History of Dunham Massey

Dunham Massey school

In 2009 we celebrated the 250th Anniversary of the founding of Little Heath School in 1759 "in accordance with the will of Thomas Walton, Gentleman" who died in 1757 leaving a sum of money, with interest, "to be used for the building of a school and habitation for a schoolmistress". The Countess of Stamford allotted a piece of land for this purpose.

The schoolroom itself was our present-day kitchen/committee room (not divided as it is today). The schoolmistress's 'habitation' was at the rear of the cottage we now accept as The School House and included a small garden. The front room of the cottage was used as a meeting room for the school Trustees and other important visiting bodies.

Many clues can still be seen from those early beginnings. The cooker recess in today's kitchen was once the site of the inter-connecting door between the Schoolmistress's habitation and the schoolroom. This recess continues through to the committee room, topped by a stone lintel and was the site of a large open fireplace which not only provided heating but was also used for warming food brought by the children for lunch. The sliding glass partition was installed when the school was extended in 1875 and this obviously replaced the original wall which (perhaps) had windows although we have no record of how this might have looked.

Many rules and regulations were made in connection with the school including: "A rent off five shillings a year to be paid to the Lord or Lady of the Manor of Dunham Massey for 5000 years". (The sum of 25p per year is still payable today.) The Church catechism must be taught and learned by heart and daily prayers must be said. The boys should be taught to read and the girls to read, knit, spin and work plain work. Schooling cost 2d per week although the poor were taught free and were provided with a uniform.

Boys were taught until they were seven years of age and girls until they were able to 'work well and read well from the bible.'

Children thus 'duly qualified' were given a bible and common prayer book by the Trustees.

Prior to St Mark's Church being built in 1866, many parishioners had to walk to St Mary's in Bowdon but there is little doubt that strict discipline and a strong Christian ethos played an important role in the life of the school which laid character building foundations for many generations.

Little Heath School closed in l953. The Walton Trust continues to this day.