Hummersknott Hall was built in 1864 for the Pease family by the eminent Victorian architect Alfred Waterhouse. It was said to “have the character of a solid and comfortable house with attention paid to planning rather than showy detail”. Today it is the St Mary’s building of Carmel RC College.
In 1919, Beechwood House, a small mansion in Grange Road, Darlington, was purchased by Canon Rooney, the parish priest of St. Augustine’s. There, in 1924, the first Catholic boys’ secondary school in Darlington, St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Grammar School, was opened. The first headmaster was Canon Austin Forkin, B.A. and his teaching staff was Fr. F. Dunne, M.A., Fr. D. Kennedy, and Mr M. Gallagher, M. Sc. The priests were all experienced teachers and Mr Gallagher was recorded as being “fresh from university and bringing with him much vitality and enthusiasm!”
The school was a great success and the De La Salle brothers, who shared the building with the school, had to move to a new, adjacent building. Even so, such as the demand for places that Beechwood House became inadequate to meet local Catholic needs. Canon Rooney again came to the rescue and arranged for the purchase of Hummersknott Hall, together with the field in front of it. The building was adapted for use as a school and a new wing was added to provide a laboratory and an art room (today, the Chapel and the teaching room above it). Outbuildings were adapted as the dining hall and woodwork room, etc. (today, some of these buildings are to be seen to the rear of the John Caden Hall).
When the buildings were ready, St. Mary’s moved from Beechwood House to Hummersknott Hall to start the new term in September 1930. Canon Rooney died just over a year later but the school was a fitting tribute to his faith and vision. By 1945 the number of pupils at St. Mary’s had grown to three hundred with a staff of thirteen. Canon Forkin retired in 1947 and was succeeded by Fr. Anthony Cunningham. The last priest to be Headmaster of St. Mary’s was Fr, John McKeown who succeeded Fr. Cunningham in 1959.
In 1960 St Mary’s R.C. Grammar School amalgamated with St Augustine’s Secondary Modern Boys’ School (commonly known as Beechwood because it was built on land adjacent to Beechwood House, the original home of St. Mary’s). The new school was named St Mary’s R.C. Boy’s Secondary School but continued to operate on the two separate sites. Fr. McKeown died in office in 1972 and Mr. James Corr was Acting Headmaster for a short period until Mr. Harry Wallace, St. Mary’s first lay Headmaster, was appointed in 1973.
In 1974, Carmel R.C. Comprehensive was formed by the amalgamation of Darlington’s Catholic Senior schools on one site: St Mary’s R.C. Boys’ Secondary School and the Immaculate Conception Girls’ School – which itself had been formed in 1968 by the merger of the Immaculate Conception Girls’ Grammar School (better known as southend) and St. Augustine’s Girls’ Secondary Modern School (better known as Larchfield).
Mr. John Fay succeeded Mr. Wallace as Headmaster in 1977. Upon Mr. Fay’s retirement in 1992, Mr. Richard Whiteside was Acting Headmaster for two terms until Mr James 0’Neill’s appointment in 1993. Under Mr. O’Neill, Carmel RC College, as the school had become by 2008, moved into the 21st century with magnificent new buildings, completed in 2008, around the heritage of St. Mary’s. Mr O’Neill retired in 2009 and Miss Maura Regan was appointed Principal.