We have heard a lot about the efforts of William Hodgson to establish Christ Church School in Colne. It’s worth remembering that this was not to be a school for all – it was specifically aimed at the children of what might be called the “working poor” in the town. To one side of these you had the not-working poor who were unlikely to be able afford to send their children to school and, on the other, those of greater means who might aspire to send their children to a local dame school or to Colne Grammar School after some home-schooling. And let’s not forget that among the “working-poor” were the children themselves, many (most?) employed helping mum and dad weave and keep house.
The census entry above says it all. From 1841, when Reverend Hodgson was desperately trying to recruit students to make the school sustainable, his son, John aged 9, was a “Scholar at home”. No doubt he was receiving a different kind of education more suited to his parents idea of his future – certainly not that of a handloom weaver’s son.
Mrs Cryer, in her Memories of Colne, tells us about her own education in the mid nineteenth century, one which featured another of Hodgson’s children and gives us wonderful insight into the schooldays of the better off:
One of the best known educational establishments of that day was Mrs. Blackburn’s boarding and day school for young ladies. It stood in Keighley Road, opposite the old toll bar and near where the Commercial Hotel now stands, then kept by Mrs. Strickland. Nearly all the best people sent their daughters to Mrs. Blackburn’s School. Mrs. Blackburn herself – a stately dame, in rustling black silk, and with her hair arranged in loops over her ears, and wearing long, black ear-rings, after the fashion of Queen Victoria – used to sail into the schoolroom punctually at nine in the morning, and, standing near her desk, she would say “Good morning, ladies,” and we would rise, and, after a curtsey, say, “Good morning, Mrs. Blackburn”. Then the lessons would begin. Do they teach Scripture lessons in the schools to-day? Not much, I fear. They did then, and, in my opinion boys and girls grew up better men and women for it. A Mr Marine came to teach music on a Wednesday, and a Mr. Tallon taught French on Thursday; and there was a lady who came from Burnley to teach us wax flower-making. We paid a guinea a quarter, French, music, and flower-making, of course, being extras. I never saw Mr. Blackburn. It was whispered that he had been a ne’er-do-well, and had left her. Then, like so many more brave women, she took up the reins of life, and succeeded. She had her mother living with her, and kept a neat, clean woman servant, named Betsy, who made splendid mint sauce for, every now and again, a favoured few, I amongst the number. She would give a tiny spoonful; just to taste, you know.
Amongst my school friends at Mrs. Blackburn’s were the two Misses Midgley, from Trawden, and Miss Mary Midgley, from Carry Lane Head; a Miss Bolton, who lived next door to the school; the two Misses Hartley, from Laneshawbridge; Miss Esther Phoebe Hodgson, whose father was incumbent of Christ Church; Miss Matilda Sagar, of Heyroyd House; the two Misses Thompson, from Swanfield; Miss Ann Hartley, and her cousin Miss Holroyd, from Burnley; the two Misses Denbigh, from the same place; a Miss Bolton, from Barrowford, and Miss Smith her cousin, who married Mr. Willie Hallam, of Marsden Hall; Miss Armistead, of Wheatley Lane; the two Misses Grimshaw, of Crow Trees, Barrowford; the two Misses Phillips, of Greenfield; the Misses Ann and Fanny Watson, of Greenfield House; Miss Baldwin, of Spring House, who married Mr. T. Bolton, of Messrs. Bolton and Carr, solicitors; and the Misses Jane and Annie Earnshaw, of Craven Bank, Colne.
So, while the children of the poor either went without any formal education, or at most paid a few pennies a week to receive the basics, the daughters of the “best people” in town learned the gentler arts in a more refined environment for 4 guineas a year.