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Charlotte Mason the Early Years

Charlotte Mason was an intensely private person, and some aspects of her life have only come to light over the last ten years. Here are some lesser-known facts about Charlotte.


Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) has inspired many parents, teachers, and children with her philosophy of a living education. She founded her House of Education in Ambleside, Cumbria, in 1892, and today her archive is kept at The Armitt Museum near the site of the college.


Charlotte’s family were Quakers with Cumbrian roots. Charlotte Mason’s family has Cumbrian roots dating back to the early eighteenth century. Her great- grandfather, John Gough, was born in Kendal, England, around 1720. John and his family were part of the Religious Society of Friends, also known as the Quakers. They also taught in Quaker schools – education was in Charlotte’s blood!


She began teaching while she was still very young. Charlotte’s father Joshua was deeply invested in his own children’s education, and Charlotte was educated in day schools and at home. She first became a pupil-teacher when she was 12 years old, at the Holy Trinity School, Birkenhead, in 1854.


During her pupil-teaching apprenticeship, her mother, Margaret Mason died in September 1858, followed by Joshua in March 1859, which must have been devastating for Charlotte. Despite this terrible hardship, Charlotte completed her apprenticeship nine months after her father’s death and won a scholarship to train at the Home and Colonial Training College (also known as the ‘Ho and Co’) in London. College officers found her a new teaching position at the Davison Memorial Infant School in Worthing, Sussex.


Charlotte first saw Ambleside when she was 22 years old. Charlotte first saw Ambleside in 1864, while she was still teaching in Worthing. She visited a friend from her college days, Selina Healey, who worked in a school at Loughrigg View, Ambleside. Charlotte spent several holidays at Loughrigg View, teaching alongside Selina.


Charlotte returned 27 years later in 1891, and a lot had changed: she had taught in several schools around England; published seven books, including Home Education in 1886; and founded the Parents’ National Educational Union (PNEU) in Bradford, alongside the journal Parents’ Review (1890). Charlotte stayed with Selina, now married to local architect John Fleming, and set up the Parents’ Review School (PRS) in 1891, followed by the House of Education training college.


Kathryn Twelvetree

Museum Assistant & Marketing

The Armitt Museum Gallery Library, Ambleside, Cumbria, UK

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