Ambleside
Comments 5

Ambleside 2008 by Deani Van Pelt, Redeemer University College

Some moments are lived in slow motion.  I watched myself having one as I stepped off the train in Windermere onto the tidy platform, walk through the compact terminal, and out into the pickup area which backed onto a wall of dense forest.  To my right was a large contemporary but quaint complex which reminded me of something one might see in Banff.  I later learned this was the last large store I’d see for a week.  Slowly dragging several suitcases, one containing a printer/scanner, I hoisted my knapsack holding computer, video camera, and other recording devices, hoping to settle it more comfortably into place.  The effort was futile. Yet my elation at finally being in the Lake District of Cumbria was not dulled by excessive baggage, the exhaustion of missing a night’s sleep on the international flight, spending the last four hours on buses and trains, ever moving northward from one unknown terminal to another, or the possible disappointment of being surrounded in Banffesque-tourist-traps for the next week.

The pure joy of arrival was slowly inhaled and only broken by the taxi driver who fathered me through the last half hour of my trek, explaining, pointing, encouraging, even delighting with me on the fairytale scenes that surrounded us. (See Figure 1.) He left me at the movie set that was to be ours for six nights—Rydal Hall, a grand eighteenth century manor surrounded by formal gardens, cascading streams, and ambling paths through sheep pastures, the former home of Wordsworth’s landlord. (See Figure 2.)

 

The bridge house in Ambleside across from the Armitt Museum

Figure 1. The bridge house in Ambleside across from the Armitt Museum

Figure 2. Rydal Hall

Figure 2. Rydal Hall

Figure 3.  Mists of dawn creeping over Lake Windermere as seen from a bedroom window.

Figure 3. Mists of dawn creeping over Lake Windermere as seen from a bedroom window.

Almost a full year earlier this dream had been dreamt.  Charlotte Mason scholars from various international points could convene in the Lake District to probe the archives at The Armitt Museum in Ambleside, Cumbria, England which housed 85 boxes and many shelves more of Mason’s professional and personal items, all a century or more in age.  Together these researchers could build a research agenda for the further study of Mason’s philosophy and its contemporary practice.  The application for a grant, all 70 or so pages of it, was prepared for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada.  Three academic institutions, Redeemer University College of Ontario, Canada, Gardner-Webb University of North Carolina, USA, and Covenant College of Georgia, USA threw financial support behind the professors who made the application, and early in the spring of 2008 the news was shared that the SSHRC grant had been awarded.  See Figure 4 for the team that spent the week of August 4-8, 2008 together, posing in front of The Armitt Museum, Ambleside, Cumbria.

Figure 4.  Dr. Jack Beckman, Covenant College, Dr. Carroll Smith, Gardner-Webb University, Dr. John Thorley, former Dean of Charlotte Mason College, Deani Van Pelt, Redeemer University College, Lisa Cadora, former principal of a Charlotte Mason school, and Jennifer Spenser, Doctoral Student, University of South Carolina in front of The Armitt Museum in Ambleside, Cumbria, England.

Figure 4. Dr. Jack Beckman, Covenant College, Dr. Carroll Smith, Gardner-Webb University, Dr. John Thorley, former Dean of Charlotte Mason College, Deani Van Pelt, Redeemer University College, Lisa Cadora, former principal of a Charlotte Mason school, and Jennifer Spenser, Doctoral Student, University of South Carolina in front of The Armitt Museum in Ambleside, Cumbria, England.

I could hardly absorb the sights, pondered from afar for so long:  Scale How—Charlotte Mason’s House of Education dating back to 1894 (see Figure 5), the Beehive—the site of Charlotte Mason’s practicing school (see Figure 6) and even the very roads Mason would travel on foot or in carriage each day for her four o’clock outing.  Perhaps most nurturing was the single lane gravel path which led from Rydal Hall to Ambleside (see Figure 7), a banquet of sky, pasture, sheep and stream which we ambled and chatted along each day.

Figure 5.  Scale How in 2008, now part of the University of Cumbria, formerly the main building of Mason’s House of Education.

Figure 5. Scale How in 2008, now part of the University of Cumbria, formerly the main building of Mason’s House of Education.

Figure 6.  The Beehive, former site of the practicing school, located just below Scale How.

Figure 6. The Beehive, former site of the practicing school, located just below Scale How.

Figure 7.  The road from Ambleside to Rydal Hall—a nourishing half hour walk from bedroom to archive each day.

Figure 7. The road from Ambleside to Rydal Hall—a nourishing half hour walk from bedroom to archive each day.

Figure 8.  At the height of Loughrigg Fell overlooking Lake Windermere on Sunday afternoon.

Figure 8. At the height of Loughrigg Fell overlooking Lake Windermere on Sunday afternoon.

Our work each day consisted of probing the archives (see Figure 9), digitalizing selected documents (see Figure 10), leafing through Charlotte Mason’s personal book collection (see Figure 11 and 12), diving into old copies of L’umile Pianta (see Figure 13), and scanning discovered treasures (see Figure 14).  Our evening meetings back at the Bishop’s Room of Rydal Hall were punctuated with comradeship and productivity, and were known to extend well past midnight.

 

Figure 9.  John Thorley introducing the archival system at The Armitt Museum.

Figure 9. John Thorley introducing the archival system at The Armitt Museum.

Figure 10.  Carroll Smith takes a photo of a letter hand written by Charlotte Mason and transfers it to a waiting computer.

Figure 10. Carroll Smith takes a photo of a letter hand written by Charlotte Mason and transfers it to a waiting computer.

Figure 11.  Deani Van Pelt and Lisa Cadora looking through one of the books in Mason’s personal book collection.

Figure 11. Deani Van Pelt and Lisa Cadora looking through one of the books in Mason’s personal book collection.

Figure 12.  Selections from Charlotte Mason’s personal book collection.

Figure 12. Selections from Charlotte Mason’s personal book collection.

Figure 13.  Jack Beckman absorbed in the collection of a centuries’ worth of L’umile Piantas, the journal for the graduates of Mason’s House of Education.

Figure 13. Jack Beckman absorbed in the collection of a centuries’ worth of L’umile Piantas, the journal for the graduates of Mason’s House of Education.

Figure 14.  Scanning the gems.

Figure 14. Scanning the gems.

A Sunday worship service in Mason’s St. Mary’s Parish church was more vibrant than expected, and a Wednesday afternoon visit to take a rubbing from Mason’s grave in the church yard was more celebratory than somber (Figure 15, 16 and 17).  

 

Figure 15.  Mason’s grave marker in the cemetery of St. Mary’s Parish Church.

Figure 15. Mason’s grave marker in the cemetery of St. Mary’s Parish Church.

Figure 16.  St. Mary’s Parish Church, Ambleside.

Figure 16. St. Mary’s Parish Church, Ambleside.

Figure 17.  Detail of headstone.

Figure 17. Detail of headstone.

From the first slow motion moment of the week to each successive one, I drank in the beauty that must have formed a great part of the inspiration of Mason’s thinking so positively about children and about the potential in humanity.  With one dream fulfilled, the convening of Mason scholars from afar, the next ones beckon. If you care deeply for children and for education in our times, and are not afraid to probe where others have successfully gone before, you are invited to consider joining us for the next phase of the journey.

 

This entry was posted in: Ambleside

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Carroll Smith has spoken on various topics related to Charlotte Mason. Currently he teaches at Gardner-Webb University and enjoys working with children, teachers, college students, and Charlotte Mason Institute. He was a teacher and a principal for 21 years before coming to Gardner-Webb University where he has been for six years. Having grown up in eastern North Carolina, he attended East Carolina University for his undergraduate degree and his master's in school administration. He completed his terminal degree and wrote his dissertation on Charlotte Mason at Virginia Tech. Carroll enjoys reading, gardening, and discussing ideas with friends. He and his wife, Andra, and their two young adult college-age children, Corban and Anna, enjoy living, working and playing in North Carolina.

5 Comments

  1. thebuckatmindspring says

    What a lovely trip! Great photos.
    Will some books be published from
    the results of the research?

    Bonnie

  2. We hope a number of research projects will come out of this visit. Not only do we hope research projects will come from it; we are hoping to establish two Charlotte Mason Research and Study Centres, one in Canada and one at Gardner-Webb University. Along with research projects we are hoping to publish some annotated versions of Mason’s works as well as a new biography that will include some of her important letters and other new publications. Thank you, Bonnie, for the question and the interest.

  3. deborahdobbins says

    Thanks for sharing photos from your work in Ambleside. It’s the next best thing to being there with you. I’m wondering if Charlotte Mason’s nature study sketchbook has been found among her archives? I would love to see some of the pages from her sketchbook.

  4. cottagethoughts says

    How wonderful to have found this blog entry! I was simply looking up some information about Ambleside as I do research for a trip my husband and I hope to make to the Lakes this summer. I want to spend at least a day exploring Ambleside!! I am a Charlotte Mason method homeschooling mother, and have been reading materials by and about her for many years now.

    Can you tell me, are the archives and other areas you spent time in (the school, etc.) open to visitors or did you have special access to them?

    Thank you!

    Stephanie @ cottagethoughts

    • Stephanie, The Mason archive is located in Ambleside at the Armitt Museum which is locate on the campus of the Charlotte Mason College which is now part of the University of Cumbria. If you google or yahoo the Armitt Museum you can find the museum’s operating hours. The actual archive is kept in a secured, air controlled storageroom. Usually people doing research or study on Mason go there, request something to review and the library volunteers get it for the researcher. You can see Scale How, the Beehive both of which are very close to the Armitt. Scale How was where Mason purchased for the college after coming and at a house called Springfield. There are lovely places to stay, walk and visit in the area. Hope this helps. Carroll

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