Nostalgia: Peek into past of Earby’s Old Grammar School building
Owned and run by The Robert Windle Foundation Trust, the 17th century building in School Lane continues to be held in high regard by local people having provided education to the people of the ancient parish of Thornton-in-Craven for over 400 years.
The Grammar School was built in 1600 following a bequest left to the people of Thornton-in-Craven by Robert Windle and his complicated will included monies left to the inhabitants of the parish, which along with Thornton included Earby, Kelbrook and Harden.
In the 1500s, the Windle family were prosperous yeoman farmers in and around Earby and Thornton-in-Craven, probably at the farm once called “Moorside” and now named “Windle Field”.
Robert Windle was born sometime around 1530, but while it is not known where received his early education, he was at the University of Oxford by the age of 14 where he studied to become a priest. He took Holy Orders and became a rector in Oxfordshire in 1556, Windle died in 1591.
The building constructed from his funds is in the Elizabethan house style of local sandstone, the roof covered with stone slates and windows made with chamfered mullions to allow more light to enter.
A modern and impressive building in its time, the school was also home to the headteacher and his family, and it was held in some repute for the teaching of Latin and English.
In 1904, the trustees resolved that the school should be transferred to the local authority, but the tenancy was terminated by the council in 1911 when Alder Hill School opened and the grammar school was deemed no longer fit for the education of children.
The trustees however continued to support education in Earby by issuing grants to local scholars with income generated through rent to various organisations, the county council running the library and clinic there, and from monies from the building’s use as mining museum from 1970 onwards when The Earby Mines Research Group then took it over.
However, with the museum’s closure and dwindling income in recent years, the education trust has had limited ability to do what it was set up for as trustee Margaret Brown of Earby and District Local History Society explains.
She said: “Today the grammar school is back in the hands of the trustees.
“It is at the moment being renovated and redecorated, then the trustees will be looking for ways to use the building to raise funds both for management of the building and to be able to give grants to any local group which works with children or local schools or individuals under the age of 24 who request financial help with their studies.
“This would be in line with the original settlement that the grants are to be given only to inhabitants of the ancient parish of Thornton-in-Craven.”
The building had a major upgrade during the 1990s, with grants from English Heritage and the National Lottery, and this included reroofing again, reinserting the upper floor and stairs, installing a lift and facilities for the disabled and generally bringing the building up to modern standards.
The mine museum held one of the country’s largest collections of lead mining artefacts and was of national importance.
When this group folded in July, all the exhibits were relocated into the Dales Museum in Hawes, leaving the building empty and ready for the next chapter of its life.
In the short term, the trustees will be running exhibitions and a café, but in the long term they are looking for a tenant.
Mrs Brown added: “The first of these events will be on Saturday, November 14th from 11am until 3pm.
“This is to give people chance to come and look at this unique and beautiful building.
“If anyone has an interest in the future of the building either for community use or business, or if anyone is interesting in helping with the events and general running of the building please come along and talk to the trustees.
“Admission is free, there will be refreshments and a light lunch available and an exhibition of on the history of the Robert Windle Trust and Education in the ancient parish of Thornton.”