Extracts from the Diary of the Rev. Robert Meeke (1874) - Memorials of Slaithwaite Free School

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Extracts from the Diary of the Rev. Robert Meeke (1874) by Henry James Morehouse & Charles Augustus Hulbert



In this age of education it is not uncommon to ignore the efforts made by individuals in preceding generations in that direction, although they were the more difficult and meritorious for their comparative rarity. Many schools connected with the monasteries probably perished at the time of their dissolution. Some remain as part of our cathedral establishments. But it is certain that learning was in general limited to a few, and they of noble or gentle descent: for even the clergy were not generally able to preach. King Edward the Sixth, and the Sovereigns who succeeded him, founded many grammar schools. Among the latest was that of Philip and Mary at Clithero, which was endowed with the rectorial tithes and the advowson of the ancient and extensive parish of Almondbury, in the county of York, which had belonged to the theological college of Jesus at Rotherham; suppressed by Henry VIII. Likewise the free grammar school of King James the First, at Almondbury itself, both now flourishing. But the former interest of Clithero school in Almondbury, is now chiefly vested by purchase in Sir John William Ramsden, Baronet, lord of the manor, including the patronage of the living. The school at Almondbury was also endowed by Robert Nettleton, gentleman, of Almondbury, who died in 1621. But in addition to these ROYAL FOUNDATIONS, many pious persons, lay as well as clerical, established and endowed FREE SCHOOLS in towns and villages; which exist by virtue of their corporate character until this day; and which have been abundantly useful in former times by encouraging local genius; although they have not kept pace with the increase of the population, or risen with the advancement of science. And though it may be doubted whether they were ever very extensively useful as “CHARITY SCHOOLS,” from them proceeded most of the able men, who ‘in our universities rose to distinction, and adorned their stations in after life; but who otherwise would have been left as flowers

“To blush unseen
And waste their fragrance on the desert air.”

But these FOUNDATIONS also formed the trunks on which were engrafted useful schools for the sons and daughters of the MIDDLE CLASS who could afford to pay something for their education: but who, in many cases, thrust aside the “poor children,” for whose benefit the institutions were chiefly established. We can form very little idea of the extent ‘and importance of many of these schools in ‘the last century, before they were superseded by more pretentious establishments called ACADEMIES, and more recently PROPRIETARY or COLLEGIATE SCHOOLS, for the same middle class; and by the rise of National and British schools for the children of the labouring population. A religious character attached to them all by their foundation, and they were generally connected ‘with and conducted by clergymen or members of the established church.

We shall not enter into the vexed questions of the present day on these subjects, including the new Acts relative to endowed schools and elementary education, whether sacred or secular, but record the progress of a particular instance ― the FREE SCHOOL of SLAITHWAITE five miles from and in the parish of Huddersfield.

We cannot, however, but rejoice that the modern appliances afforded by collegiate schools, church and mechanics’ institutes, literary and scientific societies, have done much to alleviate the sufferings and encourage the hopes of humble merit ― no longer left to perish, as lamented by Beattie, in the opening stanza of “The Minstrel.”

“Ah! who can tell how hard it is to climb
The steep where Fame’s proud temple shines afar,
Ah! who can tell how many a soul sublime
Has felt the influence of malignant star,
And waged with fortune an eternal war,
Mocked by the scoff of pride, by envy’s frown,
Or poverty’s unconquerable bar,
In life’s low vale remote has pined alone,
Then dropped into the grave, unpitied and unknown.”

Whilst thus these modern institutions and other helps to adult education have opened the field to every earnest adventurer, and facilitated the advance of youth in those studies which prepare them for the contests of university distinction, or the civil and military service competition: a general improvement in all the larger grammar schools is diffusing a liberal education through other classes of the community.

It is not, however, our duty to despise or forget the pioneers of education: the village schoolmaster of Goldsmith was not an exaggerated picture, and the sterner features of his character are perhaps missed too much in modern discipline.

The writer of this memorial was not indebted to any of those ancient foundations for his early instruction; although entitled, as a native and burgess’ son, to a free education in the royal free grammar school of King Edward the Sixth, at Shrewsbury. The moral state of which at the time of his boyhood was not equal to its literary reputation; and on that account its advantages were declined by his parents. A great improvement in that noble foundation took place in the later years of Dr. Butler and in the time of Dr. Kennedy. The writer has always deplored the loss sustained by the sacrifice, though he could not blame the judgment which preferred for him private education and self acquired learning, with the restraints of parental control and religious instruction, to the dangers of public schools. On the same principles he brought up his own four sons (now graduates and clergymen) at Slaithwaite, under his own care ― but he partially availed himself of the restored school at Slaithwaite and for one the Collegiate school at Huddersfield. On his removal from the Metropolitan district of Islington, where as curate he took part in extensive and well taught parochial schools, to the remote but privileged chapelry of Slaithwaite-cum-Lingards, as incumbent, in the year 1839, he became much interested, not only in its religious history, which he has endeavoured to record in the “Annals of the Church in Slaithwaite, from 1593 to 1863,” but also in its “Old Free School.” An institution, which, however, at that time existed only in name, as it had been suspended since the decease of the last preceding master, Mr. John Hargreaves, in 1838; the rents of the endowment being accumulated to defray the cost of re-building a barn which had been burnt down on one of the estates; and the schoolhouse itself being in a very ruinous and dilapidated condition.

Proofs of the former usefulness of this school were abundant; but it had so much declined of late years, that in 1835, the writer’s predecessor, the Rev. Thomas Jackson, B.D., had engaged one of the former scholars, Mr. John Mellor, to commence a school in connection with the “National Society for promoting the education of the poor on the principles of the Established Church.” It was held in a large, but low room, or vestry, under the church, and where about one hundred scholars were taught on Sundays and week days.

Sunday schools had existed in different parts of the parochial district since 1783, but had been collected in 1810 in this room, under the official superintendence of Mr. George Mellor, uncle of the young master, and who filled that office until his death in 1857 ― a period of forty-six years. The nephew continues in efficiency as chief national schoolmaster and joint Sunday school superintendent unto this day.

Such were in 1839 the public provisions for education in Slaithwaite ― a village forming the centre of a population of about five thousand souls, residing in the townships of Slaithwaite, Lingards, Golcar, and Linthwaite. Two small but respectable private establishments, under Mr. Joshua Bamford and Mr. Thomas Barratt, also existed, both in the township of Lingards.

An attempt had been made, as will be hereafter related, in the year 1825, to supply a superior school, by the erection of the building now called. School Terrace, as a proprietary grammar school, by shares, and for some years it flourished under the Rev. John Butterfield, but was now extinct.

The surviving trustees of the old endowment, and especially Mr. Richard Varley, the treasurer, afforded the writer access to the deeds and records of the school, and entered into his plans for restoration and revival But there were legal as well as pecuniary difficulties which it took above seven years to overcome, partially, so as to rebuild and restore the school; and twenty years to establish THE MEEKE AND WALKER’S EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION, founded on the original endowments.

The history of this period and the fifteen years which have subsequently elapsed, will have developed the erection and establishment of four other church schools, on the principles of the National Society; and still existing with their schoolhouses and residences attached, and all under government inspection, duly conveyed and vested in trustees ― and, including, with a School in connection with the Mechanics’ Institution recently erected, in Sunday or weekday attendance about one thousand scholars, or one-fifth of the population.

The chief subject, however, of this publication will be the retrospect of the history of the Old Free School, and which will soon be beyond the reach of living memory.



The origin of this school can be traced no higher than the time, of the Incumbency of the Reverend Robert Meeke, who was appointed to the curacy of Slaithwaite Chapel, in the parish of Huddersfield, in the year 1685; in whose diary it is first mentioned. This laborious and benevolent man “began to catechize the children,” probably in the chapel, in June, 1689. He speaks of the school in January, 1692, as adjoining the chapel, and his putting a lock on a door betwixt the chapel and school ; and that he met with a person who desired to be schoolmaster, “gave him no answer, but left him to the town men.”

It was therefore a Parochial School which Mr. Meeke superintended, and in the management of which he consulted the sagest of his neighbours and parishioners. We know nothing more until the year 1721, when Mr. Meeke endowed the school with a freehold. estate at Sowood, in Stainland, parish of Halifax; which he bought at the same time with the adjoining lands, which were conveyed to the Trustees of Queen Anne’s Bounty, for the benefit of the Curate of Slaithwaite for the time being ; and which still form the principal endowment of the living. The original Trust Deed of the School dated. June 21st, 1721, is not now to be found, but an old abstract exists, and the deed was duly registered at Wakefield. It provided for the free instruction of ten scholars, boys and girls, in reading, writing, and arithmetic. The curate of Slaithwaite for the time being, is to be a Trustee, but may not be the master; the latter is to have no cure of souls, that he may be able to attend to his school, necessary study, and lawful recreation.

The appointment of the master was vested in the trustees; that of the free scholars in the curate, chapel-warden, and overseer of the poor of Slaithwaite for the time being forever ― two to be chosen from Golcar, two from Linthwaite, two from Lingards, and four from Slaithwaite ― which four townships then constituted the chapelry, although Golcar and Slaithwaite were in the parish of Huddersfield; Linthwaite and Lingards in that of Almondbury: two large parishes, running parallel for nearly ten miles on the north and- south sides of the River Colne, which divides what is now called the Colne Valley. Slaithwaite and Lingards were, however, connected by a closer tie ― in that they formed the manor of Slaithwaite, which belonged to the family of Kaye, of Woodsome Hall, in Almondbury, now represented by the Earl of Dartmouth. The number of free scholars was to be increased or lessened at the discretion of the trustees.

The value of this endowment at that time was only £4 per annum, now increased to £25. It was confirmed by the will of Mr. Meeke, dated 20th March, 1724, very shortly before his death, which took place May 31st following, and. provided “that if there were no school maintained, that then the profits of the land should be distributed in Bibles, New Testaments, and Common Prayer Books, according to the discretion of the warden, the minister, and three or four understanding men belonging to the chapel. If the occasional profits should be thought too much for Bibles, &c. the feoffees intrusted should bestow it in buying warm and decent wearing cloaths for some of the poorer children.”

It needs no comment to set forth the pious disposition of the founder, or his attachment to the established church; although himself the son of a learned and pious presbyterian minister, the Reverend William Meeke, of Manchester, who held a chapel then on Salford bridge, whilst that form of religion was established in England; but who suffered temporary imprisonment in 1651, from the independents, on account of his supposed attachment to the cause of King Charles II., and died in 1658. But the christian faith of his son may be illustrated by the preamble to his will, already given.

It has been recently discovered that the eldest son of the above was curate of Slaithwaite, for a short period previous to Mr. Robert Meeke’s incumbency, as appears from the register of his burial in the Parish Church of Huddersfield, 8th August, 1684, He became B.A., of St. Mary’s Hall, Oxford, 1677. The parish school may therefore have had its origin in the time and care of the Rev. William Meeke, the younger. The same register gives:―

Jacobus Marcroft, Prædicator Verbi Dei Apud Slathwaite, bur. 14 July, 1621.

Ralph Johnson, curate of Slagthwaite, 29th Mar., 1622.

Hannah, wife of Thomas Gunner, curate of Slaithwaite, 29, Ap., 1639.

There was a vacancy in the time of the commonwealth, The Parliamentary Survey, 1651, says:― “No minister, way bad, only four shillings per annum endowment.” It was from this condition probably that the Meeke Brothers redeemed the chapelry and originated the school, having some private means.

Mr. R. Meeke bequeathes about 133 volumes of books, chiefly valuable divinity, to the use of his successors as curates of Slaithwaite, and which are well preserved to this day; having been re-bound in 1867, by the late incumbent and the churchwardens. He also left nine pounds, the interest to be paid to the chapelwardens, towards furnishing the wine for the communion; also five pounds to make a more convenient way from the chapel to the burial place, licensed in 1688. The remainder of his manuscripts and other books were scattered by sale and time. Only one volume of his diary remains, which forms the substance of the preceding publication.

It is somewhat remarkable that a similar project of endowing for the church at Slaithwaite possessed the minds of two other pious men, before Mr. Meceke’s endowment took effect. One, that of Mr. Thomas Walker, must have been unknown to the former, as the conditions are different from his own, while with those of Mr. Michael Aneley’s, Mr. Meeke must have been cognizant, as he made the will and witnessed its execution.

The Second Endowment Deed, dated 25th December, 1731, recites that “Thomas Walker, late of Huddersfield, Salter, by his last will and testament, bearing date 9th May, 1719, bequeathed £100 to be put out at interest or laid forth for and about the purchase of lands; the rents and profits to be paid towards the upholding and maintaining of a school of good literature at Slaithwaite; and that of Michael Ameley, of Aneley Place, in Slaithwaite, by his will dated 9th June, 1723, gave ten pounds for the good and benefit of the school of Slaithwaite. These bequests were consolidated with nine pounds left by Mr. Meeke for communion wine, and ten pounds added by William Walker, of Wakefield, (called Dr. Walker), in the purchase of a copyhold estate at Sowerby, in the parish of Halifax; which (except a small portion sold to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company), still remains as an endowment of the school, producing £20 per annum; the farm buildings having been entirely rebuilt by the present Trustees.

The Deed of Trust was executed by the said William Walker, in conjunction with Edmund Bothomley, of Slaithwaite, son and heir of Æneas Bothomley, one of Mr. Meeke’s original trustees, and William Dawson, of Wakefield, gentleman, probably a connection of Mr. Walker, land the following was the Declaration of Trust:―

I. ― After reserving fire shillings per annum to the chapelwarden, to pay the net profits to the schoolmaster of the said school of Slaighwaite, which schoolmaster shall upon each vacancy or removal, or within 40 days thereafter, be elected and chosen by the trustees, the survivor or survivors of them during their lives; and afterwards by the vicar of Huddersfield, the curates of Slaighwaite and Deanhead for the time being and their respective successors for ever.

II. ― That the master so chosen shall, for the consideration aforesaid, teach ten children, boys and girls, elected in manner, as is hereafter mentioned.

III. ― The master shall be a member of the Church of England, of a sober life and conversation, and one that frequents the Holy Communion, and hath a good genius for teaching youth to read and write a good hand, and understands the grounds of arithmetic, and will carefully attend the school.

IV. ― That the schoolmaster take care of the manners and behaviour of the scholars, and take proper methods to discourage vice, particularly lying, cursing, swearing, and the profanation of the Lord’s day; and to oblige them in order thereto to attend Divine service and teach them to read English well.

V. ― That as soon as the boys can read competently well, the master is to teach them to write a fair legible hand, with the grounds of arithmetic sufficient to qualify them for common apprentices.

VI. ― That he teach both the boys and the girls the catechism, as contained in the liturgy of the church of England, and catechize them once a week in the school.

VII. ― That the children now taken in, and hereafter as vacancies shall happen, shall be of the poorest objects, and to be chosen out of the constabularies or hamlets of Slaithwaite and Lingards by Edmund Bothomley during his life, and after his decease by the curate, chapelwarden, and overseer of the poor forever.

VIII. ― If any of the children prove incorrigible after due admonition, and moderate correction, such children are to be displaced and others elected in their room.

IX. ― That the parent or parents of such children as shall be elected, shall give assurance as far as they can, that the children shall not be kept from school upon any occasion whatsoever, except want of health.

X. ― That the girls be taught only to read well and catechized, except the master has a wife that can teach them to sew, then that to be done.

XI. ― That in case the estate shall by any unforseen accident be deficient, or not raise the yearly value that it now does, then both the charities (school and communion) shall abate proportionally, according to the value.

XII. ― That the master shall keep a book wherein he shall fairly enter the names and age of the children at their being admitted, together with the names of their parents; and when such children are dismissed, shall enter their names and how much improved.

XIII and Lastly ― If the master does not perform his duty according to the rules above, or fail in any of the qualifications required of him, that then the electors aforesaid shall have power to keep back his stipend, remove him, and elect another more proper person in his place and stead.

It will be seen that some of the above provisions differ from those of Mr. Meeke’s own trusts, though the spirit is the same, and they were carried out during the lifetime of the trustees as one school, by successive masters; but there was no provision in the second endowment deed for the continuance of the trust, which created in time a difficulty that has been only recently remedied by the new scheme of management.


The first master of whom we have any record or tradition was


In his time the estate at Sowerby was bought and settled; also the buildings repaired, to which he contributed, as appears from an entry in the town’s books. He is believed to have been a native of Lancashire. Among the manuscripts of Mr. Murgatroyd, is an Elegy written by Mr. Boulton, on the death of the Rev. John Sutcliffe, the immediate successor of Mr. Meeke, which took place in 1729; from which it appears that Mr. B. was a man of classical attainment. In the same handwriting with the above entry 1731-2, is also a paraphrase on the Book of Ecclesiastes, wanting the first page of the preface, which is signed T.B., and which (if original) shews that he was a man of taste, learning, and piety. In the chapel register occur the baptism of Daniel, his son, on the 5th of April, 1730, and the burial of his daughter January 8th, 1731. His own burial occurs August 4th, 1734. We have no information as to the interval between this event and the appointment of his able and devoted successor


who was schoolmaster from 1738 to 1786, when he resigned the school, but survived his resignation twenty years, and resided in Lingards until his death in 1806.

By the favour of his late excellent niece, Miss Hannah Mellor, the diaries and common-place books of this good man have afforded the writer much assistance with reference to the nearly seventy years of Mr. Murgatroyd’s residence in the chapelry. In his journal, dated January 19th, 1786, he says, ― “This afternoon agreed about quitting the school,” and on the 23rd says “This afternoon I resigned Slaighwaite School into the hands of the new chosen Trustees I have been master from May 29th, 1738, near 48 years, ― I hope that I have done my duty in this important trust with faithfulness, if I have at any time erred may God forgive me for Christ’s sake.” Again, 24th, “Awak’d with God. G.D. A fine winter’s day. This is the last day of school teaching with me at Slaighwaite ― being St. Paul’s Eve ― a remarkable time. The Lord give me grace to live my few remaining years to his glory.”

The first notice relative to the school is the entry of some scholars in 1738; the first being Thomas Boulton, the younger, probably, son of the late master. Mr. Murgatroyd was not licensed to the Free School until 1740. He was ordained deacon in 1754, and priest in 1755, by the Archbishop of York (Dr. Gilbert), as curate of the Parish Church of Almondbury, on the nomination of the Rev. Edward Rishton, vicar, on a stipend of fifteen pounds per annum. His letters of orders are extant. In addition to this salary, a collection was made from house to house throughout the parish ― which is ten miles long, and at that time had only three chapels, Marsden, Honley, and Meltham. He records, August 6th, 7th, and 8th, 1755, “a collection made for Almondbury curate, got £4 11s. 0d., gave the clark 4s. for going with me, and one day’s horse hire.” His testimonials were signed by Dr. Legh, vicar of Halifax, Mr. Sandford, vicar of Huddersfield, and Mr. Thorns, curate of Slaithwaite. This appointment does not seem to have been deemed an infringement of Mr. Meeke’s will, as it did not involve the week-day care of souls. Mr. Murgatroyd continued, whilst residing at Slaithwaite, the Sunday duty of Almondbury until July 17th, 1767; when he resigned the cure, and seems to have sought the charms of connubial life. He was married at Almondbury, December 16th, 1767, to Ann Mellor, daughter of Edmund and Martha Mellor, of Lingards, one of the most respectable families in the place. He built a house in Lingards in 1786, on his resignation of the school, and resided there until his death, October 27th, 1806. The house is still in good condition, and in the possession of the family of his late nephew, Mr. John Mellor, under the Earl of Dartmouth. The following inscription over the door still remains, in ornamental characters:―

En Lector / M / attende
I / 1786 / A
“Slender’s the thread on which life doth depend,
A moment’s time may bring me to my end;
Therefore while I do live my care shall be
To have true comfort in eternity.”

The writer has often heard Mr. Murgatroyd spoken of with the greatest respect by those who recollected him. His copious and laborious manuscript collections, extracts and journals, and several other books were kindly presented to the Incumbent of Slaithwaite and (except the journals, which have been returned to the family at their request) now form a permanent addition to the Minister’s Library, bequeathed by Mr. Meeke. These writings have thrown much light upon many parts of our local history. Those who recollect his person, describe Mr. Murgatroyd as a tall and venerable looking man, who wore a powdered wig and long cloak. His habits were temperate and pious. He was a native of Weathercock Fold, in the parish of Halifax. His father was William Murgatroyd, a blacksmith by trade. His mother was daughter of William Fairbank, of Halifax. They were possessed of some freehold property which still remains in the family of Mellor, into which Mr. Murgatroyd married. The first account we have of him is contained in the first volume of his M.S. collection. It is a testimonial addressed to a gentleman of the same name, the Rev. Mr. Murgatroyd, of Kirkleatham, by a Kester Metcalf, dated July, 1737; and describes him as son of William Murgatroyd, late of Harley Royd, but now of Halifax, eighteen years of age ; desirous of being made a scholar, and having been several years under the care of Mr. Wadsworth, schoolmaster, of Rishworth ― a sedate, thinking, and promising boy; who reads the following authors, viz.: Greek Testament, Homer, Juvenal and Persius, with tolerable judgement, and makes exercises answerable thereto. His father is unable to send, him to the University, therefore humbly begs you to be so good as to take him into your care, as being your usher, or any other preferments you may think proper, He is a man of the times, for in the late election at York for members for the County, he gave his vote for Sir Rowland Winn and Squire Turner. Another testimonial appears from Dr. Legh, Vicar of Halifax, addressed to the Trustees of Keighley school. Young Murgatroyd was unsuccessful in both applications; but the testimony is very creditable.

These early tokens of promise he fully justified, as

“Along the cool sequestered vale of life
He held the noiseless tenor of his way.”

After he resigned the Curacy of Almondbury, he was engaged, to within a few months of his death, in various Churches, from Sunday to Sunday, for nearly forty years ― but never undertook a regular Curacy ― frequently took duty at Slaithwaite for the successive ministers; and must have ridden or walked many miles for a very small remuneration. He writes, “Rev. Mr. Burnett (Curate to the Rev. Henry Venn, at Huddersfield, and afterwards Incumbent of Elland) paid Feb. 12, 1761, £10 10s. 0d. and surplice dues for taking care of Slaighwaite Chapel 20 Sundays.” He remarks that he never received more than half a guinea for a Sunday’s duty, except once from the widow of the vicar of Huddersfield, who gave him a guinea, and then he returned it to her. His journal of sermons, records his services at Almondbury, Elland, Emley, Friar Mere, Holmfirth, Honley, Huddersfield, Kirkheaton, Kirkburton, Lightcliffe, Longwood, Marsden, Rastrick, Ripponden (Deanhead), Scammonden, Saddleworth, Slaithwaite, Sowerby, &c., &c. In fact nearly all the Churches and Chapels within twenty miles of Slaithwaite, and this continues with gradually less frequency, until his death. The last entry is, July 27th, 1806 ― “At home ― no horse.”

Mr. Murgatroyd’s Common Place Books shew a great amount of industry, in abstracting and copying various works in divinity, history, and poetry, which he borrowed from his friends ; also a correspendence in early years with Mr. Miller, Schoolmaster, of Longwood. We have lately met with a small publication by this gentleman, entitled, “A choice collection of Family Prayers for every day of the week. To which are added a few Divine Poems by the collector, Jos. Miller, schoolmaster, Halifax, printed by P. Darby for the collector, MDCCLXX. Price sixpence.” Mr. Miller was a classical scholar, and ingenious in stone cutting. An old inscription remains in the Free School, which was placed over the door when rebuilt, engraved by him.

“Non operis famam poterit delere vetustas.”
Anno Domini, 1744.

Longwood School itself was founded about the same time with the Second Trust Deed of Slaithwaite, by the same Mr. Thomas Walker, of Wakefield; as appears from the Monument to the latter in the Parish Church of Dewsbury, in which he also endowed a school. The rebuilding of his school was a matter which cost Mr. Murgatroyd much labour, and it may tend to make us better satisfied with the accommodation enjoyed by modern schools and schoolmasters to read his description of the original school house, contained in a Memorial to Lord Guildford and North, who had married the widow of Lord Viscount Lewisham, daughter and heiress of Sir Arthur Kaye, Bart.; through whom the Manor of Slaithwaite-cum-Lingards, and other estates passed to the noble family, by whom they are still held. His Lordship, and John Kaye, Esq., of Huddersfield, each gave ten pounds.

Another important matter which he promoted was the renewal of the Trust Deed of Mr. Meeke, which was accomplished in 1749 ― And again, during the incumbency of the Rev. Thomas Wilson, in 1784. The property at Sowerby was surrendered in the Court at Wakefield, by Richard Kennett, of Wakefield, Esq., heir-at-law of William Dawson, and also of William Walker, (Trustee under the 25th December, 1731,) and conveyed again to William Elmsall, of Brearley Manor, in trust for the use of the existing and, other Trustees, appointed by a deed of the same date, for the intents and purposes of the deed of 1731. Fine iiis. vid. Mr. Elmsall was agent to the Earl of Dartmouth, but appears to be only a provisional Trustee for the better consolidating the property and trusts.

Letters are also preserved from grateful pupils, who had gone forth and occupied good situations in life in London and elsewhere, especially a Daniel Eagland son of Mr. Daniel Eagland, senior, of the Old Hall, Slaithwaite, one of whose descendants is at present (1874) Chapelwarden; and his nephew Horsfall.

Mr. Murgatroyd’s zeal for the furtherance of his pupils is exhibited in his successful exertion on behalf of the above James Horsfall, the son of a blacksmith in the village, and whom he commended in the highest terms to the patronage of the boy’s uncle, Mr. Daniel Eagland, in London, who must have been himself a scholar under Mr. Thomas Boulton, or an earlier master: and of whom he records, “On Thursday, March 15th, 1764, died at his Chambers, in the Inner Temple, Mr. Daniel Eagland, aged 59 years. A gentleman of extensive knowledge in literature, and a philosopher indeed. Nay, more, he was a good Christian in the true sense and meaning of the word.” A letter of James Horsfall himself at nine years of age to his uncle shews that he was making progress in the Latin language. It is dated February 25th, 1744-45. He adds in a P.S., “We have a new school, and now light enough to ply our lessons with pleasure.” Mr. Eagland writes to the youth’s father, dated ―

Alienation Office, London,
March 12th, 1744-45,
I received my little nephew’s letter, which is prettily written for one of his years: the style and spelling of it are very good, but I attribute that to your or his master’s assistance. I’m glad he has made so early a progress in the rudiments of knowledge, and hope in due time he’ll attain the knowledge of things, and not the words only. Above all things, precepts of morality should be inculcated into youth, that they may know themselves, the nature and difference between right and wrong, with the duties and obligations resulting therefrom.
‘Children, like tender oziers, take the bow;
And as they first are bent, will after grow.’
Another thing of the utmost consequence to children, but alas! too much neglected in this age, viz., that parents should be extremely cautious not to contradict by their actions those rules of virtuous conduct which the child has been taught to observe, for example is much more prevalent than precept. If children can acquire the Latin tongue in their youth with ease, it is very well, and may be useful to understand the derivation and exact meaning of their own English; but I do think many boys are kept drudging at Latin books, which time they might have better spent in learning the use of the points, and how to spell, read, and write English perfectly, and how to adapt all parts of arithmetic to the real uses of life: there is employment for a great while to read the Spectators, Tatlers, Guardians, Tillotson’s Sermons, the author of the Whole Duty of Man’s Works, and our own English Poets, and I know several women, who by reading no other than such books, can both speak and write good sense in a correct stile, without ever knowing one word of Latin in their lives. Æsop’s Fables is a very proper book for children, because it contains moral precepts and useful maxims, especially if they are taught to understand the moral or application of the Fable.
Your affectionate brother,

Four years afterwards Mr. Murgatroyd wrote in the highest terms of commendation of his pupil, James Horsfall, to this sensible lawyer in London, praying him to save him from becoming a blacksmith, to which trade his father had taken him, and to which the lad patiently and obediently submitted. Mr. Horsfall at first gave no encouragement to the application thinking the good master too sanguine in his estimate and expectation, but ultimately seems to have adopted and promoted him, and in a letter dated 13th September, 1756, speaks of him to his father in such terms as shew that he fully realized the good character given of him: and in subsequent correspondence between them, Mr. Horsfall expresses his grateful regard to his old; master, who in turn congratulates him on being unanimously elected by the Royal Society to some office or membership, ― connected with calculations. The letter is characteristic.

Augt. 21, 1770.
Dear Sir,
I heartily thank you for your favour. I have been long a Master, and my patience so tried, that I must have got a large stock of it. I never doubted your sincere respect for me, but considered the business of your honourable station, viz., the calculations ― conversing with the learned, and studying to answer their expectations from you. This is now your element. I hope you will be able to bear the burthen of it. It is the very element I always wished you to be in. My wishes are come to pass, Thanks to the Electors into the Royal Society, their unanimity pleases me. Something extraordinary was foreseen. They were big of hopes, and you will convince them they were not deceived in their expectations. If health be enjoyed, your genius will do great and noble things: the public will have great reason to reward and thank you for the services you will do them; having got the reins into your own hands, you will use them dexterously, yet discreetly, yet be frequently gathering laurels My prophecy to your late Uncle will, I verily believe, have its accomplishment. This is far better sport than drudgery in a smithy: there is Utile dulce, and I believe your father is very well satisfied. He is, to all appearance, on the verge of eternity. “A pleasing dreadful thought,” yet I or you may die before him. ― A monitor for us both. I told him the other day you was soaring in the skies I [high] above, the master going before, but the scholar following after. He answered you might question it. Like Sir Thomas More, a joke pleases him, though on the verge of the grave.
His family and mine, are, thank God, in good health, as I hope yours are. Nancy is mightily pleased with the head dress I mentioned, and thanks you ― long looked for is come at last. Such is children’s temper. If you see me in London streets, perhaps you will say, there’s a wonder of wonders. My old master is come to town: I will make much of him. Mrs. Murgatroyd and I join in most hearty well wishes to Mrs. Horsfall, the children, and yourself.
I am, dear Sir,
Your obliged Master and Friend,

We have no further account of Mr. Horsfall, except that he paid a visit to his father in 1760. His mother had died in 1758, ― his father died 19th November, 1770. Mr Murgatroyd attended him in death, and preached his funeral Sermon. How far, therefore, James answered the further expectations of his delighted Master does not appear; but sufficient remains to shew the usefulness of a school thus conducted ― and the good influence which Mr. Murgatroyd must have exercised during nearly half a century of teaching, and seventy years of residence and occasional ministry in Slaithwaite, and the surrounding country.

May 30, 1789, he writes:― “This day, by the day of the month, fifty-one years ago, I began to be the Master of a School. Old David Eagland entered me in Nlaighwaite School. I hope that the Lord has ever been my guide, both in my private and public capacity hitherto; where and when I have been guilty of commission of sin or omission of duty, I pray God in Christ’s name to forgive me, and in future guide me through these few days which I have on this side eternity. Amen, Amen, Amen.”

Mr. Murgatroyd had no children: he lived in Slaithwaite 29 years as a bachelor, thirty as a married man, and nearly ten as a widower. Mrs. Murgatroyd died April 27th, 1797, aged 77 years. He bequeathed his property to his niece, Miss Mellor, who was brought up under his care, and who died June 20th, 1854, aged 74. He lies buried within the site of the Old Chapel, with the Mellor family. An appropriate inscription was added in 1844, by Miss Mellor, at the suggestion of the Author, just a century after the completion of the former rebuilding of the schoolhouse, then again in progress.

So good a man could scarcely escape persecution, and such he seems to have suffered when he officiated at Marsden, in the year 1779. See Annals of the Church in Slaithwaite, page 58.

The Reverend JAMES DRANSFIELD was another scholar, he was born June 5th, 1799. The son of Joshua and Betty Dransfield, of Blakestones, in this Township, and was a pupil under Mr. Hargreaves, at the school for above seven years; thence he went to a boarding school at Huddersfield; but on the Rev. Samuel Walter, M.A. becoming Curate of Slaithwaite, he became his private daily pupil at the Parsonage, He afterwards went to Manchester, as Usher in a school; but finding that employment to occupy too much of his time due for preparation, he relinquished it and went to read with the Rev. Mr. Snowden, Incumbent of Horbury, near Wakefield; and the latter gentleman removing to Doncaster, Mr. Dransfield read with the Rev. Thomas Rogers, M.A., evening Lecturer at Wakefield Church; and was ultimately ordained by the Archbishop of York, as Curate of Cantley, near Doncaster, for the Rev. Mr. Childers He was then in his twenty-sixth year. He remained in that office for three years, when he became Curate of Doncaster, under the Rev Dr. Sharp, Vicar, for about three years more, and finally at Wadsworth, near Doncaster, where he died the 9th of November, 1834. He married whilst at Cantley, Elizabeth, daughter of William Sheardown, Esq., of Doncaster, by whom he had one daughter, both mother and daughter are still living at Hall Cross Hill in that town.

Mr. Dransfield published a sermon preached on a particular occasion; and had a select number of pupils. His sentiments were evangelical, he was a good preacher, and often occupied the pulpit in Slaithwaite Church, during the Incumbency of the Rev. Thomas Jackson. He was offered an endowed school on condition of his giving up a pastoral charge; but this he considered would not have been in his line of duty.


Mr. Murgatroyd was succeeded in 1786, in the School, by Mr. John Boulton, a relative of the former master, and who died in 1790, as appears from Mr. Murgatroyd’s journal. “February 5th. My successor in the school heard me preach at Deanhead. He had been a little with his father on his return home to Heptonstall. ― 6th. Young Bolton, master, began this morning to teach Slaithwaite School, as my successor. God give him comfort of his undertaking. He appears to be well behaved.” Again May 1, 1786, “I went this forenoon down to Slaighwaite and delivered ye key of ye House door, ye key of the Porch door to Rev. Wilson in presence of Josh. Eastwood, Saml. Wood, Jno. Sykes, &c., and ye key of the Door out of the Chamber into the School to young Master Bolton.”

The Rev. JAMES QUARMBY (a scholar), said in a letter to the author ― “Mr. John Bolton was an eminent Master and Mathematician, also a superior Drawing Master. I am of opinion that all the Masters in that School during the time I was there discharged their several duties in a faithful and conscientious manner.” From the information of Mr. Joseph Bolton, of Sharehill, Golcar, in 1843, when. he was between 70 and 80 years of age, the author learned that Thomas Bolton, senior, was a native of Lancashire and grandfather to Joseph, that John, son of Thomas, was his cousin, and that Thomas, another brother of John, assisted him in the school, and succeeded him. That the family of Thomas junior, were christened at Heptonstall, agreeing with Mr. Murgatroyd’s note, as to the father of John Bolton living there. The family were delicate in health. In Mr. Murgatroyd’s list of scholars in 1738, I find the following first on the list ―

Dead. ― [Boulton Thomas. entred ffree May 31st, 1738.]

And in his journal, January 6th, 1797, “James Haywood says Mr. Boulton to all appearance lies dying-William Varley call’d to know about the School.” ― Again, January 30, 1790 ― “N.B. Notice was given this afternoon by the Clark in ye new Chapel for a Meeting to be held at Landlord Sykes’s, ye next Wednesday to fix on a Schoolmaster of S.S. to succeed Mr. Boulton, deceased.”

Some difficulty seems now to have arisen respecting the election of a Master in consequence of the diversity of direction in the two original Trusts; which had been renewed in 1749 and 1784 ― for the election was vested by one in the Local Trustees, and by the other in three Clergymen, the Vicar of Huddersfield, the Incumbent of Slaithwaite, and the Incumbent of Deanhead, Scammonden; and this difficulty was not fully obviated until 1859, when the new Scheme of Management was obtained.

Hence I read further in Mr. Murgatroyd’s Journal, after an advertisement being inserted in the public papers, 1790, February 24, “They are met at Landlord Sykes’s to-day to appoint a Master to Slaighwaite School to succeed Mr. John Boulton, deceased ; but I’m informed two letters, one from Mr. Powley (Vicar of Dewsbury, late Incumbent), and one from Mr. Ramsden, the new vicar of Huddersfield, have been read to the company in opposition. ― So nothing is done till further advice and consideration. ― Rev. Mr. Greenwood’s son, from Thornhill, offer’d himself a candidate-then chops in a Smith, ye assistant at Slaighwaite Chapel to stand Candidate for the School. Shameful work! ― N.B. Mr. Greenwood’s son I’m informed is a very proper person, able in figures, &c.” Interlined ― “I’m informed again quite otherwise.”

It appears, however, that the Rev. WALTER SMITH B.A., who was, as above stated, assistant curate of Slaithwaite under the Rev. Mr. Wilson, was elected, and probably Mr. Thomas Boulton was his assistant, as afterwards Mr. William Varley, and continued from 1790 to 1796. He is termed “Classical Master,” and it appears, that under all the masters, Latin was taught to the scholars who attended from the surrounding families; but it is no part of the original foundation; which is limited to reading, writing, and arithmetic for the boys, reading and sewing only for the girls; but Mr. Walker’s Deed provides for a School of good Literature, and prescribes the Catechism contained in the Liturgy of the Church of England. The school was the only one in the neighbourhood, except that at Longwood, and afforded means of instruction to the most respectable inhabitants of Slaithwaite, Lingards, Linthwaite, Golcar, and Marsden, as appears from the testimony of the Rev. James Quarmby already alluded to; and which will afford the best idea of the School which can be given. He writes to the late Mr. John Varley, of Lingards Corn Mill, January 1st, 1842, “When I call to mind that the Free School at Slaithwaite was that in which I received my education, first under the tuition of Mr. Bolton, and afterwards under the care of the Rev. Walter Smith, and Mr. Wm. Varley. ― I was also admitted into the Church, by the sacred ordinance of Baptism, by that never to be forgotten minister, the Rev. T. Wilson. I am now a Minister of the Church of England, and have been Curate of this Parish (Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire) for upwards of 22 years, and am treading carefully in those good ways which were pointed out to me by Mr. Wilson. I have two sons and two daughters, both my sons received their education at Alford Grammar School. ― From this School both of my sons were admitted into Lincoln College, Oxford, both obtained Scholarships, and by diligent study and the blessing of the Almighty both took a respectable degree of B.A. The eldest, the Rev. G. I. Quarmby, B.A., is Pastor of two Parishes near Hull, and the youngest, the Rev, J.R. Quarmby, B.A., is Minister of a Church near Melton Mowbray.”[1] He adds “I preach two sermons every Lord’s Day ― superintend a large Sunday School ; besides which I educate all the poor children in the Parish. The Rector and myself finding books, slates, and every requisite for all in a School, daily in my yard.” Mr. Quarmby appears to have been a good reader, and speaks of the approbation of the Bishop of Oxford in that respect.

He was a native of Binns, in Linthwaite: he contributed liberally to the comfort of his aged brother, Mr. Joseph Quarmby, who occupied the farm, tilled by his forefathers, until the year 1844, when he gave it up to Sir Joseph Radcliffe, Bart. Mr. Joseph Quarmby was a man of rather dignified bearing, hence he had the familiar designation of “Lord Grey.” The Rev. James Quarmby died May 15th, 1853.

Mr. JOSEPH DRANSFIELD, of Slaithwaite, was also a Scholar; and being adopted by the Elland Clerical Society, at the recommendation of the Rev. Thomas Wilson, became an undergraduate of the University of Cambridge, where he was a friend of the late Rev. Samuel Knight, Vicar of Halifax; but he died in the last year of his undergraduateship, and is buried in the old burial croft ― where an inscription records that he departed this life on the 12th day of September, 1784, aged 23 years.

This lamented Scholar was therefore educated by Mr. Murgatroyd.

The Rev. WALTER SMITH, B.A., appears to have remained only two years at Slaithwaite: he was afterwards Curate at Rastrick, and then at Huddersfield for five years. In 1796 he became Curate of Almondbury, and was elected Master of the Grammar School in 1804 ― which offices he retained until his death, Oct. 29th, 1821, aged 56 years. His last words were “pardon and peace.”

The character of his teaching at Slaithwaite may be gathered from his after success at Almondbury, where as Tutor he brought up many excellent men, including the Rev. J.G. Breay, of Birmingham, whose memoirs are extant ― and his son, the late Edmund Smith, Esq., M.D., of Ilkley Wells, was one of the greatest Benefactors of the Diocese. Mr. Smith lies buried in Almondbury Churchyard, on the North East side of the Chancel.

Dr. Smith bequeathed £100 to the restoration of the Church of Almondbury: now in progress.

Mr. WILLIAM VARLEY, of the respectable family still conducting the Lingards Corn Mill, was second master under Mr. Smith. He married the sister of the Rev. Thomas Wilson, and was father of Jane the wife of the late Mr. John Dyson, of Newhouse, Huddersfield, one of whose daughters married the late Thomas Mallinson, Esq., J.P., of Huddersfield. Mr. Varley died April 29th, 1804, aged 45 years. Mrs. Varley died February 18th, 1822, aged 76 years, and was buried in the same grave with Mr. Wilson. Mrs. Dyson died March 1861.

Mr. THOMAS GILL (or Gell, as it is spelt on his grave stone) was master, assistant and principal, for fourteen years, from 1790 to 1804. He married Sarah sister of the above Mr. William Varley. He was an able Mathematician. The Map of the Chapel and School Estates made in 1800, was I believe done by him. He departed this life August 18th, 1822, aged 64 years. Sarah (Castle) his relict, having married a second time, died November 29th, 1840: both are interred in the South Burial Ground of the New Church. Mr. Gill, on resigning the School, became a Cotton Weaver. He built some cottages on an elevated spot overlooking the village, called Leather House, in Lingards, and still occupied by a family of the name of Varley. He had looms in a warehouse near the bridge: but not finding his trade to answer he went to live at Honley, and set up a school there. This warehouse was burnt down in 1874. The first collective Sunday School was held there.

MR. JOHN HARGREAVES, who is described in a bond executed on receiving possession, dated 12th June, 1804, as John Hargreaves, of Marsden, in the Parish of Almondbury, Schoolmaster, continued master, residing in the house attached to the school, until his death. He was buried February 6th, 1837, aged 78 years. Very little can be recorded of this long period of occupation. Being the only School in the village, the principal inhabitants, male and female, were all educated there, except such as went so high for their learning as the top of the opposite hill of Lingards, to the school of Mr. Joshua Bamford, of Slack, before noticed. Mr. Hargreaves took boarders, among whom was an eminent brewer and magistrate of Huddersfield, still living. Mr. John Mellor, national schoolmaster, Mr. Jabez E. Mayall,[2] the eminent photographic artist, and the late Mr. John Bamford, of Barrett, carpenter, and eloquent advocate of the Spade Husbandry, which flourished here about twenty-five years ago, were brought up under Mr. Hargreaves. But the school had sunk very low at the time of Mr. Hargreaves’ decease: and the building was so utterly dilapidated, that the School was entirely suspended by the trustees until Easter 1841.

It is but just, however, to the generation that has passed away to revert again, at this point of time, to a well intentioned effort to establish a school of liberal education in Slaithwaite. About 1824, the time when the formation of the new road from Huddersfield to Manchester passing very near the village of Slatihwaite, led to the building and erection of the Mineral Baths, by the enterprise of the late Mr. Richard Varley, of Lingards,

A PROPRIETARY GRAMMAR SCHOOL was erected in Lingards on the hill immediately overlooking the village of Slaithwaite, and having a frontage to the new road. This was for the time a handsome building, and cost £825, which was raised by shares, of which the Earl of Dartmouth held the larger number. It was never conveyed either by lease or sale, but held by the shareholders as a joint-stock society on the parole tenure, then universal in the Manor of Slaithwaite-cum-Lingards, and which was undisputed. The object of the subscribers was to provide a good classical and commercial education for their families and neighbours, which was not afforded at the “Old Free School.”

It was in the year 1824 that the school was first opened, and Mr. JOHN BUTTERFIELD appointed Master, who conducted it with much success, as long as he was devoted to it. Many of the most intelligent persons of the present generation received some knowledge of Greek, Latin, and Mathematics, in addition to the common branches of an English education. But Mr. Butterfield commenced studying for the University of Dublin, and the frequent absences occasioned injury to the school. He finally took his degree of B.A. at Trinity College, and entered into holy orders at Bradford. He was not succeeded by a Master of classical attainments, and the school becoming a pecuniary failure, was surrendered into the hands of the Earl of Dartmouth, who bought up the other shares in 1835, and converted the building into four houses: one of which was let to Mr. Thomas Barrett, who conducted a commercial school on his own responsibility for some years, and afterwards removed to Linthwaite.

The Rev. THOMAS JACKSON, B.D., incumbent from 1823 to 1839, in the meantime had concentrated the Sunday schools which existed in different parts of the district under his charge, before the churches of Slaithwaite and Golcar were erected, in the large but low room under the church called the Vestry. The Sunday school was conducted by Mr. George Mellor, of High House, in Linthwaite, as it had been previously in the large warehouse near the bridge, assisted by monitors, under the superintendence of the Minister. Here, therefore, on the failure of the other Day Schools, Mr. Jackson, in the year 1835, commenced NATIONAL SCHOOL, guaranteeing 10s. per week to the Master, who was Mr. John Mellor, a nephew of the venerable superintendent, who has conducted the school there, and in its present ample building, for nearly forty years. Mr. George Mellor died April 5th, 1857, having occupied, and till six months before his death, fulfilled his office for forty-six years, and was described as “The Faithful Levite,” Malachi ii. 6, in a sermon preached and printed by the Incumbent on his death. His son, Mr. Samuel Mellor, reared in the school, has been for seven years the respected Master of the Central National School, Almondbury.

Such was the state of educational matters on my appointment (June 7th, 1839,) to the Incumbency of Slaithwaite. No change was made in the system of the National School; but instead of from the scholars in the Sunday School, a body of monitors selected adult teachers was trained by the minister and his wife to undertake the several classes; they entered upon their duties immediately, and at Easter, 1840, most of them became communicants.

The Free School Trustees ― of whom the survivors were Messrs. Thomas Varley, senior, Timothy Armitage, Joshua Dransfield, Richard Varley, Amos Ogden, and Thomas Haigh, and the Incumbent, ex-officio ― were called together by him, and met at the Parsonage on the 26th June, 1840. The subject had occupied his thoughts much, and he had formed a plan for the revival of the school, which he had submitted to the consideration of the Lord Bishop of Ripon (Dr. Longley), who expressed his “approval of the scheme in all its parts.” The plan was also adopted by the trustees.

The estates and farm buildings at Sowood and Sowerby were reported to be in a very bad state, having been in the hands of the late master, and that a fire had taken place, whereby a barn was burnt down at Far Sowood: to rebuild which the trustees had expended nearly all the rents received since they came into their hands, on the death of Mr. Hargreaves.

The balance in hand and further accumulations were set aside towards rebuilding the schoolhouse; for which plans and estimates were required. These resolutions were carried out, and much correspondence with the Earl of Dartmouth, the Bishop of Ripon, and Archdeacon Musgrave, took place; and at a further meeting, held January 10th, 1842, it was reported that arrangements had been made on advantageous terms for the purchase of an additional site from the Earl of Dartmouth and the tenant in possession (only £33); also with Messrs. Holroyd for getting stone from the quarry at Sowood, on due payment for the same. Opinion of counsel was taken and laid before the trustees on various legal points. That ten children had in the meantime been freely taught in the National School, and catechised weekly, at a cost of only £5 per annum. That the Bishop and Archdeacon recommended the union of the school with the Ripon Diocesan Education Society recently formed, with a view to its inspection by an inspector approved by the Bishop; and which was practicable during the vacancy of the master. Plans and estimates for rebuilding were presented and approved; and the several suggestions above-named were adopted.

On the 28th February, 1842, at another meeting, the original site (in the hands of the trustees, but without any definite title) and the new site were vested by a deed of conveyance by the Earl of Dartmouth (Lord of the Manor), and the Trustees, in the Minister, Churchwardens and Overseers of the parish of Slaithwaite, under the powers of the Act of 1839-40, “For facilitating the conveyance of sites for schools.” The old premises had been taken down on the 17th February, during which operation an inscription had been discovered bearing the date of 1744. It was resolved to apply to the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor on the principles of the United Church of England and Ireland, for a grant in aid of the building fund, and to express the readiness of the managers of the school to unite themselves to the society on the usual terms; and ultimately by the kind assistance of the Most Reverend Dr. Musgrave, Archbishop of York, a grant of £50 was obtained. The school was united to that society, and also to the Ripon Diocesan Education Society.

Contracts having been entered into for the re-building, and a donation of £100 promised by the Earl of Dartmouth, on the condition of the school being united with the latter society, it was resolved to lay the first stone on Easter Monday, March, 28th, 1842. Accordingly on that day in the afternoon, divine service was held in the Church by the Incumbent, after which a procession was formed of the Minister, Chapelwardens, Constable, Trustees, Parish Clerk and other respectable Inhabitants; followed by the Master, Mistress, Teachers and Scholars of the National and Sunday Schools, to the number of more than 300: and proceeded from the church in order to the ground. The 100th psalm, old version, was sung by the Church singers, children and spectators, after which the Rev. C.A. Hulbert, offered several prayers for a blessing on the undertaking, and delivered an address suitable to the occasion. He then proceeded to lay the first Stone in the name of the Holy Trinity. Saying, “I lay this Stone for ‘the re-building of Slaithwaite Old Free School, on the principles of the Church of England, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.” The children then sung a hymn, and returned to the school room, where they received their Annual Rewards in Books. A small box, containing coins of Queen Victoria, ‘and some printed papers, relative to Slaithwaite, was deposited in a cavity of the stone; and also a pewter plate, with inscriptions recording the event of the day in Latin and English.

The building was proceeded with immediately and was substantially erected the same summer: but the funds were not adequate to its completion; and great exertions were made to obtain further donations. The work of Architect was undertaken by Mr. Richard Varley, from plans furnished by the Incumbent and his friends. Some interruptions took place in consequence of the disturbances occasioned by a riotous outbreak of Lancashire Operatives who came over Standedge in August and stopped all works. The progress of the buildings internally being also suspended through want of funds, earnest appeals were made to the inhabitants of the village and old scholars of the foundation. Her Majesty Adelaide, the Queen Dowager, responded to the appeal of the Incumbent for the Free School, with a donation of £15, as she had before done to the National School; but it was not until the school was placed under the Inspection of the Committee of Council on Education that an adequate amount was obtained. Their Lordships making a grant of £132, for the School and Master’s House attached. The building was in the meantime visited by the late Earl of Dartmouth and Lord Lewisham, (the present Earl) and the late Lord Bishop of Ripon, (Dr. Longley.) In February 25th, 1846, the Trustees met, and it was reported, that the premises were complete, with iron fencing and all appurtenances, and that there remained no debt but what would be liquidated by the Grants of the National Society and the Committee of Council, and which were accordingly received.

The Trustees then proceeded according to the custom to advertise for a Master, which they did in the local papers and in the Times, in which the Incumbent announced the probability of a title for Holy Orders being accepted by the Bishop, on the nomination of the Curate to a Graduate or other duly qualified Master. The result was that Mr. Hulbert received 121 applications, all of which were answered, except one which was expressed in disrespectful terms. Much correspondence ensued respecting the selected candidates, and personal interviews. At length Mr. Charles Butler Hulbert, of Trinity College, Dublin ― not a relative of the Incumbent within any appreciable degree ― was elected by the local Trustees on the 7th May, 1846, and the consent of the Reverend Josiah Bateman, M.A., Vicar of Huddersfield, and the Reverend Ralph Younger, Incumbent of Deanhead and Scammonden, were communicated.

On the 22d of June the election of Mr. Hulbert was confirmed, and he being present, the key of the schoolhouse was presented to him by the Minister, Chapelwarden, and Overseer, with the Treasurer, in token of possession of the premises; but the management and possession of the estates were reserved in the hands of the Trustees. The scheme for future management, which had been approved by the Bishop and other authorities, was signed by all present, including the Master. The free scholars then taught in the National School, most of whom were above twelve years of age, and in an advanced state of education, were placed under his care, and several other scholars of respectable families, including two sons of the Incumbent, were entered as paying the terms of admission agreed on and published.

A sermon was preached in Slaithwaite Church on Sunday, the 19th of July, by the Rev. James Morris Maxfield, Incumbent of Marsden, on the occasion of the RESTORATION OF THE SCHOOL, and the sum of £3 collected towards the fittings of the school-room. Mr. C.B. Hulbert being a married man, without family, his wife undertook the sewing department, and to give general attention to the girls under the Master,


The vessel was thus once more launched with auspicious gales, and continued to sail favourably and harmoniously for twelve months, during which the rules and plans agreed on were observed. The Master had fifteen scholars who paid him four guineas each per annum, and forty pounds from the endowment for teaching twenty children, making an income of above one hundred pounds, with house free of rent and taxes. But, unhappily, in the second year of his mastership, his mind became prejudiced against the Minister and Trustees. He refused to be bound by the New Constitution, to which he had subscribed, and stood upon the literal interpretation of the trust, thereby destroying the character of the school, as one in which both free and paying scholars might receive a liberal education, as had been the case in former periods of its history.

A long and painful conflict took place between the Minister, Trustees and the Master, which ended in a reference of the case to the Lord Bishop; who decided in favor of the Minister and Trustees, and letters of a very peculiar character being addressed to the Committee of Council (whose inspection, as well as the visitation of the Minister, the Master repudiated,) and to the Earl of Dartmouth, who declined any interference or any correspondence with him, he at length resigned, Sept. 23d, 1853, and left the Christmas following. The school-house, which he was bound to repair, being in great dilapidation and the scholars reduced to a few, and those on very low terms. The farm houses and buildings required also great repair, and it was therefore resolved to suspend the school again, teaching only the necessary number of scholars at the National School. Mr. C.B. Hulbert had attended the examinations in the University of Dublin, and obtained the degree of Bachelor of Arts. Frequent absence was again one of the causes of neglect and decay of the school. He was ordained by the late Bishop Philpotts, in the Diocese of Exeter.

It is not, however, to be forgotten that the School even during these years conferred valuable benefits on the population around, and its revival as a MIDDLE SCHOOL, acceptable to a limited number of the poorer class who have manifested talent and industry at the National or other School, and open to all others on reasonable terms, is much desired and is one of the objects of this publication.

The School was not, however, unoccupied. Classes of young men were taught therein, especially on Sunday evenings, by the Revs. Stephen Pering Lampen, Edward G. Charlesworth, and William Henry Girling, successive curates, from 1853 to 1859; and the School was used as a Reading Room, and for various religious and educational uses. In the summer of 1854, a Sale of Work and an Exhibition were held in the School, and fifty pounds raised for the Jubillee Fund of the Church Missionary Society.

In the year 1848, it had been found necessary to renew the trust deeds, in consequence of the death or removal of most of the old trustees, which was effected by the aid of Martin Kidd, Esq., solicitor, Holmfirth, and they considered it their first duty to put the property into substantial repair, before appointing a master with the full, stipend. In the meantime, a complaint was lodged with the Charity Commissioners for England by two persons in Slaithwaite and Golcar, alleging neglect and breach of trust, misappropriation of Funds, and urging proceedings to be taken in the Court of Chancery against the Trustees. The case was claborately and fully answered by the Incumbent without any legal aid.

The Commissioners rejected the application, seeing no sufficient reason for such motion, deciding that if some things had been done by the former Trustees ultra vires, they were intended for the good of the school, and that the existing Trustees were not responsible for the acts of their predecessors. But, on account of the difficulty of conflicting deeds, recommended that a NEW SCHEME be sought for from the Commissioners, under the Act of 1853, for the Management of the School and its Endowments.

Such a Scheme was therefore, in 1859, devized, and first submitted to Archdeacon Musgrave (and his legal adviser, Wm. Fenton Kenny, Esq., of Halifax), who had always been much interested in Slaithwaite and its institutions, and sent up to the Commissioners; who, having revized it, formed a scheme of their own, which was referred to the Trustees for consideration, and which, after some amendments, was accepted. The Commissioners adopted a Report accompanying the Scheme, for confirmation to the County Court of Yorkshire, sitting at Huddersfield, under James Stansfield, Esq., judge. The hearing came on July 28th, 1859, on the application of the Rev. Charles Augustus Hulbert, Incumbent; Respondent assenting, Mr. John Varley, Treasurer. It was taken in two Actions, the Meeke and Walker Trusts respectively, so as to bring in the jurisdiction of the Court in Charities under £30 per annum -the value being about £22 each. The only alteration made was the addition of the Incumbents of Linthwaite and Golcar, or other inhabitants of those Townships, as Trustees, to maintain their interest; and this, on the application of the Rev. James Edward Downing, B.A., Incumbent of Golcar, and the Rev. John Ryland, B.A., Incumbent of Linthwaite, who became Trustees.

The Scheme provided for an Evening Class of Young Men, to be held in the School, on the Walker and Aneley Trust, and the Teaching of Ten or more Children on the Meeke foundation in the usual proportions. The use of the School in the day time for an Infant School, and the occupation, if required, of the principal Master as Assistant in the National School. This new arrangement was denominated.


It was inaugurated by a public Meeting, at which the Earl of Dartmouth presided, and Rules were adopted, October 27th, 1859, which continue until this day. The Noble Earl and his Countess having greatly aided its success by Subscriptions and Prizes, and by their presence at the Annual Soirees, which have been held now for fifteen years.

The Establishment of the SLAITHWAITE MECHANICS’ INSTITUTION in 1847, introduced an Element of Education without fixed principles of religion ― but with the best intentions, by the late Mr. James Bamforth of Holm, and others. Some dispute having arisen among them as to the character of their rules and the Books of the Library, the Rev. C.A. Hulbert was invited to examine and report upon them ― which he did favourably on the whole; and was unanimously requested to become their President, which he did on the condition that “Nothing contrary to the Sacred Scripture or the Established religion should be admitted into the Library Lectures or Discussions.” This rule was also unanimously adopted, and the Society advanced successfully and peacefully to Easter 1850, when at a public concert given for its benefit, the Incumbent was presented with a Silver Medal in token of respect and gratitude for his service as President during two years and a half.

A change however, took place shortly after this event, and at the Annual Meeting thinly attended in July, and in the absence of the President, Mr. James Varley of Waterside was chosen as President, but never took any active part in its affairs. In the meantime many advantages had been obtained for the Institution, including the patronage of the Earl of Dartmouth,

Connected with the above event was the proposal of moral regulations and qualifications which were distasteful to some parties, and the religious restriction was objected to by others. Mr. Hulbert however, continuing his Membership, though not active labours, was enabled to prevent the entire dissolution of the Institution, which had sunk down to a few Members, and the distribution of its property by the residue. It was however renewed by the exertions of Mr. Edwin Sugden and other well disposed persons, who requested the Incumbent to resume its presidency, which he declined unless it should be permanent. It has however gone forward and prospered, and a handsome building has been erected at the corner of Linthwaite, nearest to Slaithwaite, and where also a Week-day School is conducted. Mr. John Sugden has been for many years the active and zealous Secretary. Several gentlemen have successively occupied the situation of President; and forwarded its useful labours on what are now called “unsectarian principles”.

In the meantime evening classes were opened in the National School and Free School, under Ministerial influence and superintendence, which ultimately led to and were merged in the “Meeke and Walker Educational Institute,” combining a settled foundation of Faith and Endowment, supplemented by voluntary donations and School-pence. The Annual Reports of the Institution are replete with interest; the first master was Mr. Samuel Mellor.

In 1866 the necessary repairs of the School property having been accomplished, the sum of £107 received for the sale of property at Sowerby to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, together with a grant of £65 from the Committee of Council, and a donation of £62 received from the Earl of Dartmouth; these several sums were invested in the purchase of a part of the Building, originally erected by the Shareholders of the Proprietary School in Lingards, on advantageous terms (£300), from the Earl of Dartmouth, and permanently added to the property of the School. A better house for the Master was thus provided than the one attached to the School, being more pleasantly situated and more commodious, and having a small garden attached. The remainder of the building and land was at the same time conveyed to the Trustees of the National School for the like purposes. The Deeds were freely provided at the expense of the Earl of Dartmouth, and the property of both Trusts much augmented in value and convenience. The Estates at Sowood, in Stainland, belonging to the Church and School, were about the same time let on leases for twenty one years, at an increased rent, with covenants for repair, &c., to Messrs. Sykes, of Gosport, in that neighbourhood.

Such were the arrangements concluded at the time of the nomination of the Incumbent to the Vicarage of Almondbury, by Sir John William Ramsden, Bart., February 26th, 1867. The Vicar continues to be a Trustee under the deed of 1848, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Charles Augustus Hulbert, junior, M.A., of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, at that time Curate of Bowdon, Cheshire, as Incumbent, and who became ex-officio trustee; formerly a scholar.

The erection of four other National Schools ― Slaithwaite Lower in 1840, Upper Slaithwaite 1845, Lingards 1852, and West Slaithwaite 1860 ― during the Incumbencey of the father, had supplied the whole district with convenient and efficient Week-day and Sunday instruction for the working classes; and it was only felt that a distinct Infants' School Room was required to complete the system; and which has now (1874) been supplied, so that it is not necessary to form a School Board, there being provision for one-fifth of the population, including the School attached to the Mechanics' Institute in the adjoining township of Linthwaite, conveniently near to their homes.

May these and all other provisions for the religious and moral improvement of the surrounding population, whether maintained by Churchmen, Wesleyans, or Nonconformists, bear fruit to the glory of God, and fulfil in their measure the pious intentions of the Founders of our Ancient Free School; who were the morning stars of the present day of educational privilege, but who invariably based all their instruction on the Word of God. The erection and endowment with freehold residence houses, have evoked all the resources of public and private charity, as will be seen by the annexed table. But chiefly through the liberal aid and patronage of the late and present Earls of Dartmouth, and their continued support, the Institutions have maintained their useful career. The writer of this Memorial, now in the thirty-sixth year of his connection, finds the greatest happiness of his life in witnessing the fruit of the seed corn cast upon the waters, after many days (Eccles. xi., 1), and in the grateful manner in which nearly all who have been occupied as Teachers, and many Scholars, have added their names as Subscribers to this publication.

At Christmas, 1851, nine schoolmasters, reared in the schools, presented him with a suit of Clerical and Academic Robes, and the address attached remains among his most valued testimonials. Many other Masters and Mistresses are scattered over the kingdom. Some, indeed, have entered the Kingdom of God, and their descendants have succeeded to their labours, from which they themselves now rest; but their remembrance follows them (Rev. xiv. 13); and whatever may be the character of National Education in general, he confides in their adherence to the only firm foundation ― the fear of the Lord ― which is the beginning and end of true wisdom, ― and the “Church of their Fathers,” which is "the pillar and ground of the truth."

August 17th, 1874.


[1] I presume the elder is dead: I only find (now 1874) in the Clergy List, the name of the Rev. James Richard Quarmby, B.A., Curate of Goldhanger, Essex. C.A.H.

[2] In the Life of Dr. Channing, of Boston, U.S., is a correspondence, between the Doctor and Mr. Mayall and other members of a “Mechanics’ Institute” then, it seems, in 1841, existing at Slaithwaite; their testimony was very gratifying to Dr. C. on account of their admiration of his ideas of “Self Culture.” My attention has been drawn to this circumstance by my colleague in this little work ― Mr. H.J. Morehouse.

Continue to Appendices...

Extracts from the Diary of the Rev. Robert Meeke (1874) - Memorials of Slaithwaite Free School


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