Charlotte Mason College, Ambleside :
memories from the 60's

I attended Charlotte Mason College from 1965 until 1968 and then, having qualified as a teacher, returned to my native Hull, in Yorkshire, where I continued to teach for 33 years. In 2003 - 35 years after leaving - I returned to Ambleside with a small group of college friends who had kept in touch for all these years, on a trip down memory lane. Imagine how sad we were to find that Charlotte Mason College no longer exists, at least not in name, having been absorbed by, and renamed as, St. Martin's College.

Charlotte Mason was one of the world's great educators, a woman far in advance of her time and who is still having a lasting impact on education today. I think her memory has been very shabbily treated, for her name to be eradicated from the college she founded just for the sake of "corporate image." I understand that the local populace are also less than happy at the name change, and most still refer to the college as "Charlotte Mason's" anyway ....

For a brief biography of Charlotte Mason, click here :


When I started college we actually had a uniform! The badge bore the motto " For the children's sake" which summarised Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education, and depicted the juncus rush (see below); it is reproduced at the left, and appeared on the pocket of a blazer (which hardly anyone wore) which was bottle green with, I seem to remember, brown and gold braid. We also wore green shirts and brown "divided skirts (pleated shorts / culottes) for games - which everyone did - and those amazing "dance tunics" (again, Educational Dance was compulsory) which had a short skirt, fitted bodice with "sweetheart neckline," came in red, green or blue and had matching knickers.

Wednesday afternoons were for Outdoor Studies - whether nature walks (looking for insectivorous plants on the way up Loughrigg), field trips further afield (Cartmel Priory for the historians, etc.) or outdoor sports on the field behind Fairfield, although I seem to remember a fair bit of skiving off and basking in the sun!

As I remember, whilst I was at college we had a college magazine called "Pianta" - derived from "L'umile pianta", the humble plant - the juncus species rush which grows so profusely on the damp fells above Ambleside and which Charlotte Mason admired because of its capacity to bend but never break, and when plucked, another shoot grows in its place. I don't know whether "Pianta" is still in production - somehow or other, I doubt it : if they can discard the name of one of the greatest educators this country has ever produced .....*

The college Principal in my day was Marjorie Boulton, who I'm sad to say we did not appreciate fully at the time. She was educated at Oxford University and mentored during her undergraduate years by no less a person than Iris Murdoch; maybe it was this experience which led to the system of "College Mothers" where third-year students took a first year student (or two) under their wing to help them settle into their new life. My clearest memories of Miss Boulton (apart from dressing-downs and lectures...) are her beautiful sealpoint Siamese cat, Montevideo, her passion for Esperanto, and our shared enjoyment of science fiction (she was actually quite nice to me and let me borrow some of her books, when she wasn't telling me off...) Miss Boulton is still alive and is now a prominent writer and lecturer : a short biography appears on this website (off-site link.)

The Vice-Principal was Constance Moreton (Morton? I don't think I actually knew how to spell it!) and they were collectively Boult and Mort. Miss Moreton also had a cat, a common-or-garden tabby moggie, called Peter. They both lived in rooms in Scale How, then used for a mixture of offices, some lectures, dining and also residential for a handful of students. The convenience, as a student, of living on the spot and just falling out of bed and into breakfast was offset by being right under their noses and also having to take turns at switchboard duty in an evening, when the office staff had gone home.

Other staff I remember were : Rev. P. Inman - lovely man; Mr Almond (Art,) Miss Bamber (Education - a lovely lady), Miss Smith (Biology, she was an excellent lecturer and much the better for knowing), Miss Fyson (Music - a real sweetie), Miss Goalby - didn't have her but I remember everyone who did liked her; Miss Harrison (Geography, we always seemed to be late for her lectures up in Kelsick and she never believed our excuses, even when we really DID come across a body in Stock Ghyll!) Mr Reece (Rhys?) - didn't have him either, but I remember he suffered from terrible asthma; Miss Pybus, who told me I had an awful regional accent and dedicated herself to trying to get rid of it. (She failed miserably.)

Year group photos can be found on these pages : summer 1966 ~ summer 1967 . I will scan the 1968 photo as soon as I can find one to borrow!

(Photos from the recent Class of '68 mini-reunion here.)

Pianta : whilst on our recent stroll down Memory Lane we stumbled upon a small hardware shop and (as usual) fell into conversation with the proprietor ... to cut a very long story short, I have now been put in touch with the Charlotte Mason College Association and yes, "Pianta" is still in production, as the magazine of the Association. If you would like to get in touch with the CMCA, email me and I will pass the contact details on to you.

Back to top of this page ~ Back to CMC Home Page