Anglicans unlikely success in Potovens exasperates Nonconformists

As with setting up the first school for locals in Wrenthorpe (Potovens National School) in School Lane in 1844, a few years later the Church of England is beating its Wesleyan (Methodist) rivals when it comes to Sunday School attendance. This despite there only being a Wesleyan Chapel in Potovens at the time (St Anne’s Church didn’t open until 1874).

Was mid-19th century Potovens more of an ‘established’ community than previously thought? Or were local children being ‘encouraged’ to attend the Anglican school?

Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser
Wednesday 29 December 1847


Lately, at Alverthorpe, the spirit of Dissent [Methodists/Wesleyans] and the principles of the Established Church have been fairly pitted against each other. The dissenters, having proved successful in maintaining their predominancy at the Town’s school at Alverthorpe, feel great chagrined at the success of the Church Sunday School at Potovens, which on Sunday last had 130 scholars, whilst the dissenters’ school of the same place had only about 40, being about 70 less than attended the school short time age.

On the above day, we understand, a row took place at the dissenters’ school, in consequence of a gentleman from Silcoates coming to the school to ask the teachers to give up, if they could, the name of the individual who had reported that he would turn off such of his factory children as did not go to the Church school! All the people of the village were astir, and much amusement was caused by the gentleman hastily closing the shutters of one of the windows in the face of a person on the outside who was making an harangue, with his head stuck through one the squares. A constable was then sent for, who, on his arrival, good humouredly patted the enquiring gentleman on the shoulder, shook hands with him, and wisely wished him to retire. The misunderstanding seems to have arisen from the circumstance of one of the girls who works at a certain mill in Silcoates, having stated, without foundation, that if she did not attend the Church school she would very likely lose her work.

The first school in Potovens

In a hamlet where nonconformity was so popular, it’s funny how the Anglicans stole a march on the Methodists by setting up Wrenthorpe’s first school. Not only that, but they did it on a site within 100 yards of the Wesleyan Chapel.

This article gives clues as to how they managed it: a particularly zealous Vicar of Alverthorpe, with a curate to work in Potovens; a government grant; and, funds from interested parties – landowners, and the proprietor of the local woollen mill.

Leeds Intelligencer
Saturday 29 June 1844


On Thursday week, as we briefly stated in our last, the interesting ceremony of laying the foundation stone new school, took place at the village of Potovens, Wrenthorpe, near Wakefield. After a brief introductory address to the assembled villagers, by the Rev G A Walker, Incumbent of Alverthorpe, the stone was laid by the conjoint efforts of Mrs Robinson, of Silcoates, and Miss Smith, of Wrenthorpe. Addresses on the value of education generally, and of scriptural education in particular, were then delivered by the Rev R Buckeridge, one of the curates of Alverthorpe, John Robinson, Esq, of Silcoates, and Mr Cooper, of Wrenthorpe, and the proceedings were wound up by a concluding address from the Rev G A Walker, in which he returned thanks to Mrs Smith, of Wrenthorpe, for her kind and valuable gift of the site of land whereon to erect the school, and informed his hearers that they would be severally waited on for their contributions in aid of the sums obtained from public, educational, and other sources, so that every individual might have it in his power affording his mite, however small, to say, at some future period, in answer the inquiry of “who built that school?” – “I did my share towards it.” The Rev Gentleman then stated that the Church Catechism would be taught the school generally, but that if the parents of any child conscientiously objected to that course, and after due argument the question, persisted in their objections, it would not be insisted on. There was considerable number of the villagers present, notwithstanding that a heavy rain was falling, for which “inclemency” the Rev Gentleman most appropriately, under circumstances of the recent drought, expressed thankfulness, and hoped that the school about to be erected, might hereafter have the same revivifying effects upon the minds and morals of the rising generation, as the copious showers falling from the heavens would have upon the parched earth. We understand that in addition to the gift of the land by Mrs Smith, Mr Walker has received £100 from the Privy Council, £50 from the National Society, £20 from G L Fox, Esq, £10 from Mrs Lawrence, of Studley, and £10 from G Sandars, Esq, besides several other handsome benefactions, and that a confident hope is entertained that enough will be subscribed to build a master’s house, as well the school.

The school had opened by early the following year, as gleaned from another Intelligencer piece.

Leeds Intelligencer
Saturday 17 May 1845


On Wednesday last, the girls and boys taught in the National Schools at Wrenthorpe, near Wakefield, were, through the kindness of several parties in the neighbourhood, regaled with tea, buns, &c. The friends of National education will be glad to learn that although the above school has only been opened about four months it already numbers upwards of two hundred scholars [out of a population estimated, in 1844, as 1,100], who are under the care of Mrs Senior and Mr Hoadley.

The National School functioned for 35 years, closing in 1879, a couple of years after Wrenthorpe Board School was built. The 1844 building is now part of Wrenthorpe Mission.