The Duke of Devonshire was the guest of honour at a special event in Hartington to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the village school

Great British Life: Hartington School's 150th anniversaryHartington School's 150th anniversary (Image: as supplied)

The Duke of Devonshire was the guest of honour at a special event in Hartington to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the village school. The school was commissioned by William Cavendish, the 7th Duke of Devonshire, and officially opened on the 10th July 1866 by T Osborne Bateman Esq of Litchurch Villa near Derby. Around 200 visitors attended the commemorative party on Saturday 9th July, also viewing exhibitions in the school hall, which included 150 memories, photographs and memorabilia collated from former staff and pupils across the country, and a timeline of historic events researched and put together by pupils.

The Duke of Devonshire unveiled a limestone sculpture of a child with the 7th Duke. Designed and crafted by David Annat from the village’s Sculpture Club, it sits outside St Giles’ Church lych gates and was inspired by an extract the village’s History Group found of a child’s memory of the 7th Duke’s visit to Hartington, dated 31st March 1865. A time capsule has been buried beneath the sculpture containing a programme of the 150th anniversary celebration, children’s memories of the school, a photograph of pupils and staff, the school badge and a USB stick with a recording of children singing.

The 12th Duke, with assistance from Year 6 pupils George Wigham and Maddie Wager, also unveiled a mural containing the surnames of families who have attended the school, which was designed and created by pupils, community groups and local artist Lucy Annat.

Guests were treated to a musical concert by pupils and a beautiful array of homemade cakes donated by parents and local residents. The school’s PTFA sold commemorative jute shopping bags and coasters, kindly donated by Kate and Rob Tenty from Matilda’s Bay. Visitors also enjoyed music played by Warslow Silver Band and looking at a steam-powered ploughing machine, on display courtesy of the Debes family. The engine was originally bought by the Derbyshire Steam Cultivations Company, a company in which the 7th Duke of Devonshire invested £1,000 in 1880.

The 12th Duke of Devonshire said: ‘The children have been amazing, along with their wonderful head teacher and other teachers, they gave us a lovely concert. Their contribution has been outstanding. It is fascinating to look back over these many years and to admire the extraordinary achievements of this wonderful school. Even more encouraging is to know that this generation of young people are being given the best possible opportunities to study, to learn new skills and to develop to their full potential, and when they leave to go to the next steps in their education, they can do so with pride and confidence in what they have achieved.’

Eva Mannion, a 90-year-old former pupil, said: ‘I came here 85 years ago with around 70 children from across the area. In those days we walked to and from school, often for miles, and during the winter I remember friends arriving with frost on their lips and in their hair. I lived in New Zealand for 50 years but moved back to Hartington when my husband died. I now live in the cottage where I was born. This event is a fantastic way to mark such a special occasion.’

Jean Stone, 83, submitted a memory for the exhibition. She said she couldn’t wait to hear the school bell ringing, and did the honours on the day.

Head teacher, Tracy Blackwell added: ‘I can’t put into words how proud I am to work at this school, at the heart of such a wonderful community. I feel so passionate about the children here. It has been such a pleasure to see our past, our present and our future come together to mark this special occasion and celebrate such a wonderful anniversary. I would like to thank everyone who has supported the school in any capacity and I hope that we continue to grow and nurture our children of the future.’