Tyne and Wear HER(15685): Newcastle, Percy Street, Academy - Details
Newcastle, Percy Street, Academy
Site of the house of the Bruce family and their 'commodious' [according to Mackenzie 1827] academy. John Bruce came to Newcastle in 1793 and set up a teaching practice. In 1802 he leased a large house in Percy Street. Two good schools had just closed in the Haymarket area. He founded his school in 1806. The Academy was a commercial school, preparing the boys for trade and business. John Bruce was not a man of means, he was self taught in French (useful in a trading port like Newcastle) and mathematics. In 1802 the school offered courses in French, mathematics, geography and writing. In 1815 Robert Stephenson attended the academy. In 1817 John Bruce toured schools in Edinburgh and introduced a similar examination system into his own school on his return. Bruce said the purpose of the exam was to 'rouse the emulation of the boys and to gratify the pardonable vanity of their parents'. In 1820 William Turner publicly praised Bruce's teaching. After his father's death, his son, John Collingwood Bruce ran the academy from 1834 to 1860, when he retired from management. Dr JC Bruce was educated at Glasgow University. He had planned to be a Presbyterian minister. He introduced science into the curriculum. Even in the 1860s the Academy was said to be the only school in Newcastle that taught science. In 1834 an 'Outline of Education' was published. This reported that younger boys learnt arithmetic to aid book-keeping and cartography. Older boys studing mathematics to aid mensuration, land surveying, navigation and mechanics. In 1836 the Schools Committee inspected the Academy and gave it a glowing reference saying it was like 'a university in miniature'. In 1868, John Hammond, assistant commissioner for Northumberland, reported to Lord Taunton's School's Inquiry Commission that the Bruce Academy was Newcastle's best secondary school. The school closed in 1881. The garden of the school was the former nonconformist burial ground (HER 5994). There is a stone plaque on the corner of Percy Street and St. Thomas Street to mark the location of the academy.
Brian Mains and Anthony Tuck (eds), 1986, Royal Grammar School Newcastle upon Tyne - a History of the School in its Community, pp 84-93; E Mackenzie, 1827, An Historical Account of Newcastle upon Tyne including the borough of Gateshead, pp 191-4; Newcastle City Libraries, 1987, The Newcastle Quiz Book (or, how many grey horses..?), No. 5