FOR four centuries a Weardale school has helped to shape the hearts and minds of thousands of young people.

At the weekend many of those pupils - past and present, from near and far - came together to celebrate Wolsingham School and Community College’s 400th anniversary.

Over two days a host of attractions commemorated the school’s heritage, brought the community and generations together and entertained guests.

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An historical exhibition marked its foundation in 1614 by the Prince Bishop of Durham, memorabilia and photographs spanned the decades and a 1950s Weardale bus recreated the trip to school from Stanhope.

Sports activities included football and cricket matches and a reunion of the team which won the England School’s Basketball Association Under-19s Championship in 2004.

Now aged 26 to 28 and in various jobs including a teacher, electrician, civil servant and mechanic they were delighted to catch up on.

Civil servant Jonathan Hirst, 28, said: “It was a great group of people that played together and a good thing to be part of.”

Retired PE teacher Willy Bell said: “We didn’t have the sports hall facilities of today so every game they played was away and it was a really big deal for the area when they won.”

Musical events included a brass band competition and entertainment at a gala dinner by Huge, a band featuring former pupils Alex Lomas and Ian Donaghy.

Some Wolsingham alumni travelled from abroad to swap tales of new lives in Australia, New Zealand and Germany with old friends still in Weardale.

Durham County Councillor for Weardale Anita Savory, a school governor and former pupil, said: “I believe this school sets the foundations for you and your future.

“When pupils leave a part of Wolsingham School is always with them, it is a special place which I’m very proud of.”

Headteacher Deborah Merrett was honoured the anniversary fell during her tenure.

She said: “It is lovely for the children to recognise the part they play in the community and the school, they have learnt a lot about education and Weardale over the last 400 years.

“At this point in our history we are not only celebrating the past and present but also looking to the future.”

She said improving results and work to consolidate the school on the 1911-built lower school site will start this year, signalling a bright future.