Back to the Westoe Cemetery page
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.
MARINE COLLEGE AND ITS FOUNDER
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
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
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
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
by Dr Winterbottom are still taught.
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,
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.
Back to the Top