Concern for the educational needs of the communities at the upper end of Redesdale was already evident at the end of the 18th century.
The endowment of Byrness Chapel in 1796 included provision for the curate to teach up to 12 poor scholars free of charge in the chapel if required, but Hodgson observed ‘that number very rarely attend (the school) in that capacity’ so wary were the local inhabitants of such ‘pure eleemosynary assistance in rearing their families’ (Hodgson 1827, 86, 153). The historian also remarked on the ‘very praiseworthy zeal in forwarding, according to the best of their ability, the education of their children’ displayed by the inhabitants of Elsdon Parish and noted there were ‘schools to suit the convenience of every part of (the parish)’ (op.cit., 86).
A new school was opened at Byrness in 1872, as a consequence of the W.E. Forster’s Elementary Education Act of 1870, which set up elected Boards of ratepayers empowered to establish schools in districts where there was still inadequate educational provision. As a result such schools were known as Board Schools.
The School Log Books, which include schoolmaster’s weekly summary and periodic inspector’s reports, are a mine of fascinating information on the conduct of education and many aspects of wider rural life in the later 19th century. It is, for instance, inconceivable that children today would be given a whole day off for a fox hunt as were the pupils at Byrness in March 1881.