Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII

Return to History

We now return to George Dixon’s autobiographical narrative.

To save us the trouble of going over to Darlington John Pease kindly came over to confer with my dear wife and myself on the important position in which we would be placed if we received the appointment for which we had applied. He pointed out that we would become, as it were, the delegated parents of the young people placed under our care, and that on us would devolve not only their mental and physical well-being, but, what was far more important, their moral and spiritual training, but reminded us that if we sought Divine guidance and in all our ways acknowledged Him, He would direct our paths. As to the agricultural part I had no fear, having, by a three-years’ apprenticeship, become well acquainted with not only the theory but the practice of farming. It was as to my literary qualifications that I felt most doubtful. John Pease thought the scholars admitted into the Institution would not be further advanced than those I was already teaching in my day school. That I might use the books published by the British and Foreign School Society and my teaching on the monitorial plan would not be objected to. Encouraged by the kind words and sympathy of our dear friend I agreed to allow my application to be submitted to a general conference to be held in Sunderland, 19th of 4th month, 1841. John Pease and William Backhouse, Sr., invited me to accompany them. On the way the subject of Temperance came up, in which I was very much interested. I told them of my beginning a society in Staindrop, my native village, when I was about 21 years of age, and a few of my young companions joining me. Our pledge was to abstain from spirituous liquors only, allowing the use of wine, ale, and porter, of which some of our members partook too freely. Afterwards, when Thomas Whittaker came with his rattle, calling meetings, at which he showed the absurdity of abstaining from spirituous liquors and getting intoxicated by drinking those fermented, the Total Abstinence Pledge was substituted in place of the Temperance Pledge. I told them of our success in Bishop Auckland, and in the neighbouring villages, where we were holding meetings; many signing the pledge. My travelling companions listened attentively but expressed no opinion of their own; perhaps they thought me a little too zealous in the cause. The Friends met at Caleb Wilson’s, Tavistock Place. I was called in and endeavoured to answer the various questions that were put to me. I felt myself comparatively a stranger among them. In the absence of Isaac Sharp, John Pease acted as Secretary, and was about to confirm my appointment when Thomas Robson said “I have one question to ask George Dixon before he receives the appointment; Is he a total abstainer? It is important that the young people that will be placed under his care should by example and precept be encouraged to abstain entirely from the use of all kinds of intoxicating liquors.” This brought a smile over dear John Pease’s countenance, and he said he could answer that question for me, and gave the substance of the conversation we had on the way. I withdrew and returned home to Bishop Auckland.

The Minute of the Conference shows that my offer was accepted and my wife and I were requested to meet the Committee at Darlington 4th month, 27th, 1841, for the final appointment, and to fix our salaries, also to arrange for the maintenance and education of our children. The following Minute was made at that meeting:-

“At a Committee Meeting held at Darlington, 4th month, 7th, 1841, George and Alice Dixon being present, and having again expressed their wish to undertake the offices of Master and Mistress to the Ayton School, this Committee concurs therein, and appoints them accordingly to the stations aforesaid, on the following terms:-

For George Dixon, £40        per annum.
For Alice Dixon, £20                do.

Their maintenance and that of their children, together with the education of the latter, is included in this arrangement, at the cost of the Institution.”

“On the 10th of 6th month, 1841, an Address to Friends was prepared, of which 600 copies was printed. After describing the earlier stage of the enterprise and the difficulty of finding a suit­able site, the Address proceeds:-

“The difficulties in which the Committee felt themselves placed were, however, very unexpectedly met by the offer of a highly eligible estate at Great Ayton, in the North Riding of the County of York, for the sum of £6,500, and a contribution of £5,000 towards the funds of the proposed institution, which were simultaneously announced, Ayton Meeting is a part of Guisbro’ Monthly Meeting and consequently not within the limits of Durham Quarterly Meeting, but very accessible to several of its members; Stockton being eleven, and Middlesbrough about eight miles distant. To these places there is a continuous railway access from nearly all the main lines in the kingdom.

“No time was lost in looking over the premises; and at a third General Conference held on the 5th instant, the purchase was agreed to be made.

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