Hatter's School, Hopwood

The following article about the 'Hatter's School' is taken from the Heywood Advertiser, June 1906. The school was located at Hopwood from the mid-18th century to the mid-19th century, and the original building still stands today on Stott Lane, near Hopwood Hall.

'Hatters Cottage', Stott Lane. The original date stone reading 'School House, Rent Free, 1754' is still in place.
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'The inscription on the old building is School House. Rent Free. 1754. The best remembered teacher is Joseph Kenyon. At least two persons still survive who were his pupils eighty years ago, these being Mrs. Susannah Partington, widow of Charles Partington, Queen-street, Tonge, Middleton, born 1821; and Ann Aspinall, Alexandra-street, Hopwood, Heywood, born 1817.

It is shown conclusively that originally the masters dwelling of four rooms (two down and two up) was likewise used for the school, but later a one-storey building, nine yards long by five wide, was added, and this with its flagged floor is now in a dilapidated condition. There has, in fact, been no teaching imparted in the Hatters School for about half-a-century. As regards the precise form of its origin little or nothing authentic can be gleaned. It may have been founded by one of the Hopwoods of Hopwood (in which township, on the side of an ancient highway, which is now regarded as private by persons more immediately concerned, it is situate), or by Mr. Hopwood, in conjunction with the leypayers and inhabitants in the middle of the eighteenth century. 

The one striking fact concerning the school is that in the town of Middleton when Mesdames Aspinall and Partington were Joseph Kenyon s pupils, there did not exist a single building specially set apart for ,the teaching of the three Rs. The same may probably be said as regards Heywood. Kenyons scholars were drawn from a wide district - Heywood, Middleton, Birch, Slattocks, Stannicliffe, etc.

Ordnance Survey map 1851 showing location of Hatter's School (to the left side).

From the scholars pence the master would not, like Goldsmiths village-preacher, be passing rich on £40 a year. When Mrs. Aspinall went to his night school she. paid a halfpenny for each attendance and took her own candle. Mrs. Kenyon taught the girls sewing, etc, Mrs. Aspinall did a sampler, representing Solomon's Temple, which she still hangs in her living room. One volume - a verbatim report of the great Hopwood will case-presented to her and all other servants and workpeople by Captain Hopwood, the victor, she produced for her visitor s inspection. 

Schoolpence for children born on the estate were paid by Squire Hopwood. Youngsters from Middleton Workhouse at Hebers were also sent to Hatters School. Precious little would the parish pay for the education of poor children in those days. They farmed out the adults to a contractor, who employed them in handloom weaving, and, it was said, fattened on what he had pinched from the bellies of the inmates. There does not appear to have been any endowment, apart from free housing (the rent today is only 2s. per week), for the school. 

From various circumstances it seems clear that the Hopwood family took a benevolent interest in the schools welfare, and, let us believe, in the devoted master too. Mrs. Partington recalls a visit paid to the school by Miss Hopwood, the young lady who at twenty became Lady Molyneux (afterwards Countess of Sefton) by marriage, seventy years ago and upwards at Middleton Parish Church. The school is well remembered by the elder Hopwood people for the turbulent character of its March parish vestry meetings. Robert Howarth (Bob o'Yebs) the surveyor, spent money more freely than the economists appreciated, and they gave him a bad half-hour at the one gathering in the year at which they could give vent in his presence to their righteous indignation. 

The last schoolmaster of Hopwood was Thomas Butterworth, and he subsequently became agent or sub-agent of the estate. The building is not remembered as ever having been utilised as a Sabbath school. Finally. whence came the nomenclature Hatters? The tradition is that the manufacture of hats was carried on in the immediate locality, the name being perpetuated besides in Hatters Farm, occupied at present by Mr. John Kay, and by his father before him. 

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