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Cowan Bridge

Cowan Bridge

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Cowan Bridge is a village
A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet with the population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand , Though often located in rural areas, the term urban village is also applied to certain urban neighbourhoods, such as the West Village in Manhattan, New...

 in the English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 county of Lancashire
Lancashire is a non-metropolitan county of historic origin in the North West of England. It takes its name from the city of Lancaster, and is sometimes known as the County of Lancaster. Although Lancaster is still considered to be the county town, Lancashire County Council is based in Preston...


It is south-east of the town of Kirkby Lonsdale
Kirkby Lonsdale
Kirkby Lonsdale is a small town and civil parish in the South Lakeland district of Cumbria, England, on the River Lune. Historically within Westmorland, it is situated south east of Kendal along the A65. The parish had a population of 1,771 recorded in the 2001 census.Notable buildings include St...

 where the main A65 road
A65 road
The A65 is a major road in England. It runs north west from Leeds in Yorkshire via Kirkstall, Horsforth, Yeadon, Guiseley, Ilkley and Skipton, passes west of Settle, then continues through Ingleton and Kirkby Lonsdale before terminating at Kendal in Cumbria....

 crosses the Leck Beck
Leck Beck
Leck Beck is a watercourse in Lancashire with its source on Crag Hill in Cumbria between Leck Fell and Casterton Fell.For several kilometres near the start of its course, the water flows into the Easegill Cave System, the longest cave system in Britain via 14 major sink holes to converge at a...

. It forms part of the civil parish
Civil parish
In England, a civil parish is a territorial designation and, where they are found, the lowest tier of local government below districts and counties...

 with the unusual name of Burrow-with-Burrow
Burrow-with-Burrow is a civil parish in the English county of Lancashire.The parish of Burrow-with-Burrow had a population of 191 recorded in the 2001 census,It is on the River Lune south of the Cumbrian town Kirkby Lonsdale...


Cowan Bridge was the site of the Clergy Daughters' School attended by Charlotte
Charlotte Brontë
Charlotte Brontë was an English novelist and poet, the eldest of the three Brontë sisters who survived into adulthood, whose novels are English literature standards...

 and Emily Brontë
Emily Brontë
Emily Jane Brontë 30 July 1818 – 19 December 1848) was an English novelist and poet, best remembered for her only novel, Wuthering Heights, now considered a classic of English literature. Emily was the third eldest of the four surviving Brontë siblings, between the youngest Anne and her brother...

, the notable 19th century writers, and their older sisters Maria
Maria Brontë
Maria Brontë was the eldest daughter of Patrick Brontë and Maria Branwell, a part of the Brontë family, and the older sister of Charlotte, Emily and Anne. She was born in Hartshead, Yorkshire.- Early life and education :...

 and Elizabeth, who died after experiencing harsh privations at the school. There is a plaque commemorating this association. Charlotte described the abuses, the typhus epidemic in which seven students died, the scandal which followed, and subsequent reform of the school in Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre is a novel by English writer Charlotte Brontë. It was published in London, England, in 1847 by Smith, Elder & Co. with the title Jane Eyre. An Autobiography under the pen name "Currer Bell." The first American edition was released the following year by Harper & Brothers of New York...

. The character of Helen Burns is based closely on Maria. Reverend Brocklehurst is a portrait of William Carus Wilson, who managed the school in the Brontës' time. Women readers who had attended the school confirmed Charlotte's account.

In a letter to her publisher W.S. Williams, Charlotte describes overhearing an elderly clergyman talk about reading Jane Eyre and saying "Why, they have got Cowan Bridge School, and Mr. Wilson here, I declare! and Miss Evans." She says, "He had known them all. I wondered whether he would recognise the portraits, and was gratified to find that he did, and that, moreover, he pronounced them faithful and just. He said, too, that Mr. Wilson 'deserved the chastisement he had got.'"

The Clergy Daughters' School still exists. It was moved to Casterton
Casterton, Cumbria
Casterton is a small village and civil parish close to Kirkby Lonsdale on the River Lune in the south east corner of Cumbria, England.The parish is bounded by Kirkby Lonsdale, Barbon, Dent, Leck and Burrow-with-Burrow, and lies just outside the western edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park:...

 shortly after the scandal. In 1840 another typhus epidemic struck 70 of the students, claiming the lives of three. By 1857 Dorothea Beale
Dorothea Beale
Dorothea Beale LLD was a suffragist, educational reformer, author and Principal of the Cheltenham Ladies' College.Born in Bishopsgate, England, she was the founder of St Hilda's College, Oxford....

 was teaching there. It was apparent to her that while some of the physical circumstances had improved since Charlotte's time, the spiritual aspects had not changed. When the Life of Charlotte Brontë by Elizabeth Gaskell
Elizabeth Gaskell
Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, née Stevenson , often referred to simply as Mrs Gaskell, was a British novelist and short story writer during the Victorian era...

came out, Beale began to write her own unfavorable impressions of the religious education handed out there.

External links

Photos of the original Clergy Daughters' School building taken May 3, 1985.