Malhamdale Local History Group
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Malham Free School now a house.
Advertisement for a new master in 1828
Letter of dismissal because of the master's "intemperate habits" - 1836
List of Foundation Scholars at the Malham Endowed School 1872. View transcript.
The History of Education in Malhamdale
Malham Free School (1717 - 1872)
In 1947 Arthur Raistrick writes:-
Whatever the origins, this is the building we associate with Malham Free
The school is generally regarded as having been founded in 1717. On June 11th of that year, Rowland Brayshaw (Brayshay in some documents) of Malham transferred various lands in and around Malham to seven trustees in order to finance a school. The deed establishing the school says that for many years previously Brayshaw had paid twenty shillings per annum to a schoolmaster, and this statement indicated that some school had been in existence earlier than 1717.
In his book History of Craven Whitaker states that he had built the school some time before he endowed it by the indenture of 1717 in which he conveyed :-
This property was let every three years to the highest bidder, by the
trustees of the school.
In the indenture Rowland Brayshaw undertakes to continue to pay to the trustees this same sum of twenty shillings to be used to pay the schoolmaster for teaching four of the poorest children in Malham selected by Mr Brayshaw. After the death of Rowland Brayshaw the income from the lands was to be used to pay a schoolmaster to teach at a Free School at Malham.
He was to be chosen by the trustees or a majority of them and his appointment had to be approved by the Archbishop of York. He had to give a bond that he would leave if given three months notice by the trustees and he also had to give a quarters notice on his side if he wished to resign. The schoolmasters salary was to be paid twice a year in equal parts on Monday in Whitsun week and on the feast of St. Martin the Bishop. On the Monday in Whitsun week the trustees had to meet bringing some learned men with them if need to examine the scholars to ensure that Rowland Brayshaws intents were being carried out.
The trustees were to be replaced on death by their heirs but if the remaining trustees thought the heir unworthy they could elect another man providing he was from Malham and that there were always four trustees in Malham West and three in Malham East. Also, any descendant in Malham of Rowland Brayshaw had to take precedence in commemoration of the Worthy Donors name.
Records exist of new trustees being chosen on November 15th 1750 when
the indenture was made between William Blaykay the surviving trustee of
Rowland Brayshaw and John Brayshaw the younger, Thomas Hird son of the
late William Hird and also nephew and heir of Allan Lowson deceased, John
Lowson son and heir of Robert Lowson the elder deceased, Thomas Atkinson
son and heir of William Atkinson deceased all of Malham West. The three
from Malham East were Thomas Blakay son and heir of William Blakay, Thomas
Brayshaw son and heir of Thomas Brayshaw deceased and Thomas Bateson.
There are also indentures showing the appointment of various trustees
between 1755 and 1833. Those of 1833 were John Lawson, John Middlebrook,
Joseph Brayshaw and Robert Anderson of Malham West and Joseph Yeoman,
William Dugdale and George Hargraves Junior of Malham East.
From the indenture we know what Rowland Brayshaw wished
for his schoolmaster who should not give himself to Idleness
Carding Diseing Drinking uncomeniently or any unlawful games or injurious
vices and sins. The requirements laid down by the founder were
somewhat stringent. There were to be only four weeks holiday in the whole
year, and the hours of tuition were to be long, commencing at six oclock
in the morning until five in summer and seven until five in winter. The
day had to begin and end with a Godly Prayer.
The first record we have of the name of a schoolmaster is that of Gus (?) Thompson who, according to a list of schoolmasters in the Diocese of York in 1726 held in the Borthwick Institute, was appointed in 1722. We do not know how long he served but it is possible that Mr Thompson stayed until the mid 1760s. A poster advertising the position of Master at the Free Grammar School at Malham dated November 30th 1828 states that the retiring master was 81 years old and had been master at the school for over sixty years. This retiring master must have been Thomas Hurtley the author of A Concise Account of the Natural Curiosities in the Environs of Malham in Craven published in 1786.
Thomas Hurtley was baptised at Kirkby Malham on 2nd February 1748 and
is believed to have been a pupil at the school. He must have been only
twenty or twenty one years old when appointed master and from his writings
it is obvious that he was a man well versed in the classics, a keen admirer
of nature, a graceful writer and considering his limited opportunities,
a well read man generally. Whether he had any further education outside
the Dale we know not
Records in North Yorkshire Records Office from the 18th and early 19th
centuries relating to the school are mostly letting agreements for the
lands held by the Trustees but accounts dated November 11th 1791 do show
amounts paid to Thomas Hurtley. Significantly November 11th is the feast
day of St. Martin. A digest of parochial returns on the education of the
poor in 1818, during Hurtleys time as schoolmaster reads A
Grammar School at Malham in which forty scholars attend: the salary of
the teacher is £55. 18s. 6d. arising from land.
A report by the Charity Commissioners on the charities in Malhamdale dated 23rd January 1826 gives the income from rents as £49 per annum which may have been augmented by fees from children from outside Malham. It describes the school as being well attended and conducted and that the schoolmaster teaches the children of the inhabitants of Malham gratuitously in English, writing and arithmetic, and in Latin when required.
By 1828 the poster advertising the vacancy for a master gives the salary for teaching the children of Malham as £77 per annum out of which the Trustees were to allow the retiring Thomas Hurtley a pension of £16 per annum for the rest of his life. This perhaps seems a little harsh on the incoming schoolmaster! This poster also states that the candidates must be competent to teach the Greek, Latin and English Languages; Writing, Arithmetic, etc, etc.
The examination of the candidates was to take place on Wednesday, 17th
December at the house of Mr Harrison, the Buck Inn, in Malham. We do not
know for certain who was appointed to succeed Thomas Hurtley but it is
likely to have been James Metcalfe who on the 14th of May 1836 was given
three months notice by the trustees in consequence of
the many complaints laid against you on account of your intemperate habits
and of your taking in a number of Boarders and thereby neglecting your
Duty to the children of the inhabitants of Malham
On November 11th 1846 we have a letter written by one S Cowper who wished to resign as schoolmaster on 19th February 1847 and in which he thanks them for kindnesses shown to him during his time of residence. The next master stayed only for a very short time and an agreement was reached on September 16th 1847 that A. McFarlane, schoolmaster should leave three months from that date and be paid from the date of his entrance to the close of the year.
Whether Mr. McFarlane proved unsatisfactory or left of his own accord
is not clear. Perhaps the Trustees should have selected instead either
John Miller of Gilford School, County Down or Benjamin Bower of High Burton,
Huddersfield who had both written to Mr. George Hargreaves in January
1847 in response to the advertisement of the vacancy. Mr. Bowers
letter is a beautifully penned example of early Victorian flowery verbosity.
The then Archbishop of York, Thomas Musgrave, wrote to the Trustees from
his London address in Berkley Square on 28th February 1848 saying that
he had just received from the Rev. Dr. Butterton the results of his examination
of the candidates from which Mr. Atkinson stood first in the
list and having read also the Trustees letter with details
of his moral and religious character he declares him Master of the school.
Dr. Butterton received a fee of one sovereign for examining the candidates.
In August 1854 the then Vicar of Kirkby Malham, Edward Salter, wrote
to the trustees that he wished to hold church services in Malham and requested
their permission to use the schoolroom which he would then have licensed
for divine service. The trustees replied in October 1854 giving their
permission and also asking the Vicar to make regular and frequent
visits to the school as they were of the opinion that its utility
will be increased thereby.
Mr Atkinson appears to have been quite a forceful character and there were various disputes between him and the Trustees of the school. On 10th June 1856 a letter drawn up by a Mr. Twistleton of Settle and signed by all seven Trustees gives William Atkinson one quarters notice to leave his post as schoolmaster. This letter gives no indication of the reason for his dismissal but a letter to the trustees on Mr. Atkinsons behalf dated 24th June 1856 from Mr. Robinson of Settle states that Mr. Atkinson considers that the trustees have no right to dismiss him merely because he objects to you taking the whole income for a considerable time to repair the school.
Mr. Atkinson had authorised him to propose that £10 per annum be
taken out of the income to pay for the necessary repairs. A specification
for these repairs dated 12th July 1856 shows them to be quite extensive.
They included a new front wall with a doorway and three new windows
6 feet by 3 feet with a plain side and a semicircular top. This
describes the school as it is shown in Morkill in the 1930s and much as
it is today. The building was also to be re-roofed with American deal,
slated and underdrawn, and the floor was to be boarded. Following details
of the troughs and downspouts, boarding of the door and painting the final
item is the hat pegs to be repaired and painted. In
addition there were to be new writing tables and forms and the whole work
was to be completed by 20th September.
The dispute between Mr. Atkinson and the trustees went on for almost a year involving lengthy correspondence with the Charity Commissioners regarding the rights of the two parties. At last, on 4th May 1857 Mr. Twistleton advised the Trustees that they had no alternative but to give William Atkinson the keys of the school and pay him his years salary less the £10 he had agreed towards the repairs. This deduction was to go on for seven or eight years until the costs were paid off. We do not know whether the school had been closed for the period of the dispute. There was another dispute in 1869 between Atkinson and the trustees over income from land.
The Schools Inquiry Commission, Vol. XVIII, Yorkshire, published in 1869 contains the first detailed report we have on the educational standards of the school after one hundred and fifty years of its operation. This is in the form of a report by Mr. J. G. Fitch. Mr. Fitch states that-
It is interesting that Mr Fitch makes specific comment on the fact that
the trustees can dismiss the master on a quarters notice. He says
This is the only instance I have known in which the testator
has foreseen the evils attendant upon the system of freehold masterships;
and has expressly provided that the Trustees shall have the power to dismiss
the master without assigning a reason. He also makes reference
to an observation by the Rev. Canon Boyd, the Rural Dean and Diocesan
Inspector, that he does not think it would answer to amalgamate the Malham
and Kirkby Malham schools as the increase in endowment supplied by Kirkby
Malham would not enable them to provide a better Master than they can
for Malham alone. Notwithstanding Canon Boyds comments, within a
few years the schools were joined. Mr Fitchs view was that There
seems no reason to prevent the development of the older institution (Malham
Free School) into a superior school, combining all the advantages of
a good national school, with the power to give advanced instruction to
the children of respectable farmers. But the endowment alone will not
suffice for this purpose. It scarcely equals in amount the income which
the same school, if unendowed, would probably derive from the three sources,
childrens pence, local subscriptions, and the Government grant.
It therefore does not perceptibly render any service to the education
of the place. But the same sum, if added to the usual school fees, would
enable the trustees to secure exceptional advantages, and to pay a good
teacher and assistant with more than ordinary liberality.
The report goes on as follows:
State of School in First Half-Year of 1865
By the time Mr Fitchs report was actually published in 1869, plans were well advanced for the amalgamation of the Malham School with the Kirkby Free Grammar School, the idea of which Canon Boyd had thought unprofitable. Prior to the amalgamation the school was valued by William Gomersall as follows:
Eventually, under a scheme devised by the Endowed Schools Commissioners
and sanctioned by Her Majesty Queen Victoria on August 9th 1872 the two
schools were joined. A balance of £50. 2s. 6d. from the Malham Endowed
School trust was transferred by the Trustees to Walter Morrison as chairman
of the Governors of the new United School in November of that year. However,
the school at Malham continued to operate for a further two years. William
Atkinson accepted an invitation from the new United School Governors to
act as temporary Master, teaching in the old building until the new school
at Kirkby top was built and a new Master was appointed.
The amalgamation of the schools did not meet with general approval in Malham and in the Craven Pioneer of September 6th 1874 an item from the Editor relates that the people of Malham were vexed at having to pay for the education of their children under the Endowed Schools Commission scheme as they and their ancestors for a hundred and fifty years had had their schooling free. Mr William Hutton Brayshay, a descendant of the founder, responds on the following day. He agrees with the editor on most points but differs on others and writes:
By this time, however, the creation of the United School is a fait accompli,
William Atkinson has retired on his pension from the Governors of £20
per annum, and the Malham Free School has closed its doors. The Craven
Pioneer of July 4th 1874 had reported the final event in typical Victorian
After the school closed in 1874 the Rev. Henley wrote in his annual report in May 1875.
Almost sixty years later John William Morkill described the building as being in a ruinous condition but in more recent years the building has been renovated for residential use, and is now a listed building. The founder, Roland Brayshaw, is still remembered by this building and by the carving of R B 1692 on a panel in a pew on the north side of Kirkby Malham Church.
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