Hebden Township Historical Data

Hebden School Head Teachers

This is a list of the known head teachers at Hebden school. When both the Year From and the Year to fields are provided, it is known that those were the start and end years. When just the Year From field is provided, then it is only known who the head teacher was for that year. A question mark indicates that the head teacher was there that year.

Year From Year to Teacher Notes
1851? 1871? John Brown ? (1810-1878) was schoolmaster in 1871. Ex lead ore smelter
187? 1877? Willam Horner ? (1807-1886) succeeded John Brown, but did not teach in the new school
1877 1901 William John Mason (1854-1943). Left to become head master of Burnsall School
1901 1905 Fred Senior (1853-1926). Came from Cracoe school
1905 1914 Jane Dawson (1848-1929). Lived at High Dene
1914 1919? Miss Gill Salary £90 per annum
1919? 1926? Mary Jane Bentham (1864-1937?). Came from Buckden School
1926? Alice Elizabeth Nettleton (1886-1980). Married Richard Edgar Stockdale in 1929
1931 1941? Annie Edith Smith (1889-1964). Married James T Sunderland 1941
1946? 1950? Janet Mary Cole (b. 1904). Married Richard W Dinsdale in 1950
1950 1983 Gwendoline Parker (1923-2013). Married Albert Hawkins in 1953

John Brown

John Brown was very much a local man. According to Thomas Hammmond he started his working life as a smelter in the Grassington Moor mines, but when the fumes affected the joints of his legs and he required sticks to assist him to walk, the Duke of Devonshire's mining agent persuaded him to start a day school. This was to allow the boys who worked in the mines to spend time at school when the winter weather prevented them from working. In the 1841 Census he was working as a lead ore smelter, and in the 1851 census as a "School master and Clark".

The school at this time was in a converted malting kiln on Low Green, below where the current school is. According to Hammond: "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." The "Mr. Horner" referenced was William Horner (1807-1886), a schoolmaster at Barden School.

In the 1861 Census, John Brown was still the "schoolmaster and Church Clerk", but his family were very much embedded in the local industries. Two of his daughters worked in the textile mill, one son was a lead ore dresser, and a second son was an "excavator".

According to the census, he was still school master in 1871, but an obituary in the 1887 Craven Almanac indicates that William Horner was also master at the old Hebden school, which makes it likely that Horner took over from him for the last few years of the old school.

William Horner

William Horner was the son of a Burnsall gamekeeper, and was educated at Burnsall Grammar School. At the age of 18 he was a competitor for the role of ushership at the school (junior master), and despite coming first in all subjects, he was rejected for the post as he declined to take on the role of parish clerk. He went on to become headmaster at Barden School for many years, before becoming headmaster at the Hebden old school. In later years became a dealer in tea. The census information not helpful. In 1861 he was down as a schoolmaster and tea dealer, but in 1871 and 1881 he was just down as a tea dealer. It is possible that John Brown retired in 1871, and Horner took over for the next six years until succeeded by William Mason. He never married, and was a member of the Swedenborgian Church, which may explain his reluctance to become involved in parochial affairs.

William John Mason

William John Mason was the longest serving teacher at Hebden School. He was born in Bourton, near Banbury, in Oxfordshire. His father Thomas was a blacksmith, and his mother Emma (née Robins) was a straw bonnet maker. In 1871 Mason was still living in Bourton working as a pupil teacher, but in 1877 he became master of Hebden school. We know that in 1881 he was boarding in Belmont House.

Photograph of William John Mason (1854-1946)
William John Mason (1854-1946)

The school accounts for the year ending 30th April 1883 indicate that Mason was being paid a salary of £87 8s 6d, the equivalent of about £12,000 in 2021. The accounts also indicate that an assistant was being paid £8 per annum. This was probably Eden Helen Harker, who become his wife three years later. Eden Harker was born in Helensburgh Scotland in 1862, and in the 1881 census her father, mother, herself, and her younger sister were all recorded as being teachers. Her mother died so after, and the family moved to Grassington, from where her father originated. It is possible that she had got a post at Hebden School on her return to the area. We know from the school diary that she was working as the assistant teacher in 1890.

William and Eden married in 1886, and in 1891 they were living in Belmont with two young daughters, with Eden working as a 'sewing mistress'.

William did his bit for the village. From the early 1880s he was looking after the day-to-day running of the village Local Penny Savings Bank, and from 1890 at least, he looked after the Sunday School at St. Peter's. He was also the village registrar of births from 1889, and Clerk to the Parish Council from 1898 to 1901.

He left the post in Hebden in 1901 to become the head teacher at Burnsall School, where he was in 1911. He became Churchwarden in 1908. In 1939 he and Eden were living in retirement in Burnsall. William died in 1943, and Eden died in 1946.

Fred Senior

Fred Senior succeeded William Mason as headmaster of Hebden School. Born in Emley near Huddersfield in 1853, he was the son of Josephus Senior and Christiana Senior (née Hirst). Josephus was in the rag trade, and in 1871 he was running a fancy waistcoat manufacturing business with 12 employees. Fred married Frances Heywood in 1873 with whom he soon had four children. He seems to have been peripatetic in his early career, but eventually became headmaster of the elementary school in Conistone, Wharfedale, in 1884. Here he stayed for fifteen years. At one time all four of their children were enrolled at the school! Frances died at the young age of 35 in 1887. Fred re-married in 1899, to Elizabeth Atkinson, and the family moved to Cracoe where he became head of the elementary National School, and his eldest daughter Alice became his assistant.

Fred moved to Hebden School in 1902, after spending just two years at Cracoe School. Again, his daughter Alice worked at the school as his assistant. He only stayed four years before moving on to Chillingam School in Northumberland in 1905. Whilst in Hebden he was the organist at St. Peter's Church, and also ran the Anglican Sunday School. In 1904, his daughter Alice married local lad Albert Stobbs, and they lived in Chapel Lane. Albert and his brother, George, were later to have a court case brought against them by the Parish Council.

On his retirement, Fred Senior and Elizabeth moved back to Hebden to live in Chapel Lane, close to their daughter. Fred died in 1926, and Elizabeth in 1927. Alice died in 1943.

Jane Dawson

Jane Dawson was in her mid-50s when she succeeded Fred Senior as the Head Teacher of Hebden School in 1906. She was born in 1848, the daughter of George Dawson, a master plumber and gas fitter from Leeds, and had two brothers and four sisters. In 1871 she was living with her elder sister Mary Ann, who was also a plumber and gas fitter(!), and her younger brother George - also a plumber. Jane was working as a Governess. In 1881 she was a Certified School Mistress, boarding with her widowed brother-in-law, Henry Roebuck. Ten years later, she was still living with him, but as a Housekeeper. He died in early 1892, and in 1901 she was working as a school teacher in Louth in Lincolnshire. By this time, she had a young girl called Violet living with her. Violet was one of six children of Jane's brother George, and it is likely that she took on Violet as an act of charity. Violet was to stay with her until Jane's death.

Jane and Violet moved to Hebden in 1906, initially living in Sunny Nook, but in 1907 moving to Prospect House, which she later renamed High Dene. Her brother George died in Hebden in 1906, but whether he was visiting or living with her in Hebden is not known. He was interred in the graveyard. When she took over as Head Teacher she also took responsibility for the Church of England Sunday School, and she played the organ. By 1913, Violet was serving as her teaching assistant, a role she would continue after her aunt retired..

Jane retired in 1914,when she was 65. She continued to live at High Dene until her death on 21st December 1929. The house was left to Violet who lived there until her death in 1973. George, Violet, and Jane Dawson were all interred in St. Peter's old churchyard where there is a family memorial. This also commemorates Lewis Dawson, Violet's brother, who died at the Battle of Loos in 1915.

The inscription on the Dawson memorial in Hebden church yard
Photograph: Craven’s Part in the Great War website
Memorial to members of the Dawson family in Hebden churchyard, before it was restored in 2018

Mary Jane Bentham

Mary Bentham was headmistress of Hebden School from about 1919-1926. Mary came from Standish, near Wigan, her father originally being a blacksmith, but he later ran a grocery shop in the High Street. She was born in 1864, one of six children.

In some ways, Mary was typical of the female elementary school teachers who started their careers in Victorian England. In 1846, the British government created a program for teacher training, which allowed male and female students thirteen years and older to serve as apprenticed pupil-teachers, so they could both learn and teach in an approved elementary school. At the end of their apprenticeship, the pupil-teachers could take an examination, and, if they passed, they could go on to a training college. In 1881 Mary appears on the census as "scholar and pupil teacher", and it appears that she entered the teaching profession in this way.

While the pay was not high, women were attracted to this career because it promised better pay than most domestic service jobs and factory work. Women were generally paid less than their male counterparts, and school managers of cash-strapped schools were more willing to hire them as a way to limit expenditure. However, they were not permitted to marry and stay in the profession, which is why the fact that all the female teachers at Hebden School around this period were elderly spinsters is not surprising.

In the 1891 census, Mary is to be found as a fully-qualified headmistress at Buckden School, in Wharfedale, and we suspect that she had been there for a few years by then. She had somehow acquired a niece, who was living with her, Sarah Ellen being the daughter of her elder brother William. Sarah was to live with her until her marriage to a Buckden lad in 1904.

Mary's mother died towards the end of 1893, and we believe that Mary was obliged to return to Standish with Sarah Ellen to look after her father. She must have been held in high regard, because she was presented with a fine teapot, now in the care of Peter Vetch of Buckden, by the parents of the children at the school.

Photograph of teapot presnted to Mary Bentham
"Presented to Miss M J Bentham Feb 21st 1893
from the parents of the children of Buckden School"

Mary and Sarah stayed in Standish until her father died in 1900. In 1901 her occupation on the census was "Retired schoolmistress"! However, either her money ran out, or Standish High Street didn't compare favourably with Buckden, because by 1903 she had returned to her old job, where she stayed until 1919, when she moved to Hebden to become headmistress of Hebden School, living at Town Hill. Here she stayed until 1926, when she would have been 62. We then believe that she retired to Haslingden, where she died in 1937.

Gwendoline Hawkins (née Parker)

Gwendoline Hawkins was the second longest-serving teacher at Hebden School. Born in 1923 and originally from the Rotherham area, Gwendoline Parker trained in Derby and taught in Dagenham and Sussex before accepting the post of Head Teacher at Hebden in 1950. She married local man Albert Hawkins in 1953. In 1974 she presided over the school's centenary celebrations. Former pupils fondly remember her white alsatian dog, called Major, who used to accompany her to school. She remained in the post until she retired in 1983, when the school closed with just 16 pupils.

Photograph of Gwen Hawkins (1923-1983)
Gwen Hawkins (1923-2013)

She contributed much to village life, being a member of the Parochial Council, the Parish Council, a trustee of the Fountains Trust, and she sang in the choirs of both Hebden and Linton churches. Albert died in 1989, and soon after she moved to Grassington. She died in 2013.