Early Schooling in Halliwell

Early schooling in Halliwell – taken from the papers of the late Derek Billington (

Schools in the eighteenth century underwent a fair amount of damage at the hands of scholars and the elements, as indeed they do to this day. In 1739 when Smithills Hall was responsible for providing the Constable and Overseer, the officer paid out 8s 6d for ‘repairing ye school’ and in the March of 1740, a further 1s2d was paid out for ‘mendinge schoole windowes’. These needed mending again in February 1744 and 2s11d was spent in their repair and in pointing a part of the building.

By this time the schoolmaster was Joseph Cooper who put his name to the audited accounts for 1738/9 and he must have been Roger Bromiley’s successor. Amongst the items of expenditure included in the accounts was the provision of a new chimney back for the school at the cost of one penny and a pair of tongs which cost 2s0d. Joseph Cooper also received 3s5d ‘for poore children schoole wages’. The school windows needed attention once again and the overseers of the day paid out 1s1d to carry out more repairs. In 1744 more pointing was carried out.

An entry made at the close of the Accounts for 1748, but in a different handwriting from the accounts themselves remarks:- ‘Mr Thomas Marsh served the Offices for the year 1735. I suppose the School was rebuilt at that time and a deed appointed Mr Byrom, Mr Dewhurst, Rev. Mr Shaw, Mr Marsh and his son, Mr George Marsh as trustees etc. John Cooper facit’.

John Cooper, later to become a leading figure in Halliwell, was the son of Joseph Cooper, the Schoolmaster. It would seem that this note was written at a much later date than the accounts themselves. John Cooper died in 1819 and in 1748 he would only have been about 8 years of age.

A relative of the old schoolmaster, John Bromiley, brought in the officers accounts in which is an item ‘for mending school slates – 4d’. This ‘slate’ would not, in fact, have been slate at all but what was known as ‘split stone’. This is a locally found sedimentary rock, which splits easily into slabs and was widely used for roofing in south-east Lancashire. On the other hand, of course, the entry could refer not to roofing tiles at all, but to the slates on which the children wrote out their alphabets or numbers. Thomas Entwistle, the Overseer for 1753, paid out 1s0d for ‘cleaninge schoole’ and on the following year major repairs were necessary. It was then that Peter Rothwell paid out £1.15s.6d for these important works but apparently the trouble was not then over, for another £1.9s.6d had to be spent on structural work in 1756. It would appear that the building was deteriorating rapidly.

Unfortunately Township Books for the years between 1760 and 1788 are lost and we are unable to use them for a source of information on the history of the old school. However, the Township Books written between 1788 and 1821 are useful. The early meetings of the Halliwell Township Committee were held in the old school building, and it was probably because of the regular meetings of the Townships most prominent people in that place that it was borne upon the population that a new school would soon be needed. By the beginning of the 19th century they were casting about for a new site for a school building. Several sites were discussed and various landowners were consulted about them. Eventually in 1809 a committee was appointed to determine procedure for the future. This body consisted of John and Robert Lord, the cotton spinning brothers who built the first spinning mill at Barrow Bridge; the Rev Alfred Hadfield, headmaster of the Bolton Grammar School and Robert Lathom, the current Overseer of the Poor of Halliwell.

A Township Meeting was called for the 21st October, 1809, and the following minute records what transpired:- ‘The principal inhabitants of the Township of Halliwell in the Parish of Deane, being desirous of expressing in a becoming manner, a lively sense of gratitude to God for His merciful protection of the life of our most Gracious Sovereign George the Third are unanimously of opinion that the establishment of a school for the education of the children within the said township will be the most effectual means of celebrating the Jubilee or 5oth year of His Majesty’s Reign and therefore they agreed at the said meeting to enter into the following resolutions: Mr Ainsworth in the chair:

Resolved – that a committee be formed of all the gentlemen present to wait upon Mr Dewhurst to propose to him the propriety of an exchange of land for the premises now occupied as a school, in order that another more commodious school may be built for the accommodation of the inhabitants, or the present one enlarged, immediately on his return home.

That a suitable inscription be placed upon a stone immediately over the door of the school, expressive of the sense of the Committee.

That a meeting be held on Thursday, 26th October next.

That the following gentlemen were appointed to wait upon Mr Dewhurst: Mr John Lord, Mr Robert Lord, Mr Pickering, the Rev Mr Hadfield and Mr Lathom to make necessary arrangements with regard to the exchange of land.

That the top of Ryecroft (1) is the situation most eligible for the new school provided Mr Dewhurst will treat for the exchange upon equitable terms – but if that can not be effected to satisfaction then it is resolved that the present school shall be enlarged as much as possible and made convenient for the present benevolent purpose.

That a subscription be immediately entered into to carry the above resolution into execution’.

The Mr Dewhurst mentioned above was not the Captain, who had died in 1806. This was James Dewhurst. Roger the Captain had died intestate and considerable trouble ensued before a true heir was found. James Dewhurst was that heir. He was a very distant kinsman, and was only 19 years of age at the time of his inheritance, a very immature and unstable young man.

Apparently young James was not happy about the exchange of land as is revealed by the minutes for the 26th October:- ‘That the Chairman (Robert Lord) Mr Lord (i.e. John Lord) and Mr Pickering wait upon Mr Dewhurst to confer as to the land offered as compensation which is not sufficient viz. the whole breadth of the field, leaving sufficient road to the delph and, if not, that Mr Ainsworth be added to the deputation who shall wait upon Mr Eskrick to procure a plot of land near to School Lane and also write to Mr Rothwell to give a plot most contiguous to the present school’.

Mr Eskrick was Henry Eskrick of Brownlow Fold who had land that adjoined the Dewhurst Estate bordering on to what is now called Valletts Lane. Mr Rothwell was Ralph Rainforth Rothwell a kinsman of Peter Rothwell who owned the Lieutenants Estate but lived at Sephton near Liverpool. Lieutenants lay to the west of Dewhurst’s lands and stood off Doffcocker Lane behind the Doffcocker Hotel. It was demolished in the 1930’s.

The land referred to as ‘Ryecroft’ above is where the Jubilee School was eventually built on the corner of Captains Clough Road and Church Road.

At this meeting it was resolved that Ralph Boardman of Bolton who was Richard Ainsworth’s Solicitor and often also acted for the township, apply for a copy of the Will of Thomas Williamson, the donor of the original school and lay this before Mr Joseph Yates. He was a leading lawyer of the period and was to be asked for counsels opinion as to the legality of exchanging the land given by Williamson for other property. Ralph Boardman apparently came across difficulties here for in the minutes a foot note appears in pencil which was probably written by Boardman himself: ‘The proctor informs me that the Will was never proved – ask Mr Mayho where the Will is – that Dewhurst lent him a copy’. ‘Mr Mayoh’ would be John Mayoh, who was a Dewhurst tenant and lived in a cottage adjacent to the Old School. He was the last Schoolmaster there.

That James Dewhurst finally agreed to the land transfer is made clear in the minutes of the Townsmeeting held on the 6th July 1810: ‘At a meeting of the inhabitants of Halliwell called in the Parish Church of Dean by Robert Lathom, Overseer of the Poor of Halliwell – Present Messrs. Ainsworth, Pickering, John Lord, Robert Lord, Richard Yates, John Makinson, William Pennington, Edward Platt, William Orrell, James Dewhurst and Barker (sic) – and appointed Mr Pickering Chairman.