A school united in war and in peace


Despite a succession of approved planning applications, the old St. Johns continues to slowly decay, seemingly unloved.

I know it’s been a long time coming, but it’s taken me nearly 7 hours to edit this up.

Earlier in the year, I started a series of posts containing log book entries for St. John’s School, Walsall Wood. I commenced with the record of the Girl’s School, from it’s opening in 1886 to merger with the Boy’s facility in 1912. I then continued with the logs of the Boy’s School, from 1880 to 1912.

I now complete the series with the time period from the 1912 merger to 1945, when the records end. The note that they strike, the language use and degree of formality understandably change, but the concerns do not. Meagre facilities, outbreaks of disease and strike-related non-attendance all still figure, but one can see that this is a chronicle of a changing place. Kids going on to Grammar School, the warning about traffic, the notes that speak of a wide world beyond The Wood.

David Evans has worked incredibly hard to transcribe these notes, which is no small task. We all owe David a huge debt of gratitude for a wonderful job. I owe that man not just a drink, but a small brewery.

David wrote:

The boys’ section and the girls’ sections of the St Johns school in Walsall Wood had been combined into one administrative unit in 1912 and from here one log is kept. A note written in the first log book of 1880 states that ‘Log books are intended to be kept by the Schoolmaster in the same sense as a captain keeps a ship’s log.’ Sadly, as the original  logbooks seem to  have been lost forever, we only have these notes.

Girls’ school headmistresses from 1886 to 1912:

E Meadon; F Caldicott; Lizzie Henderson; R C Tabbutt; W.E.Franklin; Elizabeth Cook; Jane Middlemass; Miss Richards; G Carthy; Nellie Rye Green; Emma J Fryer; E Shepperd.

Boys school head teachers (and then combined school) 1880 to 1945(?):

W J Burrows, (1880 to 1890) Frederick Davis (1890 to 1896); S A Heeley (1896 to 1899); Frederick Victor Garner (1899 to1932 ); G Boot ( 1932 to 1942); J F Oakes (temporary headmaster Sept 1942 to Nov 1942) Charles Edward Pye ( 1942 onwards).


December 18th:

A parcel containing 14 pairs of socks, 13 woollen belts, 9 pairs of mittens and 2 woollen helmets was sent to the men of the South Staffordshire Regiment. The garments were made by the girls for their contribution to the War Effort.


Parcels were sent in January, February and July to France to help the War Effort. Handicraft Centre now closed as the instructors  now on Military Service.

October 11th:

Master out from 11.15 till noon to interview ‘night workers on recruitment business’.

Walsall Wood High Street in earlier days... how much do you know about the history of our area? Photo taken from the wonderful 'Memories of Old Walsall Wood' by Bill Mayo & John Sale.

Walsall Wood High Street in earlier days… this would have been how many of the children and staff of St. Johns knew it. Photo taken from the wonderful ‘Memories of Old Walsall Wood’ by Bill Mayo & John Sale.


March 28th:

A great blizzard lasting al night and most of today has beaten all records for force of wind and depth of snow during last 40 years. I took the liberty of shutting the school as attendance was most poor and children that did arrive were soaked through.

June 9th:

Have today received a gift of 100 books for school library from Mrs Cook, the Beeches, Aldridge. This is a splendid start to the new project of opening a library for the children’.

December 8th:

Have today sent another parcel to prisoners in Germany containing more than 300 woollen garments for our valiant men.


May 29th:

A library has been established in this school. Many of the books have been donated by the parishioners and patrons of this school.


January 18th:

Weather very severe. There is also much sickness. There is a scarcity of food and warm clothing and children are frequently away from school. It is a sorry sight to see.

January 19th:

School closed to enable staff to make out and distribute ration cards. 478 were delivered today.

August 16th:

Master away in the afternoon for Medical for Military Service.


A strike is  mentioned.

May 14th:

Outbreak of scabies amongst the children.

August 30th:

School closed until September 6th owing to alterations to lavatories and rooms coloured and painted.

November 5th: 

A number of children have been irregular in attendance during the week owing to coalpicking during the strike which has now ended.

November 24th:

School closed in the afternoon for the unveiling of the War Memorial to the men and boys who died in the war from Walsall Wood. Nurse called for routine visit to check on the health of the children.

These visits started in  about 1916 and soon became a regular part of school years, as did Employment Officer and Army Recruiting Officer also School Dentistry started about this time.


….Another strike.

March 4th

Vicar has obtained a grant of £6 from the Betty Hussey Book Charity to which he contributed £1 and as a result 30 new books have been added to the school library much to the delight of the children.

Anyone know about the Betty Hussey Book Charity? Local? Caonnected to Phineas Fowke Hussey, or something else? – Bob

April 15th:

Attendance fell owing to coal strike. Children are to be provided with soup and bread on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday. Teachers have offered to assist in this matter.

May 30th:

Attendance still very low; children are being kept away to puick coal from mounds for their families’

June 3rd: 

Blackboard renovated

July 8th: 

Provision of meals ceases today as the strike ended last week.


Some happy times; some innovation.

January 28th(?):

Shrove Tuesday and a whole days holiday was given at the request of His Majesty the King for the wedding of Princess Mary.

November 14th:

Madeline Taylor was elected captain of this school and Keziah  Brown and Gladys Price and May Langford as prefects. This new idea will one hopes innovate the children. The posts will be reviewed after 6 months.


April 6th:

Outbreak of whooping cough and scarlet fever in the village.

April 26th:

School is being closed on the occasion of the wedding of H.R.H. Duke of York.

May 24th:

Empire Day. King’s message to schoolchildren was read out and the flag was shown.

June 13th:

School was closed on account of H.R.H. Prince of Wales visit to Walsall.


The modern age encroaches…

May 14th:

I have today warned all children  of the dangers of motor vehicles on the road. 19 children have transferred to other schools to ease overcrowding.


April 1st:

School reorganised so that boys and girls in Standards 5,6,7 are no longer taught separately.

July 28th:

Mr David Dickenson Ex Mayor of Blackpool and old scholar of this school which was his only school called and gave a brief address to the children.

Another soup kitchen in Walsall Wood - accepting charity cannot have been easy for many. That's a fine collection of pies, too. From 'Memories of Old Walsall Wood' by Clarice Mayo & John Sale.

Times were very hard. A soup kitchen in Walsall Wood – accepting charity cannot have been easy for many. That’s a fine collection of pies, too. From ‘Memories of Old Walsall Wood’ by Bill Mayo & John Sale.


February 15th: 

Phenomenally cold. 20 degrees below  zero. Many children ill.

Would he be using Celsius or Fahrenheit here? It’s actually the difference between -20 deg C or -29(ish) deg C – Bob

May 6th:

Juvenile Employment Officer made his first visit to the school this year to talk to the Standard 7 about their future careers.


September 9th:

G. Boot commences as Head teacher of this school.

December 22nd:

A Christmas Party was held by the staff for the scholars. It was an immense success and an enjoyable time was held by all. It is worth recording that we will make this an annual event.


September 7th:

Mrs Boulton, wife of the late vicar who died 13th June has presented the school with a small ‘Washington’ organ.


July 23rd:

Major Thompson, architect and surveyor, inspected the school buildings in connection with roof repairs.

November 29th:

Royal Wedding: school closed.

That would be Prince George marrying Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark. Prince George was, I believe, father to Prince Michael of Kent. He was tragically killed in 1942 when on active service with the RAF in a plane crash near Dunbeath, Scotland. – Bob


January 30th:

Dr. Knight (School Inspector) inspected the children regarding milk recommendation.

May 6th: 

Jubilee Day. Tea and sports were provided for the children, souvenir mugs were provided by Walsall District Council.


January 28th:

School closed for the funeral of the late King George Fifth.

July 2nd:

Joan Doreen Seedhouse and Geoffrey Clayton were successful in exam for free places for Queen Mary School and Lichfield Priory (sic).


May 12th:

Coronation day. The children were provided with tea and a souvenir beaker by the Urban District Council.

July 29th:

School closed for the midsummer holidays. Schools were painted and decorated.


October 18th:

Rev. J. Edwards, an old boy of this school and now a missionary in the Solomon Islands visited this morning to talk about his work in the islands. Curious exhibits were shown and were most interesting.


One entry only.

September 3rd: 

Outbreak of war. School is closed to re-open 18th September.


Two amazing  logbook entries.

May 14th:

School closed for Whitsun on the 10th but owing to the state of emergency was re-opened this morning.

Operation Dynamo, Dunkirk evacuation 27 May to 4 June 1940 gives a hint here.

August 25th:

Following the air raidduring the night and the one the night before less and 50% of the children came to school. The majority of those were upset and weary that it became impossible to carry on and classes were abandoned.


It may well have been wartime, but Nitty Nora the Lice Lady was still at large…

January 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd:

Snow blizzards and floods and fog forces me to close the school till Monday.

May 19th:

Evacuees from St Michael’s R.C. School Liverpool admitted today.

June 13th:

At 3.10 Nurse More excluded (named pupils, not evacuees) for having nits.


January 30th:

Arrangements made for the transfer of some of the evacuees to attend the Council School.

July 20th:

Free place at Lichfield Grammar went to Bernard Buckroyd and Leslie Jeffcott. Enid Morgan passed the entrance exam to Queen Mary Grammar School in Walsall.

September 1st:

J.F.Oakes commenced duties as temporary headmaster.

December 1st:

Charles Edward Pye commences as head of this school.

December 10th:

Attendance bad owing to outbreak of scarlet fever.


April 7th:

An unusually strong gale today caused tiles to fall from the roof and the outside door of the girls cloakroom was torn off its hinges.

June 11th:

A half day holiday was granted today in recognition of the a successful effort made by the children during ‘Wings for Victory’.

July 24th:

Miss Belasco a teacher evacuated from London commenced here today and will remain until the end of the year to teach some London evacuees that are here.

Interesting, that. Did this allude to accent problems, perhaps? – Bob.


May 8th:

 (Written in bold capital letters in the logbook)



I bet a few of these kids were at St. Johns. A great image from Bill MAyo & John Sale’s ‘Memories of Old Walsall Wood’.

October 24th:

A radio Gramophone has been installed in this school. The purchase price was £40 and the money was raised by Jumble Sale.

December 3rd:

 The last 2 evacuees left today to return to London.

The log notes end here.

One entry concerning a naughty pupil… From the girls’ section log,  late 1800s, makes interesting reading and I quote it in full:

September 19th:  

Report. For some days I had considerable trouble with (named) a girl in Standard 4. On Tuesday the 6th she purposely remained outside and came in to school late for which I gave her one stroke on the hand with a cane, in consequence she was very sulky and defiant and refused to do her lesson. I then had repeated complaints from her teacher as to her behaviour. I called her from class to give her another stroke from the cane,she refused to hold out her hand and insolently told me that her mother said she was not to hold out her hand. As I was leaving school in the afternoon I met the girl with her mother. The mother stopped me in a very abrasive and coarse manner and accused me of beating and knocking her child about. I told her what punishment I had given and why it was inflicted. She told me that she would not allow me or anyone else to chastise a child of her. I said in that case she had better keep her daughter away from school till I laid the case before the Managers. The Managers decided that the girl must not be admitted again till the mother apologised. Up to this present time she has not complied with this request.


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26 Responses to A school united in war and in peace

  1. Clive says:

    Great job done on are local history. Enjoyed reading this look in to the past. Well done Dave and thanks for publishing it Bob.

    • Sharon Collins says:

      Love reading anything about Walsall Wood, I was born on the 9th Dec 1957 and main 2 places I lived were Holly Lane, then Brook Lane. I remember Cannon Edwards, he was such a kindly man, Mr Millgate, who Miss Richards married. mr Feast was one of the headmasters, whilst I was there. My grandfather was Jack Collins, of Collins Express Parcel delivery services, had so many happy hours playing in we called the garage but it was a warehouse.

  2. Pedro says:

    Once again a great contribution to the local history by David and Bob. The Blog is providing a fantastic record for posterity!

  3. Pedro says:

    For the record of the Snow on the 28th March 1916 the Lichfield Mercury says…

    A snowstorm swept over various parts of the country on Monday night. A fire engine called out to the suburbs of Birmingham was held up in the snow and the second engine stuck in a drift on returning, while a similar fate overcame a motor lorry sent to the rescue.

    Birmingham suffered a good share of the blizzard. Tramway and motor omnibus services were disorganised. Trams were held up by horse-drawn vehicles on the track and fallen trees, and the omnibuses had a great difficulty in getting through.

    In some places in the outlying fields of Bourneville the drifts were 5 foot deep. One man on his way to business, when walking across some fields, dropped to the armpits in a drift and stuck there.

    In the neighbourhood of Warley Woods residents were ‘snowed in” there houses. In one road the snow drifted so that when the front door was opened occupants found it banked to within a foot of the fanlight.

    A Stratford-upon-Avon bus was held up for hours at Hall Green, where the main road was strewn with Telegraph and Telephone poles and wires.

    Owing to heavy drifts of snow many train services were considerably delayed and several trains had to be suspended.

    The Coventry Canal at Nuneaton was blocked for some hundreds of yards by Telegraph poles which had been blown across the towpath; the twisted wires lay strewn along the water.

    Redditch was cut off from communication with neighbouring towns, long stretches of the Telegraph and telephonic wires having been broken down in all directions.

    A great deal of damage was done near the Bell Inn at Great Barr, where Telegraph poles were blown across the main road between Walsall and Birmingham.

  4. Pedro says:

    For the 15th February 1929 the Times reports the lowest temp since 1917.

    At Birmingham (Edgbaston) the temperature fell to 1 degree below zero on the ground.

    ( I read this as 1 degree below 0F, being 33 degrees of frost)

    The upper reaches of the Thames were frozen, and the Continent suffered much worse with Switzerland having 54 degrees of frost.

    As with other times it seems a long cold spell suddenly turned to a heatwave and in March, 25 degrees C was recorded in Wakefield!

  5. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    many many thanks for all YOUR hard work !..and for the kind words and comments!
    In the blog article “Going by the book” there is a photo of Canon Jim Edwards in his later years..on page 9, bottom right. The school log-book entry for October 18th 1938 only gives a brief reference to this good man’s life. I understand that he was stationed in the Solomon Islands during the Japanese invasion and subsequent military offensive to re-take the islands, including Guadalcanal .
    The log-book notes for August 1940..the air-raids ..may help to give an accurate date for the Brownhills and Hermann raids, which have been discussed in previous articles.
    kind regards,

  6. David Oakley says:

    St. John’s Church School, Walsall Wood ! What a great job has been done by Bob and David in bringing this account to the blog, and elderly dinosaur as I am, I felt no little pride in being part of this history, at least from 1939 until I left for the Senior School at the age of 11, in 1942.
    The early part of the account was as much history to me as to anyone else, and I was keenly interested in the trials and tribulations of those earlier times, illness epidemics, coal strikes, coal picking by pupils, severe weather, soup kitchens and the little social break-throughs, such as the attempt to form a small library within the school, school dental visits and organised visits by the school nurse. The school Headmistress at the time, Miss Shepherd for the girls, and Mr. Garner for the boys are names I remember from my parents, although Mr Garner had a particularly long stint of 33 years.
    I remember ‘going up’ from the infants after my 8th birthday in 1939, just before the outbreak of war, the school didn’t open until the 18th September, so I had a lengthy wait. Those were curious days, I think they were labelled ‘the phoney war’ in some quarters. Nothing seemed to be happening, not on the surface, anyway, although we got to know the meaning of war a little later with air raids and the early casualties bringing so much grief and distress, within the village.
    Nurse Moore, once appointed, waged an unceasing war against headlice and nits. She was given a little room on the premises, and each class, one at a time, would be called in to have their head, ‘looked’, as it was termed. Nurse Moore owned a little Ford car, one of the few in the village at that time, she would pay home visits when needed, and also organised post-natal clinics for mothers and child. A conscientious, hard-working lady was Nurse Moore, who was rarely seen to smile.
    It will be noted that evacuees from St Michaels Roman Catholic School, Liverpool , where admitted to the school on May 19th 1941, but were transferred to the Senior School on January 30th 1942. After a mere eight months sojourn. Why was this ? My own guess is that this class came from one school, they brought their own teacher with them, Miss Grearley, although this is not mentioned in the log, Being from a Roman Catholic School and having their own teacher, she conducted morning and evening prayers in R.C. tradition. St John’s was a Church of England School and at the time, the breach between the two faiths was quite pronounced, they are much closer now, of course, so a move to the more secular atmosphere of the Council School may have suited both parties. Miss Belasco, of the London evacuees, had no such problem, they were all C of E. and unlike the R.C,’s there was no segregation, and unlike the Liverpool contingent, came from a large selection of East End schools I was taught by Miss Belasco in certain subjects, a middle-aged , quietly spoken lady, with greying hair, well-respected by the evacuees, as well as by us.
    Mr Boot, the headmaster was a small, elderly rather corpulent man, in my time. To correct disorderly male pupils he would extend his arm towards the offender and cuff them behind the head with his outstretched hand. This seemed to jiggle your brain up, and you felt as if your eyeballs were about to shoot from their sockets. Never used a cane. Didn’t need to. His first love was gardening and he took every class for gardening. He encouraged us to dig properly, by intoning, “Dig deep to find the gold”, and even now, at my advanced age, I still hear myself murmuring, ‘dig deep to find the gold’, when venturing out into the garden, with my spade.
    Mr. Boot unfortunately died during the summer holidays of 1942, being quite old. I don’t think any teacher actually retired, during the war, they seemed to keep going as long as possible, but Mr. Oakes, an elderly teacher from the Senior School, and perhaps a former Headmaster from somewhere, was brought in to deputise for a short while. As he came into the school, I moved into the Senior school, but was to meet him later, when he returned to his old post. This old fellow had a mania for “lines” and would dish them out, a thousand at a time. He specialised in geography , with the result that having fallen foul of him in one class, I had to write out, “The Lickey Hills are just outside Birmingham”, one thousand times, later being harried to write ‘The Canadian Shield’, a geological part of Canada, for a similar punishment.
    Enid Morgan, Bernard Buckroyd and Les Jephcott were all in my class at school. Sacrifices had to be made to send a child to Grammar School, so the few who took the exam were not normally the children of miners or brickworkers. Fourteen was the normal leaving age, and most parents expected to see a bit of financial benefit from a school leaver, they would take your wage and return a small amount to you as pocket money. This would often go on for years, as amusingly recounted by Brian Stringer in ‘Clayhanger Kid. Enid Morgan was a quiet, studious girl, well suited to go on to Queen Mary’s, Bernard and Les were two good contemporaries, until homework and other extra-curriculum activities gradually distanced themselves from the rest of us rough lot. .
    Finally, a word about the Rev. J Edwards, or Canon Edwards as he later became, who visited the school in 1938. My father was a childhood friend of Jim Edwards and was with him at a farewell party, the night before he sailed for the Solomon Islands, they were ‘young men’, at the time, I would estimate the period as being shortly after the First World War, say 1919-1920, so the Rev. Edwards would be a veteran missionary by 1938, his life’s work, in fact. On his subsequent return to the Soloman’s in 1938, after his visit, he would be unaware of the brutality of the Japanese invasion still to come in later years, I like to think that this would have made him still more determined to return.

    • Pedro says:

      January 1947.

      Spring Hill Methodist Church, Muckley corner

      Rev James Edwards who is present on furlough from the Solomon Islands, where he is a missionary, gave address, and the awards were distributed by Miss Edwards, of Warsall Wood. A selection was given by the children and Mr WH Bampton Officiated at the organ.

      • Pedro says:

        There are several years missing from the online archive of the Lichfield Mercury, but the Rev J gets a couple of mentions both in connection with Muckley Corner.

        8 November 1946….The missionary service held on Sunday last was well attended. An excellent address was given by the Rev J Edwards, missionary from the Solomon Islands, and was much appreciated by all present. The solo was rendered by Miss Winifred Fisher. The collection was given to the missionary funds.

    • Pedro says:

      A Google for the Rev J Edwards came up with this very interesting link, from The Living Church 1945…

      I went across to a nearby island, arriving just in time for the morning service at the Anglican mission church. Here I got my first surprise; for the priest was English, the choir natives, and the congregation American sailors. It wasn’t a bad combination, especially when it came to the singing of familiar hymns.

      After the service I introduced myself to the priest, the Rev. James Edwards. He and I had separate dinner engagements, but later I climbed the hill to visit him and to find out about his work. To my further surprise, I found myself in the midst of St. Peter’s College, a seminary for training native men for the ministry. The natives who had formed the choir that morning, 15 of them, were all candidates for Holy Orders. Fr. Edwards and his associate, the Rev. H.B.C. Reynolds, introduced me to all of them, and later I had the privilege of attending Evensong in their chapel, conducted by one of their number and sung in their musical language.

      At the invitation of Fr. Edwards, I returned next day to visit with him some of the native villages. Travel in these parts is mostly by boat, and the mission has a little fleet of four motor boats of various sizes that somehow escaped destruction when this was an active war zone. Fr. Reynolds was leaing at the same time to visit some of the villages on Santa Ysabel Island, where the finest churches are said to be, but he was to be gone for 10 days and I had not the time to accompany him. But we say him off with his “passengers,” half a dozen native men and two native women. One of the latter appeared wearing only a bright calico skirt, smoking a pipe, balancing on her head an enormous bundle wrapped in a sheet, and carrying a very tine, very naked, and very black baby. We were solemnly introduced, and I was even granted the privilege of holding the baby, who turned out to be solemn, smooth, and slippery. But like most babies she took to a Marine instantly, as I did to her.

      For a time there was a great bustle, with Fr. Reynolds and his party getting away in one direction while Fr. Edwards, several of the native men, and I boarded another boat and set off in another direction. The last we saw of the other party was the native mother puffing her pipe furiously and waving the baby’s little black hand at us.


      • Dave (Eddy) Edwards says:

        Thanks Pedro for agreat article on Canon Jim who was a distant relative of mine (2nd cousin 2x removed) known in the family as “uncle Jim”
        He had close ties with the Ebenezer Methodist Chapel in Walsall Wood as his father, also James Edwards and his mother the former Emma Bomber were prominent members.
        Born in Walsall Wood he was a carpenter in his youth and after WW1 became a Curate and was at Holy Trinity, Ilkeston 1924 to 28 and then at Marske in Cleveland 1928 to 33.
        In 1933 he joined the Melanesian mission and became assistant warden at Selwyn College in Siota in Melanesia. In 1934 he was sent to Makato open a school to train the youth of the villages in the ministry.
        He worked many places in the Soloman Isles inc Siota, Tobalia, Maka, Maravovo, and Taroaniara. He also worked in Australia during the Pacific War and in 1943 worked informally as chaplain on USA war ships in Soloman Isles.
        1948 to 1957 he returned to Siota as warden of the College of St Peter. He was made Canon of Melanesia in 1956 and returned to Walsall Wood as curate from 1957 to 1964.
        Some life…..
        Dave Eddy Edwards

    • kate Goodall says:

      Lovely to read this David. Thank you so much.

  7. Ann Cross says:

    What a wonderful piece, many thanks to everyone. I have a letter of reference for my father, dated 8th December 1931, written and signed by Fred V. Garner (Head Master). I now know that Frederick Victor Garner was headmaster from 1899 to 1932. Another small piece in place, thank you.

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  12. Pedro says:

    August 25th:

    “Following the air raid during the night and the one the night before less and 50% of the children came to school. The majority of those were upset and weary that it became impossible to carry on and classes were abandoned.”

    On the nights of the 23rd and 24th of August there were raids on Erdington, Castle Vale, Yardley, Ward End, Bromford and Pype Hayes.

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  15. James says:

    Hi bob , we live in a old cottage in little Aston .
    We have had 2500 of the old school bricks to build an extension on the back of our house .
    They are a perfect match and I think it’s nice that they have stayed local . We got them from cawardens in rugeley. We are guessing that as they are such that they were built around the same time . Would you have any information about our house ? We have a benchmark cut into the bricks on the side and we discovered an old well in the garden . The 2 cottages were once the gate houses to little Aston hall so I’m told

  16. Frances Trawford says:

    My mother took in two little boys from Liverpool in 1941. Their mothers were sisters and one father was in the navy and the other in the air force. Somewhere we have the boys photographs and a few letters written by the mothers. They didn’t stay too long but my mother always remarked on how they ate nearly all her store of home made jam.

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