The Duke of Devonshire was the guest of honour at our special event to celebrate our school’s 150th anniversary.
The school was officially opened on the 10th July 1866 by T Osborne Bateman Esq, of Litchurch Villa near Derby, after being commissioned to be built by William Cavendish, the 7th Duke of Devonshire.
Guests enjoyed exhibitions in the school hall including 150 memories, photographs and memorabilia collated from former staff and pupils across the country (including one from a gentleman now residing in British Columbia, Canada); as well as a timeline of historic events throughout the school’s 150 years that the children researched and put together.
The Duke was invited to unveil two very special art projects that pupils have worked on, alongside members of the local community. A limestone sculpture depicting a young child and the 7thDuke now sits outside the Lych Gates of St Giles Church. The monument, designed and crafted by David Annat from the village’s Sculpture Club, commemorates the story of how the school came to be in its current location on The Dale.
An extract found by the village’s History Group explains how this child’s memory of the 7th Duke’s visit to Hartington, dated 31st of March 1865, was the inspiration for the concept of the sculpture: “There were three tall gentlemen talking to my father and mother in the garden at Harbour Head, and I heard one of them say ‘No, don’t disturb them.’ It was the then Duke of Devonshire who said that. They were wanting us to leave our old home which had been in our family for generations. It was their intention to build the new school on the site of our home. The Duke evidently saw that it grieved my parents to think of leaving the old place and in less than two years after that the school was built in The Dale.”
The 12th Duke, with assistance from Year 6 pupils, George Wigham and Maddie Wager, also unveiled a mural at the school. It depicts the surnames of all the families who have attended the school throughout the decades in the form of a tree. This was revealed a family history tree art piece, designed and created by pupils, community groups and local artist, Lucy Annat. The work contains the surnames of every family who has attended the school throughout its 150 years. Around the border, are pictures showcasing the village’s volunteer groups
It was standing room only in the Village Hall, as guests packed in and were treated to a very special musical concert by pupils including a favourite Swahili tune which translates to ‘Let’s celebrate.’
There was a beautiful array of homemade cakes, donated by parents and local residents to celebrate the special anniversary. The school’s PTFA sold commemorative jute shopping bags and coasters, kindly donated by Kate and Rob Tenty from Matilda’s Bay. Guests also enjoyed music played by Warslow Silver Band.
Another special connection to the school’s distinguished heritage, was a steam powered ploughing machine, aptly named ‘The Chief’, which was on display outside and currently owned by the Debes family. The engine was originally bought by the Derbyshire Steam Cultivations Company, and in 1880, the 7th Duke of Devonshire invested £1000 in the firm.
David Chapman, Derbyshire Dales District Councillor for Hartington and Taddington; Patrick McLoughlin, MP for Derbyshire Dales and Councillor Lesley Roberts, Chair of the Peak District National Park Authority, also enjoyed the day’s proceedings.
The 12th Duke of Devonshire said: “The children have been amazing, along with their wonderful Head Teacher and other teachers, they gave us a lovely concert. Their contribution has been outstanding. It is fascinating to look back over these many years and to admire the extraordinary achievements of this wonderful school. Even more encouraging is to know that this generation of young people are being given the best possible opportunities to study, to learn new skills and to develop to their full potential, and when they leave to go to the next steps in their education, they can do so with pride and confidence in what they have achieved.”
Eva Mannion, 90, who was also a part of the celebratory event, said: “I came here 85 years ago and around 70 children from across the area including the local farms came to school here too. Children in those days would walk to and from school, often for miles, and during the winter I remember friends arriving with frost on their lips and in their hair. I lived in New Zealand for 50 years but moved back to Hartington when my husband died. I now live in the cottage where I was born. This event is a fantastic way to mark such a special occasion.”
Another former pupil, Fred Birch, was 9 years old when the school commemorated its 100th anniversary. He commented: “I still remember celebrating the occasion. We were all given a Churchill Crown piece as a token to mark the special event.”
Head Teacher, Tracy Blackwell added: “I can’t put into words how proud I am to work at this school, at the heart of such a wonderful community. I feel so passionate about the children here. It has been such a pleasure to see our past, our present and our future come together to mark this special occasion and celebrate such a wonderful anniversary. I would like to thank everyone who has supported the school in any capacity and I hope that we continue to grow and nurture our children of the future.”