Today a small Tudor cottage stands next to Broughton Church and Primary School. It has had a long and varied history, but now functions as a museum and is open every Sunday afternoon.
It was originally built in 1590 as a Fylde Three Bay Longhouse using the cruick construction technique (one of the supporting frames can still be seen inside today). The original three rooms would have consisted of a buttery with a stairway up to a sleeping loft at one end, a main house room in the middle and a workshop (or possibly a shippon) at the far end. The house part was used as a school room. Two of the three rooms still exist and a two story extension was added at the south end in 1630, which also survives today.
Income for the school was generated from land donated by the wealthy, along with money in the form of grants. The school existed to teach boys between the ages of seven to fourteen, and in the early days the total number of pupils was probably never more than twelve. Latin, Greek and literature were on the curriculum and the first generations of teachers working there would have been curates from Broughton Parish Church.
Church Cottage also doubled as an inn during much of its life, providing accommodation as well as ale. Local author Brendan Hurley relates the tale of one reluctant occupant. This was Edward Bamber, Catholic priest and chaplain at Standish Hall in the 1600s. Anti-Catholic laws made this a treasonous activity, leading him to be arrested and sent for trial at Lancaster Castle. It’s thought that on the way to Lancaster his captors locked him in the upper room of the cottage. During the night he managed to escape and found his way to nearby Broughton Tower and took refuge there. (See our full page on Broughton Tower here).
Life within the school was not without controversy. Schoolmaster William Woods was sacked in 1678 because of his secret marriage, but managed to get his job back five years later. Even so, the vicar of Preston is recorded as refusing to pay his stipend of four pounds in 1698. The same vicar also queried his successor Richard Withnell’s appointment, suspecting that he had Catholic or Jacobite sympathies. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Compton Census that had taken place in 1676 showed that of the 636 people in Broughton and Barton, almost a third were thought to be recusants, that is Catholics that refused to go to Protestant church services.
Teaching continued in the building until 1784, formally ending when a new wooden school house was constructed close by. However, it was often the case that the school master also had a secondary role as the innkeeper at Church Cottage. James Tuson acted as teacher and landlord from 1807 until 1843. Licensed to sell beer and tobacco, he also would provide food and hospitality for travellers on the road from Preston to Lancaster. Records show that on one occasion in 1823 bell ringers from the church next door sat down to drink 20 pints of his home brewed beer and ate 12 dinners. The next year his license was extended so that he could sell spirits as well.
Tuson seemed to be a man of many skills which he utilised during his time as school master. He was involved in digging ‘marl’ (used to improve the local soils), shutting the school early on at least one occasion to fulfill this role. He also acted as a property agent for renting houses in Liverpool, collected debts owed to the parish and auctioned pew seats within the church – places sold to the highest bidder. When he retired in 1843 the school had grown to 70 pupils.
The inn was closed in 1862 and eight years later it is recorded that the cottage was the home of the sexton (essentially a church caretaker), Mr. Applebury. Records show that he was a bell ringer, grave digger, read responses in church and looked after the Sunday school children as well as having skills as a clothes maker and duck fattener. Although a new stone school was built in 1874, lessons in laundry, cookery and woodwork seem to have carried on within the cottage up until 1913.
The last people to live at Church Cottage were the Jolleys family. From the 1930s onwards Mr. and Mrs. Jolleys rented it for three shillings a week. This was doubled to six shillings when a flush toilet was installed, but amazingly stayed at this rate until the 1980s. Mr. Jolleys was a road roller driver and captain of the bell ringers in church. Mrs. Jolleys was a trained confectioner and ran a tuck shop for the school. The cottage had been extended over the years and these newer parts were demolished in 1966, leaving the original Tudor and Stuart sections that we see today. The following year Mr. Jolleys died, but Mrs. Jolleys lived on at Church Cottage until 1986. Even in the later days, there was just one electrical socket in the whole house (located in the kitchen), no hot running water or television.
After Mrs. Jolleys’ death the school governors asked the local education authority to make Church Cottage into school accommodation, but this was refused. Within a few years the building had become derelict, but the fact that it was listed saved it from demolition. Various ideas were put forward including use as offices by the church, a study base for the school or even conversion into a museum. This final idea won the day and a fund was set up by the school governors in 1993 to restore it. Work began the next year and in 1995 it was opened as Church Cottage Museum by HRH Princess Alexandra.
The layout today reflects its different functions over the years: the sexton’s Victorian living room, a small inn, a Tudor ‘hovel’ and a wash house comprise the lower floor. Upstairs is the loft sleeping area and Victorian school room full of finds from school pupils’ recent archaeological digs. The roof thatch is in excellent condition and is worthy of close inspection. Visitors today can be guided around the house by the friendly and knowledgeable volunteers. They are also working to build a collection of historical agricultural implements in the cart shed, and provide care for the cottage garden.
Much of the information for this page is sourced from Brendan Hurley’s two excellent books – see the reference section below.
Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2018
Open every Sunday 2.00-5.00 pm. There is a small charge for adults and accompanied children are free.
The website is here or paste the link below into your browser:
On the same site Broughton St John’s Parish Church
Nearby, just a short drive away Broughton Tower moat
A History of Broughton-in-Amounderness Church of England Primary School 1527-2007, Brendan Hurley (2008) . This book is available from Church Cottage Museum
A History of St John Baptist Church Broughton, Brendan Hurley (2012) Fast Print Publishing. Available from Broughton Church.
Church Cottage Museum leaflet, available from Church Cottage Museum