Quakers, Sauls and Education

By Richard Saul

This article was published in the August 2021 edition of Soul Search, the Journal of The Sole Society

The Quaker movement had its origins in Cumberland and it is recorded that Robert Saul and Simon Osmotherly helped George Fox to hold an early meeting in 1657. The Quakers in Cumbria formed a very active movement and Quakerism moved through the northern counties spreading across England during the late 17th century. Fox founded schools for the education of Quaker children and during the 18th century many new schools were established.
In previous articles we have learnt of the success of Greenrow Academy and of the Mathematician Joseph Saul (Soul Search August 2020, April 2021) and we can now see a wider development of education involving Quakers in Cumbria and neighbouring counties.
The development can best be illustrated by looking at a number of individual schools in the area.

Giggleswick School
Founded 1499 and still in existence in the 21st Century. A history of the school is freely available on the internet and it tells of the involvement of Quakers in the late 17th century in its development. We know that Joseph Saul (Mathematician 1751-1798) was writing Master at Giggleswick and his daughter Margaret married John Howson who was a Principal at Giggleswick. The Howson family had Quaker roots in the area. John and Margaret had several children including John Saul Howson who became Principal of Liverpool College. He married Mary Cropper from a prominent Quaker family in Liverpool.

 Giggleswick School.
Image, Chris Eccleston, licenced under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

John Draper’s School Whitehaven
John Draper (born Drape) was of the Quaker Drape family of Calvo in Holme Cultram and in around 1750 he established a school for the teaching of Mathematics and Navigation. Whitehaven was at the time a major town and shipping centre and needed the skills his school could develop. He school was successful and Draper wrote two textbooks (The Young Student’s Pocket Companion (Mathematics) 1772, and Navigator’s Veni Mecum 1774).
Draper died in 1776 and the school closed. His son John inherited his equipment and established his own school, Greenrow Academy in Silloth, which opened in 1780.

Greenrow Academy Silloth
Much has already been written about Greenrow Academy in Soul Search (April 2020, April 2021). John Drape, the founder, married Jane Saul of the Quaker Saul family and ran the school until his death in 1795. Joseph Saul (grandson of John Saul and Ann Drape) then became Headmaster until his death in 1842. The school established an excellent reputation during this time. Joseph’s son John took over the school and Isaac Drape (grandson of the founder) followed him. The school went into decline at this time and closed by 1871.
It is very likely that many of the Saul and Drape children attended Greenrow and among them a cousin of Joseph, Draper Saul (note the Christian name!) became Headmaster of the Paddle School, Eaglesfield. The Greenrow student list of 1816 included seven Sauls, six of whom were Joseph’s children and another (Joseph!) probably a nephew.

Paddle School Eaglesfield, Cockermouth
Established in 1818, Paddle School’s headmaster, Draper Saul, was a widely respected Headmaster. He took his own life in 1864 because as he said ‘the board of governors did not understand me. It is reported that he even helped pupils with toothache by removing the offending tooth in front of the class! The school is still in operation today as a C of E Primary Academy and Draper’s role in its history is well documented.
Among his pupils was a William Dixon who wrote a letter to the Brookfield (Wigton) Quaker School magazine (found via Google) about his experiences at school. He attended Pardshaw school, then Paddle School and then completed his education at Brookfield.

Brookfield or Wigton Quaker School
Established in 1815 by Cumberland Quakers the school expanded over the years, peaking in 1970s and then declining numbers led to its closure in 1984. William Dixon (see above) recorded some interesting stories of school life in those days. Brookfield (and Greenrow) were boarding schools and pupils rarely saw their parents or went home. He recalls that he did not see his parents for three and a half years after starting at school. The pupils staged a rebellion over school food –boycotting lesson and meals until the food improved!

Other Cumbrian and Quaker Schools
There were a number of schools in Cumbria established with Quaker connections and some of these had pupils who became household names.

Pardshaw Hall School
Pardshaw was a major meeting place for Cumbrian Quakers and a school was established there for their children. It is recorded that a purpose built school was built in 1745 on the site. John Dalton, later to become the famous ‘father of modern Chemistry’ was born in 1766 at Eaglesfield and attended Pardshaw school before becoming a teacher there at age of 12. In 1781 he moved to Kendal where he taught at Stramongate School.

Stramongate School Kendal, Bewley’s School
This school was founded by the Society of Friends in 1698 and is still in existence as a Primary Academy. It was run by George Bewley, a Quaker who was John Dalton’s cousin, and Dalton and his brother Jonathan took over as Joint Headmasters in 1785 when Bewley retired. Dalton was learned a lot from blind mathematician, John Gough of Kendal, who was one of a group of Mathematicians who contributed to the Gentleman’s Almanac – the Mathematical Repository in the late 18th century. Available freely on the internet a page in the 1786 edition includes contributions from Joseph Saul of Giggleswick, John Gough of Kendal and Thomas White of Dumfries. (Thomas White was a good friend of poet Robert Burns).

Cockermouth Grammar School
The school existed in Cockermouth prior to 1546 and still exists as a Secondary school. Fletcher Christian (Mutiny on the Bounty) was born in Eaglesfield attended this school at the same time as William Wordsworth.
We can see that the Quakers had a major influence on mediaeval education and a number of Sauls were involved in the development of children in the Cumbria area. Do you know of other Soles, Sollys or Sewells who were notable pupils or teachers in these times? If so please let us know.