Alan Bennett’s diaries

From Untold Stories  Alan Bennett  p. 235

1st August 1998

Drive by back roads to Leeds, avoiding the Bank Holidays traffic and stopping on route to look at a church in Broughton near Skipton.

The Vicar comes over to open the door, a bit dishevelled as he’s just back from a car boot sale to raise funds to restore the bells, so that they can ring in the millennium.  At first sight it’s quite a plain church, though with some good fourteenth and fifteenth century woodwork round the family pew of the Tempests, the local gentry who were (and are) Catholic.  This helps to explain a tomb cover propped against the wall, which is a communal gravestone for those who died in the Pilgrimage of Grace, the northern rebellion against the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1537.

Mutilated around the same time are two effigies of the Virgin and Child, the head of the Virgin knocked off one, the head of the child knocked off the other, and both found buried outside the north wall sometime in the nineteenth century.  The guidebook implies that the burying the statues was a further stage in the iconoclasm, which knocked the heads off, but it might equally well have been done out of reverence and to preserve what was left, this neatly exemplifying one of the current controversies in the sixteenth century historiography:  the degree of persistence of the Catholic belief after the break with Rome.

A leaflet explains how the red sandstone from the tower came from the foundations of a Roman fort in nearby Elslack, some of the stones still blackened from when the Scots attacked the church after the Bannockburn in 1314.  Near the gate of the Churchyard is the tomb of Enoch Hall, who was one of the escorts accompanying Napoleon to St Helena and who stayed there ten years before coming home to Broughton to be thirty years the local school master.

We sit outside listening to the wind streaming through the huge copper beech and talk about this ordinary enough church which has been bound up with great events in the nation’s history:  a conventional thought, though one which would have exited me when I was fifteen and first took to visiting churches and which excites me still.  Fifty years later when, thanks to Rupert, I’ve taken to visiting them again.

St Helena connection

From the local newspaper, The Craven Herald, 1910

Enock Hall was born in 1794 at Skipton.  His father was a banker.  He had an adventurous temperament and wished to enlist in the army.  In 1815 he was one of the guards who conveyed Napoleon in the Bellerophon to St Helena where he arrived 16th October of that year.  He also saw a lot of fighting during the Peninsular War and took part in the battle of Toulouse.

His father had once remarked, ‘I will give you something you cannot barter away.  I will give you an education you cannot lose’.  This education stood him in good stead in his later life.  In 1844 he went to Elslack where he was fortunate in securing the position of master at the village school, which had been rendered vacant by the resignation of Mr Tunnicliffe who had charge of Hague House, a kind of grammar school at Kelbrook.

The proprietor of the school was Mr Fox of Elslack estate who allowed Mr Hall £25 a year, 2 closes of land and the cottage in which he lived rent free.  One child in every cottager’s family and one child of every small farmer should have their scholarship free.  The ordinary fees were Reading 3d per week;  Reading and Writing 6d;  Reading, Writing and Arithmetic 9d.

As a schoolmaster Mr Hall’s dominant characteristic was his love of thoroughness.  His handwriting was exceptional, almost like copperplate.  He was a great disciplinarian.  His severe treatment of his scholars would not be tolerated today, but it had a wonderful effect upon them, and the word disobedience was not included in their vocabulary.  A scholar was never known to deliberately disobey him.  A striking contrast was that he would be changed from a violent temper to the kindness and gentleness of a woman if he saw in a child manifestations of love or affection.  He gave plums and gooseberries from his garden as prizes to his apt scholars.

In appearance Mr Hall was somewhat corpulent but very erect and stood 6 ft in height.  His locks were very white and he bore the impress of a gentleman.  He was punctilious over cleanliness and when in the school wore black linen sleeves over his coat.  He relinquished the post of schoolmaster in 1872 having held it for 28 years.

Caning and training were synonymous terms.  On 15th October each year he made the announcement, ‘I am keeping my cane in my desk today.  This is the anniversary of arriving at St Helena with Napoleon Bonaparte’.  He was always proud to think he had been able to escort one of the greatest scourges of the world to a place of banishment.