Grace Horsfall – Educator of Stockton’s Girls
In 1803 Grace Horsfall founded the Stockton School of Industry for girls in Castlegate for ‘the gratuitous education and clothing of girls’.
Grace Horsfall, was born in 1757, the third of five daughters. Her father was William Horsfall of Storthes Hall. In 1780, at the age of 23, she married George Sutton of Stockton and Elton. Grace’s kind and caring nature led her set up the Stockton School of Industry in 1803. This institution was intended ‘for the gratuitous education and clothing of girls free of expense’ for girls from all backgrounds, not just those in the middle and upper classes. This was nearly 70 years before education became compulsory with the Education Act of 1870.
The school was set up in connection to the Trinity church and aimed to prepare girls for a variety of trades including dress-making and embroidery. Primarily funded by voluntary contributions, the School of Industry thrived and had up to 88 students, although it generally had about 40 children under tuition at any one time.
In her life time, Grace also set up many other charities aimed at aiding the women of Stockton, including the Benefit Society for Women and a Blanket fund all of which received a portion of her husbands estate upon his death in 1815. Grace had died of a fever one year earlier in 1814 and was interred in the family vault in Elton.
A monument was erected in her honour in Stockton Parish Church commemorating her selfless life helping those less fortunate than herself.