Hebden Township Historical Data

Hebden School

Education in Hebden before 1874

It wasn't until 1870 that the state acknowledged any responsibility for educating the people, and it wasn't until 1880 that elementary education became compulsory. In the middle of the nineteenth century, the main body providing education to the poor was the National Society, a society established in 1811 with the aim that "the National Religion should be made the foundation of National Education, and should be the first and chief thing taught to the poor, according to the excellent Liturgy and Catechism provided by our Church". It built schools with the aid of government grants, the management of which were in the hands of the parochial worthies. National schools were by no means universally available. In smaller communities education was provided by township schools organised by the community, and by dame schools which tended to be run by ladies in cottages who provided childcare with minimal education.

Most of the evidence for the nature of education in Hebden before the new school was built in 1874 comes from various church and governments reports, and the memoirs of Thomas Francis Hammond, published by the Craven Herald in 1928.

The first reference to education in Hebden may be found in the Craven Muster Role of 1803, in which a William Lupton, a bachelor aged between between 30 and 49, gave his occupation as "schoolmaster". It is unknown what services he provided, but the evidence below indicates that it was unlikely to do with the education of the majority of the children, and he may have been a tutor to the children of one or more of the wealthier families.

In about 1818 the House of Commons appointed a select committee to inquire into "The Education of the Poor", which in 1819 published a survey of education throughout England. Of Hebden (population 402), it was written: "The poor have not sufficient means of education; and the township of Hebden being situate near three miles from the free-school, the poor are necessarily quite destitute of instruction, and which they are very desirous of obtaining". The free school in question was Threshfield Grammar School, founded in 1674, now the home of Threshfield Primary School on the road to Linton.

A second government report written in 1833 says that the township of Hebden (population 491) had "Two daily schools, in one whereof are 22 males and 4 females; and in the other (commenced in 1831), are 14 males and 8 females; these children are instructed at the expense of their parents." These are likely to have been "Dame schools", offering rudimentary education and child day-care. No one claimed to be a school teacher in the 1841 census, although there were a number of women of "independent means".

In his memoirs written when he was in his eighties, Thomas Hammond, born in 1845, recalled his school days. He wrote that in 1847 there was no day school, and that the only education available in the village was provided in the Primitive Methodist Chapel on Sundays.

Thomas Hammond in later life
Thomas Hammond in later life
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"I got my first alphabet lesson there, and was taught by a Thomas Howson, a man who had lost a leg while serving in the Army. Reading, writing and arithmetic were taught on Sunday mornings, and also in the afternoons until just before the time for the service, when the tressels on which the desks were placed were put away under the singing pew."

This is supported by the census returns. There was a "Chelsea Pensioner" called Thomas Hawson living in Hebden in 1841 and 1851. At the time, all army pensions were administered by and paid from the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which is why army pensioners were often referred to as Chelsea Pensioners.

According to Hammond:

"Some little time after this came John Brown, for whose memory I have the greatest respect. He taught me the rest of my schooling. He had been a smelter on the Grassington Moor mines until the fumes of the lead(?) affected the joints of his legs and he had to use sticks to assist him to walk.

"The Duke of Devonshire's agent, or manager of the mine, persuaded John Brown to start a day school, and undertook to pay for the boys who worked in the mines to encourage them, when the stormy winter times set in and they could not work in the mines, to spend their time at school.

"Mr. Brown was a very good penman but not clever with figures I have been told, so that a Mr. Horner gave him lessons in arithmetic, mensuration, and algebra, and it was not many years before Mr. Brown was equally, if not more, a master of figures as his tutor. History, grammar, and geography he knew very little about, and never pretended to teach these subjects. In reading and writing he turned out some good scholars. Some were very adept at figures. His remuneration was 3d a week - when he could get it.

Previous to the establishment of the Skipton Union all villages had to maintain their native poor, that is, those who were born in the villages. On Hebden Green stood three cottages, two on a decided slope and one on a more level part. In those cottages lived the persons dependent on parish, or township, relief. I cannot say for certain, but I have heard the relief then amounted to about 2/6 or 3/ a week per head. When the Skipton Poor Law Institution was built (1839-1840) the cottages became practically useless. The two on the sloping side of the Green were made into one building by taking down the partition. This was then used as a school, and is the place which I attended, and at which Mr. Brown was the schoolmaster.

From this anecdotal evidence, it appears that a day school was established by the Duke of Devonshire's mining agent, who at that time was Stephen Eddy who built Colvend in Grassington, and John Brown was the first schoolmaster. It was housed on Low Green in two cottages. There is much evidence that largely supports Hammond's memories:

  • Skipton Union, of which Hebden was a member, built its workhouse in about 1840, making the cottages on Low Green available for alternative use.
  • John Brown (1810-1878) was born and died in Hebden. In the 1841 census he is recorded as being a lead ore smelter, and in the 1851 and 1861 censuses he is recorded as being a schoolmaster and clerk. In the 1871 census he is recorded as just being a schoolmaster.
  • Mr. Horner was William Horner (1807-1886), a schoolmaster at Burnsall School and also a tea trader. He came from a Burnsall family.
  • The 1847 Tithe Map shows a "School House and garden" of 7 perches in area, on Low Green, owned by the "Hebden Freeholders". John Bland writing in 1874, says that when the cottages were demolished to make way for the new school they were revealed to have originally been the ancient manor drying-kiln for drying the grain of the township preparatory to its being ground.
Part of the 1847 Tithe Map showing location of the school
Part of the 1847 Tithe Map showing location of the school
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It is certain that the township school was established between 1841 and 1845, and likely to have been nearer 1845. Hammond's memories may well be confused, and he probably received his initial schooling in the Primitive Methodist Chapel as a toddler, and moved on to John Brown's school when he was a little older. John Brown was probably headmaster until about 1876.

Harry Speight's description of the old school written in 1902 paints a picture of a rudimentary learning environment: "...while the ancient schoolhouse on the village green, looked more like a common mistal than a place of intellectual light. No one knows when the old building was erected, but the age of its mossy outer walls probably harked back to the Reformation, and before the days when chimneys were in general use. The well-seasoned oaken rafters were as black with smoke as the most remote Highland cottar's shieling at the present day.

According to David Joy in his book "Hebden: The History of a Dales Township", an attendance register for Hebden School for the period June 1845 to July 1846, maintained to conform to the 1833 Factories Act, has been inspected. Full details are not known, but apparently it showed that 17 children attended part-time, working the rest of their day at the mill. The cost of such schooling was allowed to be deducted by the employer from the child's wages!

In 1858 the Diocese of Ripon conducted a survey of its parishes, which included a section on educational facilities. Hebden's school was classified as a "Cottage school" as opposed to a "National school", which effectively meant that it was run by the township rather than by the Anglican Church. 32 boys and 26 girls were recorded as being registered at the school, average attendance being 23 boys and 22 girls. This accords reasonably well with the 1861 census in which 68 children in the age range of 2 to 13 were recorded as being "scholars". There were only 13 children in the age range of 4 to 12 who were not put down as scholars. It appears that education had by then become the norm, although one lad aged 9 was working as a lead miner, and there were several 10-year olds working in the mines or the mill.

John Bland, writing in the year that the old premises were demolished, tells us that the old school also served as a social centre and community hall:

"We also recalled those other varied scenes within those now tottering walls — its penny readings, its concerts, its theatrical performances, in which the knee-breek'd amateur of the stage gave laughable evidencet of his budding abilities as a comedian. Scenes in which the pencil of a Hogarth would have revelled with delight. ... And we also thought of the memorable scenes that have taken place in times gone by, when the ratepayers have assembled to discuss important township matters, such as village improvements, inclosures, the appropriation of township or charitable funds, and last, though not least important, the yearly election of the public functionaries, scenes that would baffle the skill of a Cruicshank or a Dickens faithfully to pourtray."

The Transition from a Cottage School to a National School

A Charity Commission document published in 1905 but written ten years earlier, says that they had received information in 1857 that it was proposed to build a National School on the site, and that the promoters of the school had asked the Inclosure Commissioner to allot an area which included the school and adjoining land for a National School. The document goes on to say that "The Commissioners consented to this proposal, and the ground was at their request staked out by the rectors and churchwardens of the parish". It was marked as Allotment 56 on the Inclosure Award. According to B.J.Harker writing in 1869, the area included space for a schoolmaster's house. The area concerned was 1 rood, or about 1012 m²

Part of the 1847 Tithe Map showing location of the school
A section of the 1857 Inclosure map showing the area allotted to Hebden School

Unfortunately, the Commissioner allotted the land to the "Trustees of Hebden School", who did not exist. To solve this problem, the Charity Commissioners asked the County Court to appoint trustees, and in 1858 the two rectors of the Linton medieties and their successors, the churchwarden of the township of Hebden and his successors, and two other persons were appointed trustees, and the land itself was vested in the Official Trustee of Charity Lands and his successors.

According to Elizabeth Raistrick in her book "Village Schools: An Upper Wharfedale History", in 1868 the rectors of the parish and the church warden were officially given control of the school both as trustees of the property and managers of the school, by the Endowed Schools Commission, which effectively gave the seal of approval to their land grab at the time of the Inclosure. Presumable, the school had become an "endowed school" as the result of its charitable status resulting from the Inclosure Award.

The National School

Nothing was done about re-developing the site until 1874, when the old school was demolished and the new school built as a National School. This was probably motivated by the 1870 Education Act which made education available to all children between the ages of five and 13 under the supervisory eye of the local education boards, and which made grants available to the Church for a brief period for the building of new schools. The Charity Commission were told at the time that the costs of building were met by members of the Anglican community. It is recorded in the The Ecclesiastical Gazette" that a £10 grant was granted by The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in 1871. Offers by the non-conformists to assist in the work in exchange for a share of the management were said to have been refused. On the other hand, Elizabeth Raistrick maintains that the money was raised by a levy on all householders, both non-conformists as well as members of the Church of England, in proportion to their manorial rights, with the trustees of The Fountains Hospital giving £10 as their share for Pickering End farm. It is likely that they were both right in that the money was raised from both sources, and one or more grants. But however the money was raised, there is no doubt that the school being managed by representatives of the church remained a major cause of friction between the non-conformist and the Anglican members of the community for many years.

Although about 1012 m² were originally allocated, the new school sat on a footprint of about 972 m².

The strong feelings prevailing at the time were reflected in a letter David Joy quotes. It was written by James Ray Eddy, the Grassington Mines mineral agent, to his employer the 8th Duke of Devonshire: "The Church party being in a majority here - as I think illegally and unjustly - built a school upon a site belonging to the Township, and conduct the same as a Church school, and claims the site and building for the Church - the whole monopolised by the Vicar, Curates, Churchwardens and their nominees. It is not very pleasant to appear to act contrary to my own Church, but from my own personal knowledge the party are and have been acting in what I deem a very unjust and domineering manner towards the Dissentors. He cannot, however, be regarded as a disinterested party, as it was his father who was largely responsible for the establishment of the original school, and his account of the background to the story is a little disingenuous.

The new building was designed by John Varley in the Gothic Revival style, which was typical of elementary schools built in the area at the time. Varley (1832-1903) was a civil engineer and architect then living in Burnsall, who was also responsible for Hebden's first water supply in 1863. The new school cost about £657 (about £73,000 today), and consisted of two rooms: the main classroom with a gallery at the north end, and a smaller one with a fireplace, which was probably the teachers retreat, although at some during the school's life (definitely before the 1970s) it was converted to an classroom for the infants. The windows were lancet-shaped, the roof was surmounted with a bell tower, and a clock face driven by a turret clock made by John Bailey of Salford which is accessed from the gallery, decorated the external north wall. Neither the bell nor the clock were installed in time for the formal opening.

The opening ceremony was held on the 25th August 1874, with all due pomp. The school was officially opened by Robert Bickersteth, the second Bishop of Ripon, accompanied by six members of the local clergy. The Hebden Brass Band provided the music, and the proceedings were recorded by George Inskip (1846-1913), photographer of Skipton.

Photograph of the opening of Hebden School
The official opening of Hebden School on 25th August 1874.
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John Brown probably continued as the headmaster, but William Mason took over in 1877, remaining in the post until 1901 when he left to become headmaster of Burnsall School. He was the longest serving head teacher.

The school was run as a Public Elementary School within the meaning of the 1870 Education Act, making it eligible for government grants. An important constraint on a Public Elementary School was that "It shall not be required, as a condition of any child being admitted into or continuing in the school, that he shall attend or abstain from attending any Sunday school, or any place of religious worship, or that he shall attend any religious observance or any instruction in religious subjects in the school or elsewhere, from which observance or instruction he may be withdrawn by his parent, or that he shall, if withdrawn by his parent, attend the school on any day exclusively set apart for religious observance by the religious body to which his parent belongs." Thus, in theory, the nonconformist children would be allowed to attend, and not be subject to inappropriate religious influences.

According to the admissions register, the first pupils joined on 15th December 1874. Of the 31 pupils who registered in December 1874, 17 had transferred from a Hebden Dame School, so it is likely parents had to find their own alternatives for the education of their children during the period of rebuilding. William Hill, the Mining Agent of the Hebden Moor Mining Company who would have been better off than many, transferred his sons from Threshfield Grammar School and Grassington National School.

One or more Dame Schools were running in parallel with the National School until at least 1885, with 60 children transferring from the former to the latter during that period, culminating with a sudden influx of nine children transferring in March 1885. The Charity Commission report of 1905 says that "The school was conducted entirely as a Public Elementary School, but the fact that it remained entirely under Church management was much resented by the Nonconformist section of the population, who appear to have even established an opposition school". It is suspected that the Dame School in question was that opposition school, and that it finally closed in 1885. The 1881 census only lists two teachers in Hebden - William Mason, the headmaster of the National School and a school mistress named Francis Bennett. She was probably Mason's assistant, as the school accounts indicate he had such in 1883. Thus it is unlikely that the Dame School had a recognised teacher.

About the time of the new school opening, or very soon after, the Education Department and the Charity Commission decided that the Trustee scheme established in 1858 was no longer fit for purpose, partially influenced by the fact that there had only been one rector of Linton since the medieties were consolidated in 1866, and with the death of another trustee the management had been reduced to three. It is likely that the exclusion of the majority nonconformist community from the management of the school was also a factor.

Under the new scheme enacted in 1877, the management of the school was radically overhauled, and enlarged. The rector, his curate, and the churchwarden remained ex-officio members of the management committee, but they were augmented by "six other persons, contributors in every year to the amount of 20s. each at least to the funds of the school, and either having a beneficial interest to the extent of a life estate in the said township or resident therein, or in some parish or ecclesiastical district adjoining thereto ... Vacancies in their number are to be filled by the election of a person, qualified as aforesaid, by the majority of contributors during the current year of not less than 10s, each. ..." In this way it was possible, at a cost, for all part of the community to have an influence on the management of the school. It should be remembered that at this time schools were intended to be largely self-funding, and government grants were only available for up to half of the running costs. It is known that in 1883 subscriptions accounted for 26% of the income, and the government grant 22%.

The land and buildings remained vested in the Official Trustee of Charity Lands, "with the intent that the said premises, and all present and future buildings thereon, may be for ever appropriated and used solely as and for a school for the instruction of children and adults, or children only, of the labouring, manufacturing, and other poorer classes in the township of Hebden..." This section assumes an on-going requirement to have a school, and did not take into consideration what should happen if the requirement disappears. This was to cause difficulty when the school was closed in 1983.

Further changes to the school management were made as a result of the 1948 Education Act, when as a former National School, Hebden School was regarded as being a "voluntary school". As such, it had a management team of six - the Hebden Voluntary Controlled School Body. Two members were selected by the Local Education Authority (West Riding). As the Church of England was regarded as the founding body, they were entitled to have two members on the board: the Rector as an ex officio member, and a member chosen by the Diocesan Education Committee. Finally, two members were chosen by the Parish Council.

In the mid-1950s, a small kitchen area was added at the north-east corner of the building. This was used to re-heat food bought in from outside. The adjacent extension was added in the early 1970s to serve as a Reading Room. The south side of the building was restructured in the 1970s, with the infants class room being converted into a toilet block to replace the existing outside facilities, which were converted into store rooms. Chris Foster has written an interesting memoir of school life in the early 1970s.

The school quietly celebrated its centenary celebrations in 1974 under the long-serving Headmistress Gwen Hawkins, but pupil numbers were steadily declining, and the school closed in the summer of 1983, when there were just about a dozen pupils.

Photograph of Hebden School's centenary celebrations
Gwen Hawkins cutting the Centenary Cake in 1974.
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From School to Café

The school stood empty for three years whilst it was decided who owned the land and the building. They were eventually both awarded in 1986 to the Diocese of Bradford, which caused considerable discontent in the village, and the arguments rumbled on for another year. The diocese eventually sold it at the end of 1987.

At first, the National Park refused planning permission to convert the school into a residence, and at the end of 1988 it started to house a nursery school, with some living accommodation. As such, it continued to be used for education until 1994 when the nursery school moved to the Travel Lodge, and the premises were sold.

A further request to change the use to full residential was refused in 1995, but in January 1996 "full planning permission for change of use to craft workshop, craft retail and ancillary refreshments and retention of cottage" was granted, which finally broke the link between building and education. The premises were then sold to the Geldard family in early 1997, who added the major extension in a sympathetic neo-Gothic style, and generally restored much of the original building. In 2001, with the help of a Millennium grant, they also had the turret clock fully refurbished by the Cumbrian Clock Company.