Norton-in-Hales School

It is known that Margaret Higginson [1] left £57 for the founding of a school. [2] Sir Rowland Cotton provided a house of two bays and a barn for the Schoolmaster’s use and Ralph Pilsbury left £6 the interest to be used in teaching one poor child.

On the 1841 Census Thomas Chorley or Clorley is the School Master, aged 48 years. Living next door is Daniel Bloor aged 60 years whos occupation is also listed as School Master.

On the 1851 Census John Wickshall aged 36 years is listed as School Master and Ann Whickshall aged 39 years is listed as School Mistress.

On the 1861 Census James H Spence aged 19 years of Islington, London is listed as the National School Master.

Norton-in-Hales, The School Question, 1879

Yesterday (Friday) a meeting was held in the Picture Gallery for the purpose of considering what steps should be taken to bring the existing schools up to the requirements of the Education Department. The Rev F Silver (Rector) presided, A W Radford Norcrop. Esq, M H Griffin Esq, C Tayleur Esq, all the farmers and many of the parishoners.

The Chairman said that on the 20th of December last, Mr Yarde, the Government Inspector, paid a visit to the Parish Schools but, owing to unfortunate circumstances over which he (the speaker) had no control, he was unable to see him. He had however been in correspondence with Mr Yarde and that gentleman wrote complaining not only of the teaching in the boys school but also of the condition of the fabric and said that things would have to be altered or he could not certify for the government grant. He (Mr Silver) communicated these facts to the churchwardens and after some consideration they asked a very competent man Mr Hope of Knighton to go over the building and make an assessment as to what it would cost to have it brought up to the mark. He did so and calculated that for £156 the school could be restored on its present foundation, the walls raised to meet the government requirement, the rooms be well lighted and ventilated and all defective walls made good. He held to the idea of retaining the two schools in place of having them thrown into one and made a mixed school and he was prepared to tell the parish what help he would render if this idea was adopted. Mr Norcop: what is the estimate? The chairman – £156. Mr Norcop – is it the only one you have? The chairman – yes it is. He examined it all and said that all faulty places would be made good. After a question from Mr Norcop the chairman said he thought the government were wrong in allowing mixed schools. For were such was the case the girls were apt to become rude and although it was argued that where the boys and girls were brought together the company of the latter had a softening influence on the former he did not think it was at all desirable that such a thing should be. Mr Norcop said it was a bad idea to have mixed schools. The chairman had been in the parish 29 years and it had always been his aim to have separate schools for boys and girls. Mr Griffin asked what kind of report they had? The chairman said it was very bad. When he first came to Norton in May 1850 there was only a Dame school in which 15 children were taught and it being thought desirable to have more efficient teaching, a local master and mistress where employed. The latter did as well as they could and the number of scholars increased between 50 and 60. The chairman then gave a brief history of the school from the period he was alluding to up to the present time. Mr Griffin understood that the hours of attendance were more now then they were under the old system. Did not seem cruel to keep children in a small confined space so long, breathing a vitiated atmosphere and mayhap sewing the germ of scrofula, consumption, and suchlike? The chairman said the hours were not altered at Norton. Mr Griffin asked whether the requirements were not more stringent and that parents were now expected to send their children regularly to school? It appeared to him that proper accommodation should be provided. The chairman said the hours of attendance were 9am to 12pm and 1:30pm to 4pm with a quarter of an hour each morning for recreation to afford which swings and suchlike amusements had been provided. Mr Griffin did not see why all the burden of meeting the education requirements of the parish should fall upon the Rector. The chairman said it would have to do if no one else would subscribe. Mr Griffin asked whether any general appeal had been made to the parish on the subject. The chairman said he never had and repudiated an assertion that he did not wish anyone to subscribe to the schools but at the same time he had never asked anyone to subscribe. Mr Griffin said it seemed it was necessary that some steps should be taken to furnish accommodation to government requirements and the parish would either have to do it voluntarily or have a school board. The chairman said three schemes had been suggested and the first he had already mentioned to them namely the restoration which Mr Hope had estimated would cost £156 and by which they would have everything government required. In addition to this £156 about £50 more would be required for the internal fittings such as desks etc. His proposition was to give the £156 required for the restoration of the fabric on the condition that the £50 for the fittings was subscribed to in that room and that the parish guaranteed £20 a year in addition to his own subscription of £20 so as to procure a 3 L officiant Master. With that and the government grant which was short to accrue and a course of efficient teaching they would be unable to obtain the service of a very good master. He mentioned a school with 51 children where the government grant had been £47. At Norton they had 101 children on the books and thought to be able to earn a proportionate grant. Mr Griffin asked if all to the children belong to the parish. Chairman – no. Mr Griffin – can you tell us the number actually belonging to the parish? The chairman said he could not tell exactly but according to the statistics the number would be somewhere about 50. The other children live very near the parish. Mr Nocop – many come from Betton I suppose? Chairman – yes. Mr Griffin – then which would be their proper district? Chairman – Drayton. Mr Norcop said that was too far to expect children to walk. The chairman said that from the position of the parish they would always be able to command a good number of children at the school and that if they had a very good master they would be able to have a very excellent school. Mr Griffin asked if the parish would be justified in providing more accommodation then was virtually required for its own ones. It would not do to depend upon children out of the district for they might be removed at any time. The chairman said the scheme would certainly seem ephemeral if they said they trusted to other parishes but from the position of Norton they would always ensure a good school, with a good master. At any rate they ought to do what they could to avoid having a school board. Mr Griffin – at what salary they propose to give? The chairman said £90 a year at least. Mr Griffin – suppose the salary of the mistress would incur a further expense. The chairman said they would try and get a man and his wife or a man and his daughter first as they had at many other schools. Mr Taylor – we shall have to pay her as well. Mr Griffin – what would the joint salary be? The chairman scarcely knew. The master ought to have £90 and he thought the wife would then come for £40. Mr Griffin said it was necessary to have a good mistress so as to be able to teach sewing. If they established a thoroughly efficient school, they ought to be prepared to maintain it for a series of years. Mr John Eardley pointed out that a school master coming into a village, had many opportunities for increasing his salary such as acting as organist and as assistant overseer. Mr Griffin suggested that if the scheme was carried out, they should appoint a committee, who should render Mr Silver every help. The chairman would be glad if there was a committee. He would like some of the farmers to look into the school, now and then, or some of their wives, while the sewing was going on in the afternoon. He would like all the farmers to be on the committee. Mr Eardley thought that would make the committee too large. Mr Norcop – Mr Silver evidently believes that in the multitude of counsellors there is wisdom. After further conversations, Mr Griffin asked if there was a report of the actual state of the schools. The chairman said there was not. It is in this way the schools walls are not high enough, the walls were only between eight and 9 feet high where is the government required them to be 10 feet high. Mr Griffin pointed out the desirability of saying that the fabric was of sufficient strength to last. Mr Eardley explained that Mr Hope was only asked to make a rough estimate and that being so he would like to ask the Rector whether if the expenditure exceeded the estimate he was willing to pay for the whole of it. The chairman was prepared to meet any extra cost. Mr Griffin said it was a very liberal offer. The chairman said the second proposal was to rebuild and enlarge the boys school and to reserve a portion for the infants whilst the third was to do the same thing but to dispense with a master and only have a mistress and a pupil teacher. Mr Norcop thought the first one was the best. Mr Griffin was of the same opinion but hoped the restoration would be of sufficient strength to last. He suggested that some local man who might be versed in such things should be asked to give an estimate as to the cost of the internal fittings. Did they propose to restore the school according to the requirements of the government? Chairman – yes. Mr Griffin thought the Rector ought to ask the parish to guarantee £30 a year at least. Mr D Eardley supported this view. On being put to the meeting the first scheme was adopted to which the restoration of the school on the old foundations, with the walls heightened, the room is well lighted, and ventilated, and everything done to suit the government requirements. To meet this the Rector will give £156 or whatever is required for the restoration of the fabric, the meeting guarantees £50 for the internal fittings and agreed to raise £20 a year at the least. The following committee was appointed. The Rev. F. Silver, C Tayleur Esq, Messrs T. Young, J Eardley, J Jones, E Furnival, R Tilsley and T Bourne. A vote of thanks to the chairman brought the meeting to a close.

21st July 1879 – Mr Meadows produced the contract with Wildig duly signed by the building committee. He undertook to see him on the subject and wage him to commence operations forthwith. On the motions of Mr Norcrop the Rector was unanimously chosen perpetual chairman and Mr Meadows was also chosen perpetual vice-chairman and Mr Furnival secretary. It was agreed to rent the two floors of the malt kiln at Yew Tree Farm House of John Wainwright as long as needed, for four months it was presumed at the rate of 2’5 a month. Messes Eardley and Jones were requested to see that the building was in proper order for the school children to assemble there on Sunday next and that proper offices were erected. About 50 letters of applications were opened and read by the Chairman and handed around and the enclosed testimonials. After most careful perusal and a lengthy discussion of the first five then after more secruitiny their applications were selected and all the others laid on one side. The following order of the selected three:

Mr Garton, Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire
Mr Nichols, Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire.
Mr Liddiard, Stoneport Worcestershire.

As the first two gave Sir Lovelave Stammer, Rector of Stoke, as a reference the chairman was requested to write to him for his candid opinions as to whether either would be suitable and which he would recommend in case both were fine persons, the third Liddiard being reserved in case the reply was unsatisfactory.

24th July 1879 – The Chairman produced Sir Lovelace Stammer’s answer, which having being received the day before and giving a most satisfactory account of Mr Garton of whom he spoke in the highest terms but not thus of Mr Nichols had led the Rector to consult the churchwardens and to write to Mr Garton asking him to meet the committee at their adjoining gathering. In consequence he arrived by the 11 o’clock train and after being much questioned by several members present and having played various pieces on the church organ he was informed that he gave a general satisfaction and was forthwith engaged as the future master. It was stated that his salary would be as follows: £70 per year guaranteed as Master, £20 a year guaranteed (£10 from the parish and £10 from the Rector as organist) and two thirds of the annual grant from the education department and also a small salary as secretary of the fete committee.

Reminiscences of the old schools

Mr Samuel Bourne, of Arbour Farm, was educated at Norton school. He gave an account of his time there, he graphically described the whole fabric of the schoolhouse, one small room below and two tiny bedrooms above; the school was about 15 ft.² with an earth floor, it was furnished with one long form, a small table, and a chair. There was a little fireplace and the children during winter each brought coal or turf with them every morning to burn on the fire. The education of the dozen boys and girls under the master Mr Thomas Clorley, chiefly consistent in Bible reading (there really were no other books in the school) the class gathered around the table with the master before them, to read a chapter, verse by verse, the master, stick in hand, ready to correct them. The reading doubtlessly acted as a soporific and while he was sleeping his pupils were laughing and playing their tricks. A loud noise from the children, every now and then, would wake the master from his slumber, when he would rise from his seat and administered the stick with equal justice. There was no playground unless the street could be called one. The outward appearance of the school and the school house was that of a hovel, cabbages in front and the pathway made of cinders. This is how it continued up to the year 1850 when Reverend Silver came to the parish. There was however a brick floor, but there was the same dangerous playground and the same form, table and chair and the scholars had increased to 15. With a new local master and mistress (Mr A Taylor and his wife) the school soon wonderfully revived, which rendered necessary the boys school to be built. Matters went on progressing and a thoroughly good master and mistress were afterwards engaged when soon after the present girl school was built. Two good playgrounds were also formed at the back of the school, swings were erected and the schoolhouse made what it is now, a comfortable six rooms house. It is understood that the cost of all of this, was born almost entirely by the Rector.

Norton-in-Hales is a very small, quiet, but pleasant village. The village has a river that runs through it. It is called the River Tern, and often people bathe in it. There are two small shops, one is by the Church and the other is near the School. The one by the Church sells many different things, the other sells groceries and sweets, biscuits, chocolates and lemonade. The Church is very beautiful. The windows are all of coloured glass with pictures on them. It is very old. Many people come to see it. The School is very small, there are only two classrooms in it.

School child c.1930’s
Sources/Further information

[1] In 1630 a Margaret Higginson of Kings Lynn died and left money to Sir Rowland Cotton and her brother William Higginson who was a Churchwarden at St Chad's Church Norton-in-Hales.
[2] Table of benefactors in the church