Education in the Castle Precinct, Lancaster

by Lynda Burke

Lancaster’s earliest known educational establishment is also mentioned in a deed by the Abbess of Syon of 4 August 1469, granting John Gardyner of Bailrigg, a former Mayor of the town, the lease of a water-mill on the River Lune and some nearby land in Newton for two hundred years. This was to enable him to maintain a chaplain to celebrate worship in the Church of St. Mary and instruct boys in (Latin) grammar. Gardyner also built almshouses and appointed a chantry priest. The chantry was suppressed in 1560 t the Dissolution of the monasteries but was rebuilt in 1792 to house ‘four poor persons’ (see City Council website) and remains near the Vicarage.

The nearby graveyard and coming of the railway prevented expansion on the site so in 1851 the school moved to East Road. Rev. Thomas Faulkner Lee, formerly of St Alban’s Grammar School, came with his wife and three daughters as Head. Then as now when a major change is afoot often a newcomer comes from afar to take charge, as with the Bank of England currently. From 1613 to 1939 all but four headmasters were clergymen, but not Canadians, so far as I know. Illustrious old boys include Richard Owen and Edward Frankland.

In 1896 a Miss Bradshaw bequeathed funds for urgent repairs and the establishment of a board of governors, including representatives of the universities of Manchester and Liverpool, city and county councillors, the School Board and the trustees of her Will. Thus the school entered the state system.


The Friends School, Lancaster was formed in 1690 by the Society of Friends. The Meeting House still stands on Meeting House Lane. The school buildings were behind that, facing the Castle. About 50 years ago some of the boys boarded at the home of one of the masters on Westbourne Road. The Friends ran the school until 1969 when it became a charity and was renamed The George Fox School.  It closed in August 1988, missing its tercentenary by just three years. Though run by the Friends, pupils were from many denominations. The excellent website of Lancaster Archaeological and Historical Society gives more information and a virtual tour of Lancaster’s notable buildings, many in the area of the Castle.


The Institute was among the earliest, and is decorated for Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. Its librarian lived on Castle Hill. The pedestrians on the left are by the Kings Arms Hotel. Such institutes were often founded and/or subsidised by far-sighted local employers, knowing that a better-educated workforce was for the common good. It was set up following a meeting in 1823. One of those present, B Dockray esq. ,donated 5.000 books – a very benevolent start. Before the building was ready various meeting rooms were used, including the Muses’ Room in Sun Street square. William Storey, older brother of Lancaster mayor Thomas Storey, was the Institute secretary for some years. William started life as a painter and later became the prosperous manufacturer of table baize who employed so many Lancastrians. He and his family lived nearby at Westfield.


In 1891, the Storey Institute was built on the site of the Mechanics Institute, to a design by Paley and Austin. In the 1841 census we see Edward Paley, as a boy of 17, lodging with architect Edmund Sharp(e) on St Leonardgate. In 1851 he is with Edward Farmer (born in Exeter), an ‘ornamental wood carver’ at 21 Castle Hill. Later that spring Edward married Edmund Sharpe’s sister Frances, of Knutsford, Cheshire.

Sir Thomas Storey, councillor and four times mayor of Lancaster, and manufacturer with his brother William, donated this handsome building to the town in 1893 as a technical and science school, newsroom, library, art school and gallery and concert venue. In 1904, Thomas’ oldest son Herbert Lushington Storey, gave £10,000 to extend the Institute up Castle Hill to commemorate the 1901 accession of Edward VII, who opened the Town Hall.

The Storeys by themselves would merit a project: Thomas was third of the seven sons of Isaac and Phebe Storey who came as economic migrants from Bardsea to improve the prospects of their family – there were also two daughters. Maybe they had some of the dynamism and fire of their border reiver ancestors.

Other educators

A. In the 1841 Census

Elizabeth Hill 48, wife of Thomas Hill, a tailor, is a schoolmistress, in Gardner’s Chantry. In 1851 she is widowed and working as a Stocking Grafter. It may be that she had taught the younger boys of the Grammar School, as he lived in Gardyner’s Chantry, named after the school’s benefactor. Perhaps she retired when the school moved in 1851 under Rev. Lee – he and his wife and daughters moving into School House, which still stands on East Road.

Sarah Jarry, 15, was governess for Joseph Dockray, who lives at 1 Church Street, by Covell Cross. Nothing further is known of her.

B. In the 1851 Census

Eleanor Simpson 55, a British subject born in the West Indies, is running a School for Ladies on Castle Hill. It has not been possible to trace her in any other census.

C. In the 1871 Census

Harriet Allwood 17 is another young governess and Robert High, 15, a Pupil Teacher, both on Castle Hill. It has not been possible to trace them further.

 D. In the 1871 Census

Mary Jackson, elementary school teacher, 28 at 11 St Mary’s Parade

E. In the 1881 Census

William Middleton, 22 teacher, born in Bentham

Henrietta Atherton, 25, school governess (born in Liverpool)

George Gilchrist, 19 (born in Lancaster)

Laurenz Schmidtz, (sic) 58 Teacher of Music and Languages, born Rhine, Germany

NB The Temperance hotel was at no. 21 in this census, 31 in 1901

F. In the 1891 Census

Mary Jackson 28 Elementary School Teacher at 1 St Mary’s Parade

G. In the 1901 Census

Cecilia Atherton, 36 Governess at19 Castle Hill, also Henrietta Atherton, 34, Teacher

Margaret Johnson, 28, Governess at 10 Castle Park

James Dowbiggin, 40, Curator at School of Art, Castle Park (likely to be at Storey. Kings Arms also included as part of Castle Park.

Harriet Allwood, 37, Teacher of Music at 1 Castle Grove

H. In the 1911 Census

Anne Catherine Diaper 26, Certificated Teacher (from Loughborough) at Aldren Hotel, 9 Castle Hill

Harriett Allwood, 57, Professor of Music, at Castle Grove

Catherine Walmsley, 56, School Principal 56 at 2 Castle Park (likely to be the Storey Institute) also

James Alexander Rose, 18, Teacher, same address

Mary Lait, 28, School Teacher at 6 Castle Park

George Frederick Wesley Martin, 48, Organist & Teacher of Music at 14 Castle Park

However, at 16 Castle Hill (though the numbering may not equate to today’s) in 1851 we find the eminently traceable family of School Master Lancelot Sanderson, born Morland, Westmorland about 1792, with his wife Agnes and children. In 1841 they lived at Mill Lane, near Lune Street, Lancelot then described as a gentleman. They had six children, Elizabeth, John, Sarah Jane, Mary, Lancelot junior and Edward. By 1861 Lancelot senior had retired and moved to nearby Church Street, but his three daughters are boarding school mistresses. But where? That remains to be seen. Their father died in 1871, still at Church Street so let us turn to the brothers. Did Lancelot teach at the grammar school? Proximity might suggest that.

Lancelot and Agnes’ oldest son John Sanderson was born in 1831. With relatively common forename and surname, he was hard to track. However, if the name Lancelot occurs among his children, we may be on the right track. It seems John entered banking and rose to be area manager of Lancashire and Westmorland. In 1861 a John Sanderson, born 1831, is a bank cashier in Church Street. He married Alice Tunstall, daughter of widowed Eleanor Tunstall, in the Sept quarter of 1859. They had children Eleanor, born 1863, Lancelot a year later and John in 1867, so it may be safe to suppose that this John is indeed the son of Lancelot and Agnes, especially as his wife, Alice Tunstall, herself attended boarding school at Milnthorpe which would give them some common ground.

Neither Lancelot, born in 1864, nor his younger brother John Tunstall, followed their grandfather into teaching – both went into law, Lancelot becoming a barrister – more of him below.
John Sanderson married Josephine Mary Satterthwaite Edmondson in June 1894 and they had children Josephine Marjorie (1895), Thomas Lancelot (1900) and Robert Tunstall) in 1906.

As for Lancelot, born 1864, he became a barrister, taking silk in 1903 having been appointed Recorder of Wigan in 1901. He was elected Conservative MP for Appleby in 1910 barrister of the Inner re-elected in the general election of December 1910, but resigned his seat and recordership in October 1915, when he was appointed Chief Justice of the High Court of Judicature in Calcutta. Upon his resignation from that position in 1926, he was appointed to the Privy Council and sat on its Judicial Committee from 1934 until 1935. He died in Ward House, Ellel Lancaster aged 80 yrs. 137 days.

He was also an occasional county cricketer (right-hand bat, slow bowler), playing two first-class matches; for Lancashire in 1884, and for the MCC in 1888.

The second son of his grandparents, Lancelot and Agnes Sanderson of Castle Hill, was his uncle Lancelot, born 1838, who married Katherine Susan Oldfield Warner in autumn 1864. He took Holy Orders, followed his father into teaching and became a master at Elstree School. By 1901 he owned the school. He and Katherine produced children as follows:

Edward Lancelot, Katherine, John, Maria, Agnes, Henry, Geraldine, Violet, Francis – by 1881 – and then Frederick, Katherine, Flora, Angela, Lancelot, Ellen, if the censuses are to be believed. Remarkable, even if the first Katherine died in infancy!

Clearly teaching was a significant aspect of the Castle area from very early days, and its ramifications continue. It would be fascinating to trace more of the later educators, not to mention the dynasties of the Storeys and Sandersons, but the time available did not permit that.

By coincidence a remarkable north-countryman was also a famous reforming head of Oundle School, Frederick William Sanderson, 1857-1922 born in Durham, who scandalised his colleagues both by not having taken Holy Orders, and his radical ideas, not to mention his strong accent, which he never lost. It may have helped that his Cambridge tutor was from Carlisle. Sanderson was much admired by HG Wells who sent his sons to Oundle, and projected a biography of their head. Sadly Sanderson collapsed with a heart attack and died just after addressing the National Union of Scientific Workers in London, a meeting attended by Wells among many others.


I was inspired to research this topic because I am an educator, founded Lindow Tutor Group, lived on Castle Hill for seven years and taught there for a total of 15 years.



Leave a Reply