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Town’s academic aspiration in the 1870s

Cookson Country
Cookson Country

SORRY, I’ve neglected to wish you happy new year, haven’t I? Everyone will have their own hopes for what 2015 will bring.

Society continues to evolve, although it appears that we are going backwards where social mobility is concerned.

I mention elsewhere on the page that I’ve recently been delving about in the 1870s. Imagine my surprise to come across an extraordinary letter, reminding parents in Shields of the forthcoming entrance examinations for Cambridge University.

Yes, you read that right. It appears that the town was an examination centre for Cambridge, prospective candidates being urged to get their application forms in, accompanied by the appropriate fees.

Which is the “Ah, but...” moment, because you are talking about families who had the financial wherewithal to send a son (and it would almost certainly have only been a son) to such a prestigious university.

This, after all, was the height of the fee-paying South Shields Boys’ High School as a minor public school and of small private schools offering personal tuition.

Nevertheless, it brings you up sharp to realise how matter-of-factly it was considered, nearly 150 years ago, that children from a grimy North East port could aspire to such heights of academe.