Not Forgetting - Chapter 5: Bottesford National School, 1863 – 1902
This and the following chapter (Chapter 6) are based on Headmaster’s Log Books and the School Management Committee Minute Book, by permission of Bottesford Primary School.
On September 13th 1864, Lady Adeliza Norman left her husband and first cousin, the Reverend Frederick Norman, to his duties as rector, magistrate and rural dean, in order to pay one of her regular visits to the nearby village school, built by subscription in 1855, on land donated by her father, the 5th Duke of Rutland. She could be confident that the rector and the rectory would be well looked after by the butler, housekeeper, footman and assorted maids, although it was a very modest household compared to the one at the castle, where there were several dozen indoor servants, ranging from the House Steward to the lamp man.
Possibly Lady Adeliza shared some of the views of her younger brother, John Manners, later 7th Duke, who was a romantic Tory fired by ideals of patriotism, High Anglicanism and the reassertion of feudal values. In his poem ‘England’s Trust’ he wrote of the danger of showing ‘the poor a yawning gulf between/The noble’s castle and the village green’, and advocated a society dominated by the benign power of the Church and the aristocracy, where ‘Each knew his place king, peasant, peer or priest’. Certainly she believed that with her privileged position came responsibility for the welfare and moral guidance of those God had appointed to the humbler stations in life, and she and her husband devoted much of their time to good works.
She was 53 years old and had lived through a time when the established social order had seemed to be under serious threat. Probably she feared, in the words of her younger brother’s poem, ‘the pent up violence of man’. Nottingham, that ‘disorderly, radical city,’ centre of food riots, Luddism, Chartism and renewed agitation for electoral reform, had been brought so much closer by the opening of the railway in 1850. Her father, spurred on perhaps by the burning of Nottingham Castle, once the property of his ancestors, had, as Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire, presided over the establishment of the Leicestershire Constabulary in 1839, one of the first police forces in the country. Bottesford itself had a purpose-built police station from 1842. The school, like the Constabulary and the Police Station, was expected to play its part in the maintenance of order.
Lady Adeliza must have been an intimidating figure to the Mistress at Bottesford National School. Bottesford’s teachers came largely from the families of artisans and tradesmen. Their social status was roughly that of the upper servants at the Rectory. School teachers came from working class backgrounds; their social status was low, rather lower than that of the rectory butler and housekeeper. Most of Bottesford belonged to Lady Adeliza’s brother, the 6th Duke, and the teacher’s job depended on the Rector and Her Ladyship’s approval. On this occasion Lady Adeliza made it clear that she was not impressed:
1864 September 13th ‘Visit of the Lady Adeliza Norman, who referred to the cleanliness of the children as a most important desideratum in the welfare of the school. Three children punished for being dirty. Form of punishment standing up the whole of the afternoon.’
We do not know the names of the children who were publicly humiliated and forced to stand for several hours. They were almost certainly under ten, possibly considerably younger. To the schoolchildren Lady Adeliza would have been awe-inspiring. Almost all of their parents earned their livings directly or indirectly from the Duke’s estates, many lived on his land or in his houses. Only a few of the pupils names are included in the surviving parts of the School Log Books for the 1860s. Most, of course, were the offspring of agricultural labourers, like Billy Parnham from The Green, who was only three years old, or four-year-old John Thomas Starbuck, who lived with his grandfather, probably in one of the Duke’s Bunkers Hill cottages, and five-year-old William Gibson from Mill Lane. At six-years-old Elizabeth Bass walked to school from Normanton, where her father, too, was a farmhand, but eight-year-old John Dewey’s father was a railway labourer. More and more of Bottesford’s population were employed on the railways. He lived at Normanton Gatehouse, where his mother was the gatekeeper. Annie James, aged five, from nearby Church Street, came from a more prosperous background. Her father owned and drove a steam threshing machine.
Lady Adeliza was not entirely satisfied with the conduct of the school. Cleanliness and good order were her primary concerns .On September 23rd she entered a comment in the Log Book herself: ‘class inattentive, a want of order; the singing good’. The Mistress showed her anxiety to please Lady Adeliza in her log book entry on the 26th: ‘children punished for coming to school with several marks of inattention to cleanliness’, but on October 7th Lady Adeliza again commented in her own hand: Examined the children. 1st class very orderly read tolerably well 2nd class disorderly and inattentive; backward in reading.’
Bottesford’s old Free School, funded by the bequests of Ligonier and Ravell, had become Bottesford National School some years before the new school near the cross was built. Prompted by fear of social unrest and anxious to control the education of the masses, in 1811 the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church was formed. Church of England elementary schools were built by public subscription, aiming to ‘instil habits of piety and industry’ in the labouring classes.
Under the Revised Code of 1862 the principal teacher of every elementary school was required to keep in a Log Book ‘a bare record’ of events with ‘no expressions of opinion’. On January 19th 1863, the Head Teachers of Bottesford National Schools had picked up their pens and, no doubt rather anxiously, made the first entries in Log Books.
The School Master of the ‘Mixed School’, James Campkin, a farmer’s son from Cambridgeshire, author of ‘The Philosophy of Common Things’, ‘No’but and Ne’er Heed’ and ‘Struggles of a Village Lad’, wrote:
19th Had more than 70 scholars, which is an increase upon the attendance for the last six months The Rev. F.J. Norman visited… observed …good order, and heard the children sing …
22nd In the dictation this morning 2 girls and a boy lost the benefit … by continuing to copy after being warned …In the Arithmetic lesson the 3rd class got into great disorder…The teacher spoken to on keeping order…
26th Several boys stayed away today to see the hunting, some others asked leave to go, but were refused…
In the Infants’ School the Mistress was similarly uncertain about what to include, but made sure she too emphasized good order and attendance:
19th. A boy advanced to the Boys’ School.
Punished a girl this afternoon for disobedience.
21st. Kept one of the new scholars in school after the others were gone, to do her needlework, because she was idle & talkative during the afternoon, although spoken to several times.
22nd. The Reverend F.J. Norman visited the school. On entering the school this afternoon ,found the room made very dirty, by some of the bigger girls; cautioned them if it was found so again, to turn them out during the dinner hour.
23rd. The clock stopped, consequently the children were not out till a quarter of a hour after time. Caution. Have the clock wound up before school time.
26th. Lady Norman visited the school and heard the children sing.
27th. Cautioned a girl who had left the day before at half past 3 o’clock, that I should not allow her to go out again without a note from her mother, because she had not been told to leave, and instead of going home played in the road.
2nd. Several children kept away because their parents had no money to pay their schooling. Admitted one new girl.
3rd. School thin again.
9th. Two more girls came this morning who had been away a long time.
10th. The Reverend F.J. Norman visited the school and saw the first class work an addition sum on the Black Board.
11th. School thin this afternoon on account of several girls being at work.
16th. School thin this morning but several more came in the afternoon.
17th. A half holiday this afternoon on account of its being Shrove Tuesday.
20th. Mrs. Owen (a lady of the committee) visited the school.
24th. Began teaching the 2nd Class how to do addition.
25th. The Reverend F.J. Norman visited the school.
The Master and Mistress had good reason to feel nervous. Log Book entries are often stilted and repetitive, but they do reveal how national policy on education and conflicts around it were played out in the microcosm of the village school. Under the new regulations, grants were no longer paid directly to teachers, but to managers who then negotiated the teacher’s pay. The grant awarded to the school, and hence the teacher’s salary, were dependent on the attendance of children and their performance in ‘examinations’ given by Her Majesty’s Inspectors (H.M.I.). The ‘payment by results’ system, was introduced into the House of Commons with the words: ‘I cannot promise that it will be an efficient one, but I can promise that … it shall be cheap.’
In 1863 James Campkin was succeeded by Isaac Wildbore, son of a framework knitter from Bunny, and his wife. Although the numbers had increased in the Upper School from 49 to 76, (60 of them boys), the School Inspector’s report on the Infants’ School in February 1864 was not encouraging. In the Infants’ 44 children were present, of whom 29 had attended 200 times: ‘The children did not do well in arithmetic and reading…the writing was too small…there was not enough needlework …the school had improved but not so much as it ought to have done …the number of children ought to have been greater.’ By September 1864 the Wildbores had gone. The new Master and Mistress were Pryce Llewellyn Jones from Newtown, Montgomery, and his wife, Jane.
At first attendance in the Infants’ School was poor: ‘School opened with an attendance of 15 …One of the scholars able to read monosyllables and the rest are not well acquainted with the alphabet’. Numbers increased dramatically, however, and by 1871 the census listed 297 children as ‘scholars’. The log book records: ‘Aug.14th The house to be thrown into the schools to make more accommodation’, suggesting that originally the teachers’ accommodation was part of the school. Perhaps it was this disruption which prompted the Prices to move on in 1873. In 1877 H.M.I. commented on the difficulty of teaching 40 infants in the same room as older girls and recommended ‘a new classroom properly fitted up for infant instruction.’ A new infants’ room at the Eastern end of the school was finished in 1878.
Schooling was not compulsory until after the 1881 Act. Before that, enrolment was voluntary and attendance was often erratic, with inevitable effects on test results. It is not surprising the Log Book entries refer so frequently to reasons for absences. The ‘payment by results’ system often produced an obsession with tests and rather many despairing comments on the ‘backwardness’ and ‘dullness’ of the children. The Revised Code was often criticized for narrowing the curriculum and resulting in the drilling of children for the tests.
The comment ‘school thin’ occurs through out the early years of the log book. Children were needed in the fields or at home and attendance varied with the seasons, employment opportunities and the agricultural year: ‘three or four children having to work in the fields,’ ‘several children kept away to pick up potatoes’, ‘Attendance very poor…Gleaning not quite finished…the infants were kept until five o’clock to accommodate those parents who wanted to glean’, ‘gleaning, cannot be spared until after the Feast,’ ‘several girls absent from school helping their mothers with the spring cleaning’, ‘several girls being at work’, ‘several children kept at home to mind younger ones because their mothers were at work.’ The1881 Act made schooling compulsory. The leaving age was 13, but in effect, with exemptions it was10. An entry in the Log Book for 1891 records: ‘The names of Annie Briggs, Kate Bend and Ada Bockin withdrawn from the register, they having obtained Labour Certificates’. Annie Briggs and Kate Bend were 11 and Ada Bockin, 10.
The weather was another major cause of absence when children had to walk to school in inadequate clothing, especially in the severe winters: ‘school thin because of the wet’, ‘day very wet, hence smaller attendance..’ ‘the severe weather keeps many of the infants home the greater part of the week’. The school was poorly heated and drying wet clothes difficult. Poorer families might struggle to ensure that children were warmly clothed and properly shod: ‘several children away on account of the clothing club things being given out,’ ‘two children away with bad feet’, Jan. 10th.:‘Several children absent through bad feet.’ Jan. 17th: ‘Girls still absent with bad feet’.
Illness, sometimes caused by poverty and insanitary living conditions, seriously affected school attendance. ‘Colds, several away ill’ and ‘sickness’ are often given as the reason for a fall in numbers. Whooping cough, mumps, measles and scarlet fever accounted for many absences and several deaths of pupils are recorded. Sometimes less common ailments were to blame: January 28th 1864: ‘Sent a girl home who had a humour breaking out on the skin.’ One of the teachers was away due to ‘caterpillar blood poisoning’. The 1872 Public Health Act required Local Authorities to appoint a Medical Officer of Health and the Log Books began to record infections more systematically: 1882 Jan 28th ‘More than half the children absent with fever or measles…’ Feb 18th ‘More than two thirds of the children still absent…’ March 4th ‘Many children still absent through sickness’. Scarlet fever spread rapidly through the ‘yards’ which housed many pupils. Attempts were made to halt the spread of infection: ‘Scarlet fever has broken out in the villages, consequently several of the children living in the same yard as the child who has the fever were sent home.’
It was not a free school. One reason given for absence was: ‘no money to pay their schooling’ and children were often sent home. In October 1864 a number of parents visited the school to protest when the ‘school pence’ went up to 2d. The average wage for an agricultural labourer at the time was 11 shillings a week. Nov 17th 1876 ‘Harriet Bend caused a deal of trouble. Her mother refused to let her learn her home lessons and also refuses to pay more than two pence for her schooling, whereas it is a rule of the school for all girls above Standard Three should pay three pence.’ Children whose parents had failed to pay were sent away: Dec. 25th 1880 ‘Mary Hannah Bend sent home because her mother refused to pay her school pence’.. Jan 15th1881 ‘Mary H. Bend sent home because her parents neglect to pay her school pence’. We can only guess what lay behind the Bend’s ‘neglect’, but we can imagine the shame felt by poor Hannah Mary. Entries recur ‘Agnes Maltby sent home for her school pence,’ ‘Annie Geeson sent home for her school pence,’ ‘Mrs. Maltby refuses to pay back school money owing.’ Dec. 13th 1889 ‘Sent Annie King home for school pence owing’ until, finally, on August 31st 1891, following the 1890 Elementary Education Act, we learn, ‘School pence paid this week for the last time. Several parents refuse to pay.’
Before the 1890 Act the Poor Law Guardians were empowered, but not obliged, to pay ‘school pence’ for the children of paupers. February 2nd 1874 ‘Admitted Eliza Bailey who is paid for by the Grantham Union. A. Mackay is paid for by the Grantham Union’. ‘Kate and Sarah Bockin are no longer paid for by the parish’ On August 16th 1886 ‘Mr. Barnacle paid the sum of 5s for the two Johnson children,’ but sadly on October 19th ‘The names of Annie and Kate Johnson withdrawn from the register. Gone to the Grantham Workhouse’.
Relations with parents could be difficult for various reasons: ‘Mrs. Charity comes to the school to complain of her little girl’s clothes being destroyed’. Homework seems to have provoked a good deal of opposition. ‘Some of the parents find fault about the children’s home lessons. Mrs. Geeson comes to the school to complain.’ ‘Harriet Birch withdrawn from school because she refused to do her home lessons.’ Lateness caused conflict: ‘Mrs. Hudson refused to send her little boy earlier, consequently I dismissed him from the school.’ Parents often needed children at home, ‘Mrs. Hardy finds fault because Emma cannot leave at 3 0’clock every afternoon.’ Sometimes punishments were resented: Mrs. Gilden came to school to complain about her daughter being kept in.’ ‘Mrs. Gilden fetched Kate from school when she was kept in to do an imposition.’ ‘Mrs Moore complained to Mr Norman of the pupil teacher punishing her daughter’.
There is only one reference to caning in the nineteenth century Log Books, ‘caned two girls this afternoon for fighting in school’, but it is not always clear what is meant by ‘punishment,’ ‘Punished a boy this morning for swearing, talked to the children about this great sin.’ Where punishments are specified, they do not involve hitting the children, ‘W. Gibson punished for being quarrelsome. Form of punishment, standing up’, but there is evidence of unofficial corporal punishment. More than once a monitor has to be reprimanded ‘for striking the children’. The Mistress writes: ‘wish monitors not to touch the children but report insubordination,’ but ‘Mrs. Challands comes to the school to complain of the monitress striking her little girl’.
Not everything about school life was grim. There are a great variety of holidays for feasts, treats and events: the Bottesford Feast, the Chapel teas, Sunday School outings, the Flower Show, the circus, Grantham Fair, the hunt, the races, royal occasions: ‘choir treat to Haddon Hall,’ ‘Holiday because of children’s trip to Belvoir,’ ‘Holiday because the school is required for a celery show’ ‘Holiday given on Friday because of the Review at Belvoir.’ ‘several absent …Chapel tea feast.’
Any break must have been welcome from the monotonous work prescribed by the Revised Code. Reading might consist of calling out single words on wall charts. Writing was mostly copying into copybooks. Arithmetic was chanting tables, and sums on the blackboard. Religious instruction was central, as shown in the only entries July 18 – 29 1864:
July 18th. Scrip lesson, ‘Judas betrays Jesus Christ.
July 19th. Catechism ‘Another part of our duty towards our neighbours’
July 20th. Scrip lesson. ‘Christ’s agony in the garden’.
July 21st. Catechism. The latter part of our duty towards our neighbours.’
July 22nd. Scrip lesson Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss
July 25th. Reading lesson – ‘God made you’
July 27th. The whole of ‘our duty to our neighbours’.
July 28th. Scrip lesson, Christ’s crucifixion.
July 29th. Reading lesson, ‘Hay’.
Activities such as needlework, singing and drill, the other components of the curriculum, must have come as a relief.
If parents caused problems for the teachers, the teachers could also prove a headache to the school managers. In 1874, William Marston, son of a ‘whitesmith’ from Ripon, took over as Head Master. He introduced a stricter routine of testing and tabulating results and recording percentage attendance weekly, giving the impression of much greater efficiency and discipline. He and his wife Eliza, joined later by their daughter, Minnie, ran the school apparently smoothly for eighteen years, until, in 1892, Mr Marston was asked to resign his post because of ‘unsatisfactory conduct’. He was offered 6 months notice so that he could retrieve his ‘lost character’. He was also asked to submit a balance sheet of accounts for the Glee Club. Happily Mr. Marston did manage to retrieve his lost character; the 1901 census shows the Marstons working as schoolmaster and mistress at Wormhill School, Derbyshire.
Following Mr. Marston’s departure, it was decided that the Head Master’s post should be offered to Mr. Collett of the Grantham Church Schools at a salary of £100 p.a. plus a third of the grant and a house, ‘he to provide and pay for a mistress of the Girls’ School.’
The Mistress was Martha E. Johnson , who lived in Bluegate, Grantham, with her father, a bricklayer from Wakefield. Complaints from parents about Miss Johnson’s ‘excessive punishments’ became such a regular occurrence that the Managers summoned her to a meeting in December 1884. They decided that ‘the cane was too frequently used … in future an entry should be made in the log book when corporal punishment was inflicted and the reason for it.’
The Rector wrote to Miss Johnson: ‘there is too free use of the cane, which we think ought to be reserved for the grave moral offences, not every little breach of the school rules, such as coming late, or for simple stupidity, and that punishment with the cane should be inflicted by yourself only & only on the hands … The Pupil Teachers should not be allowed to knock the children’s heads … We are by no means against corporal punishment only it should be used sparingly and with distinction…’
His letter had no effect. Complaints about Miss Johnson kept coming. In Jan.1885 another meeting was held: ‘The chairman and other members put it to her whether under the circumstances, as she did not seem able to get on with the parents, she would not be acting unusually in sending in her resignation, as in a village a Teacher who was at enmity with the majority of the parents could not do good work with the children.’
Miss Johnson was dismissive, entering her own version in the Log Book: ‘Attended Committee Meeting. The following complaints made (1) Refusal to allow a girl to go home at playtime (2) Retention, last year, of a backward irregular child in Standard 3 (3) Harsh treatment of children i.e. ordinary slight punishment.’
In 1887 another letter to her appears in the Minute book: ‘The managers regret receiving another letter from Thos. Dent complaining of the detention of his child at school …also of other complaints of severe punishment’… but Miss Johnson continued ‘at enmity’ with the parents and clearly had no intention of resigning: ‘Beatrice Oldham was punished slightly yesterday, for inattention and disobedience consequently her grandmother came this morning & most used insulting & abusive language’, ‘Beatrice Oldham was detained …for carelessness.. . her grandmother entered the school, & in the presence of children who remain for dinner used most abusive language’.
She complained to the committee about the parents. Oct. 28th 1898 ‘Letter was received from Miss Johnson complaining of abusive and insulting language & improper behaviour on the part of Mrs. Wilkinson on the school premises…’
In spite of having earlier suggested Miss Johnson should resign, the Managers appeared to feel obliged to uphold Miss Johnson’s authority against the parents; Mrs. Wilkinson was threatened with a summons. Miss Johnson not only remained at the school, but was joined by her younger sister, Alice. In May 1900 she became assistant mistress in the newly formed mixed school. She remained at the school until 1905, when she was replaced by Eleanor James, daughter of a local bricklayer, who had started her teaching career as a monitor at the school in 1878.
In the Upper School Victor Collett, author of ‘How To Spend A Holiday in the Vale of Belvoir’, known to his pupils as ‘the old boss’, maintained strict order. He grew up in a military environment, at The Armoury, Cirencester, where his father was a Staff Sergeant. He was particularly concerned to foster the most able children and ensure that they were educated beyond elementary school level. His Log Book entries repeatedly draw attention to the academic achievements of former pupils, those who have won scholarships to the Grammar Schools and, in one case, a place at Downing College, Cambridge. He was so proud of this that in 1906 he copied the report from the Grantham Journal into the log book: ‘The candidate entered Sedgebrook School on an L.C.C. scholarship six years ago, having previously had an excellent preparation at the hands of Mr. Collett of Bottesford School.’
As numbers of pupils rose problems of space and staffing increased and funding was a persistent worry. In 1902 there was a crisis in the Infants’ school. The teacher trying to cope in the absence of the Head, Mrs. Warren, was incoherent with distress:
No. on books 80
Find it very difficult to organize school Lizzie Bust having been away from school seven years and has no notion of teaching and Cissie Page fresh to the work, neither having been teaching before . Cissie Page would make a teacher but L. Bust would not be able to qualify as…I have no time to teach her in school time and my own class of 38 and induct Cissie Page as well. I have told the managers but they only say I must show them the intended pupil teacher would do but the one who has come … being unable to take a class makes it impossible to teach a school of ages varying from 3 to 10 with two teachers fresh to the work. One at least should know her work …Head Teacher tried to explain to the managers as her health gave way…’
No reference to this appears in the minutes of the school managers. They were probably preoccupied with the 1902 Balfour Education Act. Many Church schools, like Bottesford National School, were experiencing financial problems with the decline in church attendance. Under the 1902 Act Local Authorities became responsible for funding voluntary schools, if the school managers provided the building free of charge for use as a public elementary school.