A Brief History of Robert Windle's Foundation
The Earby Grammar School has provided education to the people of the Ancient Parish of Thornton in Craven (this includes Thornton, Earby, Kelbrook and Harden). for over 400 years. It is owned and run by Robert Windle's Foundation. The school building situated on School Lane Earby, is still in use and is held in high regard by local people. The Robert Windle Foundation is a registered charity, whose role is to provide help with education to the youth of the ancient Parish of Thornton-in Craven.
The Grammar School was built in 1600 following a bequest left to the people of Thornton-in-Craven by Robert Windle his complicated will included monies left to the inhabitants of the parish. Eventually the legal complications were dealt with and a school was built.
In the 1500’s the Windle family were prosperous yeoman farmers in and around Earby and Thornton-in-Craven. Probably at the farm once called “Moorside” and now named “Windle Field” They were wealthy enough to be able to afford to send their sons to be educated. Robert Windle was probably born sometime around 1530. It is not known where Robert Windle received his early education, but by the age of 14 years he attended the University of Oxford where he studied to become a priest. He took holy orders and became a rector in Oxfordshire in 1556, Windle died in 1591.
The building was built in the fashionable Elizabethan house style of local sandstone; the roof was covered in stone slates. The windows were made with chamfered mullions to allow more light to enter. It would have been a very impressive modern building in its time. In front of the school is a garden of around 1½ acres. The school was also home to the head teacher and his family, their living accommodations was in the downstairs room to the right of the main door and the whole of the upper floor. The school room was in the downstairs room to the left of the main door.
In 1894 a new group of trustees were appointed, the whole building with the exception of the porch and kitchen was converted into one large classroom, making the room lighter and more airy. By removing the floor of the upper storey and large windows with hoppers for ventilation were built into the back wall. A new house was built for the head teacher on the plot of land next to the school. This was split into two houses in the early 1920's and they are now called Dane Cottage and Dane House.
The school was held in some repute for the teaching of Latin and English. In 1904 the trustees resolved that the school should be transferred to the local authority under the County Council conditions that both the school and the endowment was to be used by the County Council for secondary education.
The tenancy of the Grammar School was terminated by the Council on 31 July 1911 when Alder Hill School opened. The Grammar School being no longer fit for the education of children. The trustees however continued to support education in Earby by issuing grants to local scholars, from funds raised by renting to various organisations and the County Council ran the library and clinic from there, until 1970.
The Earby Mines Research Group then took over the building as a Lead Mining Museum; and remained in the building until July 2015. During the 1990’s the Group took on a major upgrade of the building, with grants from English Heritage and the National Lottery. This included re roofing, reinserting the upper floor and stairs, installing a lift and facilities for the disabled and generally bringing the building up to modern standards. The Museum held one of the country’s largest collections of lead mining artefacts and was of national importance. When this Group folded in July 2015 all the exhibits were relocated into the Dales Museum in Hawes.
Today the Grammar School is back in the hands of the Trustees. The first floor is now rented out to two local businesses, Mrs Bead and Danielle Kay Medical Herbalist, which help to cover the running costs of the building. The ground floor is available for hire for any type of occasion, from meetings to special occasions. A Facebook fundraising group has been created, which is helping to cover the cost of the major repairs that need carrying out. This will also create funds for grants to any local schools, local groups working with children or individuals who request financial help with their studies.