THE MUSEUM & LIBRARY

Photograph of a plaster bust of William Wordsworth, head to breast.

Today Hawkshead Grammar School is open as a Museum, from 29th March to 31st October. 

The Museum is in the old Grammar School building in the village of Hawkshead, Cumbria.

It houses a unique collection of historic artefacts relating to the ancient School, some of which date back to the Sixteenth Century.

There are multiple rooms and points of interest inside the building for visitors to see.

 

 

William Wordsworth and his brothers attended the Grammar School and boarded with Ann Tyson, first in Hawkshead and later in Colthouse, about half amile away along the shore of Esthwaite Water. Wordsworth liked to walk around the lake and roam the fields before and after school, and it is easy to imagine that today as both the school and the village look much as they did in Wordsworth's day. We offer a 'Walk in Wordsworth's Country' walking map with admission to the museum. 

 

Things to see:

Photograph of a historic classroom with white walls and wooden beams. There are desks lining the walls of the room and rows of desks through the middle. Two lanterns hang from the central beam.

Schoolroom (aka Classroom)

When entering the museum, you will be inside the schoolroom where there are desks from 1675 and 1820. You'll see that the desks are covered in carvings done by the students, using their pen-knives. The different styles of furniture and classroom layout show how classrooms changed over the Centuries. You will also find original paintings in this room, and William Wordsworth's name carved into a desk.

Excerpts from Wordsworth's poems are painted along the top of the classroom walls. They were painted in 1885 for the school's Tercentenery. 

 

Staircase Cabinet 

We put together different displays in the staircase cabinet each year. You will see a range of artefacts and a fascinating exhibition in this part of the museum.

Up the staircase you will see wooden coat pegs, some of which are still marked with the name of the student they belonged to. 

Photograph of Headmaster's study. There is a small bookcase filled with books. A desk covered in papers, books and a quill & ink. A framed picture on the left wall and a mounted bust of Dante on the right wall. The windowsill has a line of geological specimens on it.

 

Headmaster's Study

At the top of the staircase is the Headmaster's study.

This small room is where the Headmaster would retreat to carry out marking, research and administration. In this room you will find out more about some of the Headmasters of the school. 

 

Exhibition Room

Upstairs we have the Exhibition Room, where a range of artefacts and original documents are on display.

The Exhibition Room contains some permanent displayes (such as 'Writing Materials of the Past') and temporary displays (which change each year). This room also contains a desk from 1675 with names carved into it. One of the windowsills also has a carving done by William Wordsworth's younger brother, John. 

 

So, come and visit us!

  • You can feel the atmosphere and almost believe you are in a working schoolroom of 200 years ago.
  • Discover how a grammar school worked in the 1600 to 1800's.
  • See the original desks in the school room.
  • See the Charter signed by Queen Elizabeth I.
  • Find out why the boys drank beer and smoked at school.
  • See a timeline of events at the school, in Hawkshead and across the world.
  • See William Wordsworth’s name carved into the desk, amongst those of other pupils.
  • Learn about Wordsworth’s time at the school.
  •  

    The Library Photograph of a leather bound book with a blue background

    The library is currently closed to the public, but the Governors are working towards making the collection available for public viewing and academic research. The Grammar School Library contains around 1600 historic books. A small number date from the early days of the school in the 16th Century, roughly two -thirds date from the 17th and 18th Centuries and the last third from the 19th Century. The library has been described as "an extraordinary survival of a grammar school library that remains in the building in which it was used for over three centuries".  The Library is considered unique by experts because unlike many old Grammar School libraries across the country, the books here have not been moved to a university special collection but are still in-situ in the original school building.

    If you have an enquiry about the library or a book, please get in touch with us. In our exhibition room upstairs, a small number of books are on display.

    Schoolboy doodles and intriguing annotations by schoolmasters mean that the library has a wealth of stories to offer. This year (2023) we will be displaying some of these doodled books in our temporary exhibition.

     

    Research & the Library Project

    Rare book research today is focused on provenance and what is known as copy-specific information: in an era when most texts, old and new, are digitised and freely available online, the interest is in those unique items that tell a story about that particular book: the inscriptions, the coffee stains, sketches, scribbles and annotations in the margin. 

    Since 2021, a dedicated team of volunteers has been methodically cataloguing and assessing the books for repairs, and we are now some 25% of the way through the collection. Every week we discover fascinating new things about the history of the school, the students, and what kind of books were used in a grammar school education. Make sure to check our social media accounts to see photos of our discoveries!

      

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