Boys will be boys

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St. John’s school, replaced by a modern facility in the 1970s, remains derelict in Walsall Wood High Street. Image from Bing! maps.

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.

David wrote:

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.


January 7th:

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.


The school didn’t become mixed until July, 1912. Image from ‘Memories of Old Walsall Wood’ by Bill Mayo and John Sale.


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.

November 7th:

(Named pupil) has been expelled from this school as his consistent truanting cannot be rectified. He is encouraged to do so by his parents.


January 9th:

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.

July 10th:

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…

September 5th:

124 boys whose fathers were on strike were provided with dinner today.

December 11th:

Free school dinners are still being provided for the boys whose fathers are on strike.


Improved provision noted…

February 24th:

12 x 9 foot forms for the new room.

August 28th:

Received the following from managers; 1 large easel,1 large blackboard,1 modulator,4 dozen copybooks,1 teachers compass, and books for reference.

October 29th:

Splendid attendance this afternoon. 185 present; not a single absentee.


March 27th:

The school has again been awarded the mark of ‘Excellent’.

September 12th:

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.

October 7th:

Holiday was given this afternoon for stone-laying of the new North aisle at the church.


April 39th:

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.

December 1oth:

School closed by Dr Maddener on account of  an epidemic.


January 11th:

School re-opened.

February 5th:

Cautioned he boys for snowballing in the playground.

March 15th:

Teachers and scholars were photographed today by Pike and Co of Lichfield.

July 1st:

A number of boys who are choristers have been given a trip to Rhyl today.

August 27th:

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.

October 19th;

Punished (named pupil) for climbing through Ashpit and Masters garden with three strokes of the cane.


March 21st:

Terrific storm and gale from NE. So bad that the schoolrooms were filled with ashes and dirt.

March 31st

(Named teacher) away ill. The doctor says he is suffering from malaria. [Really? – Bob]

Another instance of punishment is recorded:

September 30th

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.

October 7th:

(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.


August 14th:

Severe thunderstorm last evening  has flooded the railway station.

September 7th:

School  has been closed by the health officer for one month owing to an outbreak of Scarlet Fever.


November 2nd.

School closed for the Annual Wake.

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Walsall Wood Station always suffered with flooding in severe weather. Image from ‘Memories of Old Walsall Wood’ by Bill Mayo and John Sale.


August 19th:

Classroom and lobby are being re-roofed today.

December 20th:

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.


June 2nd:

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.

July 11th:

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]


January 13th:

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.

May 1st:

The Iron Room was used for the last time yesterday. 17 girls have been transferred to the girls’ dept.

A day trip!

July 24th:

Colliery Excursion took place yesterday to Blackpool this greatly affected the student  quota.


First mention of further education!

March 25th:

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:

November 15th:

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.


June 17th:

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..

March 29th:

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.

April 3rd:

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.

June 6th:

The boys and girls departments were combined from July.

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18 Responses to Boys will be boys

  1. Pedro says:

    Thank you David for the time and the trouble to record the fascinating history.

    The story of Ruth going to the New World, well you never know with the modern comms!

    Regards Pedro

  2. Clive says:

    Nice one Dave, another look into our past. Its a reminder of what some people would call the good old days! Many thanks.

  3. Dave Edwards says:

    A superb piece of history, thanks Dave, a great read.
    Dave Edwards

  4. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    my own thanks to your goodself for publishing this article. We readers may not fully realise the time and skill that publishing requires.Thank you, Bob. Regarding the note, July 11th, 1902 . I think 350 attendances equates to 175 days, as the register showed morning and afternoon school sessions’ attendance. Also around this time other local people emigrated to USA . The family name “Painter” has been mentioned to me in several “cups of tea” chats.
    kind regards,

  5. Andy Dennis says:

    To save anyone the trouble, I’ve found the story of Ruth Anslow. Details later. Have to attend to other things for now.

  6. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    a huge thanks to Andy !
    The teacher who had malaria was a Mr Garner, who later became the headteacher and lived in the master’s house. He married a local lady, a Florrie Edith Dunkley in 1900. He was a local man, born in Pelsall, lived in Walsall Wood, retired to Mill Road Shelfield where he died in 1940, age 68.
    The Double Diamonds article central character, was Joe Anslow, in fact!
    regards…and again, thanks Andy !
    p.s. the advent of free education also brought an annual capitation of 15 pence ,that’s 1 shilling and three pence. per pupil per year.

  7. Ann Cross says:

    Many thanks to David for this fascinating account. My Grandfather was at the school during this time and I have a school certificate dated May 24th 1888. I will find it and send it on to Bob.

  8. Andy Dennis says:

    Ruth Anslow

    Week ending March 27th:
    Ruth Anslow age 5 years from St 1 has sailed with her family to a new life in America’

    When I first looked at this I thought I must have the wrong Ruth Anlow and quickly gave up, but something nagged me into trying again. My source, as usual, is, unless otherwise stated.

    My starting point was the 1881 Census. The only Ruth Anslow anywhere near fitting the bill was at Hall Lane, Walsall Wood:
    Name, relation to head, marital status, age, occupation, birthplace
    Thomas Hyde, Head, Mar, 66, Tray Filer (Sock), Cornwall Penzance
    Mary Hyde, Wife, Mar, 52, , Staffordshire Walsall Wood
    Abraham Anslow, Son in Law, Mar, 27 Coal Lab (Miner)[?] do
    Naomy do, Daur, Mar 23, , do
    Ruth do, Granddaur, 4, , do
    Mary do, Granddaur, 2, , do
    Priscilla do, Granddaur, 5 Mo, , do

    Mary Hyde was Naomi’s mother and Ruth’s grandmother; this sort of record is a boon for the genealogist. Ruth’s birth was registered in Apr-Jun 1876.

    What put me off, apart from Ruth’s age (would have been 8 or 9 in 1885) was that these Anslows reappear in the 1891 Census at Tantarra Street, Walsall, where Abraham was a coal dealer. There was a further son, John Thomas Anslow, born about 1886 and he was baptised on 29 July 1886 at Walsall Wood!

    This did not look promising, but then I found a family tree on Ancestry published by someone named Lilly. She references records of arrivals in the USA for Abraham, Naomi, Ruth, Mary and Priscilla Anslow. Now my subscription doesn’t give access to the detail of these records, just the index, but how many family groups with that set of names would sail from Liverpool and arrive in Philadelphia PA on 15 April 1885?

    Evidently, the family did not take to the American dream, or vice versa, and they returned to England shortly after. No information is given about the return journey. John Thomas would later emigrate to Canada, arriving Quebec 30 July 1922.

    The Immigration and Naturalization Service (USA) lists a schedule of immigrant ships and the American line British Prince was due to depart Liverpool on 1 April and arrive Philadelphia 13 April 1885. According to Norway-Heritage the ship arrived on 14 Apr. Could this have been the ship they sailed on? There is a picture at:

    The same source describes the ship: “The BRITISH PRINCE was built by Harland & Wolff, Belfast in 1882 for British Shipowners. She was a 3,871 gross ton vessel, length 420.1ft x beam 42.2ft, one funnel, four masts, single screw and a speed of 12 knots. I have no information on her passenger capacity. Launched on 4/2/1882, she was chartered to American Line and sailed on her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Philadelphia on 12/4/1882. …”

    In 1896 Ruth married a Thomas Edge. In 1911 Thomas and Ruth Edge were at 14 Portland Street, Walsall, where Thomas was licensed victualler public house. No name is given, but it’s in the right place for the sadly demolished Fountain Inn and see below.

    It appears Ruth died aged 40 in 1917. The Probate Calendar records:
    EDGE Ruth of the Fountain Inn Portland-street Walsall Staffordshire widow died 7 Jun 1917 Administration (limited) London 8 September to Abraham Anslow beer-house keeper. Effects £116 0S. 8d.

    Abraham Anslow would be the admistrator or executor and not necessarily a beneficary. As far as I can tell he was her father, who appears to have reached the ripe old age of 87 and was no pauper! The Probate Calendar records:
    ANSLOW Abraham of 45 Lichfield-street Walsall Staffordshire died 18 November 1841 Probate Llandudno 26 January [1942] to Lloyds Bank Limited. Effects £15,133 3s 6d.

  9. david oakley says:

    Thank you so much David, for this early account of my old school. Glad to see Mr. Boot mentioned, he was Headmaster while I was there. Regarding the note ‘July 11th 1902’ I think that in addition to the attendance qualification there may have been an educational requirement to leave an thirteen. My mother received her education there, on the girls side in the early 1900’s and when nearly thirteen, after fulfilling the attendance qualification, she was allowed to take the final exam that was given to the fourteen year old school leavers. if successful, the candidate could leave on the 13th birthday. This was known as “passing the Labour”. I understand that this legislation came about via the Ministry of Labour and would probably affect the boys, as well.
    On the day after her 13th birthday, my mom was scrubbing steps at the local outdoor beerhouse, where she was prompty engaged as a skivvy. Didn’t get many chances if you were a working-class girl in those days.

  10. david oakley says:

    A further observation. ‘1897, July 1st, a number of boys who are choristers have been given a trip to Rhyl today’. This entry is quite significant, for a small local village school. but “Singing ” was quite high on the agenda, then, and persisted for many years. As a ‘church school’, the teacher would walk round the class, picking out the young tenor voices for possible recruitment to the church choir and punishing the ‘growlers’ with a forceful reprimand.
    The departure of ‘singing’ as a lesson, meant that many old tunes which had survived for very many years were lost, such as ‘Strawberry fair, I’ll go no more a-roving, and the rollicking
    ‘One Friday morn when we set sail. much enjoyed by the lads. as well as the more sedate
    ‘Greensleeves’. In memory, I can still hear those young voices.

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  15. Jean johnson says:

    Very interesting , I hope you have more.

  16. Dean says:

    Thanks David for this detailed account of school life. Both blogs on this School, I’ve found totally fascinating. Have you tried or do you plan to get access to the log books for the School at Streets Corner which opened in 1903?.

    • David Evans says:

      Hello Dean

      School logbooks are the most precious, and often most rare of historical documents. I believe there was no requirement to keep logbooks once they had been filled.

      However, Clayhanger junior school very kindly allowed me to review their complete set of logbooks dating back to the opening of the school in 1880, a few years ago.

      I would love to be allowed to review Streets Corner school logbooks, if they still exist and are accessible, that is. I live in hope.

      kind regards

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