Earby and District History Society releases new book on schools in Thornton in Craven and Elslack

The latest book from Earby and District History Society is the third in their series of books on local schools, and this time it is schools in Thornton in Craven and Elslack that come under the spotlight.
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Both villages saw the building of small, one-room, schools in the mid-nineteenth century, funded by wealthy local people to educate children from ordinary families - the farmers, weavers and domestic servants.One of the most interesting characters in the book is Enoch Hall, who taught at Elslack from 1844 to 1872. Enoch was a former soldier and strict disciplinarian, not sparing in his use of the stick. His pupils said he only used the Bible for reading lessons, which gives the impression of a very basis syllabus, but it wasn’t necessarily so.

Three ‘ciphering books’ belonging to one pupil were found in Craven Museum and show that at least some of the pupils were working on quite complex calculations about trade and business. How to calculate profit and loss, compound interest, discounts and annuities.The author uses school archives (teachers’ log books, attendance registers etc) to follow the schools from their nineteenth century beginnings through two world wars and into the fifties, sixties and seventies.

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Elslack School finally closed its doors in 1978Elslack School finally closed its doors in 1978
Elslack School finally closed its doors in 1978

From the 1940s onwards local people’s memories of their schooldays are a major focus – being taught in a single group of children aged four to eleven by one teacher, inkwells and dip pens, cod liver oil, silly pranks (missing doorknobs and wooden conkers), school milk. And of course school dinners, cooked in Earby then taken by van to each site.Just like today, small village schools were periodically threatened with closure, when the numbers attending dipped very low. Both schools had closure scares, Elslack finally closing its doors in 1978, when only nine children remained on the register.

The children were transferred to Thornton school, Elslack’s headteacher, Margaret Lancaster, writing “I think in the long run the school will benefit from having more children in each age group, and I wish them well.”Thornton school survived, thankfully, and now teaches almost 100 children, including many from Earby, Barnoldswick and the surrounding area.The book costs £10 (£13.25 by post), with all sales income being donated to Thornton School. Contact Earby History Society on [email protected] (or buy a copy from the school).

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