The rain stayed away and the sun shone down on pupils, parents, staff and supporters of the Duke’s Middle School, in Alnwick, who gathered together on Saturday to enjoy a farewell garden party.
The final bell is due to sound at the school this summer and the event was organised to bring together previous and existing members of the school community in celebration of its long and distinguished history.
Fittingly, the garden party was opened by the Duke of Northumberland.
Founded in 1810 by the-then Duke, in commemoration of the jubilee year of George III’s reign, the original school was built in Green Batt, but in 1904, it moved to its current site and maintained an excellent reputation as a boys’ grammar school.
Reorganisation of education to a three-tier system throughout Northumberland in 1977 saw the school change to a co-educational middle school, which it remains until the end of term, when the recent reorganisation of the Alnwick Partnership of schools to a two-tier system will result in the Duke’s School finally closing its doors after 207 years of commitment to the community.
Staff at the school have been determined to ensure that the final year at the school would be one to remember and have filled it with a wide range of fun-filled activities for the pupils.
But the garden party provided an opportunity for them to share their pride in the school with parents, staff and old boys (and girls) from times gone by in front of the majestic old buildings.
The entertainment got off to a great start with an outstanding performance from previous headteacher, Josie McDonough, and her musical partner, Phil Smith – whose daughter was a former pupil.
They entertained the crowds for an hour before handing over to some very talented musicians from the town’s Duchess’s Community High School. Many of the younger musicians were ex-Duke’s pupils.
The afternoon was brought to a close with a duet from current pupils, Antonia Johnson and Amy Sparrow.
Dawn Morton, executive headteacher, invited the Duke to write a memory for the memory tree, which will be planted at the Duchess’s High School.
The Duke was then taken on a tour of the garden party by head of school, Anne Puddephatt, where he took part in a water balloon activity organised by pupils, James Carragher and Daniel Hardy, to raise money for a Scout expedition.
He then bought hand-made cards from pupils Amy and Katy Knight before meeting other stall holders.
It was a wonderful afternoon, supported by the Rotary Club of Alnwick, RAF Boulmer and the RAF Cadets, as well as local traders and showed both the Duke’s School community and that of the wider Alnwick area at its very best.