A tale of two Egerton schools - the unique academic link between Knutsford and Kenya
PUBLISHED: 15:51 21 April 2014 | UPDATED: 15:51 21 April 2014
Two schools founded by the Egerton family are forging ever-closer links even though they are 4,500 miles apart in Knutsford and Kenya
The Egertons were a remarkable family who left an indelible mark on Cheshire and on Knutsford in particular. When Sir Thomas bought Tatton Park in 1598 he began a family connection with the area which lasted almost 400 years and which lives on today in the mansion and gardens which were left to the National Trust and in the many institutions which still bear the family name.
But the family’s legacy goes much further than that – all the way to Kenya, in fact, where the fourth and last Baron Egerton, Maurice, had an estate.
It wasn’t until the former head gardener at Tatton and long time friend of Cheshire Life Sam Youd visited the Kenyan estate that the full extent of the legacy was understood. Sam discovered that Maurice, who spent a lot of his time in Kenya, had founded a school on his land in Njoro in 1939, as his uncle Lord Wilbraham Egerton had done in Knutsford almost 50 years earlier.
Since then links between the two Egerton schools have grown and they now spearhead a foundation which has paired more than 30 Cheshire schools with partners in the Rift Valley, affecting more than 10,000 children.
Alison Hooper became headteacher of Egerton Primary School in Knutsford two weeks before the connection was made and she has since visited the twin school five times, most recently in February.
‘The partnership we have established is unique,’ she said. ‘Lots of schools have international partner schools but no-one else that I know of has our background. Both schools were founded by the Egerton family of Knutsford – one school here in 1893 by Wilbraham Egerton and the other in 1939 in Njoro, Kenya by Maurice Egerton but we didn’t know about each other until 2005.
‘Sam was visiting Maurice Egerton’s castle in Nakuru as part of the development of a legacy between the estates in Cheshire and Kenya. While he was planning his visit Sam discovered Egerton School and found out that the school had been established by the Egerton family.
‘The latest visit was brilliant. I went out there with staff and parents from my school and staff from other Cheshire schools who were visiting their partner schools. Just before we flew out electricity was installed in Egerton School, Njoro and while we were there we painted classrooms, taught lessons and met the families of some of the children at that school.’
The electricity was funded by a grant applied for by Knutsford Rotary Club and local businesses have got involved too. Roberts Bakery have provided bread-making equipment and shown pupils in Kenya how to bake and staff from Barclays bank have delivered money management lessons similar to ones they have given pupils in Knutsford.
Sports coaches from Multiflex deliver half the PE curriculum at egerton School in Knutsford and since the partnership was formed they have provided equipment for Kenyan pupils. They also joined the recent visit and gave coaching sessions, while digital publishing firm Pressglue have donated a lap top computer and camcorder to Egerton, Njoro.
Maurice Egerton inherited the Tatton Park estate in 1920 from his father Alan de Tatton and although he supported young people in the Knustford area and encouraged outdoor pursuits, he spent much of his time travelling. He was a keen aviator in the early days of flight and was also interested in photography, film-making and travel.
Once he had founded his Kenyan estate he spent a lot of time there, founding two schools, one of which is now the region’s leading agricultural university. He was also responsible for introducing roses to Kenya and the country is now the world’s biggest exporter of the flowers.
‘It’s a very interesting area and I can understand completely why Maurice Egerton fell in love with it. It is absolutely stunning and very lush which surprised me at first because I had thought it should be a brown and dusty landscape. That’s one of the great things about a partnership like this, it challenges your perceptions.
‘It also brings together our children and our community with people 4,500 miles away where Lord Egerton had a massive influence, not least because he built a school.’
After seven years of funding from the British Council came to an end, the Egerton Schools Foundation was launched last year to help raise the money necessary to maintain the links between the schools and Alison is hopeful that more groups and businesses will get involved.
‘It costs just short of £1,000 for one teacher to go one way and we took a party of 18 out there in February,’ she added. ‘The businesses and parents who came funded themselves and that in itself broke new ground because all previous visits have just involved teachers. Having other people there hugely enhanced our work there.’
The foundation has now secured funding from the Tatton Trust to enable two teachers from Njoro to come to Knutsford in the Autumn and two teachers from Knutsford to go out to Kenya next February.
The new crop
Live a lot, learn a lot, laugh a lot is the motto of the Cheshire Young Farmers group and they do their best on all three counts at the Knutsford branch. Holly Pratico is the chair of the group until her term of office comes to an end next month. She said: ‘It’s been a really busy year but I’ve had so much fun.
‘There are events throughout the year, social events and parties as well as stock judging, quizzes and sporting competitions. It’s pretty great for the CV to say you’ve been involved in something like the Young Farmers.’
Holly, who works at her uncle’s Chelford Farm Supplies business wants to work as an air hostess and she added: ‘The majority of members are not farmers now, they’re just young people who want to be involved and have fun. We have about 30 members and we meet regularly.’
The vice chair is Harry Norbury whose parents Andrew and Olivia run Chapel Wood Farm in Chelford where they have 230 breeding ewes and 70 beef cattle and a clutch of free range chickens.
Andrew, a former young farmer himself, is the current president of the Knutsford Young Farmers group and he said: ‘I guess I’m a figurehead for them, I can give advice and point them in the right direction.’
Olivia added: ‘Farming is quite a hard thing for young people to get into. A generation ago if you had a farm and three children you could expect that at least one of them would take the farm on but it’s a very hard life. It’s lovely in many respects but it is very hard and young people have so many more opportunities these days.
‘Young Farmers is great because there’s a lot of speech making involved and it’s a great confidence builder for young people.’
Hitting the heights for Skye
A group of fundraising mums from Knutsford bagged a huge donation to Alder Hey Hospital in memory of five-year-old Skye Higgins, who died of leukaemia last year.
Jude Williams, who helped organise the event, said: ‘Skye was at the same dance school as my twin daughters and although I didn’t know her or her family, everyone was touched by what she went through.’
Skye was treated at Alder Hey and Jude added: ‘The staff there are wonderful and we wanted to recognise the valuable work they do.
‘The fundraising day was absolutely brilliant, we had been hoping to raise £2,000 but when we realised we were going to achieve that, we set our sights on £3,000 and in the end we raised just over £7000. We couldn’t believe it.’
The group packed shoppers’ bags at Booths in Knutsford for a day and sold raffle tickets before holding a dinner and an auction at Leicester Warren Hall for around 140 people.