THE Catholic Church has received a complaint of historic physical abuse against young children by a primary school headteacher.

The complainant claimed she and other pupils were assaulted by headmaster Fred Higginbottom - who has since died - at St William's Roman Catholic Primary School, Trimdon, County Durham, in the 1950s.

The woman, now in her 60s, claims the beatings went beyond what at the time was the accepted use of corporal punishment.

She said: “These weren't just normal beatings - these were frenzied attacks on little children.

“He was a squat little man and he would almost topple over with tiredness after caning someone.

“He started to wallop you and he went on and on.”

The former pupil, who has asked not to be named, told The Northern Echo she had made the complaint for her own peace of mind after living with memories of the abuse for decades.

“What I've done I've done for me - it's been very therapeutic,” she said.

“Once when he hit me I felt the world was going black.

“I must have been on the point of passing out through fear.

“It's had a lasting effect on me.”

The former pupil made the complaint at a meeting with the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, Bishop Seamus Cunningham, and diocesan safeguarding officer Paul Young.

Mr Young confirmed he was aware of the allegation of historic abuse at the school.

He added: “I did meet with a person in line with our national safeguarding policies to offer support and assistance in dealing with the matter.

“I want to ensure that we address the needs of those who have been harmed in a sensitive and compassionate way.

“I will continue to work with the person and assist the statutory authorities in any way possible.”

It is understood Mr Higginbottom is the father of Darlington Catholic parish priest, Father Michael Higginbottom.

Fr Higginbottom was suspended from his post at St Augustine's Church in 2004 after being questioned by police - but never charged - over allegations of child abuse.

There is no evidence to suggest there is a link between the allegations against the two men.