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




Foundation scholars

List of Foundation Scholars at the Malham Endowed School 1872. View transcript.





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The History of Education in Malhamdale

Malham Free School (1717 - 1872)

In 1947 Arthur Raistrick writes:-

"Malham Raikes Road proceeds steeply uphill to the plateau and a road turning off left goes towards the village. On the topside of this green is the old school house, now unused and falling into decay. Its origin is unknown but a date stone over the door has the initials RW.RA and the date 1681 and this stone belongs to an older building which occupied the site before the present one."

Whatever the origins, this is the building we associate with Malham Free School.

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 :-

‘ a close called Rariggs with a barn thereon, another close and a piece of meadowland called Capplebers in Kirkby Malhamdale, the whole comprises 13 acres of land and 107 sheepgates upon a stinted pasture called Outside’.

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.

This schoolmaster was to teach  “all and every scholar who lives within Malham only as well as poor as rich without any partiality as shall repair to the school to be taught and instructed”.

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 quarter’s notice on his side if he wished to resign. The schoolmaster’s 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 Brayshaw’s 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 Donor’s 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 o’clock 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 Hurtley’s 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. Bower’s letter is a beautifully penned example of early Victorian flowery verbosity.
Mr. McFarlane was succeeded by William Atkinson, (“Cuddy” Atkinson), who was to prove to be the last master of Malham Free School.

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 quarter’s 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. Atkinson’s 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 year’s 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-

‘the gross income is £76, but this was until recently much reduced by the payment of a debt incurred in the building of the schoolroom. It is now wholly available for the payment of the Master. Since the school is absolutely free to all children of the parish he has no other resources, except about £5 per annum from the fees of the children who reside at a distance. There were 31 children in the school, of whom 19 were boys. In reading, writing and spelling they had all been fairly taught, but in arithmetic the attainments of the children were lower than those of average scholars of the same age. There is one boy learning the rudiments of Latin; otherwise the school is wholly elementary, making very modest pretensions, but fulfilling them in an intelligent manner.’

It is interesting that Mr Fitch makes specific comment on the fact that the trustees can dismiss the master on a quarter’s 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 Boyd’s comments, within a few years the schools were joined. Mr Fitch’s 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, children’s 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

General Character.-Non-classical. In age of scholars, third grade.
Masters.-One, receiving from endowment 80l., and from school fees of non-foundationers about 5l.15s yearly.
Day Scholars.-28 boys, from immediate neighbourhood, sons of farmers, and labourers. Of these 22 are foundationers, paying on the average 5s.3d. yearly for fires, books, and stationary, and receiving gratuitious education. [In 1867 there were 20 foundationers, and 9 others] non-foundationers pay 1l under the age of 12, and 1l.4s. above it, for general work, and should Latin be required 1l.12s. or 2l., according to age. [In 1864 nine girls attended the school, who have since entered the girls’ school.]
Boarders.-None. Six non-foundationers, sons of farmers and hinds, lodge in the village, but are not under supervision of master.
Instruction, Discipline, &c.-Classification separate for each group of subjects.
Work begins and ends with prayers from Liturgy.
Sunday lessons are set in Scripture history and geography.
Promotion by seniority and examination.
Examination annual, by diocesan inspector. No prizes.
Punishments: public caning, tasks, and impositions in writing.
Playground, the waste adjoining the school.
School time 44 weeks per annum, 35 hours per week.

LIST OF TRUSTEES, &c. (1867.)
Mr. Robert Dawson Mr. Augustine Benson
Mr. Francis Yeoman. Mr. John Leach
Mr. William Harrison. Mr. Richard Brown
Mr. William Peacock. All Farmers of Malham
Wm. Atkinson.

It is only in the last years of the life of Malham School that we have any details of the names of pupils. William Atkinson prepared a list of Foundation Scholars (pupils who lived in Malham and were non fee paying) attending the school towards the end of 1872. There are fifteen boys and eight girls named of whom two boys and two girls are half-timers; two girls are named as non-foundationers although resident in Malham and he states that there are twenty three non-foundationers in total. The names include many common in the Dale such as Coates, Carr, Caton, Lund, etc. We also know that the Banks children from Windy Pike, Hanlith were among the last to attend Malham School, presumably as non-foundationers. They were Abraham Banks who was born in 1859 and left school at twelve years old in 1871, Betty Banks born in 1863 and Richard Banks born in 1867. They walked across the fields from Hanlith to school carrying with them a slate with their homework on. If it was a rainy day and the writing became smudged they were punished. One method of punishment for the boys favoured by Wm. Atkinson, but not related to Mr Fitch, was to give a few bumps on a large boulder outside the school door, the schoolmaster holding the boy’s arms and an older boy helping him holding the legs.

By the time Mr Fitch’s 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:

Valuation of Malham School made June 24th 1871

The school room is a one storey building well boarded and underdrawn.
Annual value £3.  3s  0d at 20 years purchase 

£63.  0.  0
There are three garden plots containing about 170yds of land.
Annual value 7s at 30 years purchase 
£10. 10. 0
There is a privy belonging to the school, detached.  
Total value
£73. 10. 0

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:

School Instruction (1865)
J G Fitch’s Report page 161

‘In the first place I think it advisable for the laws and customs of a nation to encourage men to make gifts and bequests for the good of the public and posterity; and this end is not likely to be attained by showing children how admirably the gifts, and names of ancestral benefactors, can be snuffed out by those ‘dressed in brief authority’ that come after. And in the second place I do not think it is just or right that these should be so snuffed out’. He goes on to list the ways in which things could and ought to be done so that ‘the names and the memories, and even the particular and minute intentions of the founders of such school might still be retained, honoured, and attended to with that respect which is only due to all generous efforts for the public good, and which I think we owe to the efforts of our ancestors.’

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 prose.

TEA PARTY AND PRESENTATION. - On Wednesday week, the 24th ult., a tea party was held at Malham for the purpose of marking the final closing of the schoolroom for teaching purposes, and of presenting to Mr Atkinson, the retiring schoolmaster , in recognition of his long services, a testimonial consisting of a handsome and valuable silver tea service, selected from the extensive stock of Mr Fattorini, Skipton, and purchased with the subscriptions of the past and present scholars of Malham School. It was intended to enjoy the tea al fresco, beneath the shade of some fine trees surrounding the hospitable abode of Mr. Coates, but a smart shower falling, and the appearance of more in the distance, induced the withdrawal of the preparations into a large barn, kindly lent by Mr. Coates for the occasion. After the juniors, consisting of past and present scholars of the school, had satisfied themselves with the good things provided, the tables were replenished, and a very numerous party of friends sat down to an entertainment universally admitted unexceptional in its appointments. The services of the Ayrton (sic) Brass Band contributed to render thoroughly enjoyable a feast where everyone appeared perfectly gratified. After tea a procession was made to the open space in front of the school, where, in a speech replete with kind and grateful reminiscences of the past, and sound advice for the future to the scholars around, the presentation was made by Mr. T. Coulthard, of Malham Moor, a former pupil of the school. Mr. Atkinson, in returning thanks for the handsome present that had been so affectionately made to him begged to assure his young friends, and all who had so kindly contributed to the interesting proceedings which had called them together, that he valued their present more for the source from which it had emanated than from its intrinsic worth; and that, so long as memory held its seat, he would preserve a vivid recollection of the kindness exhibited towards him. Mr. Howarth, of Capon Hall, and the Rev. T. C. Henley, vicar, then addressed the company in speeches dictated by the kindliest feelings towards the late schoolmaster, who was retiring from their service in which he had laboured for twenty-six years, and urged them to take advantage of the educational privileges that would be offered them in the new school premises, generously erected for their use by W. Morrison, Esq. at a cost of £3000. The proceedings then terminated with a vote of thanks to the ladies for their services, which was carried with cheers repeated again and again. The band then raised a lively tune, and the ground was immediately covered with dancers. As there remained a considerable surplus of what had been provided for the first entertainment, it was resolved to invite the school-children and their friends to a second feast, at the same place, on the following Friday evening; when there was again an abundant supply both of requisites and luxuries. Too much praise cannot be given to Mrs. Coates, Mrs. Caton Mrs. Ayrton, and Mrs. Brown, for the energy, skill, and hearty goodwill with which they originated, managed, and rendered the whole affair to such a complete success. Sincere thanks are also due to many others, who, though not brought prominently forward, contributed their aid in many ways.

After the school closed in 1874 the Rev. Henley wrote in his annual report in May 1875.

‘Malham Reading-room is removed to the old School-house; which has been further utilised for evening classes, and by being made the meeting place of a newly formed and very successful Church Temperance Society and Band of Hope. A branch of the Yorkshire Penny Bank was also opened here in January last, and already over £300 has been received from depositors in it. During the winter free lectures were given in the reading room, by Mr Hicks, Mr T Coulthard, Mr Southwood and myself. The lectures were followed by some lively and not unprofitable discussions, so that the old School-house may be fairly said to be still a place of education.’

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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