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Dr Thomas Masterman Winterbottom b. 1766, was possibly South Shields’ greatest philanthropist. He died on the  8th July 1859 at the age of 93, by which time he was the oldest qualified medical practitioner in the country.  He was given a public funeral which was probably the largest in terms of attendance which South Shields has ever seen, and was buried in the central portion of Westoe cemetery, reserved for notable local worthies.  Unfortunately his tomb, with an elaborate inscription on it, has been the object of attacks by vandals who do not share its occupant’s ethos of public service, and is today as much a monument to their lack of civilization as to Dr Winterbottom's attainment of it.


SOUTH SHIELDS MARINE COLLEGE AND ITS FOUNDER

by Geoff Nicholson
 


Dr. Winterbottom's funeral leaving Westoe Village. Photo:
South Shields Research Through Imaging. (Facebook)

South Shields Marine College was founded in 1837 by a Deed executed by Dr Thomas Masterman Winterbottom, (1766-1859) possibly South Shields’ greatest philanthropist, and enrolled in the High Court of Chancery that year.  It was to be another 29 years, however, before it was to open its doors to students.
Dr Winterbottom was born on 26th March 1766 in a house on what was to become the corner of Dean Street, on the north side of South Shields Market Place, and was baptised at St Hilda’s parish church on 29th April that year.  He was the eldest of what were to be eight children of Dr James Winterbottom (c1742-1797), a Whitby man who had come to South Shields to practice medicine and who had married local girl Lydia Masterman only ten months earlier.  After a private education at the hands of Rev Brown, the Curate of St Hilda’s, young
click to enlargeThomas was sent first to Edinburgh University and then to that of Glasgow, where he qualified as a doctor of medicine.  After a brief probationary period he was appointed, in 1792, as Physician to the colony of Sierra Leone, a job which took him to Africa for several years.  While there he met George Macaulay, father of the historian Lord Macaulay, who was to remain a lifelong friend.  Dr Winterbottom’s professional experience in Sierra Leone was summed up in his book “An account of the native Africans in Sierra Leone, to which is added an account of the present state of medicine among them”.
In 1803, after having returned to South Shields in 1796 and having taken over his father’s practice, Dr Winterbottom married, at Jarrow parish church, to Barbara, the widow of James Wardle, a local shipowner.  He settled down in Westoe village and when not engaged in the duties of his practice wrote several medical books and papers.  A major philanthropist, he was much admired by his fellow townsmen.  Although he retired from general practice after some 30 years, Dr Winterbottom continued his active interest in the subject right up to his death, which occurred on 8th July 1859 at the age of 93, by which time he was the oldest qualified medical practitioner in the country.  He was given a public funeral which was probably the largest in terms of attendance which South Shields has ever seen, and was buried in the central portion of Westoe cemetery, reserved for notable local worthies.  Unfortunately his tomb, with an elaborate inscription on it, has been the object of attacks by vandals who do not share its occupant’s ethos of public service, and is today as much a monument to their lack of civilisation as to Dr Winterbottom’s attainment of it.
Having no children of his own, and his wife having pre-deceased him in 1840, Dr Winterbottom left his considerable fortune to the various charities he had instituted and supported in life.  These included the Master Mariners’ and Annuity Society, which he had created in 1839, which provided cottages and payments to aged and infirm master mariners, their widows and orphans, the Winterbottom South Shields Fund for the Relief of Deserving Widows of Seamen, whose title is self-explanatory, the Unmarried Female Servants’ Reward Fund, which he had created in 1849, the Lying-In Charity, the Scullerman’s Charity, Ploughing Prizes and a Coal Charity to provide coal for the poor of the village of Westoe each Christmas (how long, the author wonders, since there were any families in now-affluent Westoe village poor enough to qualify?).
 The bulk of Dr Winterbottom’s fortune, however, was left towards the Marine School, and his friends, among them Robert Ingham, MP, and Richard Shortridge, JP, made it their business to get it established, such that it opened on March 26th 1866, the centenary of its founder’s birth.  At first, the Marine School occupied rooms in the Mechanic’s Institute  but in 1869 it moved to a new building on the corner of Ocean Road and Wesley Street.   The object of the School was the training of masters and officers of the Merchant Service in all things necessary to qualify them for the highest duties of their profession.  Students had to be bona fide seamen, already possessing some elementary knowledge, and with the rudiments of an ordinary education.  In October 1886 a Boys’ Department was opened, in separate accommodation, divided into a nautical class and an engineer’s class, with special lessons for those wishing to become navigators or sea-going engineers.  Boys had to be aged 13 or over, pass an entrance examination and produce a certificate of good conduct from their previous school.  They paid a fee of £2 per term but there were a few free places for those who did conspicuously well in their entrance examination or later.  From 1880 to 1890 the school produced 365 master mariners, 392 first mates, 385 second mates, 7 extra masters, 7 compass deviation officers and 3 coastguard officers.
After being a credit to its town for about a century the Marine School eventually evolved into what is now the South Tyneside Marine and Technical College, which operates on two sites, a “commercial” one at Hebburn and a science-based one at Westoe, where the
principals established by Dr Winterbottom are still taught.
 


The Marine School was founded by Dr Winterbottom, who provided £21,000 in 1859 to educate boys aged over 17 who wished to go to sea. The Marine School opened on 26 March 1861 in hired rooms in the Mechanics Institute (today, the South Shields Museum). In 1869 a more permanent site was found, almost opposite on Ocean Road. By 1918, staff generally numbered seven and the Marine School offered not just navigation and scientific training, but also marine engineering. The building is now a public house.

The South Shields Marine and Technical College, 1951-1984
In 1951 the Marine School was taken over by the Local Education Authority and became the South Shields Marine and Technical College. It marked the start of a new era. The College no longer offered solely marine training. Instead, it offered a wide range of different subjects for the people of South Tyneside.

In 1957, due to increased demand and continual expansion, the College moved to its present site in Westoe. New departments opened in Electrical Engineering, Catering, General Studies and Maths and Science. Marine Training also developed and new facilities added: A Planetarium (1964), Radar Station (1968), Seamanship Centre (1972), Training Vessel on the Tyne (1971) and Ship?s Bridge Simulator (1981).

Hebburn Technical College, 1955-1984
The Hebburn Technical College grew out of the Jarrow Technical Institute, which was an offshoot of the Jarrow Grammar School. It was established to meet the large increase in demand for training for the local engineering, shipbuilding and mining industries.

South Tyneside College, 1984-
The merger of South Shields and Hebburn in 1984 formed the college as we know it today. It has continued to evolve and develop since its formation in 1984. However it still maintains its two centres at Westoe and Hebburn, as well as its worldwide reputation for marine training and its firm commitment to the local community.

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