The day is Tuesday, July 28th, and we have a 10:45 appointment at the Armitt Museum to meet Dr. Margaret Coombs and to gain entrance into the library to view any of the Archives that we wish to see. The setup of this meeting was really quite extraordinary…I had sent an email through the Armitt website requesting information as to opening times and cost. I received a message in return that the museum was regrettably closed for reorganisation. However, if I would like to call the museum during our stay, perhaps we could get in to view some of the collection. I was so disappointed, as seeing the archives was to be a highlight of our stay in the Lakes, and one of the reasons I chose that region of England for our week’s cottage rental.
Later, I received a message asking if I would like to come to the Armitt one day that week to meet with a researcher from Oxford who was working on a biography of Charlotte Mason. And so it was that we not only got into the “closed” museum, but we had the great privilege of being guided through the index of the archived materials by a woman who has spent nearly 30 years closely studying Miss Mason’s life and work. When asked if I had read all of the books and articles, I was embarrassed to admit that I had so far only made it through two and part way through another. I also at times found it hard to follow along when shown dozens of photographs and having names being thrown out at me, most of which I did not recognize.
However, our hours there were well spent and our digging through boxes of diaries and letters and record books did not disappoint. I came away from my time there with a snapshot of the culture of the House of Education that I could not have developed just from the books I have read and skimmed thus far. Paging through real Nature Note Books and students’ diaries and record books from the weekly Criticism Lessons made all of the “educational philosophy” that I had gleaned over the years come alive to me. To see and touch real examples of student work, real photographs of happy youths in full costume for a play, real application of theory as aspiring teachers were each week observed and then evaluated…for a visual and “experiential” learner like myself, this opportunity was thrilling and inspiring, as well as sobering as I felt the weight of my duty as the educator of my children.
Then to step outside the musty library and view the glory of the surrounding hills and peaks and the tranquil beauty of Lake Windermere. No wonder there was emphasis on nature study in the House of Education! How could there not be? Who could survey such majestic beauty and not wish to capture it on paper, read about it, study it and experience it?
Driving away, I tried to call my mother from Ambleside to wish her happy birthday from such a special spot for both of us…just missed her as she had run out for an errand, though I did get to call her while driving through later in the week.
Just a few pictures for those who have interest in these places that have become familiar and who, like myself, peruse books by and about Charlotte Mason with great joy and overflowing soul as we meet up with Truth about ourselves, the children in our lives, the nature of learning, and the God who is over it all. In my next few posts, I will share some tidbits from the archives!
The Armitt Museum, housing the Charlotte Mason Archives, as well as a small collection of watercolours by Beatrix Potter. We were allowed entrance into the gallery to see the watercolours, also very exciting for me!
Scale How, the main building of the House of Education