Cowick Schools

Cowick C of E Voluntary Controlled Primary School
The current school serves mainly the villages of East and West Cowick.  It is housed in a mixture of Victorian and more recent buildings.  The Victorian school was designed by William Butterfield, and was built in 1854 under the patronage of the 7th Viscount Dawnay.  The Viscount went on to build a total of three churches, vicarages and schools, all to the same style, in his estate villages of Cowick, Pollington and Hensall and, in addition, churches in Sessay, Wykeham and Danby.
However, there was a long history of the Dawnay/Downe family of Cowick Hall supporting education in Cowick.  Archbishop Herring's Visitation Returns of 1743 mention a free school at West Cowick, supported by Lord Downe, and the following document outlines the dimensions of Lady Downe's School in 1852:

Aug 16th 1852 – Size of Lady Downe’s School (DDCL/552/5)

Dimensions of Schools

Length – Breadth – height to wall plate – ditto to ridge

Large Room – 55 ft; 22 ft; 14 ft; 32 ft

Class Room – 14 ft; 12 ft; 14 ft; 23 ft

Girls’ workroom – 26 ft; 14 ft; 14 ft; 23ft

Lady Downe’s room – 17 ft; 14 ft; 9 ft:6 in

Two washing rooms – 14 ft:6 in; 8 ft

For hats, cloaks

Besides these rooms a stable and a six roomed house.

The following transcriptions give an interesting insight into the early days of the "new" school:

Letters re arrangements of school 1855 (DDCL 552/6)

(written on black bordered notepaper)

January 15th, 1855

Lord Downe, enclosing Drafts for £61 and £10 and as to enlarging School at Cowick


Dear Sir,

I enclose a draft and dozen labels for Suptds (?) Hudson and Buckler (?), if you would be good enough to forward it to them.


As to the school I intend subscribing 10£ annually towards it, and will therefore send my draft for that sum also.

Yours truly,


Monday night.  B. Park, Jan 15.55

P.S.  I think we ought to try to get more fr. Children’s pence than we do.  £10.19s.9d. for a whole year seems to me very little – here at our Waldersly School the children’s pence amounted to £7.1s.9 ½ d. for the 4 months Aug. Sept. Oct. Novr. And the population is only 270, tho’ some few children came from one of the neighbouring villages. At Wykeham the two last quarters have produced £9.3s.5d. and £7.8s.3d. and yet there are very few farmers Children, chiefly artisans and labourers and the population of the whole parish 10 or 12 miles long is about 600, so that fr. the large part the distance is too great for children to come. Cowick ought to send more children than within Wykeham or Waldersly, as its population is so much greater.  I hope with a new school we shall double at least the income fr. Children’s pence.  We are very far indeed from the Dean of Hereford’s self supporting principle and yet I think wages at King’s Jamboree were 8 sh. (?) a week in winter only – our school might I shd think be more than an Infant School now.


Snaith, January 30th 1855

My Lord,

I beg your Lordship will be kind enough to forgive my not answering your letter of the 15th instant, respecting the Cowick Infant School before, but pressing engagements have prevented my doing so.


We have carefully considered your Lordships letter, and with your permission we will lay before you the present position and prospects of the School and leave the matter in your hands, of course our object is to carry out your wishes in every respect.


Your Lordship is aware that Mr Smith takes Girls in the School at any age from 2 or 3 years old upwards, but I fear if this were equally applied to Boys it would be attended with some difficulties, both pecuniary and otherwise.


There is no provision made in this neighbourhood for the Infant Population, we have now 80 or 90 on the books and an average attendance (in fair weather) of 50 or 60, the greater portion of which are Infants who (even our School done away with) would be left idle in the Streets, unless we could afford to have both a Schoolmaster and Schoolmistress, the one for the elder Boys and Girls and the other for the Infants and needlework, which I think would be more than our funds would allow, say £80 or £90 per annum besides other expences, as lodgings would have to be provided for one of them, the School House not being large enough for them both.


If we were to have a Schoolmaster only, it would at once clash with the Wesleyans who have a large School at Snaith with an average attendance of from 90 to 100 (or more) Children, we should lose their subscriptions at once, I fear they would look upon it as opposition which would overthrow that Brotherly feeling now existing towards the Church – and moreover if we established such a School I fear it would be but thinly attended particularly if we charged such a price as would bring in something considerable towards the masters Salary, for in reality I don’t think we should draw a large proportion of Children from the Wesleyan School, 1st because the greater part of the Parents of those Children have in some way an interest in the success of the School and 2nd their Charge is only 1 ½ d and 3d. per week when ours would be perhaps 3d. or 4d. at least, and besides this Lord Beaumonts School is only 2 miles from us where the Charge is only 1d per week – Mr Creyke has also a School at Rawcliffe (nearly 2 miles distant) under similar accountances.


Mr Smith is very much satisfied with the present Schoolmistress, she is very valuable, not only in that capacity, but she makes it her duty to gain not only the affection of the Children, but also of the parents by visiting them at their houses and making diligent enquiries of those Children that are ill or absent from School.


Yet (take in Rider A) …

Rider A (written on black-bordered notepaper): with regard to the increase of the school pence, it appears at present a difficult subject and (with a full desire to appreciate your Lordship’s remarks on that point) it might yet perhaps be well to state the ground of the difficulty – as it appears to us.  This difficulty seems to be in 2 points – the comparatively small interest the farmers and respectable people of the parish take in the working of the school – and secondly in the fact that Cowick is especially filled with a number of poor families – attracted originally, no doubt, by the influence which the Hall exercised over the neighbourhood) and who are in winter time, not in a position to pay much for their children’s education – on account of having to resort to various means of procuring work, which formerly was less uncertain.


We certainly do think, however, on the whole, that the school is prospering – and we would submit to your Lordship’s judgement whether it wd. be well to go on at present doing what we can in way of subscriptions among the farmers and respectable people, with only a certain amount of children’s pence – or plunge into a system of apparent opposition to schools around us – at the risk of losing a good amount of our subscriptions – and the additional risk of not being able to succeed in point of numbers of children and pence.


P.S.   Steps have already been taken to put our School under Government Inspection.


 Mr Smith has always entertained the idea of having a School upon a larger scale at some future day, but under all the circumstances he thot it more prudent to first arouse a Church like Spirit – let the people learn from practical observation the superiority of the Church system and of our School, and then when the desire for instruction was more appreciated and many of our infants had grown older, it would be a more fit opportunity to establish a Boys large School than at the present time.


I beg your Lordship will forgive my laying our views openly before you, bit it is better that you should see our reasons for establishing an Infant School at Cowick.

I have the honer &c


The Viscount Downe


Letters (DDCL/581)

1 Feb 1855

Lord Downe – value of Gt Bodsham

Dear Sir,

You and Mr Smith on the spot ought to know best what may be for the good of the parish.  It seemed to me that the School appeared very far indeed fr. self paying, that the expenses were exceeding the income and that by raising the character of the School,we might retain the teaching of our Cowick people in our own hands, increase the income fr. Children’s pence and diminish the liability to debt.  I dislike large payments for Children 


The scale I have made out here and adopted is for labourers

£2 a Quarter for 1 Child

£3 ditto for 2 ditto

£3:6s ditto for 3 ditto

£4 ditto for 4 ditto


Farmers above 70 acres

£5 a Qt. for one Child under 10

£6 ditto above ditto

£8 ditto for 2 Children

and so on, making two intermediate Classes, so that education does not cost the partents a great deal.


Cowick district is one of the largest I have to deal with and it appears to bring in less to the School than any other.  In time however I dare say Mr Smith will work his way to a better state of things.

(letter continues about other, non-school matters)

Yours truly


Baldersby Park    Feb 1.55 

It is interesting to note that in 1891, 46 years after those letters were written, a circular was sent to the parents of the children at Cowick School, inviting them to donate annual subscriptions to help the school.  Despite the fact that most elementary school fees had been abolished in that year, the appeal seems to have been successful and some quite large contributions were made.


Other references to education in Cowick include a listing in Baine's Directory (1823) of Francis Burton, Schoolmaster of a Private/Free school.  Reference has also been found to Richard Young running a Private/Free School in 1791 and John Smith, who ran a Free School in the village in 1849.  The latter school may be the Free School shown in the High Street on a 19th century sales map of the village (DDCL85).