When you were a student, did you write your name on your desk?
William Wordsworth did, and you can still see it carved on one of the desks in the Old Grammar School in the English village of Hawkshead.
The school was founded in 1585 by native son Edwin Sandys during his tenure as Archbishop of York. It instructed boys in Latin grammar, Greek, arithmetic, geometry, and ancient and modern history. Tuition was free, but church attendance was mandatory.
The future poet attended the well-regarded school from 1779 until 1787. A succession of headmasters presided over the boys — including the brother of Fletcher Christian, the leader of the mutiny on HMS Bounty — until the school closed in 1909.
Today, the school is preserved as a museum, where you can sit at the original desks on which the students traditionally carved their names. Inspirational sayings like “Small Service Is True Service While It Lasts” border the walls of the main classroom. Upstairs, one room recreates the headmaster’s study, while another room presents an exhibition relating to the history of the school, Sandys and Wordsworth.
While attending school in Hawkshead, Wordsworth stayed with Ann Tyson and her husband in their cottage on Vicarage Lane. It is said that his room was the one with the narrow rectangular window at the upper-right corner of the building.
Founded by Vikings around 900 AD, Hawkshead became a center for the Lake District’s wool trade, where merchants conducted business in a market house that still stands on the main square. Weaving, tanning, carpentry and shoemaking were other local industries in the village, evidenced by a cobblestone street named “Leather, Rag and Putty Street.” A small stream flowed down Flag Street, named for the flagstones that covered the water as it coursed through the center of the village, providing water for residents. Many of the historic buildings have rounded corners, designed to allow horses and wagons to pass easily through the winding streets.
Other village landmarks include the parish church of St. Michael’s & All Angels, which has sat high on a hillock above the village since it was built in the 15th century. More recently, William Heelis, the husband of famed author and illustrator Beatrix Potter, practiced law in an office in Hawkshead. Today, it is the home of the Beatrix Potter Gallery, where the National Trust displays some of Potter’s original illustrations. Many of her drawings contain references to Hawkshead. Tabitha Twitchit’s shop was based on the building next door to Heelis’s office, and Johnny Town Mouse was inspired by Hawkshead’s doctor, a friend of Heelis’s who shared his love of golf.