Most of Portadown’s central primary schools have disappeared, due to the redevelopment of the 1960’s and 70’s, and the great movement of population. Two of these schools, Church Street Primary and Thomas Street Primary, were replaced by the new Millington Primary School.
Church Street and Thomas Street schools are now incorporated into the religious fabric of the town, Thomas Street being part of the large Thomas Street Methodist Halls complex, and Church Street now renamed the Fergus Hall. Fergus Hall honours the name of Mr Sam Fergus, a man who played a noble part in his long service to St Mark’s Parish Church, and its organisations. But the former school name has not been entirely obliterated from the famous building. Above the doorway in Fergus Hall is still engraved the title ‘Church Street Public Elementary School’ dated 1889. It also reveals that this was the date on which the rebuilt National School was opened, so the ‘Duke’s School’ as it was known, had played an important role in educational affairs from an earlier date.
The name of the school before 1889, had been the Duke of Manchester School, and in 1882, the National Education Commissioners appointed the Rev. Augustine Fitzgerald, rector of St Mark’s Parish Church, Patron of the Duke of Manchester School.
From the 1930’s, Church Street P.E.S also shared classes with in the Academy School, a short distance away, beside Armagh Road Presbyterian Church. The former Academy School building is now part of the church halls belonging to Armagh Road Presbyterian Church.
Thomas Street Primary School in the pre-State school days had been a mainly Methodist School. Before the three main Protestant denominations transferred their schools in the late 1920’s to state control, the majority, but not all pupils in Church Street PES belonged to the Church of Ireland. There were a minority of Methodist, Presbyterian, and other faith pupils enrol led in the school, and many of them came from the small, tightly knit community of streets along West Street, which stretched from Fowlers Entry to Irwin Street.
The Roman Catholic Church, unlike the three main Protestant denominations, declined to hand over control of their schools to the state. In Portadown, this included the Presentation Convent School in Thomas Street and the St Columba’s Boys SCarleton Street.