Solway Plain - past and present by the Holme St Cuthbert History Group



The little school at Aldoth was built in 1851. It cost £150 and was paid for by the National Organisation for Education of the Poor. It served this scattered rural community for just over a hundred years.

Sketch of Aldoth School

In 1878, Joseph Heslop, the headmaster, noted between 15 and 38 children present. The following year, “ to harmonise with the desire of the people” school fees were reduced to six shillings per quarter for older children. Pupil attendance dropped during bad weather and at hay time, harvest time and for potato picking when children were required to help out on the farm.

Between 1886 to 1909 there was a high turnover of teachers, some of them hardly staying long enough to learn the children’s names.

Pupils and teachers, 1910
In 1910, Miss Findlayson and Mrs Johnston were the teachers.

In 1898, the school inspector reported a decline in the condition of the school. The room was untidy and the floor dirty, the cleaning being entrusted to a child of 13, who was engaged to sweep, dust, light the fire and provide sticks for seven pence a week. Ventilation required attention and the closet (earth toilet) was in poor condition.

Ten years later conditions were no better. It becomes clear why some of the teachers did not stay long or had difficulty educating the children to a high standard. The Inspector noted:-

“All standards and infants are mixed. At 10 square feet per child, the room will take 48; 55 are on the register. Desks are arranged in four continuous rows without space between them. The teacher cannot approach any child who is not seated at first file. Infants are packed into an angle of the room, they have no freedom of movement. Ventilation inadequate. The Tortoise stove has no guard. The cloakroom is 9ft by 8ft, the floor is always damp. No supply of drinking water on the premises. There is no house within reasonable distance, in which the teacher could live.”

Pupils and Mr Whittaker, 1914
In 1914, Mr Whittaker was headmaster

The following summer the school was closed for ten weeks for refurbishment. It re-opened in October 1909 having been extended, divided into two classrooms and fitted out with additional furniture and equipment.

School group, 1924
1924, Headmaster Mr Feddon Ferguson.

In 1929 Mr Carr became the headmaster and stayed until the school closed. He provided much needed continuity and stability. In 1932, he introduced hot drinks at dinnertime. The children paid a penny for the week and had the choice of tea or cocoa.

The pupils enjoyed a wide range of activities: gardening on a little plot near the school, games every Wednesday, nature walks and going to Wigton baths for swimming lessons.

School photograph from the 1950s
Mr Carr was headmaster during the 1950s

The one aspect of school life, which never improved, were the toilets. Despite water being brought to the school, the children were still using earth toilets when the school closed in 1957! To make matters worse they had to ask the teacher for toilet paper which was rationed to one piece per visit.

44 children were enrolled at the school in 1948 but by 1955 the number was down to 14 and the decision was made to close the school in April 1957.

Interior of School just before closure
The school in 1957

One small fault was found in 1912 by the school inspector due to the cloakrooms being open to the outside.

The children, most of whom bring their dinners to school, have occasionally to submit to the depredations of dogs, ducks and domestic fowls, which invade the cloak-rooms and attack the food stored for midday use…. Food should be deposited on shelves beyond the reach of these marauders.
Mary Marshall (nee Lightfoot) went to Aldoth School between the mid 1930s and 40s. She remembers that during the war Mr Carr got the boys to dig out an air raid shelter for the children behind the hedge on the roadside opposite the school. The ground is very sandy there and she didn’t think it would have provided much protection. Luckily they never had to use it! Gas mask
World War II Gas Mask

Extended History of Aldoth School in Printer Friendly Format  

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Aldoth National School