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West Burton and Walden Schools

As the township became more prosperous in the early 1700s, there was an increasing need for a school. In 1748, one of the residents, John Sadler, erected a stone building for a free school at Town Head at a cost of 80 pounds. He endowed it with an annual sum of 16 pounds for the salary of a schoolmaster to be paid out of the rents of his estate. In 1786, Christopher Tennant was appointed but his salary was discontinued in 1796 because the tenant of the estate refused to pay the rent on some legal quibble. The schoolhouse was then appropriated by one of the townships inhabitants for his own use and claimed as his own property.

Until the 1870s, the children of West Burton and Walden had various options for schooling. Many, of course, did not attend school at all, as they were obliged to work. Of the 119 children aged between six and eighteen in the township in 1851, 70 were in this category, either because they were farmers or craftsmen’s children needed on the farm or in the workshop or because they were in full time paid employment. Thirteen were employed as house or farm servants, seven as coal leaders or coal miners and three as apprentices. Of the 49 children listed as scholars five were ‘scholars at home’, being instructed privately or by their parents, while the remaining 44 attended various schools in the township.

Some children attended a dame school, first run by Alice Beverley, an elderly spinster, at her house and later by Irene French, formerly a seamstress. They reportedly learned ‘next to nothing’. Others attended private schools in West Burton, one of these at what was the Reading Room in the Back Nook. There were three schoolmasters living in West Burton in 1851; Edward Green, who was also the Parish Clerk, John Blades, the 21-year-old son of a local coal miner and William Dodds, a Teacher of Classics from Durham who lived in lodgings. At about the same time Sunday schools were opened by the two chapels.

In January 1859, Elizabeth Brown, who came from Newcastle and was the 30-year-old wife of a commercial traveller, announced in the Wensleydale Advertiser the opening of a ladies Seminary at The Grange. The fees were 23 pounds for those under 12, 28 guineas for those over 12 and a few boarders were accepted at 40 guineas. She later advertised that she was increasing her staff and proposed ‘to have classes for the convenience of ladies in the neighbourhood for the following accomplishments: drawing, French, Italian, German and singing’. Unfortunately, she died a year later and the seminary closed.


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 2020

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