There were several Dame Schools in the valley, run for a few children by ladies with an interest in education. One of these was at Crosthwaite House, one at Hill Top, run by Mrs Martindale and a third at Mireside, where Mrs Docker taught the children.
Crosthwaite has been fortunate, over the years, to have had benefactors living in the valley. These people have made provision for the education of the local children. Consequently the village had a school long before the Education Act of 1870, when most village schools came into being.
Initially, the church was responsible for education and children were probably first taught, by rote, in the church itself. In 1626, William Gilpin left £50 towards the stipend of a minister or a schoolmaster, for the instruction of children. Later in 1665 a small school was built with a legacy from George Cocke. It was by the old gateway leading to the road from the church. When William Strickland of Tarnside died in 1726, he left a sum of £4 annually, to be spent on the teaching of Reading, Writing, Accounts and Classics in the school. There was a clause in the will, ensuring that a schoolmaster was appointed, rather than the minister teaching in the school. There is no record of the schoolchildren having to pay fees or "school pence"
The first schoolmaster on record is Richard Gibson, buried in May 1750. The annual stipend, in that century, was around £6/10s. In 1780 a Mr Bramwell was schoolmaster at Crosthwaite. He was possibly the curate in Lindale-in-Cartmel who married Mary Cartmell in 1787.
In 1817, Tobias Atkinson gifted £280 towards repairing, enlarging or improving the schoolhouse. In 1822 a new school was built opposite to the church. An inscription on the inside of the master's desk, discovered in 1926 reads, "Richard Rushton, elected master of this school in 1820".
Following him came Charles "Corky" Cowell, so named because he had a cork leg. Averse about him reads:-
Mr Cowell is a good man
He does us all the good he can
In reading, writing and arithmetic
But never forgets to use his stick!
Notwithstanding the stipulation in William Strickland's will, there is a memorial, outside the old school, which commemorates, "Revd John Dixon, died 1861, after 32 years as Incumbent of the Parish and faithful Master of the adjoining Grammar School". The word grammar indicates that Latin was taught there, following the tradition of the Latin Grammar Schools of the early Middle Ages.
In the late 19th century, the school was fortunate to start its musical tradition with Mary Wakefield's sister, visiting and singing with the pupils and leading a choir, being entered for the Mary Wakefield Music Festival. She commented that she had never known a class be so attentive to the "baton". A choir was still being entered for the Festival in 1965, taught by schoolmaster, Andrew Hall, in addition to a percussion band. Both groups won awards that year.
Each year the children put on a Christmas concert. They performed it in the school, at Starnthwaite and later, when it was built, in the Argles Memorial Hall. The proceeds were used to buy each child a Christmas gift and to pay for a Christmas party. A parish magazine from the 1890s tells of a wonderful tree and party, given by Mrs Argles. Every child received a doll, which was dressed in clothes made by Mrs Argles, herself.
In 1879 the old building, opposite the church, was deemed to be too small, so a new school was built on the present site. In 1962, it still had a main room, leading down a few steps, to the girls' cloakroom. The infants were in a separate room, heated by an open coal fire. It had a kitchen attached, where the mid-day meals were cooked.
Mr James Prickett was Headmaster for many years, in the first half of the 20th century. He lived in the schoolhouse with his wife and five children, Eric, Mary, Alan, Frank and Irvine. His ex-pupils held him in great respect. He was also Choirmaster and Church Organist.
The Infant mistress, Miss Hoggarth, came by bus from Kendal every morning, returning in the evening. She chopped the sticks to light the fires, warming the school before the pupils arrived at 9 o'clock in the morning. She retired, after many years service, in the early 1970s.
When the school became too small, again, a new wing was added, giving the school a recreation hall and a bigger kitchen. In the 1970s, Underbarrow School was closed and the children from there joined Crosthwaite School. These children and an increasing, young population in Crosthwaite itself meant that the school was, once more, overcrowded. In the next building alterations, the kitchen was made smaller, the infant room was remodelled, the hall was turned into a classroom and a new classroom was added. As a result of these changes there were now four classes in total. In 2000, a pitched, tiled roof was added to the new classroom wing. Further repairs had to be made the following year, when an asbestos slate fell from the ceiling; all asbestos had to be removed.
Several villagers have stories to tell of their early days in Crosthwaite School. There was the day, following a dance at the school the previous evening, when the class was standing around the pot-bellied stove. One lad picked up something from the floor and threw it into the stove. There was a tremendous bang as the explosion sent the lid of the stove flying to the ceiling, bringing debris down. Fortunately no one was hurt, nor did anyone own up to the deed! Then, as now, farmers and gamekeepers often made their own ammunition. Perhaps one of those cartridges had dropped out of a pocket during the revelries of the previous evening!
Another tale is told of a dinner hour, one summer, when the pupils had been left unsupervised. After their dinner of sandwiches, cake, biscuits and water, they went off to the mill dam, for a swim or a paddle. One boy, walking down the beck beyond the weir, saw a large fish. Calling for reinforcements, a group of boys managed, with difficulty, to land the monster. After killing it, they returned to school with their trophy. Being late back, Mr Prickett punished them all with a caning. He then looked up the beast and found it to be a sea lamprey, a primitive species of fish, which only returns to fresh water to spawn. It was about 3 feet long. The children asked if they could draw its picture. At the end of the lesson, one wit had entitled his masterpiece, "This 20 ton shark was caught by the Great Crosthwaite Shark and Whale Company"!
The last story tells of another occasion, when the children were on their own. There was a violent thunderstorm. Just as Mr Prickett arrived back, there was a vivid flash and an instantaneous peal of thunder. Some of the children saw a ball of fire, travelling along the telephone lines, in the direction of the Punchbowl Inn. Acow, drinking water from a trough, was killed by the thunderbolt. It continued on its way to the Church, where it set a church pew on fire, eventually coming to rest in Tom Noble's garden, next to the churchyard. The Church was closed for a while, for repairs to be carried out!
There are currently 47 children attending Crosthwaite School between the ages of 4 and 11. The children travel from all around the Lyth Valley, Crosthwaite and Underbarrow. The headteacher is Mr D. J. Maud, supported by a staff of two teachers, Mrs J. Taylor, Mrs J. Hewitson, a classroom assistant, Mrs J. Porter and school secretary Mrs L. Stott.
The children from the Junior Class have chronicled their life in school in the year of our Queen's Jubilee, in contrast to the children who were at the school 50 years ago, at the start of her reign. The following piece is a composite taken from everyone's writing...
CROSTHWAITE SCHOOL, 2002
It is the year 2002, the year of the Queen's Golden Jubilee. I go to Crosthwaite Church of England School. The school is quite a lot different than 50 years ago. It was no way like this school when the Queen was around and she was very young. When she was 50 years old, I wasn't even alive, but Mum and Dad and Nana and Grandad lived then.
It was quite good on the Golden Jubilee. We had a Jubilee Celebration, a big party with loads of food.
Children and teachers.
In our school there are about 47 pupils. Fifty years ago there were probably a lot more. Our school takes children from 4 to 11.
Our teachers aren't as strict as they were then. We have more support teachers, which don't teach but they help out and sometimes are on playground duty. Our teacher Mrs Hewitson shows us how to play rounders and new rules. She has been here for years. We sometimes have visitors in like Mrs Millan, Mrs Wallace and Mrs Thorpe to help people.
Transport and getting to school.
My school is different from your time because it is 2002 and we travel in cars, buses, trains and planes (not fighter planes). In the morning we travel to school by bus, car and some people, who live close, walk. To get to school I go on the bus that goes round Crosthwaite. There is another bus that goes round Underbarrow.
English and maths.
In the mornings we do English. Now we call it literacy. In literacy we do our alphabet, write stories, do poems, make notes and other things. We do maths as well and we call it numeracy. We do addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, shapes, rounding, estimating, symmetry and lots more.
After dinner play we do different things every day. On Monday we do science, on Tuesday we do history, on Wednesday we do DT (design technology), on Thursday we do RE and at half two we do games (PE).
In science we learn about the natural world and other science things, as well as doing experiments. Science is one of my favourite lessons. We learn forces, animals, plants, materials. This happens on Monday afternoon. It was very good when we did plants. We got to go outside and plant plants and they growed and growed and growed, until they were big.
In design technology we do activities to do with making and sometimes we make food and eat it.
There are many new materials like computers and photocopiers and better pens. A computer is an electronic system for getting information and the internet is a quick way of accessing the information. Most companies that make things have one to advertise their products. We have four computers, one in Mrs Taylor's, one in Mrs Hewitson's, one in our class and one in the office. We use computers a lot for work but if you'd like to find out about something then you go on the internet. For example our teacher went on the internet to find out what the new rules for rounders were. Also we use it in lessons to find out about what we're talking about.
In geography we learn about places around the world using books, the internet on the computers and other practical sources.
In history we are doing Anglo Saxons and Romans.
In art we do drawing and painting as well as doing ways of blending and mixing.
We do sports at school like rounders and cricket. Some of the others play football. We do ball skills, throwing, catching and bowling. I think Sports Day's the best. Sometimes in the morning we do dance in the Village Hall. Once a year we play Kwik Cricket in the summer at Kendal. The teachers organise it and parents take us and bring us back. We take a packed lunch. We practise before we play at Kendal. It's really fun. I like batting best. I can hit it far. I can catch it quite often.
Crosthwaite School has entered a lot of stuff, a musical with other schools at the Leisure Centre. The Juniors were in a concert called "The Adventures of Bookman and Robyn". There were lots of other schools on the stage singing songs with us. I was a singer. It was great! We made pirate hats, pirate patches and parrots. We paid £2 each for a coach to go to the rehearsal and also for a mini torch to use in the play. The good thing was we got to keep everything at the end!
In religious education we learn about three religions, Christianity, our religion, Judaism, a closely related religion and Buddhism, a completely different religion.
PSHE stands for personal, social, health education. We talk about if anything is bothering you or worrying you.
We occasionally go on school trips to places like Wildlife Oasis and Aquarium of the Lakes.
When it gets to 10.15 we have an assembly. Mr Greetham comes in or sometimes Mrs Stockley but she only comes in once a month and they are both vicars. Assembly is where you have a radio on or just talk. Every Assembly we sing something. We talk about Jesus and when a special day comes, like a saint's day, we talk about what happened that day. We have a prayer three times a day. One Assembly we had the local vicar, Mr Greetham, and his boss the Dean of Carlisle. He was our special guest and we were very nice. Sometimes we go to church, for Easter, Ascension and Ash Wednesday etc.
For dinners now you get a choice. You can have a packed lunch, which you bring yourself, or you can pay £7.50 per child for a week of cooked dinners, which the school cook does for you.
Playtimes and reading times.
We have two playtimes on every day of the week apart from Friday, which we have three but if you come early in the morning, you can have a short playtime, to wait for the others coming. At playtime we have a box. It contains toys such as hoops, balls, cornballs and skipping ropes. On wet playtimes we come in and read, write, draw or play on the computers. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we play football and on Tuesdays and Thursdays we play gail tig (a game). We are sometimes allowed on the grass.
We have reading time for half an hour after dinner time playtime.
School rules, punishments and the good work book.
Next to the white board we have two sheets of rules, one called Sanctions and one called the Crosthwaite C of E School Code. Unlike 50 years ago when if you did anything wrong you'd get the cane but if a teacher did that these days, they'd get fired. Today, in the modern world, the punishments are a reminder, missing playtime, sent to the headteacher, letter to parents, daily/weekly report to parents, suspension, exclusion!
The teachers have introduced a new book for when you do something good or for doing something well. We haven't got a name for it yet. We can write the date, name and why they are in the book and then we can colour in a section but we are not allowed to colour in the middle until all the other sections are coloured. Then we can colour it and the winner gets a prize.
SATs and Inspection.
At the end of the year, Years 2 and 6 do SATs, the rest do tests. We were doing SATs last week. I don't know what I got (yet).
We have serious Ofsted Inspection where people just walk in the door and watch you. They sometimes ask questions. One of them was like the boss. She was scary.
Out of school activities.
And then we go home on the school bus unless we go to a club or After School Club. Our clubs are rounders and recorders. After School Club is a group you go to if your parents are working. You can do lots of things there like: bake, table tennis, nail art, play station, lego, toy farm and other things too.
This is our timetable for homework for Year 5 and 6:
Mondays and Tuesdays, maths, English, personal reading book.
On Wednesdays we bring in our homework, do spellings and other subjects that we haven't finished.
Friday we have new homework set, appropriate fact-finding work.
We have book bags with the school logo on them.
End of the day.
At the end of the day we have a prayer that goes,
Please take care of all the children, everywhere
Help them to grow strong and good
And keep them safe from danger
Lucky we don't have to walk home. We either go on a bus or someone picks you up from school, like your parents.
That was our school, see ya, bye!
Dale Alston, Simon Balshaw, Joshua Barton, Michael Burton, Sarah Carruthers, Anna Clarke, Ellen Cleasby, Mark Cottam, Joseph Cox, Daniel Dobson, Isaac Dobson, Nathan Dobson, Lauren Downham, Daniel Jackson, Evelyn Jackson, Jack Lawton, Gemma Lupton, Kim Lupton, Josie Middleton, Seanen Middleton, Jeremy Plumptre, Maxim Sefton, Aimee-Rose Sharp, Alyson Shepherd, Rachel Smith, Rebecca Smith, Jonathan Stevenson, Joseph Turner, Rosie Wilkinson, Jack Yates.
Crosthwaite School Concert, 1920s
Crosthwaite School in 1922, teachers Hetty Airey, Nellie Airey and Mr. James Prickett
The Howe School opened its doors at Easter 1872, as a result of the 1870 Education Act. At that time villages relied on local benefactors and Crosthwaite and Lyth were fortunate in having the Argles family. Canon Marsham Argles donated the land and Mr Frank Argles paid for the building. The first Headmistress was Miss Jane Firth.
The school was housed in the building, which is now a private house, Dalegarth. It could educate thirty to forty children, sons and daughters of the local farm workers, quarrymen and other craftsmen. The numbers swelled by eleven during the Second World War, when evacuees from Sunderland, Newcastle and Barrow were billeted with families in the valley.
In the early days, as well as the 3Rs, the children were taught scripture, needlework, physical exercises, paper, cardboard and clay modelling, health education, cottage gardening for the boys, dairy work and housewifery for the girls. Additionally there were walks and picnics on Whitbarrow and games with the children from Crosthwaite School.
Both good and bad teachers served the school. A diocesan report in 1927 declares that, "The improvement in the work of this school, during the last two years, has been marked and the tone and discipline are now excellent." In contrast, an HMI report in 1935, states that, "The records of work produced today are nearly twelve months old, the written exercises are full of the grossest errors of spelling, etc, entirely devoid of any mark of correction, and the handwriting is in almost all cases careless and slovenly. The reading of the children is fairly accurate, but generally devoid of expression or intelligence and they appear to have little memory of the subject matter. They are, as a rule, a very intelligent, responsive type, and it is most unfortunate that there is very little evidence of care or thoroughness in the teaching."
A coal and peat fire, replaced in 1937 by an oil stove, heated the oneroomed school. Hartley Trotter remembers sitting around the fire at break-time, drinking hot chocolate! Oil lamps hung from the ceiling to light the children's labours. Electricity came in 1942. The boys and the school caretaker brought drinking water, daily, from a well in the woods.
Fund-raising efforts in the 1920s included concerts, dances, whist drives, sales of work and rummage sales.
Knee-deep snow, gales and floods, in winter, closed the school, from time to time, as did a measles epidemic in 1915. Children suffered from the usual illnesses, coughs, colds and sickness, chicken pox and measles, but were also afflicted with croup, scabies, ringworm, impetigo, scarlet fever and whooping cough.
The school was closed each year on Kendal Show day, so that the children could accompany their parents to that popular event. Although the children of the Howe did not take part in the Musical Festival, they supported their older brothers and sisters at Crosthwaite School, which sent a mixed choir to sing at the Festival.
Days off were also granted for Royal weddings, Jubilees and Coronations. After the Coronation of George VI in May 1937, there was a Church Service, followed by a children's sports day. Each of the children received a mug, a new penny, oranges and sweets. They listened to the King's broadcast in the Memorial Hall. A dance followed, attended by 500 people. When one of the school's founders, Canon George Argles, died in 1920, the children sent a wreath and most of the tenants in Crosthwaite and Lyth attended the funeral.
The school closed at Easter 1946, when the Headmistress, Alice Davidson, moved to Heversham C of E School. At that time only seven children were being taught at the Howe School. Managers of the school agreed to the closure, as long as satisfactory conveyance was provided for the children to their new schools. The three youngest pupils presented Alice Davidson with a reading lamp and a cheque, from past and present scholars and friends.
Howe School, 1920s. Teacher Miss Agnes Park
Howe School, 1920s. Teacher Miss Wood
John Gavin was a teacher at the Intermediate Treatment Centre at Starnthwaite Ghyll. In the following essay he gives a vivid and evocative picture of life at the school during his time there, 1977 to 1982.
For five years I travelled to and from Starnthwaite, my place of work. The journey made a refreshing start to my day. I always saw something new, despite being intent on driving and thinking hard about what I had to do. Driving back was different. I was tugged home and my thoughts were set on getting there.
The road altered dramatically with the seasons. As I left Bowness I had a sense of expectation, of curtains and spirits lifting. Staged for me with the lighting and the backdrop changing through the year. Vistas extended and closed in. Textures and shapes changed, softened, sharpened, hardened, brightened and blurred. Scenes in monochrome, misty and opaque; snow fell and Crosthwaite hill became a lethal piste to swerve and skid down - lurching through the final gate, a narrow humpbacked bridge. Came the delicate, translucent colours of spring. Lambs sprouted and frisked, snowdrops and new leaves were born. A familiar vista could surprise. Returning over Hubbersty - a risky short cut - I spied Coniston Old Man through a net of bare branches, far away a bright snow peak against blue sky. Damson trees blossomed, petals fell, purple plums ripened. Damson picking with the boys started well but always degenerated into a free-for-all, squashy fruit flying in all directions. Memories of summer's long, clear days of vivid greens slowly shading into bracken-browns, fringed by dark pines and firs and spruces.
Starnthwaite Ghyll: old stone buildings, a mill-pond (with a salmonleap), traces of head and tail-races, water-wheel rub marks, all spoke of centuries of industrial history. At this mill generations of the Starnthwaite family had fulled wool; paper was made over a hundred years; followed by bobbins and sawmills, and a mill for grinding animalfeed. A period of social service that lasted for ninety years began in the 1890s with a socialist commune, the Home Colony for the unemployed. From the turn of the century, after housing a few Boer War veterans, it became an epileptic colony for boys, noted for quality of care.
A Borstal in the recent past, Starnthwaite housed a new social experiment. It became the Starnthwaite Ghyll Intermediate Treatment Centre. Boys at risk were sent on a 90-day care-order. It was hoped that they could escape the downward spiral from trivial into serious crime, juvenile detention and prison. A remote place, perhaps it needed to be. The isolated, closed community was part of the treatment.
I worked there as a teacher, outdoor-activity instructor and minder. An intriguing place and a demanding job with young people. I was wearied, yes! Angered and disturbed: saddened, frustrated, disappointed. Sometimes happily amused, sometimes rewarded. It was a learning experience for all involved: it mattered and was never dull. Good memories endure.
Change was built into the programme. The staff working day began at different times. Early shift: getting the boys up, washed and breakfasted (toast and jam!). From 9 to 5: teaching or outdoor education. Late shift: evening recreation, enlivened by the occasional fight, rolling fags, smoking (only staff carried matches to provide the lights), showers and bed. Night duty meant sleeping-in, tedious, but we were kept on our toes by the occasional runaway (routine calls to the police and social worker) and - thankfully much more rare - the odd arsonist. During night-drives the headlights surprised predatory owls, deer crossing the highway, once an unlucky absconder thumbing a lift.
The daily routine varied and we dressed to play the part; the older teachers wore sports-jackets and ties in the classroom. Some young members of staff, casual in jeans, had discipline problems in class. The institutional dress for the boys was jeans and jerseys. Reluctant pupils though they were, there were achievements. Some even involved Education with a capital E: a teenager learning to read, another mastering simple algebra sums, thrilled to bits with red ticks in his exercise-book. Their schools had not been kind to them.
Most learning came under a broader definition. There was a fine view of the surrounding fell from the classrooms; boys studying mathematics spend a lot of time staring out of the window. We observed the animals on our patch and witnessed small dramas. Saw our foxes outwit the hunt: a tired fox with hanging head entered the spinney: its mate emerged and easily outran the weary hounds. We often saw our pair of buzzards and knew where they nested up by the cross-country run. Once, late in the year, we saw a mysterious gathering of buzzards, old and young, circling up and up into the sky. We saw kestrels, herons, dippers, kingfishers and otters.
Staff wore tracksuits and whistles for the sports-field and the appropriate rig for outdoor education. Boys and staff were equipped alike for these key activities and the relationship became one of mutual dependence. Breeches, boots, anoraks, waterproofs, rucksacks for the fells, iceaxes in winter - belts, ropes, karabiners and helmets were issued for climbing (or caving). Water activities on lakes, rivers and sea, canoeing and sailing required lifejackets and other safety gear.
I made good use of the local environment: map-reading, field-studies, hedge-dating, recording gravestones. Freshwater biology was a favourite but had to be strictly rationed - boys have a remarkable affinity for water (and mud); it is well known that it brings out the devil in them. The boys netted frogspawn and tiddlers; caught frogs (some boys did unspeakable things to them with straws). Afew could tickle trout. We caught the giant eel that lurked under the bridge and gorged on kitchen scraps; caught him in a bucket. With me on the sidelines - half a dozen wildly excited boys in the beck after the monster eel with nets and buckets, splashing, struggling and shouting. What an epic! We didn't keep him long - he was far too large and agile.
Weekend duties came round all too regularly. A relaxed routine for the boys, swimming, surfcanoeing at Silecroft, visits (well-supervised) to local events, farm and forestry work for the older boys. Every fortnight one of the groups completed its 90 days (great rejoicing) and we drove the boys (an easy relationship now) to Preston to entrain for home. A new intake was collected and began the critical settling-in period The atmosphere could change for good or ill. Control, or the loss of it, was a delicate balance of human factors, staff and student.
The boys became individuals with names and unique characters. Very different from the bunch of puzzled, anxious or stroppy street-wise lads undergoing the arrival procedures: shower and delousing, issue of clothing and outdoor kit, weighing and measuring, medical and examination for distinctive marks, tattoos and signs of bruising. I had to accompany one boy to the VD clinic.
They developed during the 90 days, gaining in height, weight, fitness and confidence. I found it a fascinating process to observe and assess Some of this was entirely to be expected, most of them were adolescents, but the regime could take some credit. We worked them hard. There were successes and re-offenders on record as failures (the bad news always got back, the good rarely). We nursed hopes for the longer term.
Change was evident with time; the closing down of Crosthwaite cornmill; new tenants at the Brown Horse, Winster, the "Dog and Rabbit", Bowland Bridge, and the Masons Arms at Strawberry Bank. (I knew the pubs. Residential work is claustrophobic, I lunched out unless on duty When fine, a picnic by Crosthwaite church or on Gummers How.) The village school in Winster and later the post-office closed and were converted into dwellings. The shop and post-office was a favoured subject for artists. The bright red letterbox and post-office van and the cottage bedecked with old-fashioned flowers. The inquisitive old shopkeeper, after seeing me a time or two, wanted to know what I did. I told her I worked at Starnthwaite.
"The boys used to come to church," she said. "They were always falling down and having fits all over the place. We couldn't be doing with it." The sepia photograph of the boys in their short wool trousers, jerseys and jackets that I had seen, dated from 45 years before! Starnthwaite Ghyll had long ceased to be an epileptic colony.