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COWLING SCHOOLS OF THE OLD DAYS
30th May, 1925 from a news cutting.
Typed out by Joan M. Tindale (nee Binns)
 
The scholars and their lively pranks

Cowling people residing in the village and scattered in various parts of the country are keenly anticipating 13th June, when a reunion of old scholars will mark the jubilee of the opening of the Cowling Board School. The thoughts of many local inhabitants are naturally being cast back to the days before the opening of the Board School. Between 1850 and 1870 education was doled out to children whose parents would consent to pay 3d. per week for each child. Several schools were run by individuals with foresight, but in some cases little culture. Earning one's living without recourse to hard physical labour was a difficult matter in those days, and the prospect of the new "school-money" opened up a new avenue of comparative prosperity for the self-installed school teachers. One of the first of these was "Old Lever", a venerable gentleman whose Christian name and scholastic ability are alike beyond recollection. He is, however, remembered for a cheery disposition and a ready wit. Old Nancy Hewitt, at Lane Ends, and Betty French in Ickornshaw, conducted girls schools, at which the scholars received instruction in knitting and sewing. Old Nancy was quaint in manner and costume for she wore multi-coloured shawls, hoped skirts, and French sabots. Her school was held in her cottage, and she never moved very far from her desk at one end of the little room, always having a long cane handy with which she administered justice in generous doses. One mode of punishment for disobedience was to place the offenders in the cellar, but this had its drawbacks, as considerable quantities of pastries disappeared in an incredibly short time. The old lady was very deaf, and was content to appoint one of the elder scholars to conduct the reading lesson. Whilst in class she would sit at the desk making quilts. Schools of a simple nature were also conducted by Mrs. William Stephenson, the blacksmith's wife, and by a Miss Wallace, who journeyed from Cross Hills and held classes in Winkholme. Cowling's first school conducted by "Old Lever" was held in the Parish Church schoolroom.

The establishments which are most vividly recollected, however, are William Gott's school, and Ogden Davy's school, and these were attended by many people living today (1925). From about 1855 to 1871 William Gott's school, called the Bar Chapel Venture School, was held in a room over the top of a cottage adjoining the old Bar Chapel, and both master and scholars had to climb to their daily task a flight of 36 steps. Each morning the Schoolmaster would summon the scholars to their desks by appearing at the school door and blowing into the key of his desk. The faint whistle was scarcely audible more than a few yards distant, and the scholars would troop into the schoolroom in large numbers, fully two hours late, for no register was kept and no roll-call taken.

The subjects were mainly reading, writing, and arithmetic, together with lessons in drawing and in biblical history. The total lack of discipline, however, made the well-meaning efforts of the schoolmaster almost fruitless. The girls were quiet, but the boys for the most part were of that rowdy and uncultured type characteristic of the times, and had little respect either for the schoolmaster or his teaching. The tutor did not spare the rod, but this had little effect on the undisciplined youngsters who were as perverse in spirit as they were hard in the flesh. Even their games were of a most violent description. One consisted of a mass of youthful humanity hurling itself at an open space defended by five or six other boys. The rules allowed both attackers and defenders full use of both hands and feet, and those who got through and won the game were generally badly bruised.

A bearded scholar

It was difficult for those who wished to learn to apply themselves to close study, but the few who showed diligence and application received every encouragement. It was customary for adults to attend the school, especially those anxious to prepare themselves for some advanced career. The story is told of a man with a long beard who attended the school for many months. It transpired that he was going into business as a manufacturer, and had presented himself to be "polished off' in order to increase his marketing capabilities. His age, however, was no more than 21, the wearing of a beard being fashionable in those days.

Ogden Davy's School, from about 1860-1871 was governed by trustees and was held in the Parish Church School as mentioned after old lever It was carried on in much the same way as the Bar Chapel School. Mr Davy's delicate health greatly handicapped his efforts to maintain discipline, and the same unruly element maintained the upper hand. Royal Oak Day 29th May was celebrated in unique fashion. On that day, whenever it could be managed, the schoolmaster, who lived in an adjoining house, was locked out of his school and the scholars took a holiday for the day. The two Misses Wainman, daughters of Mr, William Bradley Wainman of Carr Head took a considerable interest in the school, and would often visit and examine the scholars in their work, and distribute gifts of fruit and sweets. On half-holidays the whale school was invariably invited to Carr Head.

Both Mr. Gott and Mr. Davy were highly respected locally, and may be considered the pioneers of education in the parish. The methods cannot be compared with the highly systematized schemes of a later period, but their labours were sincere, and they sowed the first seeds of a desire for education, the development of which has borne much fruit in the signal success in public life of many scholars during the 50 years
which have followed.
 
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