Penkhull Old Infants School

Origins of Education in Penkhull

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.

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.


Reading 10  6d per quarter
Reading, writing and grammar 15  0d per quarter
Reading, writing, grammar and arithmetic, including merchants accounts, 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 wastehold 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 trustees 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 wastehold 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.

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.

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.

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.

School Log Books of any school provide an amazing insight into both educational traditions and social patterns of the day. Penkhull is no exception. By 1850, the headmaster, James Horne ran the school on what was known as ‘the monitories’ or ‘Bell’s system’. By this method one teacher could adequately cope with at least one hundred pupils, with a hierarchy of monitors including a monitor-in-chief to take charge of the other monitors.

As early as 1841, the system then used for teaching was condemned by a local Anglican clergyman. Writing to Mr S. Scriven, a government inspector appointed to report on the working conditions of children in the Potteries. I believe Dr Bell’s system of teaching to be essentially and radically bad. Its principal defects I conceive to be these; firstly, the assembly of a great number of children under one teacher; second, the employment of monitors, who generally are unfit either to teach or to rule, third; the waste of time in matters of mere parade and show; fourth, the want of sufficient grammatical instruction. What I have said accounts for the thin attendance in large schools, will explain my views. In the first place a school ought never to exceed what one teacher or one assistant can instruct, or at the very least personally superintend. Not mere literary education is to be imparted, but manners and morals are to be formed, and not least, a deference to authority is to be inculcated; this last point especially cannot be safely overlooked in the present day, and none of these objects can be attained if the number of scholars be so great that the master’s eye cannot be constantly on every one.

The school minute book dated January 1865, recorded that Mr Lynam, the architect was asked to look at the current dimensions of the schoolhouse to prepare an estimate for making the premises habitable. However, little appears to have happened, as the school manager’s report of June 1865 in a reply to the question if the master lived in the house was as follows, that he does not as the residence is un-inhabitable. Their Lordships were unable to reconcile this with the statement that the managers received £6 rent for the house. My Lord requests to be furnished with an explanation on this point. The last occupant of the schoolhouse was Mr William Alldis, who became caretaker in 1895. He was caretaker for thirty-eight years and lived in the schoolhouse until 1910.  From then onwards it was used as the head teacher’s room and to provide additional cloakroom space for children.  During most of his working life Mr Alldis was caretaker at both the school and the church. It was a double appointment with huge responsibility. After the First World War the two positions were separated.

How appropriate that his daughter Winnie, now Mrs Roberts, carried on the family tradition of school caretaker.  Winnie was a faithful and conscientious worker, who looked upon her task as a pleasure to complete over thirty-five year’s service. I recall her having to move several tons of coke at a time years ago for the old heating boiler after deliveries. This was before gas was laid on to the school. What young lady would undertake such at task today? Before central heating, Winnie had to light eleven fires and stoves each morning before school opened, not forgetting cleaning out the ashes first.

Fortunately the written by the head teacher for Penkhull School are complete from 1862 onwards. They are an invaluable source for social and education students. The first entry is dated the 1st October that year and refers to the school inspection by Rev A J Bonner, H.M.I.S. After the inspection the children had the afternoon off. Very different from the inspections of today. There was clearly a shortage of desks in the area as it was recorded two days later that the school had to close as the desks were removed to Stoke for a Prize Scheme Examination.

In those early days of general education there was a need for children to commence work at an early age, as shown by the following entry. This points to the need for a child to learn a trade rather than to go on to further education.

7th October – Bailey left us by mutual consent – his father thinking that all things considered, it would be injudicious to send him to college and therefore that he had better be set to a trade at once.

I list just a few of the hundreds of entries that give an insight to life in school during the 19th century.

8th March 1864 – Mrs Cliff came to complain to Mr Salmon about him striking John on the head – I could do nothing in the matter as I have several times remonstrated to Mr Salmon on this point.

13th March 1864 – A complaint from Mrs Wainscott that Ralph Jackson has struck Harry – it seems to have been an accident in that Wainscott was at fault if either was!
At this time open fires heated the school and the next entry shows that parents were concerned about the cold conditions for their children.

8th January, 1864 – Punished S. Brunt for spreading an untrue report that we have no fires in the infant’s school, as I found out from one or two parents that it had caused them to keep their children away – only 30 here this morning.

21st December 1864 –Simpson (monitor) found striking a boy – gave him a caution and warned him that if it happens again he would be instantly dismissed. (Monitors in those days assisted in the teaching, and are not to be confused with a student monitor of today)

6th January, 1865 – Received a message from Mr Wainwright complaining that Mr Tomlinson had struck Emma on the head – these complaints are getting more frequent and I must take the matter before the next committee meeting.

11th April, 1865 – Kept Henry Keeling in to do his work at dinner time for he was idle all morning, he went away leaving it undone and to make it worse told his mother that he had done it – she gave him a good thrashing.

All these examples could imply that the teaching standards at Penkhull National School were poor. A report from the School’s Inspector dated October 1865 indicates that the standard of teaching at the school was at best, mixed.

Pleased with order and intelligence of the children. Reading very free from monotony but too low and not sufficiently animated. Writing and spelling very fair in two first classes. Arithmetic generally accurate but not very far advanced – Holy Scripture – good as far as it went – catechism imperfect.
Infant’s School Report – well taught and orderly. Needlework unusually good especially one of the young girls.
Results for Mrs Peake’s work are very creditable to her. The school has increased considerably since Mrs Corn took charge of it.

In June the following year the report continued more favourably: The school is in a very satisfactory state as to the construction. The groundwork is well taught and the children very fairly accurate. The discipline is very fair on the whole, but the large numbers require energy and skill on the part of the teachers to keep the children in good order.  The evening scholars are doing well and will, I hope, make satisfactory progress. The large numbers continued to grow, for in 1867, we read that the school had increased on the corresponding quarter from an average of 144 to 212, and more than 80 had been admitted to the school since Lady Day.

No doubt the teaching staff would welcome school holidays as a time free from the tribulations of work. The following entry emphasises this point.

June 1867 – Glad to finish work this week – there has been an average of 233 pupils for the week and I have been compelled to place classes in the yard for reading and arithmetic lessons.

The logbooks also reveal numerous appointments of monitors. One such appointment was recorded on the 28th August 1865 as a result of an accident: William Walker of Newcastle came on trial as monitor in place of John Carpmail, who was drowned during the holidays while swimming. The wages of monitors was dismal, as we read a note made on the 26 September 1864: Henry Simpson commenced as pre-monitor at the rate of one farthing per week to begin with. Three months later, Wednesday, 21 December, Simpson was the subject again of an entry in the school logbook: Simpson, found striking a boy, gave him a caution and warned him that if it happened again, he would be instantly dismissed.

By September 1873 the school unsuccessfully advertised three times for pupil teachers the head teacher writing I am doing with an average of 170 and only one pupil teacher. I have accepted the services of John Boulton from Trent Vale School as a monitor to sit as a candidate next April. He will be thirteen years of age on the 11th October and promises to make a good teacher. Regrettably, only two weeks later it was recorded that John Boulton only here for two weeks. Tells me that his parents have changed their minds and intend that he should become an apprentice joiner.

The following year it became clear that finance was the important factor in the employment of staff as a boy only aged thirteen years was employed. September 1874, William Rhead, aged thirteen on the 4th inst. Commences duties as paid monitor at 2/- per week. Comes from Orme School at Newcastle but was formally a scholar in this school.

January 1874 witnessed an exceptionally cold winter. There was no coal to be obtained, no fires. A similar picture was recorded three years later in October 1877: no fires allowed till further order. By the 19th fires were only allowed in the mornings and children suffering colds.
By 1876 the school was overflowing with children as can be seen from the following entry dated 25th May. 124 boys present this afternoon. As I have but two young pupil teachers now, the work is heavy and the discipline unsatisfactory. There is little chance of any success at the next examination unless more help is given.

Although the National School should have been taken over as a Board School in 1876, by September it still remained under the control of the National School. The head wrote on the 4th September 1876, The pupil teachers have received no pay for five months. We are without pens, ink and chalk and in altogether a very unsatisfactory state.

18th June 1877 I cannot succeed in getting a pupil teacher. I employ two 1st class boys as monitors and giving them a gratuity of 6d each per week.

The annual salary for a teacher in 1881 was £35.

The social deprivation of Penkhull appears to have affected school attendance. There are numerous accounts of poor attendance as parents were unable to afford the school fees of 2d per week. Also, many children could not attend, as they had no proper clothes to wear. Poverty also affected upon the health of the children as an entry in July 1867 reads: I find several of the infants have been taken ill with whooping cough, which is likely to prove very serious in the district.

Following a rather poor report for the school, the headmaster and head mistress were dismissed on the 9th September 1878 to be followed by a new appointment of Mr Samuel Steven on the following 23rd. It is recorded here that music was being taught and the popular National song of the period, ‘God Bless our Sailor Prince’ to the words of Tennyson, was being taught.

In addition to public education, private education was becoming popular. By 1879 three schools for girls were listed in the local trade directories; Miss Burrows, West Bank, Ellen Greatbatch, 14, Penkhull New Road; and Miss Poulson, James Street.

It was not until the commencement of the new term of 1891 that education became free to all children and it was recorded that there were 237 present on that day to celebrate. As a result accommodation at the school became an increasing problem with no immediate sign of it being resolved. As we move on to nearly the end of the 19th century other concerns, not previously mentioned were expressed in the logbooks. Perhaps these reflect the first signs of the permissive society arriving at Penkhull.

2nd October 1895 – Found girls talking indecently in the playground, saw their mothers. Then in May the following year the situation had become worse John Cole from Penkhull New Road wrote indecent words and passed them to girls – saw his father and other parents. The Chairman of the Board ruled that the attendance officer was to see that the boy had a good flogging from his father. The next time the Board will summons and ask for a birching.  How things have changed!

It took nearly three years of struggles with overcrowding in the school before finally in 1894 the issue was raised with the School Board over the size of the school and the ever-increasing number of children wanting to attend. Many new children were from the new housing development in Princes Road and the Allotments estate. The head wrote in May: I suggested breaking down the walls of the schoolhouse to create a little more space. The numbers at present exceed 332. There were 65 children in the west classroom built for only 40 and 73 in the east classroom built for only 50 pupils.

With urban development of the ‘Allotments Estate’, the Rector of Stoke Sir. Lovelace Stamer, an established advocate for improved education in the city, purchased a number of plots of land at the end of what is now Greatbatch Avenue from the Stoke Workingmen’s Dwelling Association for the purpose of erecting a new school.

The old National School in the centre of the village was overcrowded and no further land was available for expansion. In February 1896 Mr. Wood wrote in the log book referring to the problems with the old school and the hopes for the new one.