The school officially became
Alderman Wood School in September 1919. 'Higher Elementary'
was no longer required as part of the name but it retained
the same status as before
Alderman Henry Curry Wood (1852 - 1917)
Henry Curry Wood was born in Tanfield district in 1852, the
second son of Joseph Curry Wood, a coal miner, and his
wife Ann. Henry, his four brothers and two sisters
attended Hobson School and, on leaving, became a
In 1876, he married Elizabeth Charlton and they had six children.
Perhaps his keen interest in
education was due to the fact that Henrietta and George
became teachers and Ethel was a headmistress. He was a
member of the School Board and this group of men had
always dreamed of opening a secondary school in the
By 1885, he was appointed Chairman of Tanfield Urban
District Council and was a JP.
In 1891, he became the first manager of Burnopfield
Co-operative Society and, in 1902, the family moved into the
prestigious 11-roomed manager's house at Sheep Hill,
In 1892, he was elected to Durham
County Council and subsequently became an Alderman. In
1902, Henry was elected Chairman of Durham County Council
(DCC) Education Committee and worked tirelessly to
improve schools in the area.
In 1904, his wife Ann died aged 50 and, the following year,
he married Emma Errington, his secretary at the Co-op. By
1910, he was a member of the Industrial Schools'
Committee, the Health Committee and on the Appeals'
Tribunal under the Military Service Act. He was known to
attend meetings regularly.
On Wednesday 16th October 1912, in his capacity as
Chairman of the D.C.C Education Committee, he formally
opened the new Higher Elementary School and Pupil
Teachers Centre at Tanfield Lea an important occasion
attended by many local dignitaries. In his speech,
Alderman Wood stated that being part of this event gave
him great pleasure. He believed that children should have
good teachers and be taught in well-designed buildings.
The total cost of this new school, building and land, was
£18,094 13s 2d.
When Henry retired from his management post in
Burnopfield, the family moved to Lakeside, Saltwell View,
Gateshead. From 1914 onwards, Henry travelled daily to
Meadowfield, Durham, to manage his son Wilfred's grocer's
shop, as Wilfred had joined the services.
In April 1916, Henry was unanimously appointed Vice
Chairman of D.C.C. In this capacity, he attended a meeting
on the 31st January 1917. It was decided that, as Chair
of the Education Committee, he should meet with a group
of teachers to discuss the problem of war bonds.
Councillors believed that Henry's wide knowledge of the
subject would enable them find a solution to this
However, on Monday 5th February, Henry and his wife Emma
set off early to catch the 7:43am train to Durham,
intending to manage the shop. On reaching Gateshead
Station, he suddenly took ill. He was carried into the
waiting room and a doctor was sent for, but he passed
away within minutes.
The tragic sudden death of Alderman H.C. Wood from a
heart attack was widely reported in the press and his
funeral service at Burnopfield United Methodist Church
was attended by a vast number of local dignitaries and
even "a posse of policemen". The service was conducted by
five clergymen and six Co-op employees were pallbearers.
His final resting place was in St James' Churchyard,
According to pupils who attended school in 1919, it was
in that year that the school was renamed 'The Alderman
Wood School' in his honour and it was awarded grammar
school status two years later. From humble beginnings,
Alderman H.C. Wood went on to achieve great things.