Southwell Charity Trustees

Biography/History

Southwell Charity The Southwell or Bluecoat School was founded in 1733 by the Rt. Hon. Edward Southwell MP (1705-55). It was known at that time as the Southwell Charity or Almshouses and was designed by Southwell to support six old men and six old women and to educate and advance twelve poor girls and twelve poor boys who were to be brought up in the Church of Ireland religion and to be apprenticed to Protestant Masters and Mistresses of the Church of Ireland. Eight orphan boys and eight orphan girls were also to be lodged in the building and totally maintained and instructed. Adjoining the charity were residences for a schoolmaster and a schoolmistress and they, as well as the inmates of the almshouses, had a small garden each. The financing of the charity was no trouble during the life of Southwell as the annual sum of £237 was designated for its maintenance. However, he stated in his will that any sum over £237 should belong to the owner of the Downpatrick estate, so that even as the cost of living went up year by year no more than £237 could go to the charity after his death. When he died in 1755, he left a lengthy list of rules for the way the school was to be run and how the foundation money was to be spent. Southwell's son, the 21st Baron de Clifford assumed responsibility for the school until he died childless in 1833 after which it eventually became the property of the 1st Baron Dunleath; and it has remained and still belongs to the Dunleath family. The school has encountered mixed fortunes throughout its history. The financial restraints incurred because of Southwell's will, for example, prevented the school from being converted from primary to secondary status in the nineteenth century and when the school passed to John Mulholland, later 1st Baron Dunleath, he was forced to close the girls' school down. Towards the end of the century, the Commissioners of Educational Endowments drafted a scheme in 1890 for the future management of the school which resulted in the Southwell school being merged with the Parochial School (founded in 1863). After Partition, the school came under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education in Northern Ireland and in 1928 it had 193 pupils on its roll with a total of five teaching staff, three female and two male. In 1954, it was transferred to the Down County Education Committee and was closed down in 1959 when the pupils were moved according to their age to the recently opened Downpatrick Secondary Intermediate School (established in 1956) and Downpatrick Primary School (1959). The buildings still exist at the top of English Street, Downpatrick and the almshouses are still inhabited. At the beginning of the 21st century the Charity is administered by the Southwell Charity Governors, five in number.