“A School’s Life 1871 – 2021” - Celebrating St Cuthbert’s Catholic Primary School, Carlisle

A bright late September weekend drew to a close for Bishop Dr. James Chadwick who opened the newly built St Cuthbert's School on Monday 25 September 1871. A new seat of education at the corner of Union St and Myddleton St, Carlisle.

One hundred and fifty years after that happy and memorable evening, the history of this proud School has been documented in 104 pages of words, pictures, drawings, plans, newspaper extracts, and memories of former pupils.

"A School's Life 1871-2021" Celebrating St Cuthbert's Catholic Primary School, Carlisle is a must-read book, not only for those who have been associated with the school, church or historians, but also for those who wish to take a nostalgic look back.

The pages carefully look at the political, social, and economic background that the school has coped with over the past 15 decades. The land was obtained from the Duke of Devonshire with help from Mr Howard following the inspiration of Parish Priest Rev Luke Curry. Upon its opening 250 children were taught by newly qualified 23-year-old Miss Jane Burton in one single large hall which was heated by a coal fire and lit by gas mantles.

As the pages unfold, looking at the formal records shown in its Log Books, highlight fascinating aspects of school life.

Progressively as the 20th Century dawns, we look at some of the lessons that those young children were taught and the enlargement of the school.

The role of the Carlisle's Education Board, subsequently becoming the Education Committee is discussed including the unique electoral system which was used at that time. The Board had a powerful role to play as it developed additional facilities for the children.

The school's managers, from a passive to the current managerial function is discussed in detail, as successive men and women were challenged by change including enlarging the school and debates with government and its bureaucratic officialdom, which at one stage led to near closure of the school particularly when the building fell a little short of the standards which the Inspector wished.

The curriculum from those early days of learning by rote, lines and lines from Shakespeare, to playing a scene today at Keswick's Theatre by the Lake spans many years. Science lessons started by understanding the Potato, which was brought to the school by the Parish Priest. Girls and boys learned different aspects of science. Music has taken a prominent role, from its opening night concert to morale boosting as the children took to the shelters in 1939 until the present when the children sang before pop stars in Manchester. Needlework, cookery, as well as the traditional "3R's" are covered as we move through the years into this electronic age.

The 20-year acrimonious public debate regarding the replacement of the school until it was replaced in 1972, is fully articulated. A debate that was led by the Head Teacher who came to Carlisle in 1954 as the youngest Head in the County, and the first male too. John Letts engaging character, and leadership style read like a whirlwind, including when he saw off a young pupil who had stayed behind to swim for the school. Her parents had moved house and John boarded the train, but before he could get off, he was on the way to Preston. But not until he had become involved in the fascinating incident of a lost shoe!He nurtured two boys who became both FA Cup Winners and England players too.

Fundraising for both the school and charities, including abroad is articulated, and illustrated.

With the new building opened, pupils say good bye, in pictures, to their former 100-year-old class rooms, as life in the current building unfolds too.

The children's health from the early 20th Century including, school meals are discussed, as we move from vaccinations for now forgotten childhood illnesses to the current Covid -19 situation which the school has battled through.

Former pupils memories grace the pages, as they comment on the fond memories of their teachers, and their outdoor visits to The Lakes and Silloth. Misdemeanours and punishments are fondly remembered as was the feared 11+ and School Inspectors.

This book finishes with some interesting appendix too.

Bishop Paul Swarbrick, writes in his introduction, "The result is not simply a history of a school, but the story of a living community, and acknowledgement of those who have contributed to its growth and blossoming"


"A School's Life 1871-2017" published by P3 Publications ISBN 9 980993 488979is available from the School, Church or local bookshops£12.50.

For further information please contact either the school or Derek Nash, Bramerton Lodge, Wood St, Carlisle, CA1 2SF.

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