dame school

Mrs Cryer’s “memories” are a remarkable resource for those interested in the social history of Colne in the middle of the nineteenth century. She takes her readers on a guided tour of the town and, among the many stops she makes, there are a couple at educational establishments which featured in her childhood.

As far as the old grammar school is concerned:

There was a passage through the stoops at the front of the Grammar School. The school, you must remember, was in full swing then, under the headmastership of Mr. Harrison, a worthy man and a great scholar. How many old Colne boys to-day have kindly memories of their old teacher, whose voice is now as still and silent as the old school itself, once the scene of so much youth, gaiety and life? My brothers were, all four of them, educated there, William and Jonathan under Mr. Harrison, Edmondson and John under a former master, whose name I have forgotten. Bazaars, magic lanterns and even lotteries used to be held in the top room above the school, reached by the steps leading up from outside.

Mrs Cryer was born Margaret Jane Ward at Walk Mill House in Colne, on the 6 Dec 1841. She attended a so-called Dame School in Colne, where one of her friends was Esther, the daughter of William Hodgson, vicar at Christ Church. Esther had initially been educated at home, not far from the school for the poor her father struggled to establish. Mrs Cryer gives us a wonderful insight into the schooldays of the daughters of the better-off in Colne:

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. There were many more, but these names come most readily to my memory. Some have, alas passed away to the world of shadows. Still, there are some left who are doing God is work in this world, and these memories will remind them of the past happy days, ere the light of youth had faded.


Memories of Colne – Mrs Cryer

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