Southwell Charity Papers

Records of the Southwell Charity, later known as the Southwell Charity and Parochial Schools (and also called the Bluecoat Schools), Downpatrick, Co. Down, 1733-1972. The Southwell Charity was founded in 1733 by the Rt Hon. Edward Southwell (1705-1755), MP for the Borough of Downpatrick in the Irish Parliament (also member of the Privy Council and Principal Secretary of State for Ireland, 1720-55), to house the orphaned young and aged indigent, and to educate the poor young. The property now belongs to the Dunleath family having been passed to John Mulholland, 1st Baron Dunleath in the mid 19th century. The archive is a rich resource recording the vicissitudes of the Charity and the School spanning three centuries. There are title deeds, leases, legal agreements, testamentary papers etc., relating to Edward Southwell's estate. These include the codicil to the will of Edward Southwell, 28 July 1750, in which he made provision for the endowment of the Southwell Charity, leases for tenements in Irish Street, Downpatrick, 1722, and bundles of agreements for tenancies and for the appointment of teachers and a Medical Officer, 1864-1920. Rule 11 in Southwell's list of instructions regarding how the school and almshouses were to be run stipulated the recording of details about each individual and this has survived in the form of a book giving names, etc., of men and women taken in, and of boys and girls admitted to the schools and their trade on leaving. Other contents of the archive include: a list of the known masters of the school, 18th to 20th centuries; minute books of both the Southwell Schools and Down Parochial Schools, 1855-1951; girls' and boys' attendance books, 1825-90; a register of subscribers, 1890-1931; apprenticeship indentures, 1859-94; admission papers for the almshouses, 1865-1971; a large quantity of correspondence, c. 1890-1972, some relating to the transfer of the schools to Down County Education Committee, 1949-51, and to the conversion of the almshouses into flats, 1966-71. There are photographs, portraits and engravings relating to the Charity including two outsize photographs of the teachers and pupils of the Southwell Schools, 1888, and a range of photographs of various schoolmistresses, governors, trustees and stewards of the Charity, c.1880s-1930s. The archive includes drawings, specifications, plans, contracts and building accounts for the Southwell premises, 1863-1973.


The Southwell Papers are significant in that they document the history of a charitable institution over a period of 240 years. They are also important because of the information provided about education for an era pre-dating the National System of Education for which there is a relative paucity of surviving documentation.

Physical characteristics

c.850 items comprising a range of documents, volumes and pictorial material and occupying 13 PRONI boxes.

Description or Catalogue

See PRONI reference D/2961 for catalogue of the papers. The catalogue is available for consultation in PRONI's Public Search Room.


Accrual Policy
Accrual Method
Accrual Periodicity
Added by PRONI | Last updated on: 09 February 2018