Charlotte Mason
CREDIT: The Armitt

Centenary commemorations for education pioneer Charlotte Mason

The University of Cumbria’s Ambleside campus in the heart of England’s Lake District is synonymous with Victorian education pioneer Charlotte Mason (b.1842 - d.16.1.1923). 

Today (16 January) marks a century since Charlotte Mason died in her beloved House of Education, where students were trained to be governesses or primary school teachers. Once qualified, Charlotte Mason governesses could take up positions all over the world and many did. 

From 1894 Mason’s House of Education was located at Scale How, a distinctive building which remains on the university’s Ambleside campus today. 

Through her House of Education and the Parents’ National Educational Union (PNEU), countless children have benefitted from Mason’s philosophies and curriculum, notably including nature and outdoor lessons. 

And her legacy lives on. Inspired by the famous Lakeland landscape that the campus calls home, the site has continued to deliver teacher training to generations of educational professionals, with – depending on their era – alumni from Charlotte Mason College, Lancaster University or St Martin’s College before the University of Cumbria was formed in 2007. 

Mason’s ideas and principles about how children and young people learn also remain as pertinent today as they ever have been. 

The approach begins with the understanding that children are born ready to learn and grow with minds requiring nutrition as the body does. The curriculum, from the beginning, is broad, putting children in touch with nature, poetry, art, music, handicrafts, folktales, and legends, and the emphasis is relational, creating an atmosphere especially through literature and story where the child builds relationship with people from the past, the present, and the future. 

The Lake District is a natural home to this approach and a natural setting for those seeking to explore the relevant of Mason’s design for education for today. 

Today, with an 11-million strong global teaching movement in her name, a partnership stretching across the Atlantic is commemorating Charlotte Mason’s life and legacy throughout 2023. 

A series of special events will take place, led by the University of Cumbria and partners The Armitt museum and the US-based Charlotte Mason Institute that serves thousands of global educators and students. They include an international conference, exhibition, talks and other activities. 

A self-guided tour of key buildings around the university’s Ambleside campus has been created, with interpretation boards specially designed and installed. 

The university’s Professor Lois Mansfield, chair of the 2023 Charlotte Mason commemorations organising committee, said: “We’re delighted to work with partners who recognise, like us, how truly remarkable Charlotte Mason was, and how she remains an iconic figure in many major countries of the world today where millions of children are home-schooled and her methods and principles continue. 

“A university for and from Cumbria with its roots in education, we are proud of the role that teacher education has in our society today. It continues to transform the lives and livelihoods of not only those who graduate and qualify to teach but also generations of children they go on to inspire which, in turn, helps our communities to thrive.”

Professor Lois Mansfield, University of Cumbria, and Faye Morrissey, The Armitt

Faye Morrissey, manager and curator from The Armitt, added, “With the museum having such a core collection of Charlotte Mason material, it is important that we acknowledge her life and legacy at this time through the creation of a dedicated exhibition – “Learning through the Natural World” – which includes a variety of original material including personal objects, students’ nature notebooks, and memories from those that remember their time at the college.

“The support and collaboration between the University of Cumbria, the Charlotte Mason Institute, and many others has been invaluable, and I am really looking forward to all the celebratory events and activities that will take place during this year.” 

The centenary conference at the Ambleside campus in mid-July will convene educators, school leaders, and researchers to explore—through talks, immersions and visits to The Armitt—the relevance of Mason’s ideas for education today.  

Conference chair, Deani Van Pelt of the Charlotte Mason Institute, stated: “The international participation in this conference is a fitting testament to Charlotte Mason’s reach both in her times and in ours. Participants will leave not only knowing Charlotte Mason better but also how better to apply her approach to education in their lives and classrooms.”  

Numerous publications will be launched in this year including a monograph series in which a breadth of experts and educational leaders creatively examine aspects of Mason’s approach to education and its applicability for education in the 21st Century. The series will be launched at the July conference. 

A Charlotte Mason Centenary Celebration Concert for the community will also be held, on Friday 21 July 2023, at St Mary’s Parish Church, Ambleside.  

For full details of the 2023 commemorations, visit: 

Notes to editors

Professor Lois Mansfield is available for interviews. Contact to discuss opportunities.

Portrait of Charlotte Mason - CREDIT, The Armitt, Ambleside