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In the Beginning

Sir William Turner and His Schools

A commentary by Peter M. Chester

William Turner was born in Kirkleatham in 1615 and as a younger son in his family, he had to make his own way in the world. Apprenticed to a London cloth merchant, he became a successful businessman in his own right, becoming a wealthy merchant banker. When he died in 1692, he left a fortune of some £6m.

He served as both an Alderman and Lord Mayor of the City of London during the 1660ís and it was during that time that he was knighted by King Charles II.

He was always noted for his civic responsibilities, his charitable inclinations, and his interest in education. He was much involved in the rebuilding of the City of London after the Great Fire of 1666, taking a particular interest in the new St.Paulís, designed by Sir Christopher Wren. For his familyís estates, having established the Hospital in Kirkleatham in 1676, in his will he left money for the establishment of a school. This was first housed in what is now the Kirkleatham Old Hall Museum, newly-built in 1709.

The first school did not flourish, and in the nineteenth century the charity was reconstituted and a new school built in 1868, on Coatham Road, on a site currently occupied by Redcarís Central Library. As the twentieth century unfolded this rCoatham SchoolĒ was to become one of the most successful grammar schools in the North of England, moving in 1963 to brand new premises on Corporation Road, in the building across the road from the present Redcar & Cleveland College.

1975 saw the amalgamation of the sixth-forms of Sir William Turnerís School for boys and the Cleveland Grammar School for girls to produce Sir William Turnerís Sixth-form College, and a further move, this time to Redcar Lane. With the advent of tertiary education in 1994, and the establishment of Redcar & Cleveland College, Sir William Turnerís has moved again, to the new part of the College dedicated to his name, which is to be formally opened in June 2001.

Sir William Turner, and the traditions of his schools and colleges, are just some of many important elements that make up the present Redcar & Cleveland College. The Foundation he established those three centuries ago continues to play a major part in College life. As he would have wished, he remains an important benefactor to all our students today.