It was always going to be a nostalgic visit for a nonagenarian who says her student days at a world-renowned Lakes’ institution shaped her whole adult life.
When Audrey Wright, 90, returned to Ambleside’s former Charlotte Mason College on Monday, the retired teacher spoke of her joy at seeing again the seat of learning which had inspired and enthralled her.
Now part of University of Cumbria, the old teacher training college had a major impact on her family. Through it, she met her mother-in-law, a former student, and her husband. Her granddaughter attended a school based on Charlotte Mason principles.
Mrs Wright explained: “My time here was very happy, I loved it. I developed a lasting interest in nature, music and the outdoors. The college made a tremendous impression on my life, and in particular left me with a very enquiring mind.
“I made six long-term friends and am still in touch with three of them. Coming back for the first time in 70-years has been absolutely wonderful.”
Charlotte Mason had originally established the college to school governesses in the late 1800s and later spearheaded its development into teacher training.
Mrs Wright’s mother-in-law, Lois Chaning Pearce, studied there and is likely to have been taught by Charlotte Mason. She became a governess, and later a Red Cross nurse in the first World War.
Serving onboard hospital ship Aquitania, as it picked up wounded servicemen from ports in the eastern Mediterranean, she went on to establish her own school in Sussex.
Looking for newly qualified staff, she turned to her alma mater and duly appointed the woman who was to marry her son, also a teacher.
Now living in Bexhill-on-Sea, Mrs Wright paid tribute to Charlotte Mason, who strongly advocated a ‘liberal education for all’.
She added: “I came to the college just after the war in 1947, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The wide curriculum was a great influence on my life.
“I still remember the Tuesday evening soirees where we talked about a chosen topic. Mine was Anna Pavlova, the Russian ballet dancer. It was hard to do research then, so I ended with a gramophone recording of the swan dance from Saint Saens’ Carnival of the Animals.
“We swam in the tarns, skated on frozen lakes, enjoyed being part of the Guiding movement and meeting Lady Baden-Powell, as well as all the outdoor opportunities being in Ambleside brought.
“Now I’m back, it all seems as if it happened yesterday, even though it was 70-years-ago.”
Director of University of Cumbria’s Ambleside campus, Professor Lois Mansfield, said it had been a pleasure and privilege to meet Mrs Wright.
She added: “Charlotte Mason was an educational pioneer and now an iconic figure in Australasia, Canada, Japan, India and the States, where hundreds of families have adopted her principles for home schooling.
“Parents’ National Education Union (PNEU) have schools across the UK, closely linked with Charlotte’s philosophies.
“It has been wonderful to meet the Wright family and hear how one remarkable woman has touched their lives so closely.”