one class and another

ChristChurch1851-2We 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.

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the building of Christ Church School #4


“when we had no work we could not spare twopence a week for schooling, and now when we have work our children must wind and nurse!”

The school was open, but only on Sundays, there being no money for a full time teacher for the first few years. In order to fix the situation, having found a likely candidate, William Hodgson went back to the National Society for more money.

18 Dec 1843

Reverend Sir,

I am now able to nominate as master for my school Mr John Jackson, a trained master from the Chester Training School. It is arranged that he shall commence his labours on the 15th of January. Should your Committee require to be further satisfied as to his qualifications, a letter addressed to him at

Diocesan Training College


would be attended to; or if after the 22nd instant addressed to him at

St Michael’s on Wyre

Nr Garstang


The grant which came from the Society was nowhere near enough to cover Jackson’s wages, so Hodgson rashly offered to cover any deficit out of his own pocket and pushed on regardless.

7 Feb 1844

Reverend Sir,

I beg to inform the Committee of the National Society that Mr John Jackson commenced his duties as National School Master of Christ Church Colne, on the 15th Jan 1844.

It must have been obvious to Hodgson within the first few months that he was in trouble: there was no way the children’s fees were going to cover the cost of teaching them. Later in the year he was writing of his difficulties and asking to be dug out of a financial hole – there were simply not enough pupils and the school faced closure.

11 Sep 1844

Dear Sir,

The Committee of the National Society has the kindness to make a grant of £25 for one year towards the support of a master at the National School of Christ Church Colne; and when I expressed my fear that that sum would leave me very much out of pocket, you kindly promised that you would again lay my case before the Committee after it was seen how my funds would stand. I beg to request you to do me that favour, and as a guide to the Committee I give the following statement of the average number of children and amounts of fees paid:

                                                                          Av No                      Fees

1st Quarter, commencing Jan 15 1844                    27                       £3 2s 6d

2nd ditto                                                                         37                        £4 11s 5d

3rd ditto calculated from weeks already past       42                       £4 16s 0d

Supposing the 4th quarter to be equal to the 3rd (which considering that it will be getting cold and west is doubtful) the fees will amount to £17 6 2. The salary of master being £60, the Society’s grant of £25 would leave me £17 13 10 out of pocket. I have not the most distant hope of collecting any portion of this deficiency and therefore hope that your Committee will give me additional help. A great portion of the District was canvassed by myself after the School opened, but the almost unvaried reply of the people was this,- “when we had no work we could not spare twopence a week for schooling, and now when we have work our children must wind and nurse!” I feel much disappointed that the School has done no better, but am thankful that I have been able to try it and to give the people the opportunity of sending their children. You will see a slight improvement, but whether so much as to induce the Committee to make a grant for a second year is perhaps doubtful. The committee however will see that without their renewal help the school will have to be closed at the end of this year.

The school didn’t close – again the National Society eventually responded with more funds. Hodgson wrote in thanks, relief and, it seems, feeling as though he had failed.

11 Nov 1844

My dear Sir,

I beg to offer my most sincere and unfeigned thanks to the Committee of the National Society for the additional and fully-sufficient help which they have voted me for the present year. As I had given up all hope of being refunded, – it came the more acceptable and excited the more gratitude. I shall (?) forward a statement of a accounts immediately after Christmas when the year will be completed.

I am so disappointed in our attempt so far failing that even should the master be willing to take your grant with what the fees might make I should feel some hesitation. However I could only accept it on condition that he would be satisfied with the grant and the fees. I should feel obliged if you would advise me as to whether I should make an offer of that sort to a man who might be sent from the Diocesan training College. The present master is not disposed to accept such offer. My reason for requesting your advice is my uncertainty as to whether I should be right to accept the grant for a second year having no reason for expecting the second year to do much better than the first. My only hope of improvement would be that parents may begin to see the importance of contriving to obtain a little schooling for their children.

I beg however to offer my thanks to the Committee for their vote of a grant for a second year.

The number of children attending remained low for the next year or so and Hodgson continued to rely on grants from the Society to help with the local shortfall. In September 1845 he still his cap in hand.

Reverend Sir,

The period of the Grant made by the National Society for the second year to my school being to terminate in about two months, I beg to submit the state of my School to the consideration of your Committee, hoping that they may be able to afford me a continuance of their much needed assistance.

The number with which the present master commenced in January was 39; the number at present in attendance is 69.

The average number for the first quarter was 41

the second 56

the third 61

The amount of fees for the year, supposing the 4th quarter to be equal to the 3rd will be £20 6 91/2 which with your Society’s grant (£20) will make the master’s salary

£40 6 9 1/2 The master and the scholars are doing well and I feel happy in being able to report an advance in numbers;- but still, without some extraneous assistance we cannot go on. I should greatly lament the necessity of being obliged to close the school, after having struggled for so long and having seen so much encouragement,- especially seeing that there is hope that by a few years’ assistance our numbers may have become sufficient for the support of the master.

Hoping that my case will meet with the kind consideration of your Committee.

It’s not clear was the answer was, but the school did survive this very shaky and uncertain start. The number of children attending was rising at this point, but still very far short of the 350 Hodgson anticipated. Despite the odds against him and a series of setbacks Reverend Hodgson stuck to his cause, persistent, persuasive and not averse to a touch of emotional blackmail every now and again. As he said in one of his many letters

Sometimes courage almost entirely fails, but there is of course no way but proceeding in the strength of God, and hoping for his blessing.

 Sources: the image of Christ Church – Lancashire Archives reference PR 3173/2; Hodgson’s letters to The National Society are at the Church of England Record Centre, reference NS 7/1/3365

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the building of Christ Church School #3


William Hodgson’s struggles to find the money to build a schoolroom for Christ Church continued. His next letter to the Secretary of the National Society gave more detail of the costs of the proposed school.

Dec 26 1838

Reverend and dear Sir,

I have not before this day been able to seize an opportunity of answering the two letters with which you last favoured me.

I return my warmest thanks for the few hints you offer. Some of the plans you mention are in active operation, and, by the Grace of God, the remaining ones shall not be lost sight of.

All the parts of the estimate have been furnished by men who are accustomed to undertake those respective parts; but in erections of this kind things are always wanted which were not at first foreseen, – and under this [lost] it was that I observed in my last that [lost] should be wanting other things than what are already included. The estimate came in as follows, viz,

christ church costs

In the above, as you will perceive, the expense of ground conveyance, five grates and stoves are not included; the extra of which would probably be about £12. But it is intended to let the work by ticket, by which the original estimate will probably be so much reduced. It is my conviction that the building and fittings up, so far as can be foreseen, need not cost more that the estimate which I have given, and that it cannot be well done for a less cost.

I have in a rough way, sketched the ground plan, because it appeared from yours of the 12th that my statement had not been sufficiently clear. I hope that the plan will meet with your approbation, and if not, shall thankfully receive you kind instructions, fearing that the two Class Rooms may be thought unnecessary, I would beg to say that they would be very useful.

Hodgson had also applied to central government for a grant. The government had made the first such grant only a few years earlier and prior to that had had no involvement in education provision. The most it did by this point was make grants towards the building of schools to be run and financed on an ongoing basis by voluntary organisations such as the National Society (National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church in England and Wales, established 1811

In the end the money necessary to build the school was forthcoming. Final plans were drawn up in May 1840 and it was completed by January of the following year. Hodgson’s money problems were not over though. The school opened in January 1841, but children were taught on Sunday only, presumably by Hodgson himself. The intention had been that money to pay a full-time teacher would come from school fees paid by those attending, or at least be largely covered by these, any deficit being made up by the better-off locals. But, nothing like the necessary number of children came to the school in the first year or so to support a teacher and it continued to open on Sundays only. Hodgson would soon be going cap in hand again.

Sources: the image of Christ Church – Lancashire Archives reference PR 3173/2; Hodgson’s letters to The National Society are at the Church of England Record Centre, reference NS 7/1/3365

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Christ Church School, Colne, 1895

Christ Church 1895

This amazing picture of Christ Church School, Colne, was most likely taken in 1895 after the extension at the front was completed. This housed new classrooms and new entrances – one for boys one for girls – from the playground, which was also divided along gender lines by a wall running down its centre. Perhaps of most interest is the partial view of the original school – to the right – which opened in January 1841.

Extension to Christ Church School, 1895

Extension to Christ Church School, 1895

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the building of Christ Church School #2


We have already heard about the arrival of Reverend William Hodgson at Christ Church and his determination to build a school.

For some reason, just over a year passed before Hodgson pushed on with his scheme. He submitted an application to the National Society for money to build a school.


He wrote to Reverend Joseph Wigram MA, secretary to the Society again in September 1839:

19 Sep 1838

Dear Sir,

Since I wrote to you about a year ago a District has been assigned to my Church, the population of which amounts to 6,500. In this District there are very few that are at all wealthy, and almost all the operatives are handloom weavers of cotton. This statement, I trust, will convince that we have done what we can.

A Schoolroom is very much needed, and with all deference I would earnestly request you to use you influence on our behalf. Mr Haslegrove, Incumbent of of St Peter’s Islington, is well acquainted with the circumstances of the people, and would be likely to confirm my statement. When I opened the case to you we had about 200 children so that the increase of the year is 150, and I doubt not be we shall continue to increase in number.

We have no room except the Church nor is there any that we could occupy.

Leaving our cause in the hands of him who has the hearts of all men in his rule and governance

In Dec 1838 Hodgson wrote to the Bishop of Chester; Colne was a poor, troubled and rather godless place – how was he supposed to raise money there ?

I have just received a letter from Mr Wigram insisting on the necessity of some further efforts in raising local contributions for the School, and am sorry to say that under present circumstances I have not hope of more being done. One of our Esquires whom I expected would be a principle subscriber refused to help me because I endeavoured to make the children church people; and all his friends followed his example so far as to refuse. At all events circumstances render it necessary to discontinue teaching in the Church. The Church Sabbath School is a most beneficial institution, but in this case its evils are a counterpoise. I think that a letter from your Lordship would be a full counterpoise for our own local deficiency. The people of this neighbourhood are politically the most disaffected in the Kingdom; and how can we so successfully counteract the evils as by giving the youth a sound and scriptural education ? As to the want of this in this part you already know enough. Though I may herein be too troublesome, your Lordship’s past kindness makes me fully confer in your interest for the future.

Subsequently, Hodgson sent an impassioned response to Wigram’s suggestion he raise more money locally:

The Church was only opened in 1836, and with the exception of the donor of land the congregation have nothing to spare. Those who have wealth go to their pews in the parish Church, it being nearer to their residence than mine, and for some very unjustifiable reasons, in which I have not been concerned, are prejudiced against the place. My labours however have been blessed to the gathering of a large congregation from amongst a people who either lived altogether in the neglect of the Sabbath or were augmenting the ranks of political dissenters. Church principles have almost been lost in this place, which I have been cautiously endeavouring to revive. One of my efforts to do so has been catechising in the Church, which so offended one of our country Esquires – who calls himself a Church Man, and whom when I had reason to expect would be a principle subscriber – that he told me he would not give me aught because I tried to make the children Church people. Besides his independent wealth, he is one of our principle manufacturers. If I fail in my application, it will be in a consciousness of having done what I could. There is however only one alternative;- if you cannot assist me, the children must be dismissed, and that will be to my mind a most painful task, so painful that I must endeavour to avoid its endurance by seeking for myself another situation. We cannot go on in the Church, the pews are so narrow that we cannot efficiently carry the national system into operation, and the children having to come a considerable distance have to eat their dinners in the Church, which aught not to be the case. There is, moreover, scarcely a Sunday but complaints are made of the children taking dirt into the pews, and the generality of the people are holding back from taking pews on that very account. So that I shall never be locally supported until the Church is freed from their annoyance. I have laboured hard for a congregation;- besides my pastoral visits I am preaching five times a week, going over on extent of country about 5 miles square. Few perhaps in doing this would find time for the Sunday School, but I nearly always superintend it myself. Hence you may judge how painful it will be should I be necessitated to dismiss them. I have on my list 70 zealous and youthful teachers, whom to some extent I have instructed in the national system and there is not another school in the neighbourhood that even professes to have adopted it. Should I be able to keep these and the children they will add very naturally to the stability of the congregation. But, should they be sent away, they will at the best only swell the stream of dissent. In all this extent of country there is no other Church Sunday or Daily School whereas besides it four other are very much needed, and had I the means in these four I could muster 1000 Sunday School children and a considerable number on weekdays. I owe my pious impressions to a Church Sunday School, and for that reason the Sundays of my pious life have been spent therein. Even during the three years of my ministry and having to gp through three services I have on no single Sunday been absent from the School, except when absent from home.

My dear Sir help us if you can. Since your honourable Committee have heard enough of the poverty of Colne and its Chapelry! If your Society cannot help me efficiently, I will thank you to inform me whether I might meet with help from any other. If it cannot be done on the present scale, could it be done on a smaller ? – a small room will be better than none, though a smaller would be too small for our present number, viz 350. To what sudden transitions from hope to fear the human mind is subject!

Sources: the image of Christ Church – Lancashire Archives reference PR 3173/2; Hodgson’s letters to The National Society are at the Church of England Record Centre, reference NS 7/1/3365

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Colne’s industrial heritage


Mike Rothwell’s new book – Industrial Heritage A Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of Colne, Trawden and Foulridge – is excellent. Exhaustively researched, this comprehensive survey of the our industrial past is well structured – with useful introductory sections – and well illustrated. Ever walked past an old mill, warehouse, cottage or other industrial building in the area and wondered about it’s history ? Well, you’ll find an explanation here.

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Central Hall…first cinema in Colne, the UK or the world?


It has been argued that Central Hall on Colne Lane was not just the UK’s but the world’s first purpose built cinema. Quite a claim for such an inauspicious looking building. That it opened before the other UK contenders for the title is not in doubt. The counter argument surrounds the question of whether it was purpose built. Was it deliberately intended as a cinema, or just a hall in which film shows could be put on as part of a wider range of activities.

“The first building in the world specially designed as a cinema was opened in Colne, Lancashire, in 1907”. So say, Christopher Harvie and Colin Matthew of Central Hall in their Nineteenth-Century Britain: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press). It is a claim that is repeated in other places too as is the lesser one that give the hall the UK-only first place; just perform a few google searches and see. It was even recognised in the Guinness Book of Records.

The case against Colne’s claim is put by John Burrows in ‘The First Purpose Built Cinema: The Case Against Colne’ (Picture House, issue 30). His detailed argument is, unfortunately, quite convincing. He explains that the claims for Central Hall are based on what Josuhua Duckworth, the hall’s owner, said in Kinematogaph and Lantern Weekly (a British film industry trade paper) in July 1908:

The experience [in the film business], together with the good fortune to possess a site for a suitable hall in the centre of a population of some 30 to 40000 led to my present undertaking. I built what is known as  the Central Hall at a cost of over £2000. It is suitably furnished, installed with electric light, and heated with hot water….The apparatus for projecting is Gaumont’s Professional Chrono driven by electric motor, and this  has now run  every now for 2 years.

It is this last sentence upon which the Hall’s claims rest. If true, it takes it’s opening as a cinema back to mid 1906, one which predates other contenders. The problem is that there is no evidence to back up Duckworth’s statement – there is none to confirm when the Hall actually opened for instance – and the evidence that does exist suggests that, whilst it may have opened as early as 1905, it was more of a multi-purpose building. The building’s design certainly doesn’t have the appearance of a cinema – the five windows along each side for instance – and the plans submitted to the local council in 1905 for approval refer to it as a “public room”. These do not show a projection room, screen or seating but do specify an orchestra enclosure.

Central Hall2

Central Hall

From the building control plans submitted by Duckworth to the council (Lancashire Archives reference MBCO 27/1581)

Financial accounts seem to show that it was not in constant use in the first couple of years either – perhaps being used as storage space for Duckworth’s neighbouring print works – with little evidence of what use it was being put to (and certainly no evidence of film shows).

All that said, there might be evidence out there that does confirm what Joshua Duckworth said in 1908. We need to know precisely when the hall opened, when the first film show was and how often films were shown. Even in the absence of this information no one could deny that Joshua was a cinema pioneer and that Central Hall, if not the first purpose-built cinema, certainly has an important place in the early history of UK cinema.

Inside the hall today




Sources: Nineteenth-Century Britain: A Very Short Introduction, Christopher Harvie and Colin Matthew; ‘The First Purpose Built Cinema: The Case Against Colne’ in Picture House 30 – Jon Burrows, 2005; Building control plans (Lancashire Archives reference MBCO 27/1581); business and personal accounts of Joshua Duckworth (Lancashire Archives reference DDX 752/8/3)

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