State education comes to Wrenthorpe

The 1870 Forster Elementary Education Act introduced state education for children aged 5-12. School Boards were to be elected by ratepayers, and these bodies were responsible for the building of schools and employment of teachers.

Wrenthorpe was part of the Stanley School Board, which covered the ancient Stanley-cum-Wrenthorpe Township boundary (from Bottom Boat to Balne Beck/Forster Ford Beck). Its first election took place in 1875. The foundation stone for the new school was laid just over two years later. The school building was later part of Wrenthorpe Council School, then Wrenthorpe Junior School. It was demolished in 2000.

Three observations about the proceedings: (1) The non-secular nature of the event, even though it’s supposedly state education. The Board elections were presented as a liberal/nonconformist versus conservative/Church of England contest. This echoes the previous nonconformist/established hold the churches had on education in British schools versus National schools. (2) Bonham’s observation about the British economy losing out because of better-educated foreign competition is causing concern even then. (3) And, there’s not actually anyone from Wrenthorpe represented on the Board. This was to change in the following year’s election when the Wrenthorpe ratepayers indulged in tactical voting. [More in a future blog].

Wakefield and West Riding Herald
Saturday 21 July 1877


In our issue of this day three weeks ago, we gave, in the course of an article on educational provision at Outwood, Wrenthorpe, and Crofton, a description of a Board School about to be built at Wrenthorpe, under the auspices of the Stanley-with-Wrenthorpe School Board, and on Saturday afternoon the foundation stone of this school laid. To say the weather was wet on the occasion is only to state that which appears a matter of course in the neighbourhood in connection with events of this character; and certainly the day was very wet. At the hour appointed for the commencement of the ceremony the only persons present were the men whose duty it was to make the necessary preparations for the occasion; but shortly afterwards there appeared upon the scene Mr. Wallis [a hosier from Newton Lodge], the chairman of the Board, accompanied by the following members, viz., the Revs. J. S. Gammell [Vicar of Outwood] and R. Burrell [Vicar of Stanley], and Mr. Cookson [a colliery manager]; the Rev. C. P. Bonham [Minister, Zion Chapel, Aberford Road, Stanley]; the Clerk (Mr. Masterman), and the Architect (Mr. F. Simpson). A few residents in the locality also came around the spot. The bad weather, however, was not the only untoward feature of the case, for it now appeared that Mr. C. E. Charlesworth [a colliery owner who lived at Moor House, Stanley], the vice-chairman of the Board, by whom the stone was to have been laid, was unavoidably absent from home, and consequently unable to perform the duty for which he had been announced, and which therefore devolved upon the chairman of the Board. The proceedings were commenced with a brief prayer by the Rev. J. S. Gammell, at the conclusion of which the stone was laid, and Mr. Wallis said: In the faith of Jesus Christ I place this corner stone in the foundation, in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; that this building may be set apart for the instruction of the young, and for the honour of Almighty God. Continuing, Mr. Wallis said that upon such an event it was only fitting that the members of the Board should make some remarks. The object they had in meeting on that occasion was to lay the foundation of a new school for the neighbourhood. It was the hope of the members of the School Board that that school might tend to the instruction of the young people in the locality, and be beneficial to every household. They also hoped that those who had the task of conducting the school would receive the hearty support of all parents, in order that the institution might become a real blessing to the district. He was, he believed, expressing the views of his colleagues in saying that the beneficial working of the school depended largely upon the parents, and it was of the greatest importance that the latter should aid the Board in getting the children in regular attendance at the school. Those parents, whose education had been neglected in early life, would, he was sure, have always regretted that, and would realize the importance of imparting a sound education to their children. Now that so much attention was being given in our country to the question of education, and so many schools were being everywhere erected, it was hoped that before long it would not be possible to find a child who was unable to read, to write, and to cipher, and to do other work of a similar character.

The doxology was then sung, after which The Rev. R. Burrell spoke. He said he would merely confine himself to congratulating the villagers upon the approaching possession of that school, which would, he believed, prove a great blessing to the place. It was only intended to build a somewhat small school at present, be explained, because the members of the Alverthorpe Board were desirous of providing accommodation for their own district. Although the school would therefore not be so large as it was at first intended to have been, the Board would be glad to furnish more accommodation immediately it was found to be required. He was happy to say that the Board unanimously agreed at their last meeting that religious education should be imparted in the schools, and the parents might therefore with confidence send their children there. The syllabus of the Manchester Board Schools had been adopted, and that would provide a wide and broad basis upon which any denomination might build their own tenets if they desired. It was intended that the Bible should be read in the schools, and instruction upon it given, and prayer would be offered daily at the opening and closing of the school.

Mr. Cookson said he was personally very gratified that the legislature of our country had taken in hand the work of education, and so widely extended its benefits throughout the country. He expressed pleasure that it had extended to that locality, where, he knew from his long acquaintance with it, the want of greater educational advantages had for many years been felt, and be hoped the building which was to be erected would remedy that state of things, and that every child would soon be in a position to have a fair education. He advised the mothers of the children to co-operate with the Board, and with the master and mistress of the school. The Board would endeavour to appoint suitable persons to the posts of master and mistress, and would do their utmost to secure the efficiency of the schools; and he hoped all parents would allow their children to avail themselves of the advantages thus placed within their reach.

The Rev. J. S. Gammell said there was another reason besides that given by Mr. Burrell why the school was not being made larger, and that was that there was already a school in the district [Potovens National School, in School Lane, which had opened in 1844]. He hoped they would keep both the schools full, otherwise the intentions of the Government would not be carried out. If no more children came to the two schools than at present attended the one school it would be useless to build that school and appoint a master to it; but, on the other hand, if more accommodation was required it would be provided. If the people would send the children, the Board would find room for them.

The Rev. C. P. Bonham was very pleased to be present. He had always taken great interest in an advanced and liberal education, and he hoped that was the sort of education that would he given in every Board School. Board Schools were very good things but they were capable of improvement, and as civilization advanced so must intelligence. In this respect other countries had outstripped England, and trade was leaving this country and passing into the hands of foreigners. The great reason for that was found in the fact that in the past foreigners had been better educated than had been the masses of the people in our own country. He congratulated the district upon the possession of a School Board, and he wished one had been established in the district in which he lived; but as they had sufficient school accommodation they did not require a School Board. He hoped the time would come when there would be no denominational schools, but that one system of national education would obtain throughout the land. He was glad they had adopted a certain system of religious education, because when only a child’s mind was educated he was not properly educated – his soul also required educating by religious teaching. He was glad to find the School Board had adopted economical charges. He should have regretted if they had charged 6d. a week, in fact, it would been a gross injustice and a great calamity; therefore he was glad the highest charge was to be fourpence.

The proceedings then terminated, and the small assemblage hastened away to shelter from the drenching rain.

Little did those present at the ceremony know what a fiasco the first six months of the Board School’s existence would turn out to be. [More in a future blog].