Celebrating 150 years of Hartington Primary School

Hartington today

Hartington today - Credit: Archant

One of Derbyshire’s excellent village schools prepares for a milestone celebration next year

Sally Oliver reading with Brenda Critchlow first right

Sally Oliver reading with Brenda Critchlow first right - Credit: Archant

‘The years I spent at Hartington School were some of the best of my life,’ 62-year-old Brenda Critchlow recalls. The Chapel-en-le-Frith resident attended Hartington C of E Primary School between 1957 and 1964.

More than half a century later, staff and students are getting ready to celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2016, collating memories and chronicles of past pupils, teachers and events.

The school building is one of the first landmarks that visitors see as they enter this picturesque Derbyshire Dales village. Overlooked by the striking St Giles’ Church standing prominently on the hill, the two establishments work together as central pillars of school and community life, providing inclusive education in keeping with the school’s historic Church of England foundation.

At one time the school welcomed pupils from the age of five right up until they left at the age of fourteen. Today, students leave for secondary education when they are eleven, with most transferring to Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Ashbourne.

Sally Oliver's class with Brenda second from right

Sally Oliver's class with Brenda second from right - Credit: Archant

Before the school opened the village children were taught at the Old School House on Church Street by a School Master appointed by the Dean of Hartington. The Old School House – now a residential property – was constructed in 1758 and classes took place there in first floor rooms until 1865, when it was replaced by the current school building.

Ron Riley recalls in his book, Alcock’s Lamp A Story Of Hartington: ‘My grandfather once told me he had to pay 1d a day to attend the school there. I don’t think he spent all that many pennies as I was always afraid he would chew his tongue completely in two when he tried to write his own name in his pension book.’

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There was also Old Dame’s School, on the same street, where elderly ladies of the village would teach the children of poorer families for a very small fee.

Brenda, who used to live in the Old School House, said: ‘I remember I couldn’t wait to start school and on my first day when it got to lunch time I thought that it was the end of the school day and went home. I had a pet pig and decided to let him out in the garden and the infant teacher Mrs Oliver spent her dinner break helping me to get the pig back in his pen! From my first day I was affectionately known as Brenda and the pig!’

Brenda Critchlow

Brenda Critchlow - Credit: Archant

‘Mrs Oliver was a wonderful teacher and in the spring and summer months she would take us to what was called Infant Island, which was in the river near Bridgend Farm. We would take off our shoes and socks and play Pirates in the river. She would also take us to Bluebell Wood down Mill Lane, and in the autumn another treat would be to go and play in the fallen leaves opposite what is now Rookes Pottery.

‘She taught us to count using an abacus and we did lots of reading. We were rewarded for good work with gold stars.

‘I don’t remember much about the Junior Class, but I do remember the seniors. Mr Neild, who was the headmaster, taught us. He was very strict but a good teacher and one of our privileges was to sit with him at the top table for lunch.’

Mrs Sally Oliver (née Robinson), whose father was the village’s last stationmaster, lived at Station Cottages and worked at Hartington School from 1945 to 1982. Before her death, Sally recorded her memoirs of the school, and explained a typical day: ‘The bell would ring, a signal that all the children should line up and enter the cloakroom to remove coats and hats and then move to the big classroom for assembly.

1958 school photograph

1958 school photograph - Credit: Archant

‘A prayer, a hymn – “Morning Has Broken” was a favourite – and then often Mr Neild would check hands and shoes. Shoes had to shine, which was a tough call for the children who had been helping with milking before they came to school. One particular boy was often late – Mr Neild would complain to his father that he was getting behind with his work, the reply being “I dunna care as long as our lad can sign a cheque!”’

Mr Neild wasn’t the only headmaster at Hartington to inspect pupils’ cleanliness. George Noton, who was in charge from 1932 to 1943, also did. In his book More About Hartington, Ron Riley recalls: ‘He would line up all the children in the playground before school to see if everybody had scrubbed their hands and polished their boots. Once on inspecting the boys he found that they had hardly any boots on their feet. Shortly before, by some miracle, we had acquired proper football boots for the school team and, to our utter dismay, Mr Noton had to give the poorly shod boys most of the boots to save them from going barefoot.

‘In those days the school masters lived in the Schoolhouse in the village, where they could keep their eye on the pupils all the time. He would spend much of his free time for the good of the village children. More than once he took a running kick at my backside but looking back over the years, he was one of the best friends I ever had.’

In the 150 years since the school was founded attitudes to education and school discipline have changed radically, but what remains is an enduring fondness for the school, its ties with the community and appreciation of the learning it offers.

Head teacher Tracy Blackwell and Liz Broomhead MBE

Head teacher Tracy Blackwell and Liz Broomhead MBE - Credit: Archant

Current Vice Chairman of the School Governors, Liz Broomhead MBE, who attended the school in her youth and who was recognised in 2011’s New Year’s Honours List for voluntary services to netball, said: ‘The school is at the heart of the village community and it is our intention that links between young and old in the village be as strong and supportive as possible.’

Current Headteacher, Tracy Blackwell said: ‘There are hundreds of people who will be able to remember with affection their time spent at the school. I am privileged to work alongside dedicated staff members who want the very best for their pupils and who are committed to the ethos of this special little school. We’ve got big plans to celebrate next year’s anniversary and the children are very much looking forward to delving into the history of their school to find out all about schooling in the “olden days” and also if and when their own family members attended school here. It’s going to be an exciting year and project.’

Current students and staff at a recent presentation event

Current students and staff at a recent presentation event - Credit: Archant

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