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Story of Addingham Schools

All parts of this story from 1874 to 1974 are re-printed from a booklet ‘The story of an Addingham School from 1874 – 1974‘ by William Lemmon (headmaster of the Top/High/Wesleyan/Primary School from 1924 – 1952).


Although this essay is to be concerned principally with one Addingham school, the Wesleyan, some very brief account of the local educational background is essential. In the first decade of the 1800s ” …such education as was given in schools founded by one of the two rival societies. One of these (1808), patronised by rich Whigs and Quakers followed Joseph Lancaster’s ideas of education with general religious instruction, and was known as ‘The British and Foreign Schools Society’. (There was a ‘British’ school in Skipton) The other, (1811), known as ‘The National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Church of England’ was founded on the ideas of Dr. Bell, and the Addingham National School owes its origin to this society.

But long before these years there is evidence that there were schools in Addingham. As early as 1630, a parish constable’s account refers to ‘the Dominie’ that is the schoolmaster. By the year 1666, a school, the original parish school, had been erected in the village street and remains to this day as ‘The Old School’. It was maintained over the years by the Parish Officers, who also appointed the succession of school masters, who usually combined with that post, that of the parish clerk. In the 18th century there are records of five such appointments where the master is named and of another three un-named ones.

The Old School was built by Anthony Ward. The town book had, from 1690 – 1744, entries made for payment for repairs to the building and for payment of a school master. The school started life as a single storey two roomed cottage but another storey was added in 1805 when the school moved into the upper room.The ground floor was split and one side became a goal. Mr Lee was the last teacher in charge before the move to North Street. Mr Richard Sandham who had charge of the school from 1855 to 1890 told Harry Speight (author of ‘Upper Wharfedale’ published in 1900) that “under the schoolroom was the village prison and an infant classroom. The upper room was occupied by Edward Lister a joiner, and the lower by a nailmaker and barber. In 1840, George Whitaker was the village barber and the little lather shop was a well known rendezvous of local gossips”.

The Old School, Main Street

In the 19th century we have schools recorded as follows:

(a).. in the 1818 Rating Valuation book, in one of the cottages in the ‘Rookery’ abutting on Bolton Road.

(b) Baines’ Directory of 1821 …an Academy in the name of Robert Bramham and another under J,H. Holden.

(c)..the map accompanying the 1843 Tithe Award has four schools. ..that in the Main Street (the Old School), one in the ‘Rookery’, (named above) … one in Back Lane, and one in Low Mill Yard. It is possible that the last named school was that to which the mill child apprentices were sent in order to fulfil the requirements of the Factory Act of 1833.

(d)..the National School in North Street which was opened on Christmas Day 1844. The large Gothic room was capable of containing 200 to 300 scholars and on the opening day they were regaled with Christmas cake and new milk. The drink was a change from the beer which had long been customary. After tea they were examined in geography.

The Low/ C.of E./ National School, North Street

(e)…the Census returns of 1851 give us the names of Thomas Howe, Schoolmaster, aged 29; Thomas Whitaker, Schoolmaster and Farmer: Alice Mitchel, aged 40, a widow living in Oddfellows Hall, Schoolmistress. It also records that there were 185 scholars: 4 Sunday scholars and 7 scholars at home.

The 1666 village school continued to function until about 1861, and up to about 1892 was still being maintained as an infants’ school. Several of the older generation known to the writer were able to recount interesting experiences as scholars. ..e.g. the dull boy put into the corner with the dunce cap on his head.

These ‘Societies’ schools, aided after 1833 with State grants, remained the mainstay of popular education in this country for a matter of 60 years.

The ‘Top’ / ‘High’ / Wesleyan / Primary School, Chapel Street

The Report of the inquiry by the Charity Commissioners into the charities of Addingham (1894) states that…”the Wesleyan Sunday School was founded by deed dated 10th January 1848 by which the land and buildings were vested in 13 trustees for the purposes of a Day and Sunday School in connection with the Wesleyan Methodists” …Another report of the Wesleyans themselves, printed in 1876, however states that. ..”for about 40 years prior to 1871 the Wesleyan Methodists had conducted a Sunday School and occasionally a Day School in their premises in Back Lane. ..” It would seem that this must be the Back Lane school already referred to (1843) and that therefore it can be dated to the early 1830s, and was not put under the Charity Commissioners until 1848. It continued to function until 1874.

In 1870, Mr. Arnold Forster M.P. a resident of Burley-in-Wharfedale and Education minister in Mr. Gladstone’s government, successfully piloted an Education Act through Parliament. By this, the ‘Societies’ schools were continued, and given increased State aid, and publicly controlled schools known as Board Schools, since they were to be administered by locally elected school boards, were established and all children up to the age of 13 were compelled to attend. In the next year (1871) an Inspector of schools declared the school accommodation in Addingham to be insufficient; the trustees themselves decided that their premises were inadequate and inconvenient for a Sunday school, and for a Day school they neither met the requirements of the new Education Act, nor could they easily be altered to do so, and the days of the Back Lane school were accordingly, numbered.

A plot of land near the Wesleyan Chapel was, conveniently. available for purchase, and it was therefore determined to make ” …a vigorous effort to provide new premises suitable for Sunday school purposes, but in addition to be available for a Day School to be conducted under the provisions of the Education Act. ..”

In March 1872 the Circuit Ministers, Revs. Gifford Dorey and Starkie Starkie and four Wesleyan laymen met and decided that provided adequate funds could be raised, a new Wesleyan school should be built. The fund raising was quickly begun, Subscription lists were opened. A prosperous Farfield farmer, John Lanson, promised £100, later raised to £130 if the building could be opened free of debt. The Haw Pike farmer, Mr. Benjamin Shiers gave £50 with an additional promise of 10% on all moneys paid in by the end of September. This totalled over £71. The owners of Town Head Mill and their workpeople subscribed well over £45; the ladies’ four days’ bazaar (held in the Oddfellows Hall) raised £308, and with the not to be despised shillings, florins, half-crowns and crowns, the fund reached a total of £608.14.0.

From this encouraging beginning it was decided that the Back Lane premises should be sold and as this property was vested with the Charity Commissioners, they were requested to give the necessary authority to do so. (August 1873) In the March following the sale was approved, the purchase money to be paid over to the Official Trustees of Charitable Funds. The Trustees however ‘through inadvertence’ applied it towards the cost of the new building. The Commissioners, upon the circumstances being brought to their notice, approved this application of the money. …:’ So all was well.

The Trustees had the doubtful benefit of a small endowment in the possession of a cottage in Smithy Fold. The nominal rental was not being paid regularly, repairs were expensive and rather than an asset, it was a definite liability. (Note: Some time ago, it was offered to the owner of the adjoining cottage as a gift, to the obvious relief of the Trustees.)

The Back Lane school was sold by auction for £151 to Abel Pickard and sundry fittings were disposed of similarly. Some idea of the equipment in use may be gathered from the items sold: Books and a desk (1/10) …Cupboard (5/6) …Desk (2/-) …Old stand (1/6) …Old books (1/6) …Clock (10/-) and with 9/ received for some forms from the Old Langbar chapel, £1.11.4 was added to the Building Fund.


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