As promised, here’s the next section of the logs of St. John’s School, Walsall Wood, from 1880 to 1912. This covers the boys section, whereas last time, we documented the girls.
David Evans has worked incredibly hard to transcribe these notes, which is no small task. There’s plenty more to come, too. They form an essential reference for the history of Walsall Wood. We all owe David a huge debt of gratitude for a wonderful job.
There are plenty of interesting points here, but again, I’d draw attention to the number of outbreaks of disease and the fatalities noted. There’s a salutary lesson there for those who scaremonger about vaccinations. Of course, in Wales, where we’re currently seeing a measles outbreak for that very reason.
I do wonder what became of the child whose parents emigrated to America – I wonder if there’s any way to trace the family?
In the first part we looked at the notes taken from the head teachers’ log entries for the girls’ section of St John’s school. The boys’ section log notes are equally interesting and revealing.
The notes begin in 1880
September 6th :
Mr Burrows 2nd class took charge of this school with Sarah Bott and Maria Barmore both ex-pupil teachers now assisting.
Attendance very fair, progress considerable but reading and penmanship were only moderate.
And already a fascinating entry is apparent:
Week ending May 20th 1881:
Officer of the yeomanry paid his annual visit to the school. Children were treated to sweets and and biscuits by the Officer
Week ending July 15th:
Three families of children absent on account of scarlet fever
Week ending July 6th:
Vicar visited school to see punishment carried out on William Wolverson and Arthur Till for truancy. Five strokes of the cane were administered.
Week ending November 4th:
Attendance poor owing to annual village ‘Wake’
Week ending May 23rd:
Vicar visited school. The children were examined by him and the Inspector. Seemed to pass a very creditable examination… Many children absent on account of measles which is spreading rapidly through the village.
Week ending 13th ( of which month unknown):
Recommenced work after the holidays on Monday with poor attendance. Measles is spreading like wildfire through the village. It is particularly rife in the infants and in a few instances have had fatal termination.
Week ending August 1st:
(Named pupil) standard 3, died from Diphtheria; all members of his family have been confined to their home suffering from the same illness.
Week ending January 9th:
Much sickness still prevails in the village. There have been several fatal casualties amongst the children.
Week ending February 27th
(Named pupils ) received a caning at the request of their mother for truancy
Another unusual but charming entry:
Week ending March 27th:
Ruth Anslow age 5 years from St 1 has sailed with her family to a new life in America’
A mention of rain pouring through the roof is included in April, and in the week ending June 14th ‘the children had the annual distribution of sweets from Captain Davenport, an officer in the Queens own Staffordshire Yeomanry’
A curious entry and note by the note-taker reads:
Week ending September 25th:
William Taylor half timer (a great many percentage of children especially the girls were sent to school on this basis as this was a fee paying school as they all were at this time, supplemented by the church and governed by it) was punished for exploding matches near to one of his mistresses.
Week ending January 15th:
New reading books were introduced and also an updated map of the British Isles.
Week ending June;10th:
Received new rules today from the Managers which were well received by the boys from all standards. The 1st standard are without slates.
And the first mention of school detention
Week ending August 10th:
The vicar visited the school on Wednesday . Some of the boys who were retained late for lessons because they arrived late without excuse have it is now hoped learned a greater respect for punctuality.
Week ending January 13th:
Only a fair attendance owing to the appearance of smallpox in the village. Two boys from St 2 are away because of its presence in their home. I have today given the boys instruction in the use of disinfectant in the hope that it will alleviate the fear of their parents as to the source of the outbreak which they presume to think was here.
Week ending January 20th:
Dr. Maddever has sent word that admission must be refused to (named pupil) whose father is down with the Smallpox. All new admission must now be examined for the presence of this disease
And an entry regarding standards:
Week ending June 8th lists eight new pupil admission to standard 2
…But on examination found them incapable of the simplest work. The test given is as follows:
(a row of unintelligible numbers followed)
Spelling: string – cake – father – flowers – paper – large – present – girl.
The entry continues:
All of them got the sums wrong and only two of them spelt any of the words correctly, and then only two of these. They have therefore been put in Standard 1. (The boys were 8 years of age.)
Week ending October 11th:
One of the cases of Scarletina at Clayhanger has terminated fatally.
Week ending January 13th:
36 new boys have been admitted and much difficulty is found to accommodate so many. Most of the news boys are without slates. The influx of new boys is the result of extra men being taken on at the mine.
August. Boys school now has 148 pupils on roll
Week ending October 6th:
Five boys sent home on account of scarlet fever.
Week ending November 4th:
I this morning took delivery of a box of pens from the Managers. It will be a treat for the boys to be able to use ink. I feel that this incentive will improve their penmanship leaps and bounds.
Week ending January 8th:
Received today from Arnold and Phips 6 dozen pen holders.
Week ending August 31st:
Holiday given today in honour of the commencement of Free Education which comes onto force tomorrow. I feel that it will vastly increase the register of this school.
Week ending September 16th:
Received from the Managers 1 Bridges Model chart, 3 dozen lead pencils, memory maps of Spain and Italy, 30 compasses, 2 dozen Evans Geography books, and 6 dozen drawing pads.
(Named pupil) has been expelled from this school as his consistent truanting cannot be rectified. He is encouraged to do so by his parents.
New boys entered on the register are G Horobin, A Taylor and W Robinson. Dring the holiday new cupboards have been provided for the new room.
Re-opened school after closure by Dr Maddever on account of Measles. Also during closure 4 more closets and a urinal have been added.
And a mention of a strike in the village…
124 boys whose fathers were on strike were provided with dinner today.
Free school dinners are still being provided for the boys whose fathers are on strike.
Improved provision noted…
12 x 9 foot forms for the new room.
Received the following from managers; 1 large easel,1 large blackboard,1 modulator,4 dozen copybooks,1 teachers compass, and books for reference.
Splendid attendance this afternoon. 185 present; not a single absentee.
The school has again been awarded the mark of ‘Excellent’.
Instead of the usual lessons this afternoon an address was given on Serpants and Insects by Mr W H Pratt of London, from 2.30 to 3.25. Specimens were handed to the boys for their inspection. Both boys and teachers were delighted with the lecture.
Holiday was given this afternoon for stone-laying of the new North aisle at the church.
Unannounced school inspection. Order excellent and school doing decidedly well (Some criticism of building condition). It is desirable that rickety desks in the classrooms be replaced by others of a more modern type as soon as possible. R Knight, school inspector.
School closed by Dr Maddener on account of an epidemic.
Cautioned he boys for snowballing in the playground.
Teachers and scholars were photographed today by Pike and Co of Lichfield.
A number of boys who are choristers have been given a trip to Rhyl today.
Found that at least a dozen panes had been broken in the boys cloakroom, the door also had been forced. I have reported the matter to the police.
Punished (named pupil) for climbing through Ashpit and Masters garden with three strokes of the cane.
Terrific storm and gale from NE. So bad that the schoolrooms were filled with ashes and dirt.
(Named teacher) away ill. The doctor says he is suffering from malaria. [Really? – Bob]
Another instance of punishment is recorded:
On Wednesday afternoon I caned several boys for being late without excuses. I gave them one stroke of the cane each.
the note-taker has added this telling comment…
It is worth mentioning that a lot of scholars had to walk every morning from places such as Clayhanger, Cheslyn Hay and Norton Canes, a walk which probably took several hours. These boys and girls ranged in age from 5 to 13 years of age. They were caned if they were late three times in thirty days.
(Named pupil ) was very dirty this morning both in person and with his books. I cautioned him and he laughed. So I caned him. At playtime he eluded teachers and ran home. In the afternoon his mother came to see me also in a very dirty state, she was very abusive so I removed her from the premises.
The log incudes this report of the Inspector of health, November 28th 1898
‘The walls have not yet been re-coloured. No fireguards have yet been provided. Water oozes in the depressions in the playground and the floor of the main schoolroom is very dirty despite warnings given in March 1898. The whole outlook of the school leaves a lot to be desired and this work should be given the utmost urgency’
The work was subsequently carried out during the Christmas holiday.
Severe thunderstorm last evening has flooded the railway station.
School has been closed by the health officer for one month owing to an outbreak of Scarlet Fever.
School closed for the Annual Wake.
Classroom and lobby are being re-roofed today.
Vicar distributed prizes for regular attendance and punctuality and idea from one of the managers which seems to have had the desired effect on the students.
News was received late last night that the terms of peace had been signed in South Africa, in celebration the vicar gave a half day holiday.
Received copy of revised by-laws from school board. Boys may now leave at the age of thirteen after making 350 attendances in each of five years [Not sure about that bit – Bob]
The new Board School was opened on Mnday and 9 boys and 6 girls have left to attend because of the distance from their home.
The Iron Room was used for the last time yesterday. 17 girls have been transferred to the girls’ dept.
A day trip!
Colliery Excursion took place yesterday to Blackpool this greatly affected the student quota.
First mention of further education!
Joseph Bates aged 12 years has obtained a County Council Certificate tenable for two years at Walsall technical College.
And a sad loss, recorded in the log:
Mr. Adams has been removed by death from the staff of this school.
Inspection report, April:
‘The head has his school under admirable control and the work in every respect thoroughly satisfactory’. FV Garner (head), G Boot (deputy) Florrie Garner, Clara Higgot, James Morgan P.T.
The log shows that sadly Miss Higgot became ill in July and died in August.
Brownhills District was the highest in attendance in the county during May. This school was the highest in the district.
July 10th: school closed for annual treat excursion to Sutton Coldfield’
1912 Only two entries..
The effect of the coal strike by which this the fourth week is now being severely felt. Coal picking was allowed at Walsall Wood Colliery. The absence of most of the boys who stayed away considering the circumstances in my opinion was justifiable. The provision of meals Act 1906 was adopted as from Wednesday last.
It is very pleasant to note the cheerful way in which the teachers have given their time and work in preparing and to serving meals needy children as per Meals Act of 1906.
The boys and girls departments were combined from July.