Hawkshead Grammar School


Hawkshead Grammar School is in the centre of the village and it’s main claim to fame is that it was here that William Wordsworth went to school

The school was founded in 1585 and the original students would have had a limited education principally being taught Latin and Greek with a smattering of ancient history, arithmetic and geometry to prepare them for work or University.


Today it’s been restored as a museum and is a Grade II listed building. On the ground floor a classroom has been reconstructed as in Wordsworth’s time. Upstairs is the headmaster’s study and an exhibition telling the history of the school, the founder and, (surprise surprise!) Wordsworth.




Visitrs are given an informal introductory talk by the duty member of staff and are then free to look round on their own. However, the member of staff was very approachable and keen to tell us about the school, what it was like to be a student there in the 16th Century and Wordsworth’s time as a scholar there. He had some fascinating stories to tell and wasn’t shy about outlining his own theories.

School students have always carved their names and initials into their desks and chairs, and it wasn’t different in Wordsworth’s time, although wheras today school students would be in trouble if caught doing that it appears that the practice was tolerated when Wordsworth was there.

The museum highlight the name W Wordsworth carved into the top of one desk and have protected it with a glass panel.


However, it does seem rather convenient. The staff member had his own theory. He thought that the name had been carved by Wordsworth – but William’s brother John who was also a student there. He thought that the J (which at the time would have been written more like an I) had been modified to become a “W”. I have say that looking closely at the “W” he has a point.

He also said he thought William had made his mark, though and pointed out the initials “W W” carved into a different desk near to another name – “J Bird” (the “J” looks like an “I”) who was a close friend of William. His theory certainly sounded credible.


The building has been beautifully restored and the it made an interesting visit, enhanced by the tales told by the staff member. And entry is very modest – only £2-50.


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