Penkhull Old Senior School

Latest News  on the old Penkhull Senior School in Princes Road

The demolition order has now been removed following consultations by council officers with historian, author  and heritage enthusiast Dr Richard Talbot

Following this further good news in that it has now been protected by English Heritage by listing it Grade II architecture. Both Bruce Jervis and Richard Talbot worked hard in their submission to achieve this listing.

Penkhull former County Secondary School, Princes Road

As a result of the serious overcrowding the United District School Board decided to build a new ‘Senior School’ at the junction of Princes Road then called Penkhull Street just north of the village. This was completed under the provision of Sandon’s Act of 1876 and Mundella’s Act of 1880 that finally made elementary education compulsory. The site for the new school was purchased by Stoke-upon-Trent School Board from Robert Clement Clive of The Mount on the 31st October 1895 for the sum of £955 13s and described as:

All that plot of land situate at Penkhull and part of the Mount Estate and which plot of land contains by recent measurement, including the footpath to a proposed new street and half of the back road six thousand, three hundred and seventy one square yards.

The school was built to the design of architects Messrs R Scrivener & Sons, a local company and was officially opened on Monday, 3 May 1897 by Sir Lovelace Stamer Bart, who by this time had become the Bishop of Shrewsbury. As a result of educational classification, the new school became known as the ‘senior school’, catering for children over ten years of age, while the old village National School concentrated on the education of younger children.

Children from Penkhull Cottage Homes attended the new school as well as Cross Street School, (now Epworth Street). By 1909 the school at Penkhull recorded 32 boys and 24 girls attending from the Cottage Homes.

It was not long before this new senior school became overcrowded as population increase bringing with it further demands on space. By 1912 a new north wing was reported as progressing slowly and that there were ‘now five classes held in the hall containing between 200-260 children alone. The new wing was opened on the 13th June 1913. Ten days later, after a tea party and a concert for parents to celebrate the opening, the head wrote: there still remains dreadful overcrowding!


Photographs dated c1915 with head master Mr. A. T Wood

Extracts taken from The Royal Manor of Penkhull. This book is still available – see Publications and Videos.

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.