Slaithwaite Notes: Past and Present (1905) - Chapter XVIII

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Chapter XVIII. Education

For a long time this place was noted for its education. The late Canon Hulbert was a great promoter, if of an exclusive order, and this made vigorous opposition, and brought into force other organisations, which also did good work in after time. I wonder how many remember the time of model farming, when the late John o’th Barrett, a clever man in his day, and the local hand-loom maker (then a great industry), a gentleman of a very noted family, was of some importance, who used to read papers at these model farm meetings, at which Lord Dartmouth presided. All that was promised was that when other occupations failed, a living might be made out of this. On One occasion, right well do I remember Richard Horsfall, of Merry Dale, getting up to make a speech, in which he facetiously stated that the corn had begun to grow so high by the new process that, standing straight, he could not touch the top. There was a great laugh, it being well known that it grew so low that he had to bend down to reach it. Land in Slaithwaite would not bear it; the fields at Nields and elsewhere were so impoverished that it took twenty years to get them back again.

In connection with this spade industry, Slaithwaite had its first free scholars going daily from the National School in sections for a few hours to work in the fields, for which specially numbered pinafores were provided and kept in the school. Mr. John Mellor was the master, and, truth to be told, was a very good one. He had a turn in his eye from which very few things escaped him — not a bad fellow to those whom he liked, but to those who opposed him or his, very bitter. The lads on the whole liked him, though he did not spare the rod when necessary or the “grey mare” if required; the latter being a plank, used for serious offences, and on which the culprit was carried shoulder high, to receive what was a jolly good flogging round the school. Not many will be alive who had the glorious privilege of this journey.

Mr. Mellor turned out a large number of pupil teachers in the early days of State-aided national education. Lads who were pioneers in the district to which they were sent to carry on the great work in which they were engaged. Isaac Bamforth, the son of a well-known private teacher at Slacks, Lingards, was a very quiet and useful man at Hill Top, Lingards. Some little work was done at Shread, and Mr. Barrett kept a well-known private school in Laithe Lane, afterwards at the Bath Hotel. Those who could afford to pay a little more went to this school. These scholars were of the same sturdy stock (though less in numbers), and were ever ready to engage in free fights with John Mellor’s scholars, and very numerous were the battles lost and won, to be remembered perhaps by the few who are left who took part in those formidable engagements.

As we have said, Mr. Mellor was a good master, but also a good hater, and at this time the Mechanics’ Institute was doing good work, led by working men who were determined to be free. Therefore great were the struggles between them and the Meeke and Walker’s Institution, which had been set up out of the old Free School endowment and the assistance of Lord Dartmouth, who nearly always presided at the soirees of the latter, while the Mechanics’ lads had to do the best they could on 1½d. per week. At this price not much could be paid for teaching. Voluntary work had to be done, and was of that character that Slaithwaite never presented a better set of young men, bent on not only improving their own position, but of the town to which they were proud to belong. Better classes I have not seen than those of the late Mr. Jarmain, held in the awkward rooms up those dangerous steps at James Hoyle’s, Nab Lane, then the Mechanics’ Institute of that day. This room became too little, and when fifty working-men offered £1 each towards a new building’, the late Mr. Hugh Mason (Ashton) and the late Mr. John Crossley (Halifax) took it up, each with an offer of £50. The latter sent his architect, and came himself to see the sites, then on offer, and it was he who suggested the one where the building stands to-day.

The old soirees at the Lewisham were a series of continued successes, at one of which the late W. Moore, the then postmaster at Huddersfield, almost shocked the audience by his good-humoured determination to know how it was that the population did not grow considering the healthy conditions he saw around him. The old gentleman has been answered since. Greater men came after, including Lord Ripon, John Chetham, Abel Heywood, Bishop Fraser, Alfred Illingworth, and at the opening James Stansfield, the then member for Halifax (to whom we told that we thought we had solved the education question by opening this institution as a day school under a very clever man, Mr. Muxlow, B.A., keeping on the night classes under the same head, and carrying on the science classes under the old master. This plan was recommended to Meltham, where was established a British school at Mill Moor; to the Wesleyans at Linthwaite; to the Baptists at Clough Head, Scapegoat Hill, and Town School, Golcar; to the Marsden Town School, of which one was glad to see the stones laid a short time ago of a new school to carry out the work so well begun in earlier days at the last-named place. Great credit is due to these places and to the men who did the work in seeing that education was well looked after and schools established outside the Church of England, and thus doing a national duty in which they were noble pioneers, by saving the rates from terrible and expensive School Boards. Speaking for myself, soberly, I shall not be sorry to see them replaced by what, when it has been licked into proper shape, will be a much better and less expensive authority, avoid the overlapping, and thus do the work more effectively at considerably less cost.

By the kindness of Mr. Alderman Allen Gee, we are enabled to give the following prospectus of the Slaithwaite Mechanics’ Institution for the session 1861, which shows the workings of those days and how modest were their charges :—

“Slaithwaite Mechanics’ Institution.
“The public are respectfully informed that the classes at this Institution are now open to all who wish to avail themselves of the many opportunities they offer. On the Monday evenings for reading, dictation, composition, geography, etc.; on the Thursday evenings for writing, arithmetic, grammar, etc. A third night will be devoted to science, under the able tuition of Mr. G. Jarmain, of Huddersfield. The night is not yet fixed upon, but will be decided according to the interests of teacher and pupils.
“Terms. — For the two nights particularised, three half-pence per week, and for science instruction (providing that neither pupil nor parent pay income tax) two and sixpence per quarter. If this tax be paid, as mentioned above, a little more will be charged for admission. — John Sugden, Secretary. Slaithwaite, August 26th, 1861.
‘‘Notice. — The Committee beg to remind their friends and neighbours that this is the oldest institution in the district, and the only unsectarian school in the neighbourhood where all classes can meet on neutral ground for the promotion of each other’s improvement in secular and moral principles. It is not used as a stalking horse to gain favours from our superiors, or for personal aggrandisement, or religious domination: nor pecuniary gain from Government or individuals; but simply to advance civilisation, to improve ignorant minds, to expel darkness, to cultivate and encourage light, to improve society, to clear that low substratum stream of its murky and dark waters, and advance the whole tide of humanity in all that is good, and calculated to make us better men and women, closer and more reliable friends, kinder neighbours, and truer subjects to our Queen and country. Our friends are few; our cause is just and our work sublime; the harvest rich; the labourers few; and the materials to work with almost worn out. It is, in fact, a work for the philanthropist which our Committee are about to undertake; but the room is so inadequate, and retards their progress so much, that active steps are about to be taken to raise a building worthy of the growing intelligence and prosperity of Slaithwaite. While this can be accomplished, we crave the indulgence of the people, and, when it is commenced, their unbounded liberality towards erecting a monument worthy of the best sympathy of all true men. The classes were well attended last winter, and much good resulted from them. The science class also did well, and many candidates passed an honourable examination, and to some were awarded handsome prizes. If all this can be done in an old uncomfortable place, what might not be done under more favourable circumstances. And when we consider how much it is opposed, and what wealth (both from legacy, position, and Government) is brought to bear against it, it makes one ask how is it that it does flourish, and that it still continues to impart useful instruction to so many? — in spite of being snarled at and called an incidental means of instruction in Slaithwaite, by advanced individuals: and this by a reverend author, who has published some wonderful Annals and lionised some more wonderful characters. The answer is because it is conducted on the best and most equitable principles, and is always what it seems, and accomplishes what it professes, which is doing and has done, all it can to promote the interests of a class who have many professed, but few real, friends. Then for the good it has done, and for the great prospect of accomplishing so much more, all are earnestly invited to rally round its standard, to help to fight for its existence, to hurl back the efforts of those who have sought its downfall, and to assist to make this an institution worthy of the rising generation, and capable of instructing them in all that is good and worthy of imitation; for it is said by Pope:—
“A little learning is a dangerous thing.
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring;
For shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
But drinking largely sobers us again.”

Continue to Chapter XIX. Sport...

Slaithwaite Notes: Past and Present (1905) by John Sugden



Slaithwaite Notes: Past and Present (1905) - Chapter XVIII

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This page was last modified on 20 October 2016 and has been edited by Dave Pattern.

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