The WARTS walk this week organised by my best mate T’Forager took us through some very pleasant countryside and woodland areas which briefly took us along Lower Moorside Lane in the village of New Farnley between Leeds and Pudsey. We became interested in a building that turned out to be a small but beautifully formed ex-school with a sign that read ‘LANCASTERIAN SCHOOL ROOM FOUNDED 1813’.
As shown in the photo above, this is now the village hall. A conversation with a very pleasant lady who lives opposite informed us that they hire the room out and the rates are very reasonable.
Crowd control measures
On further investigation via a fellow WARTS member with a smartphone, we discovered that the school was founded by the Quaker Joseph Lancaster (1778–1838) on the principle that children were taught to teach small groups of their peers. A society was formed that opened dozens of schools based on the exact same principle, they rejected corporal punishment, instead unruly children could find themselves tied in a sack or suspended from the ceiling in a cage.
Can you imagine the conversation the headteacher of a particular school had with the local blacksmith?
Headteacher: Look here my man, can you construct a cage to these specifications?
Blacksmith: Yes sir, what’s it for?
Headteacher: It will be used to suspend unruly children from the ceiling.
Headteacher: We are totally against the idea of corporal punishment.
Headteacher: Sometimes we tie them up in a sack.
Lancaster or his educational ideas didn’t go down well with the authorities. I suspect it wasn’t his corporal punishment or in his view the lack thereof, but probably the fact that he had this strange and dangerous idea of educating the masses that the establishment were most concerned about.
Lancaster was eventually ousted from the society after it was brought to their attention that he was privately beating children and he was also accused of deism and homosexuality. I am happy with my understanding of the term ‘homosexuality’ but other than knowing it had something to do with religion I had to look up what ‘deism’ meant. Apparently, it is the belief in a God the creator of all the universe, but who had nothing to do with it after its creation.
Presumption of innocence
As is our want, the WARTS must find a café at the end of each walk and this time it was a very nice example on Fulneck Road in Pudsey, called No 54. They describe themselves as ‘Tea rooms and antiques’ which may have been a bit too posh for the likes of us but we were made very welcome anyway. There were six of us on that particular day and we squeezed ourselves around one table just to ensure one group wasn’t talking about the other any more than we do normally.
The conversation eventually turned to the idea of tying children in sacks and/or suspending them in a cage from the ceiling. The two ladies, Bishop and The Colonel agreed that I would have found myself in the sack or suspended from the ceiling every day. I was shocked and amazed at this suggestion and had I not been so upset with the accusation I could have pointed out that I was never once given any form of corporal punishment at school – the whack, cane or plimsoll was reserved for those who were found out. The worst I got was lines and/or detention. It was a close thing one day though, and again I was totally innocent.
Confession under duress?
One day, after morning assembly at Golcar Church of England Junior School, I would be about ten years old, the headmaster in the shape of Mr Happy Hardwick, pictured above, singled out ten lads to stay back (is it possible to single out ten lads?). Anyway, he lined us confused, hapless lads up and sent the rest of the children back to their respective classes. Then Happy Hardwick started his lecture.
He slowly walked along the front of the row waving his cane swishing and pointing at each boy in turn. It transpired that the evening of the previous day, just after the school closed, a boy in a green blazer had thrown a stone that had broken a window further down Scar Lane. I was quite relaxed because I didn’t go down Scar Lane on my way home and to confirm my alibi I looked along the row for a lad wearing a green blazer, but there wasn’t one, it was only then that I realised I was the only one wearing a green blazer.
Happy continued his waving, swishing and pointing and demanded that the culprit own up – who would? He then had us all bend over fingers touching our toes while he continued his lecture while still swishing but now he walked all the way around us and each time he passed behind I expected a vicious whack on the derrière. None of us got the whack that Happy no doubt was so desperate to give, but I suppose the object was to scare the bejeebers out of as many kids as possible. And he did ten at once on this day, so to that end, he must have been happy enough.
Neither suspended nor given the sack
The only time I remember getting detention was in Miss Iredale’s class. She was our form teacher and one of the very few teachers that I liked. I can’t remember what I’d been up to – probably something to do with homework (or lack thereof) or talking too much – but on this particular day she offered an alternative; either sit in the classroom and write dozens of repetitive lines or help her with scene painting in the theatre. I didn’t hesitate to choose helping out in the theatre.
This may have gone some way towards her positive remarks in the end-of-term report:
“Peter’s work is generally pleasing. He must however take more care with his writing as this has an effect on all subjects. He is always keen and helpful in class …but he’s a very gobby apeth and won’t do his homework.”
She didn’t write that last bit of course but would, I’m sure, have been quite justified in doing so.