First records relating to a school in Temple Sowerby appear in 1672 when the Curate, Thomas Dawson, was licensed to teach in the Chapel of St. James. A schoolhouse was begun in the 18th century and in the 19th century the school was in a building adjacent to Sheriff House. A new school was eventually built on the present site. The number of pupils in the late 19th century was as high as 80 and this building proved too small and an extension was commenced in 1899 and opened in 1900.
In the late 19th century school attendance appeared to be an issue. Attendances were often irregular at certain times of the year with boys having time off school to work on the land, for example at harvest times and girls having days away for house cleaning. In winter attendance was often affected by bad weather conditions. An Attendance Officer came to school weekly to check the registers and one family was prosecuted by the School Attendance Committee for their children’s poor attendance. Prizes were given for regular attendance and medals awarded for perfect attendance. Michael Cleasby has a medal in his possession which is inscribed on one side “Westmorland County Council” and on the other side “Never absent, never late. William Cleasby 1902”.
The picture shows the school children outside the Victory Hall in December 1939.
Early in the 20th century lessons Included arithmetic, geography, grammar and scripture, as well as needlework for the girls! Older girls also attended Kirkby Thore School for cookery.
Most children left at the age of 14. Others went to senior schools at Penrith or Appleby to further their education. The Vicar, Doctor and Dentist made regular visits. Illness was always a problem -whooping cough, diphtheria, scarlet fever and measles -and in 1912 the school was closed for three weeks due to illness. Later in the 20th century penicillin and antibiotics were developed, and a measles vaccine found.
The pupils were taught by a Headmaster or Mistress with an Assistant and often a Pupil Teacher. In 1921 Miss Nellie Jenkinson commenced her duties as a Pupil Teacher at Temple Sowerby. One Headmistress, Miss Agnes Watson (1910 to 1933) was killed on the A66. In her will she bequeathed money to the school which is still held in the Agnes Watson Trust. In 1933 Miss Annie Taylor commenced as an Assistant Teacher. She later became Mrs. Haig and then Mrs. Nixon and was made Headmistress in 1951. Up to now she has been the longest serving Head. She retired in 1980.
In the 1940s, before there were swimming pools at Penrith and Appleby, the Headmaster, Mr Haig, used to take the pupils to Red Scar on the River Eden and, with a long rope, taught the pupils to swim.
In the 1980s the school was threatened with closure. The pupils travelled to County Hall, Kendal, to lobby County Councillors. The village came out in force and managed to save the school which, since then, has gone from strength to strength.
In 1984 the school was awarded a Save The Children Fund Certificate for raising £120 for the Ethiopian Famine Appeal Fund. It has also had success by winning a National Curriculum Award after having an excellent OFSTED inspection in 1996. As a result of this inspection the school was named as one of the best small schools in the country and on 16th July 1997 the Headmistress, Brenda Nicholls, was invited to Highgrove, Gloucestershire, the home of HRH Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales.
The Oasis Holiday Village (now Centre Parcs) which had opened for business in May 1997 was officially opened by the Queen on 20th March 1998. It was a memorable occasion for the children. The pupils along with their head teacher, Mrs. Brenda Nicholls, and other teaching staff, had a brief chat with Her Majesty. She also spent time chatting with four of the pupils whose names had been drawn out of a hat, about a special wildlife collage they had created to mark the special occasion. The collage depicted a tree and numerous animals found within the forest. An 80 -strong group from the school including parents and play group members, were then invited to spend the rest of the day enjoying the facilities of the Holiday Village.
The outside toilets were replaced by a new toilet block in the early 1990s. In 1996 a nursery extension was built which was mainly funded by The Friends of Temple Sowerby School and as we go into the new Millennium a further extension has been added to provide gym facilities a dining hall and an extra classroom. Education has developed throughout the 20th century and the school reflects much of what has happened nationally. In July 2000 there were 46 pupils on the register and 45 in the nursery group.
In October 2007, the school children played a prominent role in the opening ceremony of the A66 bypass for the village. They had followed closely the long campaign for the bypass, then the construction and associated landscaping, such as tree planting. Their walk to school would now be considerably safer.