The Braithwaite Hall.
In the 18th century, many small schools were set up throughout the country in villages, financed by local benefactors. The Braithwaite Hall, originally known as ‘Sawrey Endowed School’, is one such building. As far as is known, the school existed before 1766 as is mentioned in a document issued by the Board Of Education in 1907:
In 1766 a local man, called William Braithwaite, gave the sum of £600 to three trustees ( a huge amount in those days). The interest on half the amount was to go toward the paying of a school master to teach ‘the poor children of Sawrey’. The remaining £300 it is presumed went towards the building of the school (the main hall as we see it). The first schoolmaster was a Mr Elleray in 1773. It is possible that prior to his arrival the school was in use and lessons being taken by a ‘dame’ teacher, which was common in many villages.
At that time the school consisted of the present main hall, which had a gallery running along the west wall. Unusually the staircase into the gallery rose from in front not behind as was more usual. This was probably to savwe space in the gallery, as there would be no stairwell. This is confirmed by a) the joist holes still visible all the way across the west wall, b) the smallness of the north east window witha splayed base (for safety?) as the staircase was in front and c) the ‘dado’ panels under the window are different, being inserted when the gallery and stairs were removed (late 19th century?).
Usually, and there is no reason to believe Sawrey was an exeption, the gallery was used for teaching the older children by the master, while the younger children were taught in the main room possibly by an assistant or prefect pupils with the master watching from above.
Over the years various members of the Braithwaite family donated large amounts of money to the school. At some time in the 19th century the school was enlarged by the addition of an extra room on the north side, covering over the north west window (which was made into cupboards). This smaller room was a fine meeting room, with a fireplace in the north west corner. In the 1970s this room was converted into toilets and a cloakroom area.
Until 1869, when the parish church was built, St Peter’s school was used as a chapel of ease. Sawrey was until 1869 part of hawkshead parish because of the distance from hawkshead. Services were held in the schoolroom, which was special licensed by the church for such use. It is thought that an old large table was used for the alter.
In 1878 the running of the school passed into the hands of the Charity Commissioners. It is possibly at around this time the school was once again extended by the addition of the room at the west end, which is now the kitchen. The old doors were then adjusted to open outwards instead of into the hall.
Over the years since 1773 the building has seen many changes, such as solid fuel central heating installed. It is not known when the fireplace in the main hall was blocked off but the fireplaces in the small classroom and kitchen were in use until quite recently. Electric lighting replaced the old oil lamps hanging from the ceilings (1930s or 40s). In the 1970s the central heating system was removed as it was extremely un-economical and replaced by overhead elements, which hung from the ceiling. Nightstore heaters and convector heaters later replaced these. The windows lost their leaded lights (except the high east window which retains its diamond leaded glass) and openable windows inserted for ventilation. The original flag floor was covered over with a wooden floor, which in turn was covered by ash felt. This was in turn covered with a new wooden floor (1980s). This means that the floor is now about 12 cms higher than the original and explains the step up just inside the old main doors.
In 1994 the south side of the main roof was in a dangerous condition and re roofing commenced. The north side had been replaced in the 19th century. It was only when the slates were removed that it was found the roof had been built with second hand timbers in 1773, who knows just how old these timbers were then? ^The old slates were re hung, unlike the north side where they were replaced.
Although the building is a hotchpotch of different additions, some better than others, it is only when we know the historic background of the hall that we can fully appreciate what we have today. Recently many items have required attention, some greater than others. For a small community this is quite a burden but happily the work is being carried out slowly but surely.
Its present function is a little different fro what it was intended for but its function as a centre for the local community still remains. Let us hope that the Braithwaite Hall continues to serve future generations as it has served all those over the last 200 and more years.
By an Indenture dated 17th oct 1899, reciting that a piece of land, about three quarters of an acre in extent, situate on SawreyGreen, had been allotted to William Braithwaite his heirs and assigns, in lieu of certain right of common, the said William Braithwaite conveyed the same to three trustees therein named, their heirs and assigns, in trust to permit the schoolmaster for the time being, who should teach reading and writing at the schoolhouse erected on the said piece of land, to receive the rents and profits to his use. There is now about an acre of land belonging to and adjoining the school and used as a playground by the children.
“A school was in existence at some date prior to 1766 and was endowed at that date with a sum of £300 by Mr William Braithwaite. The present premises were conveyed to trustees by deed of 17th October 1799, upon trust ‘to permit and suffer the schoolmaster for the time being who shall actually teach reading and writing at the schoolhouse already erected on the piece or parcel of ground hereby granted and enfeoffed (sic) at Farther Sawrey..... ’ The school was rebuilt in 1835 and half of it was licensed for public worship and used for the purpose until the erection of the church. The school would appear to have been originally built on a piece of common or waste land at Sawrey Green”.