The Story of the Sawrey Institute

1884 – 1984

(Centenary lecture given at Sawrey Institute on 12 January 1984 by the Rev J P and Mrs Inman)

1884 Queen Victoria was on the throne.  She was 65 and had 8 children living.  Edward was Prince of Wales.  He was 43 and had 5 children living.  Gladstone was Prime Minister for the second time.  Here in Sawrey there was a flourishing Church and School.

The Village Institute began as a Reading Room in this cottage belonging to Mr Brydson of Bryerswood Estate for a rent of £3 per annum.  It was afterwards bought for £150.

Suitably Mr Bridson was the first President with a clergyman the Revd H T Baines of Hawkshead Grammar School as Vice-President.  The Vicar, the Revd S Hartley was also on the committee and played an active part in the Institute’s affairs.  January 28th 1884 was the actual opening day.  The Reading room offered you the choice of daily papers, weekly papers and 2 monthly magazines including the Liverpool Daily Post, Evening Standard and Whitehaven Weekly News, Penrith Observer, Pictorial World, Illustrated London News, Punch and Chambers Journal monthly, a gift of Revd HT Baines.

After these papers had been in the Reading Room for a reasonable period individual members paid for the right to take them home (Usually at an annual auction).  As time went on other papers would be substituted – at one time the Manchester Guardian replaced the Liverpool Post.  From a note in 1887 we learn that the papers were purchased from the Windermere Station Bookstall!

February 1884 – A caretaker was appointed for 1/- per week to be provided with two black lead brushes, one sweeping brush and one scrubbing brush.  Lighting was by a Daplex lamp.

May 1884 – The Institute had 26 members but the secretary reported they were 30 shillings and 7d  “in the Red”.  The chairman said he was sure Mrs Ogden would pay the debt.  By September 1884 the funds show a balance of £2.

October 1884  The caretaker is to be paid 1/6 per week for the winter quarter.  There is a mention now of a games room and a Bagatelle Board is mentioned.  Enthusiastic efforts are made at the fund raising.  A concert is held in the school (now the Braithwaite Hall) and a Barn Dance in Briars Barn.

June 1885  As often happens in Institutions the time came when you have to define your rules.  When is a visitor not a visitor?  No person residing within 1½  miles of the Reading Room can be regarded as a visitor.  Quarrels about closing lead to an official clock 1887.

July 1885  A picnic and dance to be held in a field offered by Mr Bridson, Swainson’s Band was engaged with a violin, cornet and harp.  100 handbills advertising the event were printed together with 500 tickets.  The committee to have red rosettes and there were to be 8 gatekeepers.  The pattern of concerts and dances was to become a social fixture in the ensuing years as well as a money maker.

October 1885 – Brings us the first mention of Billards.  A lamp is purchased at a cost of 12/6 for the Billiard Room and the Billiard table legs are to wrapped in sackcloth.

February 1886 ­ A long dance is planned which is to last from 7pm to 4am and is to include 3 sets of dancers.  Mrs Swainson of the Sawrey Hotel is to provide refreshments.  Tickets 1/6 Gents  1/; Ladies.  There is a proposal that the Institute opening time be extended from 9.30pm to 10pm upon which the caretaker resigns.  The advert for the new caretaker stipulates that the rooms were to be washed weekly and swept and dusted daily.  Fires to be lighted in the winter months – for 1/9 per week.

1887 – Is the Jubilee Year (50 years of Queen Victoria).  It is decided that the Billiard table table free in Jubilee week.  1887 also marked the retirement of Mr S Byers as the first secretary.  His present at his request was a Bible for his son.  The new secretary was Jas Leake who was to hold office for a very long time.  Under him the dances are referred to as Balls.  An Easter Concert was held this year in aid of school funds – a nice touch of village co-operation.

1888 – They decided to add novels to the reading room library.  It takes them 3 meetings to decide on which novels to order.  The Vicar helps by giving the complete works of Walter Scott.  In 1893, Bound volumes of books “for the young” are offered to school as very little used.

1890 – Hawkshead challenge Sawrey to Billiard contest.  Hawkshead won by 141 points. 

1891 – A second hand billiard table purchased 10ft by 5ft for £28 gave great satisfaction. 

1892 - The Ball this year was from 7.30pm to 3am.  The tickets were 2/; for gentlemen and 1/6 for ladies including tea.  Cleaning the Institute now cost 3/; a week.  An unhappy misunderstanding was recorded in a letter from the Lakeside Institute which had challenged Sawrey to billiard and whist.  The complained that they had prepared supper for 32 and no one had turned up.  In defence Sawrey claimed that they could not come because of the shortness on notice of the invitation.

1893 - Miss Bridson was given permission to hold a wood carving class in one of the lower rooms.

- A book on Parish Councils to be obtained – the modern form of Parish Councils had just been set up.  Happier relations exist with Lakeside – 4 private traps are hired to visit Lakeside. 

1895 - 48 members partook of a potato pie supper at Tower Bank Arms. The furniture and fittings were insured this year for £100. 

1895-1914 A time of improvements to furnishings, of re-decoration and repairs.  A time of many friendly competitions with Wray, Hawkshead, Graythwaite and Lakeside – even as far as Swarthmoor 1897 a visit that went wrong.  A letter from Hawkshead apologising for the treatment given to us by the management of their institute.  Note: The game was stopped at 25 past ten when only two games of 50 were left for decision.  This caused much unpleasantness among the members.

1904 – Happier visits A match with Hawkshead.  After playing was over a song was proposed and the following were rendered and enjoyed by all:-

Kitty Wells sung by J S Byers

Queen of the Earth sung by R Atkinson

Hunting Song sung by W Postlethwaire

The Anchor’s Weighed sung by Joe Atkinson

Tommy Atkis sung by E Atkinson

McNamara’s Band sung by J Butler

The supper was served in the school and gave great satisfaction.  Captain Hind proposed the health of the Sawrey members in a nice little speech and J S Leake replied.  A verse of Old Lang Syne and God ~Save the King closed the evening.

- (Shrove Tuesday).  Graythwaite were entertained to a match at Sawrey after which a potato pie supper was held in the school.  Mr Simpson proposed “HM Duke of Lancaster” “ Our friends from Graythwaite”, to which Mr Ivison (head gardener) responded.  All went to the Institute for a smoke closing at 11pm with the National Anthem and cheers after a pleasant evening.

1898 – The buildings were bought.

1900  - Mr Bridson (1st President resigns) succeeded by Major Beck.

1901 – Decide to go to Lakeside by Char-a-banc (horse drawn).  A new money maker is found in a rummage sale which brings in £15.

1903 – It was agreed that a letter be again sent to Mr Shipley (former tenant of Sawrey Hotel) telling him that the chairs and forms that had been borrowed from the Institute are still there and that the present tenant (Mr Rowe) will not return them as he says he paid for them on entry. 

April 1905 – Letters have been sent to Mr Shipley and Mr Rowe.  The latter had promised to take it to Mr Thompson who made the valuation at the change of tenancy.

July 1905  - Chairs and forms still not returned.  Further letters are to be sent and if not returned by 1st August the matter to be put in the hands of a solicitor.

October 1905 – Further letters are to be sent to the parties concerned threatening legal action if chairs and forms not returned.

1906 – Within 3 days, however, it was not until January 1906 that a solicitor (Mr Bownass) was briefed.  After the case had been entered into court Mr Rowe handed them over and paid the court fees.  Mr Bownass refused to make any charge for his trouble in the matter and made the Institute a present of his fees.

1907 – The minute book of this period contained no balance sheets or other statements of account but in this year Mr Edmundson is recorded as paying off the Bank deficit of £35.  It looks as if running expenses and repairs had been outstripping income for sometime.  Yet there was a great deal of self help where repairs were concerned.  In April 1907 Mr T Black kindly offered to repair the chairs if rushes were provided.  This left over till the reeds were fit for pulling.

A Whist league was set up at this time between Sawrey, Hawkshead, Wray and Outgate but there were some difficult moments. 

1908 – Wray and Hawkshead were defeated in most games whilst Sawrey and Outgate won an equal number of games.  They played off at Hawkshead on February 10th but owing to a dispute the game was declared off and each side paid for their own supper (1/- each) in the Town Hall afterwards.

In 1908 the Revd H T Baines who had been Vice-President at the start and then President, died.  The Institute turned again to Major Beck but he too soon died and the new President in 1912 W Burra Simpson made regular financial statements a condition of his acceptance.  From these we gather the running costs were about £25 a year of which the caretaker £7, newspapers £6, coal £5 were the chief items.  Col Sandys £1-1-0  R H Edmundson £1-1-0 are steady patrons but there is not the whip round the big houses we find in Wray.  Members subscriptions bring in £7, Billiard Fees £8, Whist drives £3/£4 are the chief sources of income.  A balance in hand of 15/- (1912) was better than the debit balance £1-12-9 (1911).

A last look at the pre-war world.

1912 March 12th  - A potato pie supper at which the following toasts were drunk: 

T Tebay – a member lately gone to Canada

The Captains of the Billard and Whist team.

The Caterers and Waitresses

The Chairman and Secretary – who replied.

A concert followed at which the following songs were included – Annie Lawrie (a 4 part song) The Admiral’s Broom, I Love a Lassie, Simon and Cellarer and Dreaming.

Then a collection was taken, one of the most enjoyable evenings.

1914 - (Shrove Tuesday) – A potato pie supper was held.  One whole pie was left and given to the school next day.  The children enjoyed it.

1915 - War slowly impinges.  During this present crisis the Institute was closed from May to September but was not opened until October.  But note a more social revolution.  The Inspector of National Insurance said Insurance cards for the caretaker must be stamped as from January 1914 (The Welfare State).  The question of admitting ladies to the Institute left over to New Year.  Members subs very much down – debit balance of £1-14-9 but an attempt was made to get more honorary members and there was a credit balance in 1916 and 1917.

1917  An Annual list referred to those killed. Pte Fleming.

1919 – The Institute left open for the summer – a victory summer – but old practice returned for the next year.  Pattern of activities goes on and seems to have been well supported – each year paying its way.  A measure of economy was introduced in 1923 when on retirement of the caretaker it was decided that members do the work in turns weekly.  Ten names were at once handed in.

1926 – Nationally the General strike but important in Sawrey in that year the name of Mr H Byers was added to the committee.

In 1926 and the following years Newspapers  taken included some now no longer in production.  A year’s choice varied between “Exchange and Mart”, “Whitehaven News”, “ Lakes Herald”, “Pearsons Weekly”, “Humorist”, “Daily Despatch”, “Daily Mirror”, “Daily Sketch”, and the “Daily Express”.

The Library  was on free loan to members, 2d per volume per week for outsiders.

A Dart Board  and Ring Board were added downstairs in 1928.

Table Tennis came in 1929 at ½d a game.

Efforts: - Whist (1/-) and Dance (1/-) had 21 tables.

Billiards had a Christmas Competition and American Tournament.

A long Night Dance in 1928 was to Windermerians Dance Band, Potato pie supper followed by “an enjoyable snoking concert”.

Competitions included Married v Single members and Far v Near Sawrey.

The funds of the defunct Football Club brought £9-6-6.

Membership: - Mr James Leake left the district and secretaryship after 39 yrs.  7 members were on a weekly caretaking rota.  The new secretary listed the trustees that Deeds were at the Bank of Liverpool in Bowness.  The building was insured for £2,000 (4/- premium).  Furniture for £150 (premium 3/-) Caretaker appointed 1927 for 5/- a week (7/- in 1930).  Members spring-cleaned as usual in April 1928 and were thanked for cleaning and painting.

Income was from donations by patrons, members subs, the rent of outbuildings, fees for games played and efforts.  Income tax had to be paid. 

1932 – 32 sat down to supper and a jolly evening was spent.  Winners paid 1/-, Losers 1/6 a head.  Mr MacFarlane’s cue and case were won by Mr J Helme.  Mr J Pooley’s 2cwt coal was won by R Bunting.  Sawrey played Hawkshead winning at whist and ping pong, losing at billards.

They also played Outgate, Bowness and Wray.  Bands for dances were Miss Nicholson’s of Outgate, the Dominoes and Jacksons.

1934 – Electric lighting was installed; the caretakers wages were reduced to 5/- as lamps  were no longer needed.  Members subs were 5/- a quarter, Ladies being allowed on Saturdays at 6d a quarter.

1936 – A light was put outside.  Fortnightly whist drives made £15-19-6.  A Potato Pie supper was paid for by the losers, Mr Dawson catering at 1/3 a head. 

January 11th 1937  - Mr Harry Byers became secretary.  Byelaws were revised.  In 1938 Mr R Taylor was given a walnut chiming clock in recognition of 50 years as treasurer. 

The cue holders handicap was held till 1939, Ferry Hotel and Sawrey Hotel giving the prizes.

WARTIME – brought the expense of blackout.

Sawrey Minature Rifle Club used the hall.

1940 – Sandwiches and teas replaced supper, whist replaced the concert “Picture Post” and “War” were taken up.

The death of R Taylor (Treasurer for 52 years) left only 1 trustee – J E Leake.  New trustees were appointed: D Fleming, E Devon, J Preston, W Brownriggs and H Byers.  Mr Jones gave a wireless set, which was in use till 1947.  Mr Heelis gave a cue and case for competition.

1941 – There was no supper but whist with drinks, opening was 2 nights only. The Home Guard used the downstairs rooms 2 nights a week.  War Damage Insurance was paid (7/6 premium) and a wireless licence bought (10/-).  Mr Illingworth became President on the death of Mr Logan.

1942-3 – Institute closed, men at war and Home Guard.  Home Guard paid £7-16-11 for use of rooms.

September 1943  - Dramatic Society rented rooms Monday Evenings - £2-8-0.  The hall was used for Wings for Victory week.

September 1944  - Billiard room open each evening.  Ladies one night (1/- a quarter).

January 1945 – Home Guard left lower rooms, (paying compensation £6-4-3 and a donation of £7-7-8).  New fireplaces were installed and plastering done.  Whist prizes are saving stamps. 

1946 - Miss Duckworth’s Discussion Group met in the Institute.

1948 – Adult Education Classes (Ladies Sewing) were held.  No papers had been taken since 1942.  Mr Storey offered “Farmer and Stockbreeder”.  A push for subscribers brought more than £14.  Whist drives made £18-10s.

1949 - £90 came from National Savings.  The G.F.S. made curtains to replace blinds (Colonel Barker gave material, Mrs Hack fittings).  The billiard table was repaired and the upstairs room redecorated.  Mr Brownson was President, Cannon Murray Chairman.

Insurance 1951 for £1,000 (Fire and Employers Liability).  1962 for £8,000, 1965 for £3,000, 1975 £6,000 (Contents £800).  The lower room was let to the Hunt Committee for refreshments.

1952-3 – There were monthly lectures, fortnightly whist drives.  12 subscribers and members subscriptions.  It was proposed to make one room downstairs, but at £36-£93 it was considered too costly.

It was proposed to build a village hall adjacent.  A new cover was purchased for the billiard table.  £37-18-6 was raised for the National Flood Relief Fund.  The caretaker’s wages were raised to 12/6 a week.

1955 – Fluorescent lights were fixed over the billiard table.  There are fewer young members.  Subs bring £3-30, Donations £14-8s, the club open 3 nights a week.

1958 The age is lowered from 16 to 13, younger members from 7-9pm only.  A plea for members to be in Parish magazine.

1959 -  Attendance is down.  Messrs C Dixon and G Storey are Trustees. 

1963 – The last fixture with Wray club.  A youth club one night weekly downstairs.  The Library case and books are taken out.

1964 - Over £20 profit, thanks to fortnightly whist, raffles and donations.  The downstairs partition to be removed (approx £100).  After redecoration tubular chairs to be bought (each committee member donates one).  The defunct Sawrey Amateur Dramatic Society donates £16-1-10.

1965  - Mrs Dobson retired after 20 years as caretaker and is given an electric clock. 

1968 – The old clock is replaced by an electric one.

1969 – Outbuildings are damaged by falling tree – Insurance cover.  3 years later Jack Davison tidies up the area.  Rooms are let for sewing/modelling/guitar/W.E.A. Classes.

1974 - Functions can now be held in Braithwaite Hall.

1975 – Convector heaters and fluorescent lights, rewiring are bought for downstairs room.  Decorating by D Bownass and Secretary.

1977 – Billiard room decorated by members.  Now there are fewer donations, subscriptions and billiard fees are increased, and room rents are appreciable.

Meanwhile all around institutes have closed, Wray, Hawkshead, Outgate and Lakeside. 

What is the secret? Sawrey Institute survives because of the dedication of the few, committee, caretaker and officers especially the Hon Secretary for 47 years from 1937-84, Mr Harry Byers.

We congratulate Sawrey on their centenary and wish the Institute well for the next 100 years! 

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The Sawrey Institute, Sawrey, Ambleside, Cumbria LA22 0LQ
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