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IT is widely known that Woodhouse Grove was purchased
by the Wesleyan Conference as a school for the education of the sons of the ministers of that Connexion. It was opened as such in January, 1812, and after serving its purpose for seventy-one years, for reasons which will be explained in the following pages, it ceased to be a school for ministers' sons. The scholars were then transferred to its elder sister at Kingswood, near Bath, and the Grove was transferred to a Limited Liability Company, which, under the superintendence of a competent head master, now receives as pupils the sons of laymen as well as of ministers. It is no longer a school exclusively for the sons of Wesleyan ministers.
It is impossible that any man who was educated at Woodhouse Grove can have witnessed its severance from
its first direct aim without deep regret; assuaged, however, by the thought that the ends to which it is now devoted are so near akin to its original destination. During the six years when the author shared in the benefits it conferred, and on every fresh visit to the scene of his boyhood, he has been more and more impressed with its various advantages. In point of education he feels that he owes everything, seminally considered, to its academical instructions, and observation has deeply convinced him that even those of its pupils who least distinguished themselves as apt scholars have, in subsequent life, evinced, in different degrees, the cultural formation and generous spirit derived from what may be fairly styled the genius of the place. The habits of discipline inculcated, the regularity of the life led, the free air breathed, and the wholesome diet given, with the pious customs of the establishment, could scarcely fail to leave a permanent mark upon every boy who went out from it. Without any qualifying reserve, its topographical situation may be pronounced equal to the finest in England, if not in the world. The river Aire, taking its rise in the wild moors near Malham in the north-west of the West Riding of Yorkshire, runs about a mile underground to Malham Cove; and then, reappearing, takes a south-easterly direction till it receives the Calder about twelve miles below Leeds. It then assumes a more easterly direction, till it joins the Ouse, and with the waters of that river joins the Humber, and so empties itself into the German Ocean. On its reappearance after leaving Malham Cove, it rushes down a rocky chasm in a torrent, and continuing its tumultuous fall into the valley below it begins its peaceful flow
through the dale which still bears its name. In days when some of us were boys the stream was pure and clear, and surpassingly sweet was it in the summer months to disport ourselves in its waters. Alas! that such a stream should become such as it now is. It is next to an impossibility that the salubrity and beauties of the situation can be over estimated.
Mr. John Middleton Hare, in his Memoirs of his brother, the Rev. Robert H.' Hare, who was my schoolfellow, says of the situation and beauty of Woodhouse Grove: “Every Grove boy well knows a native susceptibility to the charms of natural scenery could in few places be more certainly elicited, or cultivated to a higher degree, than along the banks of the Aire, and within view of the hanging woods of Rawdon and Calverley. On the higher side of Apperley Bridge, the landscape is, or was, however, yet more exquisitely beautiful; and no one, who in youth approached Esholt Hall through the splendid avenue of trees, or skipped across the Aire, running parallel to it, by the stepping stones, between which its irritated silver waters brawled as they glided on, or proceeded to Guiseley through the glades of the wood, whose giant limbs swept the sward, while among their boughs the nimble squirrels lilted like birds or butterflies, can be surprised that John Wesley should have set down that sylvan spot as the 'Caprera of Yorkshire.” Mr. Hare adds, in a footnote, that the Rev. Edward B. Pinder drew a beautiful picture of the Grove and its surroundings, on recalling his first approach to it, in the company of the present Rev. C. G. Turton and his brother Jabez, and of the younger son of the late Rev. William
Edward Miller, Charles, who died in Chili. “As we approached within a mile or two of the school, Miller pointed out to us the chimneys of the house just peeping to view among the trees, , which, with the surrounding scenery, produced a charming impression on our minds. I cannot but think that the beauties of the neighbourhood contributed with other things to fix those enthusiastic recollections of the place which are so general amongst old Grove boys. Calverley and Rawdon Woods, so conspicuous from the premises, bore the aspect almost of nature's primitive wilderness. No adornments of art (which does not always, as an old school copy had it, improve nature), in the shape of villas, with their carriage roads cutting unceremoniously through her domains, had then broken in upon their solitude and impaired their native simplicity. Esholt walk, terminating in the noble mansion of the StansfieldCromptons, was, I think, a more magnificent avenue than it is now, having trees more densely planted on either side. The Grove's academic shades, with such natural attractions of scenery, and almost close to the banks of the Aire, then a pellucid stream, might be deemed fitting haunts for the Muses, and a valuable spot for acquiring familiarity with the old classic legends of Dryads and Naiads, and all the literature of Greece and Rome.”
I may be allowed to corroborate the foregoing description of Esholt Hall and its surroundings, by mentioning that I recollect on one occasion, when a scholar, Mr. Parker, the head master, allowing a fellow pupil and myself to go as far, in order to collect some botanical specimens. It was a fine, warm spring day, and we were so charmed and