Early Christian philanthropists founded institutions for the education of the young in Penkhull. Benefactors often endowed or financed religious education, followed by secular instruction for a limited number of children. One such benefactor was Dr John Weston, Rector of Stoke (1604-1618), who maintained two schools at his own expense. One of these schools at Stoke, accommodating forty boys was opened by 1604 teaching reading, writing and the catechism.
A specific reference to Penkhull was made as early as 1623. In the Presentments at the visitation of Thomas, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, held at Stafford on 25 August, the question was asked: Mr Taylor teaches boys at Penkhull, is he licensed? Upon checking the fact’s the parish records for Stoke they confirm a Richard Taylor and his wife Margarita lived in the parish of Stoke at that time.
For the working classes, who represented the overwhelming majority at the end of the eighteenth century, little instruction existed, except that which was provided either by the parish church in Stoke for older children, or Dame schools for young children. The expanding role of commerce in the growing towns of the Potteries accentuated and extended the demands for a rudimentary education, and Dame Schools became fashionable to meet this demand.
Dame schools were places not so much of instruction as of ‘periodical confinement’ where children were looked after generally by old women, but sometimes by old men whose only qualifications for the job, according to a contemporary report, was their unfitness for every other.
The earliest record of a Dame School in Penkhull dates from 1818, established in Honeywall under the principalship of Ann Pinhorne. The next stage of elementary education, mainly for the poor, was made by early advancements of the Sunday School Movement.
The employment of children in factories was condoned and even welcomed because of the current laissez-faire theories, and demands by manufacturers for child labour. For parents their children’s earnings were needed to support the family. Working on a factory left only one day a week free, and this made it possible to learn to read and write through the Sunday School Movement. This movement was associated with Robert Raikes, who founded the first Sunday School in 1780. By 1785, the Sunday School Union began to spread over the whole of England. By 1787, Burslem, the mother town of The Potteries, boasted ‘The Burslem Sunday School’, established under the Wesleyan Connection. The Wesleyan Chapel in Cross Street, now Epworth Street, Stoke, founded a Sunday School in 1805. Many other churches followed this initiative during the early years of the nineteenth century. Stoke parish church held a Sunday School in the National School, adjoining the churchyard where 230 boys and 215 girls attended in 1842.
Occasionally evidence can be found of the establishment of a private school. One such school, opened in 1808 by Mr Hutchin, was a school for boys situated just below the hill of Penkhull at Boothen. An advertisement of that year continued to describe the school at Boothen Villa. J. Hitchin begs leave respectfully to inform the inhabitants of Stoke-upon-Trent that he is about to relinquish the Market Hall at Stoke (this would be an upper room in the old market situated in what is now Hill Street) and to enter upon a new and commodious house at Boothen Villa, where he intends to educate a select number of pupils in the necessary and useful branches of learning and he trusts that the eligibility of the situation, as possessing a pure air and being more retired, will be generally approved of. He has no doubt but, by a conscientious and unremitting attention to the best interests of those committed to his care, he shall continue to enjoy the confidence and support of his numerous friends. Terms
Reading 10 6d per quarter; Reading, writing and grammar 15 0d per quarter; Reading, writing, grammar and arithmetic, Algebra etc. £1 1s 0d per quarter.
The number of Day Students not to exceed thirty. Tuition to commence on Monday 5th July next. Mr Huchin will undertake to board and lodge six young gentlemen, who will be kindly and liberally treated.
Penkhull Primitive Methodists had established a Sunday School by 1824. It was reported that no secular instruction was given except writing and the books used were the ‘Bible’ and ‘Reading made Easy’. It was not until 1834 that the parish church of Stoke decided to provide a Sunday School in Penkhull, probably as a result of children attending a non-conformist church, as the Anglican Church in those days strongly opposed the expanding Methodist Church and saw its growth not only as a threat to its own teachings, but also feared a revolution in the country in an attempt to destroy the corrupt Established Church.
These deeply and widely held concerns led to St. Peter’s Church in Stoke erecting a Sunday School in the centre of the village green in 1834, and gave secular instruction whereas the Methodists gave no secular instruction of any kind. By 1841 the Methodists boasted an attendance of 150 children while the Anglican Sunday School nearby fell short of this number at 75. In comparison, the Wesleyan Chapel in Cross Street, now Epworth Street, just down the hill from Penkhull held a Sunday School for 393 children and the Methodist New Connexion Chapel in Hill Street, held a Sunday School for 336 children. The increasing success of the Sunday School Movement in the Pottery towns reflects the working-class background of the district. As for the town of Stoke and the village of Penkhull, in excess of thirteen hundred children attended Sunday School, reflecting the deprivation of the times.
The first Anglican Day School in Penkhull originated from the already established Sunday School, situated in the centre of the village green. In 1834, the land became the subject of a Copyhold Grant from the Duchy of Lancaster for the religious instruction of the poor children in the area. When this had been approved, the Rector of Stoke applied to the Duchy for financial support towards the building of the school. Upon the receipt of the request, the Chancellor to the Duchy asked for information regarding a list of subscribers and subscriptions already raised towards the object. The Rector of Stoke Rev J W Tomlinson complied with the request as the Duchy minutes confirm a list of subscriptions, for the building of a schoolhouse for the education of the poor at Penkhull amounted to £119, against the estimated cost of £200. It was ordered that a warrant be prepared for a grant from the Duchy revenues of £50 towards the object. In December 1836, the school was licensed for Divine Worship in the name of Rev. Sir William Dunbar as Curate of Stoke (1832-1839). Dunbar later became Rector of Welwyn Castle in Pembroke, followed by All Saints, Dumper, Hants, where he died in 1885. There is a memorial tile in Stoke Parish Church to his memory.
Little is known of this school. Apart from a government report, no documents have survived, if they ever existed. A government inspector into Child Labour, Mr Samuel Scriven prepared his report in 1841. For the district of Penkhull the report lists a school as an ‘infants’ school’ caring for forty children, with one female teacher, E J Bentley, who stated: I am teacher of this school; have had no previous education to fit me for it. The instruction is very simple, as reading, writing, exercises, and singing. We have thirty boys and fifty girls on the books, but owing to the badness of the times have only sixty altogether attending. The girls are taught to knit and work; they come as young as four or five, and continue sometimes until they are eight or nine. A few are as young as two; they do not do anything. The expenses of the school are defrayed by voluntary contributions, and partly by payments of the children. The amount is two pence each weekly, if we have three of one family, four pence will defray the amount for all. The rewards for good conduct are small books and occasional holidays; we give them other holidays at Christmas for fourteen days. The punishments are trifling, and are left to the discretion of myself as their mistress. There is no other governess or monitor.
Scriven sums up his feelings on the subject of education within The Potteries:
I almost tremble, however, when I contemplate the fearful deficiency of knowledge existing throughout the district, and the consequences likely to result to this increased and increasing population, and would willingly leave the evidence to speak for itself, did I feel that I should ill discharge my duty were I to shrink from the task. . . . It will appear that more than three fourths of the persons therein named can neither read nor write. An inference may be possibly drawn that I have been partial in my selection of them, but I beg distinctly to be understood as having on all occasions chosen those irrespectively of any educational competency. . . I conceive to be that of sending children at too early a period of life to labour from morning till night, in hundreds of cases for fifteen or sixteen hours consecutively, with the intermission of only a few minutes to eat their humble food of ‘taters’ and ‘stir pudding’, and where they acquire little else than vice, for the wages of one or two shillings per week, whereby they are deprived of every opportunity of attending a day or evening school. In all the schools two pence a week is required from every pupil, which although trifling in amount, is beyond the reach of many.
The following entry taken from the manorial waste hold book unfolds the origins of the school in detail. Firstly, it refers to the school granted to Sir William Dunbar in 1835 but, interestingly, the same site appears to have been used for the building of the current parish church as the words used are lately built and ready for consecration appear in 1841. It was agreed by the Duchy that an additional plot of ground on the village green be used for the building of a new school, which, like the church, had already been built. The minute seems to be retrospective permission being granted. The following is taken from the Manor waste-hold book.
At a Special Court Baron held on the 29th September 1841 before Thomas Fenton Esq.
Whereas a court held on the 21st July 1835 for a certain plot of land on Penkhull Green containing 660 yards for a nominal consideration granted to trustee’s W Taylor Copeland, John Smith etc. (as listed in previous document) together with John Tomlinson and Arthur Minton (both now deceased) and also Rev John Wickes Tomlinson, Thomas Fenton trustees for the said school for religious instruction for children.
And whereas the plot of land so granted as aforesaid having been deemed an eligible site for the erection of a church or chapel lately built and forthwith intended to be consecrated for the celebration and performance of Divine Worship of the established church. Surrender was agreed to be made only upon the understanding that another plot of land on Penkhull Green shall be granted for the purpose of the said school to ten persons nominated as trustees and a new building intended to be appropriated to the purpose of a Sunday school before mentioned has recently been erected by voluntary subscriptions upon the plot hereafter mentioned and granted.
And in consideration of a peppercorn, paid by the Trustees a grant from the Chancellor and Council of Her Majesty’s Duchy of Lancaster.
The grant entered in the waste-hold Book of the Manor continues to describe the plot of land and why it is shaped the way it is today, especially at the southern end as it needed to take into account a public water pump and secondly the recently erected church school adjacent to the church itself.
All that plot of manor waste delineated upon the original minute of this grant containing 600 sq. yards, bounded northward, eastward and westward by public highways and southward by the new boundary of the water pump on Penkhull Green and partly by the public approach to the water pump from its eastern and western sides. And also all those buildings, which have been erected upon the plot for the purpose of a school.
From 1841, until the building of the present school four years later in 1845, the combination of events and scattered references has confused to some extent the known educational pattern in Penkhull. Examination once more of the Duchy minute book provides the answer with an entry made on the 24 May 1845, referring to correspondence dated the 22nd May received from Mr Fenton, the steward of the Manor.
A school has been lately built in substitution for and only a few yards distant from that mentioned in Mr Fenton’s of May 1841, which school was demolished and on the same site, a new church had been built. On the demolition of the original school, another was built upon a plot of land adjoining the church. However, this school was found inconveniently situated with regard to the position of the church. As a consequence, it was removed and its site added to the churchyard. Therefore, a new school, for which enfranchisement is asked, in now being built upon Copyhold land purchased and situated only a few yards from the original school.
For many years I was confused by the account John Ward gives in his book of 1843 with regard to the school at Penkhull when he writes A school house has for a few years been maintained here in connection with the church at Stoke (referring to the 1836 school), and a neat school house has lately been built near to the site of the church.
The explanation obtained from the Duchy minute book makes sense of Ward’s reference to the school. Ward is referring to the second school erected in 1841 after the 1836 school was demolished, but before the 1845 school was built.
The first intimation of a third new school appears in an application to the National Society, (a division of the Church of England which dealt with Anglican Church Schools) on the 22nd December 1843. Samuel Minton, the priest in charge of the new parish church applied for financial aid to assist with the building costs. The original estimate was £230, of which £84 5 4d had either been promised or raised, suggesting a possible grant from the Committee of Council for £185. On 7th March 1844, the Committee agreed to offer to pay half of the Master’s salary amounting to £70 per annum for two years, to enable the applicant to obtain assistance from the Committee of Council towards the building of a school.
The first grant towards the Master’s salary was paid on 27th February 1845, but at a reduced figure of £25, which was decided upon at a council meeting held in October 1844. In October 1846, Minton applied to the council for the second year’s grant, stating a schoolmistress had been employed to take charge of the infants. Since the original grant had been reduced by £20 over the two years, Minton asked for an additional grant of £300 to assist with her salary. By June a revaluation of the situation, estimated the cost of building the school and the master’s house had risen to £704 6s 0d, leaving a shortfall of £156 4s 0d after all grants and donations had been taken into account. Nine months later, Minton again refers to the additional expense of a movable
gallery, fireplace, well pump and washhouse in the Master’s house, amounting to £47. The total cost by now appears to have peaked at £977 7s 5d. A Certificate of Completion, dated the 13 March 1845, brought an additional £100 grant from the National Society, leaving a £278 7s 1d, deficit on the account.
Making a joint bid from the church and the National Society, Minton applied to the Privy Council for assistance in building. In his application dated 30th May 1844, Minton reflects upon the change of fortunes of the village, from that of a small agricultural setting, to the demands of an expanding industrial suburb: the present school is not half large enough for our Sunday School, and is badly built, designed and situated to render it almost impossible to carry on a good day school in it, and now we are to establish a Master in it, we shall have considerably more than the school will hold.
In the same application, Minton refers to the numbers attending as twenty boys, thirty girls, and twenty infants, in addition to the two Dame Schools which totals combined added to a further forty scholars receiving education in Penkhull.
One month later on the 20th June, Minton and his churchwardens, Burgess and Smith, signed a building contract, with John Bryan and Son, to erect the new school to the design of George Lynam for the sum of £400. George Lynam was the father of Charles Lynam who later became one of the Potteries leading architects. The new school was built to accommodate up to 240 children in two rooms, one for either gender. The floor was of ornamented earthen tiles, and the Master’s residence included his room, kitchen, and two bedrooms. The proceeds of the sale of materials from the previous school adjacent to the church amounted to £50, the sum being used to defray costs for the building of the new school.
But what about the land upon which the school was built, a subject still being debated today. Minton acquired the copyhold land, upon which the new school was built, upon the surrender of George Taylor of Threadneedle Street, London on the 29 May 1845, on a lease for thirty-one years. The land was listed in the Copyhold Court as ‘Customary inheritance of John Whalley Esq.’ and it was to Whalley that Minton paid the sum of £90 for the land. It appears almost certain that Taylor was Whalley’s mortgagee who had been admitted tenant to strengthen his security. Until this time the land was being farmed by John Rider who also was the tenant farmer at Franklins Farm just off Newcastle Lane. The land consisted of part of the croft Near Hunters Croft, and measured some ninety feet square.
A Grant Deed dated the 9th July 1845 was executed between the Duke of Sutherland as lessee of the Manor and Samuel Minton as Incumbent. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster granted the land upon the surrender of Herbert Minton to William Leman, a Solicitor of Newcastle, who was to hold upon trust, to the proper use of the Minister and his Wardens for the purpose of the Act. This Act was to provide land from the Duchy for the sole purpose of a school for the education of children and adults of the labouring, manufacturing and poorer classes in Penkhull. Copyhold (a feudal system of land tenure) is not freehold, and as it was granted under this Act of William and Mary the land is only held by the trustees as part of the terms of the Act, and reverts back to the Duchy of Lancaster when it ceases to be used for its original purpose.
Despite the attempts to provide an education for the poor of the district by the church, there were just the odd school that provided a private education to those that could afford it. One such school was the subject of a court transaction held on the 21st August 1841, which refers to three cottages, which had been taken down, and a new one erected which was to be used for a school for boys. It recorded the fact that Arthur Minton, the brother of Herbert and Thomas Webb, had acquired the property in 1832. This stood on land near to The Cottage Inn at Oakhill.
The growth of Penkhull as a residential suburb increased in line with the pottery trade of Stoke. With an expansion in population, came the need for additional school accommodation. To meet this demand, additional ground on two sides of the existing school site was conveyed on the 7th June 1873 to the Vicar and Church Wardens from Frederick Bishop of The Mount, by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in addition to making a grant of £150 11s 3d towards the building costs. These additions consisted of one large and two smaller rooms at the far end of the existing building to comply with Foster’s Education Act 1870, upon which, parliament took on the responsibility of securing that every child had the opportunity of attending school. As a consequence of this Act the school was transferred from The National Society, to Stoke-upon-Trent School Board in December 1876. The school was further enlarged under the Education Acts of 1876 and 1880.