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Robinson Memorial C.of E. School
(1873 - on)

Henry Thomas Robinson (HTR) (1801-1886) was born at Edgley and inherited the Cliff in Leyburn from his elder brother Ralph who never married. HTR married Elizabeth Purchas (1817-1868) from Flanders Hall and had four daughters. The eldest, Annie, married Charles James Burrill (CJB). They lived at Cotescue in Coverdale when they were first married and later bought Elm House Redmire. They had two children – William Robinson Burrill-Robinson and Bessie. CJB and his second wife Ada Cockcroft’s only child was Margery Freeman (1903-2004) née Burrill. HTR’s second daughter Margaret married Robert Chapman (RC) from Thornton Rust and lived at the Cliff. HTR & RC were in partnership as solicitors. Their firm is now Scotts. One of HTR’s older sisters, Ann (1791-1874), married Benjamin Hudson a surgeon from Huddersfield when she was 50 and he was 58. She was a widow for 19 years and helped pay for the building of the school. She also gave an endowment of £500 of N.E. Railway Stock which was still in her brother’s personal possession when he died. Hence all the legal issues to get not only the capital but also the interest out of HTR’s estate. CJB was one of HTR’s executors and his son (WRB-R) stood to lose some of his inheritance if the case was won by the School (which it was). It was not an acrimonious case, just the legal clarification necessary.

HTR drew up a trust deed for the founding of his school stating he wished it to be called the Robinson Memorial Church of England School. He wanted all the School Managers to be practising C of E members. He died before signing this deed.

HTR’s eldest sister, Jane (1781- 1864), married Henry King of Hull and their son William Robinson King Senior of North Ferriby had inherited Edgley. Although he is named in the Trust Deed as a School Manager this was only in a nominal capacity (as the owner of Edgley), and his son William Robinson King Junior (WRK) who was a solicitor and lived at The Mount was the active representative of the King family until he left West Burton. He became the first School Correspondent (i.e. Clerk to the Governors) when the new Board of School Managers was established. WRK had been very concerned that the future of the school building was unclear without a signed trust deed and took legal advice from a firm in London called Coe & Co. They advised that a new Board of Trustees be appointed and that this Board should formerly adopt the original trust deed as drawn up by HTR. WRK set about inviting those originally named by HTR and HTR’s son-in-laws. The Trustees appointed were: WRK Senior, WRK Junior, JC Winn, William Purchas Junior, Col Lodge, CJ Burrill (HTR’s executor) and Rev. Fenwick Stow.

The School holds this deed signed by all the new School Managers/ Trustees. They were all named individuals apart from Rev Fenwick Stow, described as ‘the Vicar of Aysgarth of the day’ and William Robinson King Senior, described as ‘the owner of Edgley of the day’. When WRK Junior left West Burton he sold Edgley to James Winn who was a School Manager & Trustee in his own right. WRK’s successors as School Correspondents were not solicitors and never informed the Charity Commission when the original School Managers retired or died.

HTR always intended the school to be a state school and he himself completed the original form for grant funding. Over time Education Acts replaced School Managers with Governors, the School Correspondent with a Clerk to the Governors, and decreed what sort of religious education should be taught*. The School Governors were responsible for the running of the school and the actual ownership of the building was assumed to be the Church of England because of the School’s name.

Jane Ritchie put money she was left by Margery Freeman into a charity called The Elm House Trust. £60,000 was donated to the Governors of what is now called West Burton C of E Primary School by The Elm House Trust to help pay for the first floor. The Elm House Trust supported the wishes of the Deed of Foundation that in the event of the school closing, the money benefited people in need in the Township of West Burton. Jane challenged the Church of England to prove that they owned the building as she did not want the proceeds of any sale of the building to leave West Burton in contravention of her great, great, great uncle’s wishes and the purpose of the Elm House Trust. Eventually the Diocese had to agree that they did not own the building. North Yorkshire County Council also confirmed they did not own the building. The Charity Commission was approached to help update the trust deed as it is no longer appropriate to use the proceeds of any sale to provide the poor of West Burton with ‘sheets and blankets’. They were also asked to help re-establish a Board of Trustees.

Richard Nolan, a lawyer in the Law Department at York University, who has come to live in West Burton, gave pro bono legal help and advice to the School and after considerable effort spoke to someone with a legal background in the Charity Commission to agree the best way forward. Before she retired, Sue Whitehouse, ‘Vicar of Aysgarth of the day’** and Arthur Lambert, ‘the owner of Edgley of the day’, agreed that the West Burton School Governors should become Trustees of the building unless and until the School federated and there was no longer a governing body specifically for West Burton School. Arthur decided he should be the last owner of Edgley to be a trustee. In the event of federation the trusteeship of the school building would pass to Burton-cum-Walden Parish Council and Arthur Lambert for his life time. This is the present position.

*1902 Education Act took away School Managers’ right to decide what could be taught.

**Aysgarth Parish is now part of the Penhill Benefice.

On the day the school opened, the headmaster received 19 children. He noted, “This was a less number than I expected although the fact of the school being opened had not been sufficiently made known. I found the children neat and clean. They seemed to have a fair amount of intelligence. I examined them and entered them accordingly. As there had been some delay regarding the furniture of the school, work could not be commenced in the manner I intended it to be”. Within a week a further 24 children had registered and by the start of the new school year in September 1874 there were 53 attending.

Until 1891, parents paid weekly ‘pence’ or fees for their children ranging from two pence for infants to sixpence for the eldest children. In addition, they were charged sixpence per head in each of three quarters for fuel. They also had to provide their children with one set of books and “slates of a proper size to be obtained of the teacher”. The school accounts of the mid-1870s show that the fees contributed about 36 percent to total expenses, the education grant 16 percent, the endowment income 25 percent and voluntary contributions 18 percent. The major item of expenditure was the headmaster’s basic annual salary of 50 pounds.

Discipline was strict. Two weeks after opening the headmaster wrote: “The first class was punished this afternoon for not coming in when the bell was rung; imposition of 30 lines”. A month later he “used the stick for the first time. Jimmy Sayer had played truant – his mother said to do with him as I pleased. I thrashed him before the whole school and again while they were out at play”. In the following years, there were regular punishments, often severe, for shouting in the school porch, whistling, ‘indecent habits’ and lateness.

The headmaster found it extremely difficult to recruit an assistant teacher in the early 1900s. Part of the reason was the very low salary offered, about 35 pounds a year. One assistant, Margaret Tommey resigned four times between 1902 and January 1911, but was persuaded to withdraw her resignation on the first three occasions. Despite repeated advertisements for the position it remained vacant until June 1912. Mrs Alfred Wood was eventually appointed on June 24; she resigned on June 28. At the end of October Miss Fawcett of Hawes was hired but said that she could not teach needlework. The headmaster insisted that she teach it. She resigned in January.

The annual reports of Government School Inspectors and the Diocesan Inspectors were generally complimentary in the early years and even more so later on. However, it took many years for the facilities at the school to be upgraded. It was often too cold to work in winter; the coal-heating system was poor and belched smoke, once, in 1914, causing part of the roof to be set on fire. The playground on the Green was only fit for physical training in dry weather while the sanitation arrangements were primitive until major overhauls were made in the 1930s, replacing earth closets with a ‘water carriage system’. Only after pressure from the parish council in 1951 were flush lavatories installed. Following the Education Act of 1944, the school managers arranged for school dinners to be served.

Attendance varied considerably depending on the season and the prosperity of the township. As West Burton reached the end of its days as a market town, total registration dropped from a peak of about 75 at the turn of the century to about 35 in the 1920s, rising again to about 50 in the 1930s and 1940s. The most exciting event during this latter period came on September 1, 1936. The children had an early lunch to enable them to cheer Queen Mary as she passed by on her way from Harewood House near Harrogate to Bolton Hall at Wensley. During the Second World War, the school building was used for billeting and for a while housed 24 children and a teacher evacuated from Gateshead as well as 10 children staying in the village for the duration of the war.

The school continued under the management of the Local Education Authority (North Riding Education Committee) providing an elementary education for children aged five to fourteen. Those capable of passing the Eleven Plus exam went to Yorebridge Grammar School at Askrigg.

In 1959 Leyburn County Modern School opened providing secondary education from age eleven, for children who did not pass the eleven plus exam which entitled them to go to Yorebridge Grammar School.

During the next two decades many schools in the Dales closed as the number of children in the Dale fell. In 1964 Cross Lanes School at the bottom end of Bishopdale closed and West Burton was lucky to survive some years later.

During the 1980s pupil numbers rose again and one group of children was taught in the Chapel schoolroom on some days. In 1989 a new classroom was built on the back of the Victorian building. This enabled around 58 children to be divided into three classes for some years. In 2010, further alterations to the Victorian building saw a first floor added to provide more classrooms, also improving accommodation for school dinners. During the 2000s, children were mainly taught in two classes. In 2014, on the retirement of the Head Teacher, the Governors took the decision to collaborate with two schools further up the dale and share a head teacher. A federation was then formed between Askrigg, Bainbridge and West Burton Schools. This decision was taken because pupil numbers were falling and in 2018 are down to 23.


This history of West Burton & Walden is based on the booklet written by Julian Bharier & Marianne V. Thompson (ISBN 0 9525905 1 4). Their acknowledgements included: Margaret Ritchie, Jean Kington, Mary Brown, Dorothy Davison, Jean Dobbing, John Miller, Sally Stone, John & Mary Piper, Brigadier and Mrs Wilfrid Ponsonby, Stephen Moorhouse, staff from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Mrs A Johnson, Mrs K. Deighton, H.E.Moody, Mr. D. Nottage and James Hogg.

Before they died Julian & Marianne kindly gave permission for us to use their booklet as a basis for a revision. We have edited, updated and added to their text.


Jane Ritchie and Sally Stone 202020


Due to falling enrolment numbers at Bishopdale School the decision was taken by the Local Education Committee to close the school and send the Bishopdale children to West Burton Primary School from August 1928, via taxi, passing Cross Lanes School on the journey.

The following are a selection of West Burton School Photographs, children from Bishopdale School have been identified with (B) alongside their names. Bishopdale School closed in 1928.,


Below is a school photograph, Mr. A.E. Norfolk, head teacher, courtesy of the DCM, Hawes, 1894.

Below is a school photograph, head teacher ?, pre-1911, Assistant teacher

Miss Margaret Sadler Tommey, courtesy of Sally Stone

West Burton School Photos pre 1911

Below is a school photograph, head teacher A. Rooks, late 1920s, courtesy of Sally Stone

West Burton School Photos late 1920s
West Burton School Photos late 1920s - Names

Below is a school photograph, head teacher Sarah Hindmarsh, early 1930s, courtesy of Sally Stone

West Burton School Photos early 1930s

 Below is a school photograph, Sarah Hindmarsh, head teacher, courtesy of the DCM, Hawes, 1936.

Back Row:-

Harold Spence, John Furnish, Billy Capstick, Douglas Dobbing, John Iveson, Eric Pounder, Denis Spence, Reg Alderson,

Roland Fawcett (B) and Jackie Alderson.

Next Row:-

Keith Meggison, Brian Sowerby, David Shepherd and James Furnish.

Middle Row:-

Dennis Percival, Steve Hillary, Tommy Thwaite, Evelyn Thwaite, Betty Heseltine, Annie Stockdale,

Jennie Metcalfe, Lena Fawcett (B), Bill Lambert and  Ken Capstick

Front Row:-

Betty Thwaite, Francis Sayer (B), Joan Horner, Dorothy Furnish, Mattie Furnish, Madge Binks and Betty Sayer (B).

Names courtesy of Michael Reaks





Below is a school photograph, Sarah Hindmarsh, head teacher, courtesy of the DCM, Hawes, 1939.

Back Row:-

Douglas Dobbing, Billy Lambert, Brian Sowerby, Jackie Alderson, Bill Chapman, Roland Fawcett (B), Ken Capstick, 


Eric Pounder and Denis Spence.

Next Row:-

Annie Stockdale, Betty Watson, Margaret Chapman, Dorothy Workman, Betty Thwaite, Anne Green, Jenny Metcalfe,


Lena Fawcett (B), Evelyn Thwaite, Mary Chapman, Kathleen Guy and Betty Heseltine.

Next Row:- 

Tommy Thwaite, Malcolm Watson, Freddy Percival, John Iveson, Dennis Percival, Pete Lambert, Francis Sayer (B),


Marsden Brown and Richard Sayer (B).

Front Row:-

Madge Binks, Muriel Stockdale, Mary Thwaite, Joyce Binks, Jean Plews and Pamela Coates.

Names courtesy of Michael Reaks

Below is a school photograph, 1947, Bertha Dean, head teacher, courtesy of the Sally Stone

West Burton School 1947, courtesy of Sally Stone

Below is a school photograph, 1948-9, Bertha Dean, head teacher, courtesy of the Sally Stone.

West Burton School Photos 1948-9
West Burton School Photos 1948-9 - Names

Below is a school photograph, Mary Benson, head teacher, courtesy of the Sally Stone, 1954.

West Burton School1954

Below is a school photograph, Mrs Mary Benson, head teacher, courtesy of the DCM, Hawes, 1959.

Teachers: Head teacher: Mrs Mary Benson and Mrs Joyce Tunstall

Back row:-

Nigel Benson, Rowland Dent, Robert Foster, Graham Johnson, Peter Wilson and Robert Tunstall

2nd row:-

Stuart Guy, Malcolm Alderson, Thomas Dent, Kathleen Wood, Gillian Robinson, Valerie Wilson and Lilian Guy

3rd row:-

Patricia Guy, Mary Finlay, Janet Tinsley, Elizabeth Tunstall, Ann Dent, Margaret Nicholson,


Rosemary Tunstall and Miriam Johnson

4th row:-

Jennifer Guy, Annette Alderson, Susan Tinsley, Sally Dobbing, Janette Capstick,


Rowena Miller, Judith Spence and Mavis Spence

Front row:-

Keith Miller, John Guy, David Lambert. Leslie Robinson, Norman Guy, Leonard Tunstall and John Miller 

Below is a school photograph, Nancy Williams, head teacher, Infant Class, teacher Mrs Marie Teasdale,

courtesy of H. and H. Snaith, c.1968.

The National School at Aysgarth closed in  1946, those children transferred to Cross Lanes  School, on the closure of Cross Lanes in 1964, parents could choose to send their children to Bainbridge Primary School or West Burton Primary School.