like creature.

If you have any theories about it, either email the trust or chris.lloyd@nne.co.uk

LAST week on these pages we told of George Brown, the founder of the D&S, who died in Barnard Castle 150 years ago this month. By happy coincidence, the story of Richmond Grammar School includes the founder of the Ripon & Richmond Chronicle which, since 1894, has been part of the D&S.

The Ripon & Richmond Chronicle was founded in 1863 by John Bell (when he started it, the Ripon and the Richmond were the other way round) who attended the school with his elder brother, George. George went to London and in 1839 established an educational publishing company that bore his name until 1990 when it was swallowed into the HarperCollins empire.

John stayed in Richmond and, through his newspaper, became a thorn in the flesh of the local authorities – in 1866, he was sued for libel by the town’s mayor whom he had called corrupt.

From the Darlington & Stockton Times of…

March 23, 1968

THE 70th anniversary of the founding of the Wensleydale Tournament of Song was commemorated in the D&S 50 years ago this week.

It was founded in 1898 by the Rt Hon Amias Lucien Orde-Powlett, son of the 3rd Lord Bolton, of Bolton Castle, who was committed to “propagating and fostering a lover of music among the humbler classes”.

Said the D&S: “In his honour a large photograph very effectively drape across the centre of the wall behind the stage” in Leyburn Town Hall where the tournament took place.

The most noteworthy winner was in the ladies’ Yorkshire dialect class where Miss Ruth Harrison “who had entered in these classes in 12 consecutive years with 12 consecutive wins proved that the 13th would not be her downfall when she scored 88 marks to win her class prize”.

The 108th Wensleydale Tournament of Song concludes today with a day of classes from 9.30am at the Garden Rooms at Tennants in Leyburn.

The paper of 50 years ago also contained important industrial news. “A 4,000ft deep mine is to be sunk between Boultby and Staithes,” said the main story. “It is believed this development could change the economic face of the Cleveland area. It will be the first potash mine in this country, all supplies of potash at present being imported.”

This was presented as good news, although every silvery cloud has a grey lining. “There are also fears that a mining venture on a large scale, with the increase in population that more jobs might bring, and the new roads and building that might be necessary, would have a detrimental effect on the countryside which is in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park.

“But most people in the area welcome the possibility of a new source of prosperity and employment, seeing it as possibly triggering off the kind of industrial expansion that has been sought for some time past.”

March 23, 1918

ONE hundred years ago this week, Darlington was preparing for the coming of Egbert the tank. The tank, which had seen service on the Somme, was on tour, pitting provincial town against provincial town to see which could pledge the most in war bonds during its week-long stay.

“Hartlepool has set the pace pretty well, and Middlesbrough with the assistance of Stockton made an exceedingly creditable return, but Darlington with its extraordinarily developed industries, with works never so busy or extended as they are at the present time, should come near to creating a record,” said the D&S, piling on the pressure.

Egbert would arrive from Halifax at North Road Station on Monday. “About noon, the monster will leave the station, and headed by a military band, a number of mounted men, and infantry, will proceed along Northgate to the Market Place, demolishing a specially-prepared obstacle en route.”

It would remain in the Market Place for a week, with a special post office beside it “for the convenience of investors”, and banks would be open until 8pm every night for the sale for war bonds.