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Solway Plain - past and present

Greenrow Academy

Greenrow Academy was founded in 1780 by John Drape. It stood between Bliterlees and Silloth on the site of what is now Stanwix Holiday Village. John Drape came from the West Cumberland port of Whitehaven, where his father, another John, ran a Mathematical School, publishing two books on the subject during the mid 1700s.

Engraving of Greenrow Academy
Greenrow Academy.

John Drape died in 1795 and was succeeded as headmaster by Joseph Saul, a member of a prominent local Quaker family. He ran the school for almost fifty years during which time it attracted pupils from all parts of the British Isles and some from overseas. It is said that, by 1811, there were 135 boys on the register.

A wide range of subjects were taught, these included: English, Latin, Greek, French and Spanish as well as Drawing, Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, Navigation, Geography, Scripture and Astronomy. The fees were 25 guineas per year.

Interior of academy
A pupil's sketch of the Academy's interior.

Joseph Saul Memorial
Joseph Saul from his memorial.

Joseph Saul died in 1842. His memorial, in Holm Cultram Church, says ‘he imparted to thousands the benefits of a sound education and set before them a constant example of equanimity, integrity and love of truth’.

Following Joseph Saul’s death, the school was taken over by his son, John. When John died, in 1853, Isaac Drape, a grandson of the founder, became headmaster. He continued in this role until his death in 1871, when the school was put up for sale. No buyer could be found and it closed, the building being turned into cottages.

During Isaac Drape’s headship, the boys were taught drawing by Matthew Ellis Nutter (1795-1862), an artist of some note. He came from Carlisle where, for many years, he lectured at the Academy of Art. In later life, he suffered from ill health and had retired to the coast on the advice of his doctor. Many of his paintings can be seen at the Tullie House Galleries in his home town.

Some of Greenrow's students

John Francis Ure

One famous graduate of the Academy was John Francis Ure (1820-1883), seen on the left. Ure started work, aged 15, in the Glasgow marine engineering works of Robert Napier. He later became chief assistant to Andrew Thompson, a leading civil engineer.

After a spell at Glasgow University, he was appointed resident engineer to the Clyde Navigation and Harbour Corporation in 1852. Six years later, he became chief engineer on the Tyne where he carried out major improvements to the docks. Ure then became a senior partner in the Govan shipbuilders, John Elder and Co, where he oversaw the building of the Fairfield Yard.


Another pupil who distinguished himself was Robley Dunglinson (1798-1869), pictured right.

He went on to the Royal College of Surgeons, attended lectures in Edinburgh and Paris and obtained his M.D. from Erlangen in 1823. He later became Professor of Medicine at the University of Virginia.

He was both a friend and attending physician to Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States, and had two sons who also became doctors.
Robley Duglinson

Paul Bahnsen Lorck (1790-1841) attended Greenrow Academy between 1806 and 1807. He came from Trondheim in Norway. His family had a long tradition in trade, and built a successful financial empire. His father, Christian Andersen Lorck, donated 1,000 riksdaler to the new Norwegian university in Oslo. At that time, Norway was under Danish rule, and Norwegians wanting to pursue an academic career, mostly went to Copenhagen. A businessman, Christian probably did not nurture academic ambitions for his son. Why he chose to send him to Greenrow is not known. It is possible his family traded with the West Cumbrian port of Whitehaven which had an extensive timber trade with Norway and the Baltic ports at that time. The Drape family ran a ‘mathematical school’ there in the 1770s before moving to Greenrow.

Pages from Paul Lorck's exercise books
Pages from Paul Lorck's exercise books.

In later life, Paul Lorck worked in his father's business. His descendant, Frederik Goplen, holds a collection of his manuscripts which includes these marvellous examples of school exercise books from his years at Greenrow.

William Taylor (1828-1844) attended Greenrow between 1841 and his untimely death there from consumption at the age of 18. He had spent some years at a school in Germany but returned to Greenrow when his health deteriorated. He was attended by Dr William Saul, surgeon, of Abbeytown – Joseph Saul’s son. William Taylor’s family came from Stranraer and were important people in the town where they were Inn owners, military men, and magistrates. William’s mother had 15 children between 1823 and 1849! (Thanks to Peter Robson for this information).

Watercolour of Greenrow by Michael Coupland
Greenrow by Michael Coupland

Michael Coupland (1788 – 1860) came from Kendal. He painted this charming view of the academy during his time as a pupil there.

He left in August, 1816 and Joseph Saul provided him with a testimonial in his own hand. The headmaster said he was “sober, well-disposed man” and that he “conducted himself with great propriety and made very considerable progress in the different branches of his education”.




(Information and pictures from Vicki Harding in New Zealand)

Hand written testimonial by Joseph Saul

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