Local author and historian Peter Railton publishes his latest book
“The Victorian Village Schools of East Yorkshire”
Local author and historian Peter Railton has just published his
latest book “The Victorian Village Schools of East Yorkshire”. The book
takes a general background look at some of the individual village
schools and their histories during the Victorian era.
The book is in an A to Z format, beginning with Anlaby and ending with Woodmansey.
Two examples from the book are below.
The photograph shows the school staff about 1890. Mr. Abbot was the Headmaster and the female teachers were divided between the original infants’ school in the photograph and a junior department that used to exist across the road but has long since gone.
My late mother-in-law attended the school as a child and remembered how the pupils were expected to show deference to the wealthy families of the area, the girls to curtsy and the boys to touch their caps when a carriage from the ‘big house’ passed by - some unco-operative lads would try to escape their duty by hiding in the gardens or running up a convenient snicket, but got the cane from the Headmaster if they were reported!
Anlaby School. James Abbot, Headmaster and staff.
The Head’s wife took the girls for sewing and she was as strict as her husband. Hands must be clean - dirty work meant the offending hands received a smack with a wooden rule and if the stitching was not satisfactory it had to be pulled-out and done again; hence many girls were excellent knitters and embroiderers well into old age.
The Wilsons were the predominant family and were well liked by most people and were good employers; a Sunday dinner was sent to anyone in Anlaby who was too ill or too old to cater for themselves. The Voase and Ringrose families were also well to do - Amelia Ringrose was a friend of Charlotte Bronté in the 1850’s.
The building is now Anlaby Village Hall, and there is a playschool facility thus continuing its association with children. Today’s school is on the corner of First Lane.
The old infants’ school is Anlaby Village Hall now.
This iconic little school lays on an ‘s’ bend on the Hull to Beverley road and is passed by hundreds of motorists each day. The schoolroom with its entrance porch has a master’s house which is as big as the original schoolroom, as was often the case.
It was built as a National School and still retains its links as a Church of England School and was built between two parishes to serve both Thearn and Woodmansey, but the school is merely known now as Woodmansey Primary School.
Refurbishment of the window frames has been very carefully carried out and gives the school a ‘just painted’ effect. There are extensions at the back to cope with the extra demands over the years.
The book priced at £7.50 is available from Barkers in Cottingham, W. H.
Smiths, Browns Hull, The Book Shop in Toll Gavel, Beverley and Sokell
To purchase a copy of the book please click on the link above.
General Background about the book
Education has been flourishing in East Yorkshire for centuries,
beginning in buildings now often gone, in cottages, in some priories,
church porches, ancient grammar schools and village A.B.C. schools. Let
us look at the general background and then move on to look at some
individual village schools and their histories in more detail.
Opposite the ‘Light Dragoon’ in Etton a low white painted building
stands on a corner and is used as the parish community hall, but
originally it was the village school converted from a barn and is much
older than the one near the church. Similarly at Londesbrough stands
such another building known as The Reading Rooms, but originally a
school house dating from the late 1600’s pre-dating the Victorian
school in Top Street. Bishop Wilton has its older school building which
eventually became part of a garage, again a much older one than the
present school built in Victorian times and still very much in use.
There are a few other old school buildings scattered around the
countryside but they are not so numerous as those built in the 1800’s
to cater for the needs of local children.
Who built these schools, and why? - They were usually founded by a
local landowner or clergyman, often free to attend but sometimes
charging a few pence a week. The aim was to improve the lot of the
children of the area most of whose fathers worked on the land or in
occupations associated with it, and provide the opportunity for some at
least to learn a trade.
There were several small grammar schools founded in East Yorkshire,
generally by local landowners or clergy employing a master to teach
Latin and perhaps Greek to boys who were admitted free under the will
and endowment of the benefactor. Some boys benefited from these
schools, going on to university at an earlier age than they do now -
often at ten or twelve years old. There was usually accommodation for
the master who could charge fees to other boys whose parents desired
such an education. Latin was the language of the church, the law, local
and national administration, but as English came to be used more and
more these country grammar schools declined and usually became A.B.C.
schools teaching reading, writing and arithmetic to both boys and
girls, still under the terms of the endowments. Halsham is a good
example as we will see later.
Some of the earliest foundations in the East Riding were at
Walkington in 1537, Halsham in 1579 - this building opened in 1584 was
still providing education up to 1949, more details of that later on -
Burton Agnes in 1563, Skirlaugh in 1611, Aldborough in 1663 and Atwick
in 1689. The schools were often housed in part of the church or in one
of the very early buildings already indicated.
Benefactions continued in the 1700’s again mainly through local
clergy but also through the local gentry, male and female, but
increasingly through public subscriptions, i.e, local people setting up
a school for boys and girls even it it was in a house or a farm and
paying someone to teach the village children, but there was no
coordinated curriculum. Sometimes the services of the parish clerk were
obtained and at Garton-on-the-Wolds in 1743 a Cambridge graduate taught
an early school and received food in part payment, ‘his meat from door
to door is most he gets for his instruction, he receives very small
Dame schools were a prominent feature; a woman, usually elderly or
widowed, would teach a few village children for a penny or so for a
living, with varied outcomes. Some very respectable ladies achieved
good results while others devoted as much time to the gin bottle as to
the pupils! These ‘schools’ slowly declined in the 1800’s as
educational facilities improved.
School building benefited from a more prosperous period in farming
which had been facilitated by new ideas in stock breeding, new
varieties of corn and other crops, increased use of the new machines
and of course by a bigger demand for food from a growing population in
the towns and cities. Money was available for a school in nearly every
village in the 1800’s.
The list of benefactors is impressive. Richard Sykes built a school
at Kirk Ella in 1838; Colonel Northcliff one at Langton in 1841;
Captain Duncombe at Barmby Moor in 1845; and at Hayton, ‘Hayton School
erected by W. H. Rudston Read, Esq. Lord of the Manor 1854’ is
inscribed over the door of this tiny school building; the Todd family
built a school at Swanland; the Jacksons at Sancton in 1870. At North
Ferriby is an old school ‘In memory of Charles Turner, built 1877’,
which is a private house now as is the one at Great Hatfield which
bears the inscription ‘This stone laid by the Hon. Mrs Bethell August
23 1880’. Sir Henry Boynton built Burton Agnes school in 1871 thus
continuing the provisions of 1563. At Howsham, that tiny school bears
the inscription ‘This School was re-built by Col. Cholmney A.D. 1832’,
denoting an earlier one on that site.
Some of the larger landowners provided sites for several schools on
their various estates - Lord Hotham at South Dalton and Humbleton; Lord
Londesborough at Goodmanham, Routh and Middleton; Lord Wenlock at Kexby
and Stillingfleet; Lord Middleton at Wharram and North Grimston. But
the greatest school builders - and church refurbishers - in the East
Riding were the Sykes family of Sledmere, especially Sir Tatton Sykes
the fifth Baronet who built, or restored, or provided land for schools
at Garton-on-the-Wolds and Wetwang in 1843, then at Kirkburn, Fimber,
Bishop Wilton, Thixendale and Wansford; the gem of them is the school
at Sledmere itself, an attractive building and still in use as are
Bishop Wilton, Garton and Wetwang.
Generally, these Victorian schools were small and unpretentious and
reflected the needs of the time. Some catered for as few as 20 girls
and boys, others more. For example the school at Foston on the Wolds
was built in 1844 at a cost of £57:13s:10d and could accommodate 69
pupils, though it measured only 23ft. by 18ft. A continuous bench and
desk top were arranged down the long walls at each side, with four
smaller ones in the centre and a desk and chair or stool for the master
or mistress at one end.
This school was a single roomed structure, while others had two rooms
or one long room which could be divided into two by means of folding
doors. There was usually a porch which served as a cloakroom with pegs
to hang coats on; two earth closets, one for girls and one for boys,
round the back of the school (there was no water supply in those early
days for rural schools); a coal house or bunker for fuel to heat the
stove or grate in the winter; a playground which could be paved but was
often a grassy field as at Hayton. Most of the schoolroom furniture was
made from timber grown on local estates.
The very patchy provisions of education was of concern to successive
governments - the mix of clergy schools, those endowed by local gentry,
subscription schools set up by local farmers and tradesmen, dame
schools, old grammar schools struggling with valueless endowments, one
owner schools sometimes offering a grounding in the three r’s but all
too often just a means of keeping the wolf from the door - what was
needed was an organised system of education for all children - a
national system which the Church of England set out to provide and
which can still be identified today by the inscription ‘National
School’ above the door or on the side of the building and which in an
altered form is still with us today.
In 1812, a Dr. Bell, Superintendent of an orphanage in Madras,
India, hit upon a way of teaching large number of children reading,
writing and arithmetic very economically - the teacher would instruct
older and brighter pupils called monitors who would then instruct
groups of pupils in their charge. This idea was greeted
enthusiastically in Britain in those early days of industrialisation
and the division of labour and was put to good use in the large town
schools and could be extended to the village schools.
The attraction of the National Society to the rural scene lay not so
much in its teaching methods but in its organisation and financial
possibilities. The Society had as its aim:-
“To communicate to the poor generally, by means of a summary mode of
education lately brought into practice, such knowledge and habits as
are sufficient to guide them through life in their proper stations,
especially to teach them the doctrine of Religion according to the
principles of the Established Church.”
The National Society offered grants for the erection of schools, the
cost of which had to be matched locally by the parishioners through
subscriptions, bazaars, teas, band concerts etc. Many schools were
founded this way including the National School at Cottingham in 1835 -
more details later.
The Wesleyans were also active in the provision of schools, but
mostly in the towns though Cottingham had a Wesleyan school to rival
the National one; these schools were organised on the principles of the
British and Foreign Schools Society, somewhat similar to the National
Society. The Catholics too provided schools but mainly in the towns.
In 1833 an annual government grant for education began which was
shared between the National and British and Foreign Schools Societies
at first. The sum of £20,000 was available for that first year - the
annual grants rose rapidly to £500,000 in the 1840’s due to the demand
for financial help not only from the two main societies, but also from
the providers of endowed or subscription schools or private venture
schools and was dependant on the suitability of the building, which led
to improvements to existing schools and the building of new ones and to
the appointment of government inspectors to visit schools to make sure
that the requirements were complied with. All this led to a Privy
Council of Education being set up to oversee these arrangements and to
administer Treasury grants directly to the schools. The government had
‘got its foot in the door’ of education, while still working in tandem
with the two main societies and local effort.
The first school in this area to be built and subsidised by
government grant via one of the two main societies was the British and
Foreign School on Dock Green in Hull in 1833 - this school was
eventually demolished to make way for the Railway Dock, now
incorporated into the Marina - the next was the National School at
Barmby-on-the-Marsh in 1834, followed by Burton Agnes and Keyingham in
1835; these last three replacing schools held in the churches.
During the 1840’s alone, some 30 schools many with a house for the
master or mistress which was often as large or larger than the
schoolroom next door, were erected in the East Riding by voluntary
effort. The local benefactors had been most generous in their provision
of building land and in many cases paid for the whole building process
as we have seen, using the local or estate bricklayers and carpenters
to erect the school after architects plans were accepted, but the
provision of books, slates, pencils, rules, blackboards and cupboards
often fell upon the shoulders of the local villagers and farmers, who
appealed to the National Society who usually came to the rescue with
those necessities plus bibles and prayer books.
As time went on, the majority of our village schools came under the
umbrella of the National Society whose church congregations gave
generously, thus augmenting the government grants; many were built by
them and many more erected by the local gentry were taken over by the
Society, either partially or completely, as the costs escalated. The
National Society often built a school between two parishes to serve the
children of both, e.g. Thearn and Woodmansey, Beswick and Watton, both
still flourishing and extended and both still Church of England
schools, reflecting the enormous contribution of the National Society
years ago. It is said that by 1850 a school was within walking
distance, even across fields, of most children.
The National Society were also instrumental in forwarding the
training of teachers; as we have seen, many teachers were local men and
women with varying abilities and it was felt that the growing costs of
subsiding local education warranted professional teachers dedicated to
their job and the Society supported two concurrent schemes. One was the
pupil teacher system where a boy or girl could be apprenticed to a
school whose teacher was approved by the government inspector. This
apprenticeship began at about 12 years of age and the pupil became
qualified after five or six years experience and passing a series of
examinations. The pupil received lessons from the master or mistress
both before and after school hours. Some of them moved on to the new
teacher training colleges established by the Society in the 1840’s. The
first College in this area was the St John’s in Monkgate in York for
men, with an annex for women at Ripon - the College of Ripon and St.
John is still in existence after its foundation in 1841.
Those ex-pupil teachers who went to a college were usually supported
by a government bursary, but most stayed on at their school or got a
post at another school. So, gradually, the education given in the
village schools improved due to the extended learning of the teachers
but was still confined to the three r’s plus religion until the late
1870’s and into the 80’s when natural science, geography, history and
so on became part of the curriculum in the village schools as well as
in the towns and cities which were also undergoing this social
revolution and the local school master or mistress became a respected
figure in the community.
A composite picture of a village school in mid-Victorian times would
be a schoolroom and perhaps a house for the teacher as described
earlier, with an average of 30 children aged from five to eleven and
bringing their three or fourpence fee each Monday morning; schools
could usually accommodate more pupils but average attendances were low.
Differing ages meant group teaching and sometimes the teacher had the
help of a pupil teacher or monitor, but help often came in the person
of the vicar’s wife or sister or daughter to teach the girls needlework
in the afternoons and of the vicar himself to take the scripture
lessons and hymn singing - the clergy were most important in the life
of the school; the National Society was the arm of the Church of
England and we have seen how instrumental their input was in education,
the vicar could and did oversee the workings of the school and was
often in a position to remove a teacher in a National School if he felt
After 1862 schools became subject to an annual inspection by an
H.M.I. (Her Majesty’s Inspector) The emphasis has shifted from the
adequate nature of the school building, to that of the attainment of
the pupils i.e. any future grant depended on the attendance and
progress of the pupils; this new scheme was worrying to a town school
but threw the village schools into a panic because of the fluid nature
of attendance at the time - small numbers equalled small grants - poor
exam results equalled poor grants, plus the fact that the teachers
salary was linked to it all! So on inspection day all the pupils were
expected to attend no matter what, with clean hands and face, hair
combed, boots blacked, pinafores clean and ironed - an all round good
impression was the aim. Reading, writing, arithmetic and religious
knowledge were examined - practically all the early H.M.I.’s were
clergymen and the first Inspector for the Northern District was the
Rev. F. W. Watkins.
Even though this was the era of ‘elementary’ education the standards
expected in the exams were certainly not elementary - this terminology
merely meant the basic subjects which were tested according to age and
ability and heralded the dawn of the term Standard 1, Standard 2,
Standard 3 etc.
By the late 1860’s it was apparent that the voluntary societies and
private enterprise could no longer keep pace with the growing
populations in towns and countryside and more school building was
needed in many places to cater for the burgeoning child numbers. So an
Education Act passed in 1870 authorised the setting up of local school
boards of between five and fifteen members, male or female, according
to the size of a district where a new school was needed. These school
boards were to be elected by the rate payers and a special rate was
levied for the purpose of building the school. Annual examinations were
still to be conducted except in religious knowledge which was to be
undenominational, if taught at all. This angered the National Society
who immediately set about building or enlarging 30 more church schools,
often with the help of local gentry - inscriptions on some present
church schools indicate ‘built in’ and ‘enlarged in’ as, for example,
at Garton on the Wolds.
The first school boards to be elected in our area were at Hutton
Cranswick, Burstwick and Hedon in 1872 and they set about having
schools built to remedy a shortage of school places. Increases in rates
are, and never were, welcome but the numbers of present and future
pupils were assessed and work went ahead; between 1870 and 1890, 28
board schools were built in the East Riding. In some cases, a school
board took over the running of a National or British or Wesleyan school
as at Cottingham, while others kept their independence and some of the
old endowed schools were able to carry on with help from the Hall.
These will be referred to at the appropriate time.
By 1900, the haphazard and uncoordinated system of school provision
was no longer acceptable to government and an Education Act of 1902
abolished the school boards and established county councils as the
providers. Board schools were taken over and the National Church of
England schools carried on with help were needed.
Even though 28 board schools had been built in the East Riding, the
National Society had provided the majority of village schools, or taken
over the running of others, or were in partnership with the local
gentry who had built the schools in the first place and were naturally
reluctant to surrender their pre-eminence and things were put on a
sounder footing after the Education Act of 1944 which emphasised the
dual system of education i.e. the voluntary schools, mainly National
Society, and the local authority ones.
The voluntary schools were offered two financial options. One was to
become voluntary controlled, where the local authority would take over
the complete running costs of the school, and the other was voluntary
aided where the local authority helped with certain finances. For
example, Beswick and Watton, Garton on the Wolds, and Wetwang schools
are C of E (VC), i.e. Church of England Voluntary Controlled; there are
many other C of E formerly National schools in our area, some aided and
some controlled. One in four primary schools nationally are Church of
England schools today and one in ten secondary schools.
As regards teachers’ salaries - in the National schools in the
1850’s a master would get about £40 per annum and a mistress £30 and
these salaries rose gradually during the 19th century. A pupil teacher
was paid £10 a year, rising to £20 after his or her five year
apprenticeship and monitors were paid a few pence a week. The term
school master or mistress was elevated to that of Head Master and Head
Mistress as other qualified staff joined as assistant master or
assistant mistress as time went on. Before the days of teachers’
pensions the village schoolmaster or mistress usually carried on until
they died or were unable to continue - there are records of teachers
instructing several generations of the same family in the same
In 1899 the school leaving age was fixed at 12 years old and the
fees of weekly pence abolished although some schools charged fees for a
few years after that. As regards teachers’ salaries in 1870, a master
received about £94 per year and a mistress £57, by the end of the
century a master might get £100 and a mistress £88. There were
variations from village to village depending on the size of the school
and the number of pupils. Assistant teachers were paid ro-rata where
they were employed in the larger village schools - monitors and pupil
teachers could expect between £10 and £20 per year. Salaries and
running costs were met partly by the childrens’ weekly pence (up to
1899), but mainly by grants from the National Society and the Treasury
and very often by local benefactors.
So what was the ethos in those Victorian schools? Discipline was
maintained by several means. Every one had a place in the scheme of
things - a niche to fill and village children were left in no doubt
where their place was; they were, by and large, the children of land
workers and would become land workers or house servants themselves.
They were taught respect for the vicar and his family and even more for
the local Lord of the Manor or other generous benefactor of the village
and school. The hymns that they sang in church or Sunday school were
repeated daily in the school - all had a similar theme, ‘we all have
our stations in life and must be satisfied with them.’ for example -
“All things Bright and Beautiful” - a lovely hymn, but one verse
referred to - “the rich man in his castle, the poor man at his
gate.....the Lord has ordered their estate.”
composed by Mrs Alexander in the mid 1800’s and - “Daisies are our
silver, buttercups our gold, this is all the treasure we can have or
hold.” again a hymn of the same period; or the poem made into the
Christmas carol, “Once in Royal David’s City” which ends with -
“Christian children all must be, kind obedient, good as he.” Christian
values, obedience, and respect, with the cane as the final arbitor. One
of the most important reasons for learning to read was to be able to
understand the Bible. The visiting clergy often examined pupils in
verses of the bible and most of the reading books had messages of
virtue, honesty and truth and were supplied by The Society for the
Promotion of Christian Knowledge.
But, as we have seen briefly, the curriculum of even the smallest
village school expanded dramatically after about 1870 to include
natural science, botany, measuring, weights and similar topics that
would prove useful to a new generation of farmers and workers in an age
of advances in agriculture, and there was a new generation of better
informed teachers to teach them. The girls also benefited from
instruction in cookery and household management as well as the usual
knitting and needlework. More emphasis was placed on practical work
where space permitted and with the advent of the board schools after
1870, the pace advanced due to the generally larger buildings and
better facilities - but again this applied to the larger villages
leaving the small traditional village school at a disadvantage until
extensions could be made and new ideas could be practiced.
In those days before the pre-eminence of the state and local
authorities, village life usually revolved around the ‘big house’. We
have seen the generous financial support from local estate owners for
the erection of schools which often continued in partnership with the
National Society. Most of the estate workers were housed in cottages
owned by the Lord of the Manor or other wealthy landowner - many spent
their lives in one village having attended the local school to which
their children and grand-children would proceed along with the children
of farmworkers and tenant farmers; villages were largely self-contained
and self-sufficient and life was lived under the benevolent - or
otherwise - eye of the ‘big house’ which not only provided employment
and education, but looked after the elderly and needy on the estate.
Relaxation was provided by the occasional fair, and sports days and
carnivals were held in a field loaned by the Hall; horse and cattle
shows, sheep dog trials and ploughing matches were a regular feature of
estates villages and the local school children with their teachers and
clergy enjoyed a day at the seaside if in waggonette distance, or by
rail as the railways spread to the countryside, or enjoyed a feast and
a few roundabout rides, all laid on by the Hall.
At school, playtime was observed as now - some activities have
remained the same, like tig and block, but others have disappeared like
whip and top and marbles for the boys and hopscotch for the girls,
though skipping remains fairly popular for girls and conkers for boys,
who’s main past time was fighting then and football now! The teacher or
a senior would toll the school bell up in the turret - they would also
usually prepare the fire in the stove or grate in winter time, and
lessons began at 9am. Dinner time was from 12 until 1 o’clock with most
children bringing a sandwich to eat due to the often long distances
from home. The school emptied at 4 o’clock and pupils who lived in the
village were soon home, while others would wend their way across the
fields and paths, often seeing a father or brother at work ploughing or
harvesting on the way home - a pleasant journey in good weather, but
not through rain or snow!
So it is against this general background that we can look at
individual village schools - some of the many that were provided in our