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Like its elder sister, Elmfield College in York, Bourne College was established as a school for the sons of Primitive Methodists, beginning its life in 1876 in the redundant Roman Catholic St Chad’s Grammar School in Summer Hill, Birmingham, but soon outgrowing that accommodation and moving to 19 acres (77,000 m2) at Quinton.
This location was chosen, according to the inaugural speech of Rev George Middleton, FGS, the first governor of Bourne College (a post in which he combined the duties of chaplain, bursar, caretaker and general handyman) for one prime reason - students would have plenty of fresh and pure water, and would be removed from the temptations of town life, which would form one of the greatest encouragements to their parents, who were naturally anxious that their sons should be preserved from corrupting associations.
A company was formed, with a capital of £25,000 in 5,000 shares of £5, its object to establish a college or school chiefly for the education under sound Protestant religious influences of young gentlemen.
Messrs D. Smith & Sons of Birmingham were appointed architects, E. Walton of Smethwick was awarded the building contract and on June 6 1881 the foundation stones for the Queen Anne style building, its principal entrance in a 60-foot clocktower, were laid. Bourne College, which opened in Quinton in 1882, took its name from Hugh Bourne (1772-1852) one of the founders of Primitive Methodism, who had visited the village on a number of occasions in the mid-nineteenth century.
The buildings themselves were extensive. A school room, dining room, class room, piano rooms, a large chemical laboratory, lavatory and cloak room are on the ground floor; the first floor being devoted to three large dormitories, bath rooms and lavatories. The servants' department consists of a large kitchen with serving room and scullery attached, servants’ hall, various store rooms, pantries and dairy on the ground floor, and bedrooms occupying the first floor. Adjoining the College is the Governor’s house. Apartments are arranged for the sick and for the repairing of clothes. A spacious kitchen court contains the laundry, wash-house and engine house, and a large drying-ground and covered playground are provided. Water is obtained from a well and pumped into a tank in the roof over the bath room and the College is warmed by hot water apparatus.
R.G. Heys was appointed Bourne College’s first headmaster during its Summer Hill incarnation, and was replaced in 1883 by Thomas James Stewart Hooson, who had been an assistant master since 1878 and became headmaster of Bourne College when he was not quite twenty-one. After the retirement of Rev. George Middleton, he combined the roles of headmaster and governor until his retirement coincided with the closure of the college in 1928. Both George Middleton and Stewart Hooson are buried in Quinton churchyard and Hooson is commemorated in the mis-spelt Hoosen Close on the Bourne College site.
The impact of Bourne College upon the insular community of Quinton’s farm labourers, shop keepers and small-time metal workers was enormous. As its arrival brought new talent and new blood into the village, there was a very real sense in which it also brought the world to Quinton. During the forty-seven years of its existence in Quinton, some 39 Quinton boys attended the College, in company with 1,159 boys not from Quinton. They came from Welshpool to Warrington; from Berwick-on-Tweed to Redruth and from parts of the world as diverse as France, British Guinea, and that favourite preaching ground of Primitive Methodist missionaries, Fernando Po, from where Rev Napoleon Barleycorn sent his sons to Quinton to be educated. An elderly lady who as a girl had lived in Quinton commented, “We children used to go and stand at the gates of Bourne College because we had heard that there were overseas students there and we had never seen anyone foreign!”
At Bourne College boys studied everything from book-keeping to botany, from chemistry to carpentry and from elocution to electricity. Here they exercised… Much interest is attached to games, with the conviction that proper physical culture is not only a source of pleasure and an auxiliary to health, but is a stimulus to the intellect … and ate… Care is taken to provide a good substantial diet. Boys may be supplied with ham or other meat for breakfast at a charge of 25/- per term and day pupils may have dinners at 9d each … and slept… in a light, lofty and well-ventilated dormitory. A thorough system of baths and lavatories is also provided … and all, in the early days, for only twenty four guineas per term.
Closing of School
In the years immediately following the First World War, numbers at Bourne College went into a sharp decline, as the increasing provision of state secondary education reduced the need for minor public schools. The College went into voluntary liquidation, the contents of the building were auctioned in March 1929, by Edward Stevens & Champion, scholarships transferred to Elmfield and the buildings acquired by the Board of the Birmingham Guardians of the Poor, being subsequently refurbished as Quinton Hall, a home for aged men.
- Birmingham Faces & Places; Vol. 4 No. 7, 01.11.1891.
- Bourne College Prospectus
- Bourne College Memorandum of Association
- McKechnie, Colin C. (1892). The Life of Hugh Bourne. London: J.B. Knapp. p. 302.