The Foundation of Matterdale School

Posted: May 29, 2013 in Family History, History
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write a lot about Matterdale; but what about its school? I discussed the Rev. Dr. Robert Grisdale in an earlier article. He was Matterdale School’s founder and benefactor. Here I’d simply like to tell a little more of the founding of the school. In particular I’ll reproduce the foundation Indenture or Trust Deed and tell something of the school’s early history. I know that many of my own ancestors attended the school; which makes it all the more pertinent for me.

Matterdale Old School

Matterdale Old School

By the early eighteenth century the Rev. Robert Grisdale had become a successful and reasonably wealthy clergyman. Even though he now lived in London, he obviously wanted to help the children of his native valley. The first step was to secure some land on which a school could be built. In 1716 he managed to persuade the Hon Charles Howard (the Baron of Greystoke) to denote 1.5 acres for this purpose. The land lies up a small rise just a few hundred yards west of Matterdale Church, a church where at the time one of Robert’s relatives, Thomas Grisdale, was still the curate. Then the school had to be built. How was this financed? Well it seems that Robert Grisdale paid for it himself.

In 1901 the Rev. Whiteside wrote[i]:

The present school was probably built, with the dwelling-house under the same roof, just prior to 1722. That is the date of the indenture whereby the Rev. Robert Grisedale, D.D., of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields, who sprang from Dowthwaite in Matterdale, entrusts the management of the school and school estate, to thirteen trustees and their successors.

As Whiteside said, in 1722, when the school was complete, all was set to provide for its future maintenance and the appointment of schoolmasters or mistresses. I reproduce the full text of the Indenture or Trust Deed of 1722 at the end. It’s rather long. I include it here because it is not otherwise easily accessible and because one or two of you might care to read it?

The initials of the first schoolmasters or mistresses are inscribed on the school’s mantelpiece: W. W, I. B, T, D, T. B, L H, J.H, D. B and T. W. The first named schoolmaster was John Hodgson in 1799. There is an interesting story about Hodgson, who was ‘the famous historian of Northumberland, and one of Westmorland’s worthiest sons… He was a native of Swindale in Shap’.  In a letter written by him to Sir W. C. Trevelyan, in 1843, Hodgson wrote:

When I was at school at Bampton, forty-three years since, Professor Carlyle, then chancellor of the diocese of Carlisle, was anxious that I should go with him, as his secretary in the expedition he made with Lord Elgin, as ambassador to the Ottoman Court. I ardently wished to have been able to go; but instead of sailing through the Hellespontus, and seeing Hoemus and Rhodope on the right of the Propontis, and Caucasus and Taurus on the left, I was content to become in that year (1799) the schoolmaster of Matterdale, in Cumberland. It was, however, very curious that four years afterwards the Professor was appointed chaplain of Bishop Barrington, and I had to be examined by him at Newcastle for deacon’s orders.

In the Antiquary a notice of Hodgson says, ‘The salary was small, but the place was interesting in a high degree to the young schoolmaster, as it gave him an opportunity of studying the geology of the district.’

Photos May 2013 266

Matterdale New School

As you will see if you read the Indenture of 1722 reproduced below, keeping the control of the school somewhat in the Grisdale family was a major concern of Robert Grisdale. It was obviously quite effective, because a hundred years later the Grisdales were still predominant among the school’s trustees, including descendants of Robert’s brother Edward.

What was Matterdale School like? Today the building is empty and rather forlorn. It was closed in 1907 because it was too small, a new school was built to replace it. But for two centuries it was full of bustle and life. The Rev. Whiteside tells us:

The building, which is not now very attractive, has suffered from restoration, like many a church. Up to the passing of the Education Act in 1871, I am told, it was a fine and symmetrical edifice, with a spacious staircase of thick oak in the centre; but to meet the requirements of the Department the school was enlarged, both in length and height, at the expense of the entrance hall and staircase and upper rooms.

The Indenture for the school’s foundation in 1722:

This Indenture made the 6th Day of August in the year of the Reign of the Sovereign Lord, George, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith etc A.D. 1722. Between the Rev Robert Grisdale of the parish of St Martin’s in the Fields within the Liberty of Westminster, Clerk, of the one part, and Edward Grisdale of Dowthwaite, Brother of the said Robert Grisdale, William Wilson of Dowthwaite aforesaid, Nephew in Law of the said Robert Grisdale, Joseph Grisdale of Dowthwaite aforesaid, John Greenhow of Crookwath, Thomas Atkinson now of Matterdale End, John  Mounsey of Brownrigg, Joseph Grisdale of Townhead in Dockray, Thomas Grisdale of Bonsons, John Wilson of the Pinfold aforesaid, John Wilson of the Mills, Richard Wilkinson of the Hollas, Edward Dawson and John Sutton of Matterdale End aforesaid, Tenants or Inhabitants of the Manor or Lordship of Matterdale within the Barony of Greystoke & County of Cumberland, nominated and appointed by the said Robert Grisdale Trustees of the Free School hereinafter mentioned of the first part.

Whereas the Honourable Henry Charles Howard Esq. the 4th day of October in the Third year of this present Majesty’s Reign A.D. 1716 then Lord of the said Manor by John Mounsey & Henry Capps, Gentlemen, his stewards, by & with the free consent & approbation of the Trustees  and others, Tenants or Inhabitants of Matterdale aforesaid testified by subscribing their names thereto, did for the considerations therein mentioned for Himself his Heirs & Successors Lords of the Manor in open court grant & convey unto the said Robert Grisdale a piece or parcel of pasture ground, lying & being in & upon Matterdale Common containing by Estimation six roods be the same more or less, situated & being on the West side of Matterdale Church commonly called Butts Hills near Thwaites Gate in order to have a school house erected there, by the appointment and Direction of the said R. Grisdale & at his own proper costs & charges to finish the same, for & towards the education of the children there to be taught and instructed by a schoolmaster or schoolmistress or both of them at the discretion of the said R. Grisdale, who as patron & Founder thereof, did thereby agree to Endow the same with the yearly endowment of Ten pounds for the only use & benefit of the said school for ever, as by the said in part recited grant, now remaining as of Record in the Court of the said Barony of Greystoke relation being thereunto had many more at large appear (?)

And whereas the said schoolhouse is since completely finished & the same made every way convenient for the good ends & purposes aforesaid, and a study fitted up and prepared with Books for those that are desirous to inform themselves in polite learning according to the intentions of the Donor.

And Whereas the said R. Grisdale hath presented a Mistress to the said school & hath for some years last allowed her the salary or sum of £10 a year by quarterly payments, and hath also since endeavoured (though without effect as yet) to find out a purchase of a Freehold Estate or some other good & sufficient security so that the salary or sum of £10 a year may forever hereafter be settled on the said school payable as aforesaid.

Now this Indenture also witnesseth that until such time a Freehold Estate or some other good & sufficient security can be had & obtained for securing the sum of £200 so that the sum of £10 a year may forever hereafter accrue & become payable to the Master or Mistress of the said school which shall happen to be the teacher thereof, the said Robert Grisdale doth hereby for himself covenant promise grant & agree to & with the said Edward Grisdale, William Wilson etc the Trustees aforesaid, & their successors Trustees of the said school that he, the said R. Grisdale, shall & will during his natural life yearly & every year until such purchase or other security shall be had & obtained as aforesaid pay or cause to be paid unto the said Edward Grisdale, William Wilson etc their Successors/Trustees of the said school or to some of these for the purpose aforesaid the yearly Salary or Sum of £10 at the most usual Feasts or Days of payment in the year (this is to say) the Feast of St Michael the Archangel, the Birth of our Lord Christ, the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St John the Baptist by even and equal portions, the first of the said payments to begin & be made on such of the Feast Days which shall first happen next ensuing the date hereof.

And this Indenture further witnesseth that in case no such purchase or other security as aforesaid shall be had & obtained during the natural life of the said R. Grisdale then the said R. Grisdale doth hereby for himself his Heirs Executors and Administrators and for every of them covenant promise grant & agree to and with the said E. Grisdale, William Wilson & the Trustees aforesaid & their successors Trustees of the said school, that the Heirs Executors or Administrators of the said R. Grisdale shall & will within one year next after the Decease of the said R Grisdale advance & pay or cause to be advanced & paid unto the said E. Grisdale, William Wilson etc the Trustees aforesaid or their successors Trustees of the said school or some of them the sum of £10 of Lawful money of Great Britain, that is to say the sum of £200 to be laid out in the purchase of Lands or put out upon some good security at Interest in order to be a standing salary for the benefit of the school, & the sum of £10 residue of the said £200 to be and remain for a yearly salary to the then Master or Mistress of the said school, & then (?) the said yearly payment of £10 per annum from thenceforth for ever to cease, anything herein contained to the contrary hereof in any wise notwithstanding.

Provided always & it is the true intent & meaning of the parties to these presents that in the case the said £200 shall fall short & not produce the annual Interest of £10 or the said schoolhouse shall want some necessary reparations that then in both or in either of the said cases the said R. Grisdale doth order & appoint and it is hereby agreed by the said E. G., W.W. etc the Trustees aforesaid for themselves & their successors Trustees of the said school, that it shall & may be lawful to & for the said E.G., W.W. etc the Trustees aforesaid & their successors Trustees of the said school not only from time to time to raise the Quarterage of the scholars belonging to Matterdale aforesaid, that shall then frequent the school any sum of money the said £200 shall fall short of producing the yearly sum of £10, but also such sum & sums of money as shall be needful or necessary for keeping the said schoolhouse in all convenient & necessary reparations,

And it is also hereby further declared & appointed by the said R. Grisdale & the said E.G, W.W. etc the Trustees aforesaid do for themselves & their successors, Trustees of the said school, covenant & agree to & with the said R. Grisdale his Heirs Executors Administrators & assigns by these presents that in case there shall arise any Difference or Dispute about the management of the said school, that then & in such case the said Trustees & their Successors, Trustees of the said school (upon complaint of any three or more of the said Trustees or their Successors Trustees of the said school by petition or otherwise made to the Chancellor of Carlisle for the time being & praying him to hear & determine their said cause of complaint) shall & will finally submit to & abide the direction & determination of the said Chancellor of the diocese of Carlisle for the time being.

And it is further declared and appointed by the said R. Grisdale & the Trustees aforesaid do for themselves & their successors, Trustees of the said school covenant & agree to & with the said R. Grisdale, his Heirs  Executors and Administrators that they the said Trustees and their successors Trustees of the said school shall as often as occasion shall be & require by death of any of the Trustees, or their removal out of the Dale not having then any Estate therein within the space of Three months next after such Death or Removal meet & make choice of as many as will make up the number Thirteen hereby appointed, whereof the person inheriting the Estate of the said Mr Grisdale’s Father always to be one, & the person inheriting his Brother Edward’s Estate in Dowthwaite aforesaid be another. And also as often as occasion shall be, & require by Death Removal or otherwise to meet & make choice of a Master or Mistress by a plurality of voices, but if it can be agreed upon a Mistress rather for the advantage and improvement of the girls inhabiting in Matterdale aforesaid.

And the said Trustees of the school covenant, promise grant & agree to & with the said R. Grisdale that it shall & may be lawful to & for the said R. Grisdale during his natural life not only to make choice of such Master or Mistress he shall think proper & convenient to teach the said school but also from time to time as occasion shall be & required by Death or otherwise as aforesaid to elect & choose new Trustees in the place & stead of any of the Trustees herein before nominated & appointed.

In witness whereof the said parties to these presents have interchangeably set their hands & seals the day and year above written.


[i] Rev. J. Whiteside, M.A., Incumbent of Helsington, Matterdale Church and School, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian And Archaeological Society, Vol 1, 1901, Ed. W. G. Collingwood, M.A

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