|Although we have no school in Peldon now, and younger children usually go to West Mersea or Langenhoe while older children attend Thurstable, Stanway or Thomas Lord Audley, Peldon did have its own Church Of England school for over a hundred years. The Victorian-style building was erected in 1833 on Church Road where the current Village Hall is now situated. This school was to provide an education for local children from 1833 until December 1942.
Before the school was built, the earliest reference to a school in Peldon is in a sixteenth century Church Court document. In September 1588, it states a Mr Parker ... was keeping a school at Peldon.
A young man, Daniel Rich, born in 1793, brought up in Peldon and caught smuggling by the Customs authorities, was reported to be able to read and write having been schooled in the village.
In the 19th century, it is likely there were various 'Dame Schools' in the homes of untrained teachers. A school run by John Haxell is described in the memoirs of Willoughby Bean. The Bean family lived in Peldon Hall.
Edwin, Henry, William and Willoughby [Bean] all began their education in a school kept by an old chap named Haxell, brother to a working farmer who lived at Haxell's Farm in Peldon on the Colchester Road. The two Haxells being able to read and write fairly well and above the average farmer of the times were the overseers of the parish, an official position which placed them above their neighbours. The school which one of them kept was at the bottom of the hill from the Hall gates on the Mersea Road, a corner double cottage, all my time, and Haxell's reputation was so good that boys as far as Layer-de-La-Haye came over daily to be taught.
There were Sunday Schools, a Church of England and a Wesleyan Methodist Sunday School (the chapel was built in Peldon in 1898). Sunday schools were generally intended to teach the scriptures but they also taught the three R's.
The Church of England Sunday School was certainly in existence by 1818 according to the document below.
In a Digest of Parochial Returns. Select Committee on Education of the Poor, 1818, for Peldon the entry reads
Population 319. A Sunday school containing 40 children.
By 1833 we learn from papers from The House of Commons that the population has increased to 424 and has
One Day and Sunday National School, containing 10 males and 36 females daily, with 32 males and 8 females additional on Sundays; it is supported by subscription, and by small weekly contributions from the children attending the Day School, as which it commenced in 1833.
House of Commons papers, Volume 41. Abstract of Education Returns 1833
In his record of the parish the Rector gives us more information.
The school was built mainly by the exertions of the Rev. Robert Eden, then curate of the Parish, in the year 1836 [it was 1833]. It is built on a portion of the then Church land under a lease of 99 years, on a Rent of £2 2.0 a year. This Rent appears to have been paid for a short time only.
The School is in connection with the National Society and was first put 'under Government' in 1866.
The first grant was received in 1867.
Rev C R Harrison Some Record of the Parish of Peldon 1867 D/P 287/28/6
In 1983 to commemorate 150 years since the school was built the Peldon and Wigborough Parish News put out an appeal for reminiscences from older residents who had attended the school and it published the following history of the school with the help of Kay Gilmour's manuscript
[ Peldon in Essex: Village Over the Marshes].
If you look by the organ in Peldon Church, you will see the 'foundation stone' from the old Peldon School. It reads:
built by SUBSCRIPTION
aided by a GRANT from
The NATIONAL SOCIETY
When the building was demolished, the stone was retrieved as a reminder of the church's initiative in providing Christian education in the parish. Both Great and Little Wigborough had their Church Schools; the latter ceased in the 1920s; Great Wigborough's was transformed into the Coronation Hall.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the school and in consequence a special opportunity to recall some of the facts about its long history.
Mrs Gilmour in her 'History Of Peldon' writes that the only provision for education up to 1832 was for 5 or 6 boys and 12 to 14 girls in 'mere dame schools' paid for at the rate of 2d or 3d per week by parents or friends or the local clergyman and his wife.
On 10th October 1832, an application for a grant towards the cost of building a school at Peldon was made by the Reverend Robert Eden, curate of Peldon. The population of the parish in 1831 was 424 and the number of children for whom the school was required was estimated at 26 boys and 33 girls. The schoolroom was to be 30' x 26' x 12' and its estimated cost - £140. The site was a field adjoining the churchyard and was to be vested in the incumbent and churchwardens and to be held on a 99 year lease at an annual rent of 2 guineas. The National Society (the Church of England body, founded in 1811 to give financial and other support to the building of church schools) gave a grant of £50 and the rest was raised by public subscription through the enthusiasm of Mr Eden. He himself had ten children, many of them born at Peldon. Later in 1851 he became the Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness.
So in 1833 the school building was duly completed and opened. In 1846/7 the number of children attending, according to the records, was 30 and also the salary of the mistress was precisely £18 per annum, indicating that she was not trained according to the National Society's 'Madras' system which had been introduced by Dr Bell at the Society's foundation.
In 1874 a new classroom was built and also a teacher's house. The little gate by the pillar box outside the present village hall is the old entrance to the school-house. This enlargement enabled the school to hold 110 children, with an average attendance of 75. By 1902 this had to be increased to 92.
The school continued until 1942, when the average attendance had dropped to 6. In 1964 the same piece of land was sold to the Parish Council and the old school finally demolished.
We know that many folk living in the village attended the school and have vivid personal memories of their school days. We would be most grateful to hear from anyone who can add to these bare facts about the school with their personal reminiscences. Peldon and Wigborough Parish News 1983
The first school log book held in the Essex Records Office commences in 1867
(1867 -1891 E/ML 36/1) presumably as a result of the school being put 'under Government'. In 1867 the schoolmaster gives an average attendance of 49.6 which, of course fluctuates throughout the logbook. There are some entries which read Nothing particularly occurred' 'All went on as usual' but some head teachers write more fully and we are able to glean information about village life, high days and holidays, families moving in or out of the village, the weather, and reasons for children's absence such as outbreaks of scarlet fever, whooping cough, ringworm and working on the harvest. In September 1868 the head teacher comments on poor attendance due to bean stalking, minding babies and performing other useful duties.
Children attend Church Services weekly and on special days; the vicar comes into school regularly and helps teach the scriptures. They learn to read, recite and sing, take dictation, write numbers and do sums.
It seems punishments are rarely given, there is one report of a caning but generally punishment involves keeping the children back to do more work.
School holidays all revolve around the harvest, whether of peas, beans, or wheat; children are also absent gathering sloes, acorns or gleaning corn.
The school is regularly inspected and a report received on April 29th 1867 gives a favourable assessment.
'This Country School is very fairly instructed and promises well for the future'
Copy of Summary of Inspector's Report April 29th 1867
Only five years later it is a different story and the new teacher, Emma Harris, is summarily dismissed on 1st September 1873 having only arrived eighteen months before.
being found deficient as a teacher - and her conduct in many ways highly blameable. The government inspector having moreover detected her in sundry false reports and pronounced her utterly untrustworthy
and the report states The instruction in this school is much below what it should be
A deduction of two tenths of the grant is made because of the unsatisfactory state of instruction and discipline and careless and untrustworthy keeping of registers.
However, the conditions which Emma Harris was working under may well elicit some sympathy.
A report from 9th May 1872 states The Building is in such a bad condition that it requires immediate repair. The Privies require separating and should be removed to a distance from the school.
In an entry in the Vestry minutes from 1872, the meeting considers the enlargement of the school
in accordance with the provisions of the Elementary Education Act and that
a suitable residence be built for the schoolmistress attached to the present building. A Committee to oversee the funds raised for the building is set up and a rate of 6d in the pound levied against Peldon ratepayers to go towards the school. The Rector is to ask the Education Board that parishioners of Little Wigborough should contribute as well. The overall cost is estimated at £250. Together with the money raised from rates which amount to £75 from Peldon and £20 from Little Wigborough, there are donations from the Rector The Rev Carter Hall and local landowners with smaller donations from local residents. The building work was to start February 1873 and be finished by Midsummer's Day
In June 1873, with the work not yet finished, Emma Harris complains having over 60 children I had not sufficient room for them to sit.
It is clear from the inspector's report that due to building work children and teachers had to cope with the school for the last few months being held in a kind of barn.
The vestry minutes detail the damning report by the inspectors and Emma's successor, Miss Vince, is found, offered £12 per annum, the schoolhouse to live in, supplies of coal and the cost of her travel and removal to Peldon. She starts on Monday 3rd November 1873.
The Schoolhouse, built in 1873 on the east side of the Schoolroom
Picture courtesy of Mike Christmas
This is not the first time the School's Inspector finds the teaching and standards unsatisfactory and on one occasion The Education Board threatens the government grant will not be given unless standards are raised and the state of the buildings improved. Nor is it the first time an appointment will be terminated.
Annual subscriptions are agreed by members of the Vestry to help support the school. The Rector subscribes 3 guineas annually and local landowners such as Mr Bawtree from Abberton and Mr Aspinwall from Peldon Lodge undertake to pay a guinea. Money earned from the rents paid on Church lands realise another 5 - 10 guineas providing the money is not required to repair the church.
Standards are not helped by the poor attendance rates. Many older boys are employed by local farmers, there's a lot of illness; there are even three children reported to have never been to school aged 5, 6 and 7. If there is heavy rain or snow, children don't attend; one week the 'dirty state of the roads' is given as a reason for low attendance. Many of the families are poor and given children may only have one pair of shoes it is not surprising they don't come through rain, snow and mud to school. From some of the school photos we can see that those shoes often have holes in their soles.
It is not until 1880 that education becomes compulsory until the age of ten, (although education is provided for the under 13s) following campaigning by the National Education League. Any 11 -13s have to have a certificate to show they have reached a certain educational standard before they can legally be employed.
From 1880, much of the log book is concerned with standards and absenteeism. The Schoolmistress or master, after their own fruitless attempts, call on the Attendance Officer and School managers to contact parents - and employers - to urge them to send children to school and warn them it is illegal to employ a child of 13 or under.
On November 23rd in 1888 the new schoolmaster writes night classes were commenced on Monday.
At the start of the second school logbook that runs from 1891 (1891 - 1910 E/ML 36/2) the number of children on the books is 97. Under the Elementary Education (School Attendance) Act of 1893 compulsory schooling is increased to the age of 11 and the right to education extended to deaf and blind children. In 1899 the leaving age is increased again, this time to 12.
The school premises continue to be complained about; smoking fires in the winter, so bad on occasions the children have to be taken outside while the fires are put out and the smoke dispersed before they return to an unheated schoolroom. Such bad light that
on dull days and after 3 pm the scholars can scarcely see to do any work.
In the winter, one schoolmaster moves the afternoon session to 1.30 instead of 2pm to allow better light for studying and children to get home before dark. In hot weather in the summer there is such poor ventilation that children are
sick and faint, and the smell from the outplaces is very disagreeable.
Damp walls, holes in the floor, muddy pathways and playground are complained of and work is done in the school holidays over a number of years to better the situation; new flooring, improving the state of the playground, putting up hooks for coats and hats, new fire grates. There is a lack of equipment too and the inspector complains in 1896 that the Infants are kneeling on the floor to use forms as desks.
There are regular visits by the Correspondent, the local manager running the school, who has to scrutinise the registers. Mr Fairhead from Brick House Farm and Mr Mason from St. Ives Farm are both mentioned in this role. There are visits by Diocese and School inspectors and Sanitary Inspectors come in when there is an outbreak of illness. Water pox (chicken pox), scarlet fever (or scarletina), whooping cough, measles, mumps, influenza are reported as well as one boy dying of typhus. The number of days the school is closed for epidemics runs into weeks. Children are excluded if any of their family is ill and, after a particularly bad epidemic of scarlet fever, a system is introduced whereby the school is closed and thoroughly cleaned six times a year.
The children are often absent from school, helping with agricultural work; bean dropping and bean stalking, pea picking, harvesting, and haymaking. According to Kay Gilmour 'Tich beans' were grown and harvested by cutting the plants off about a foot from the ground. Children and their mothers would then pull up the stalks and collect them in a sheet to take home and use for fuel, this was called 'bean-stalking'.
The start of the September term is sometimes delayed if the harvest is late. In 1909 Mr Mason, the Correspondent, visits the school and says as there was an unexpected demand for fruit-picking assistance the school should be closed one and a half days so that the children should take advantage of the opportunity to earn a little money.
There do seem to be quite a number of half-day or day closures for a treat (usually an outing), the dispensation of bread according to Comyn's Charity, the Queen's birthday also called Empire Day and a big celebration for Queen Victoria's 50th and 60th Jubilees in June 1887 and 1897.
School was closed on Tuesday of this week. A gathering of the whole village took place on that day for tea and sports to commemorate the Queen's long and prosperous reign. June 1897
The Queen's grandson's wedding and her son's coronation are all marked by a holiday. In 1900, there is a half-day to celebrate the Relief of Ladysmith and also on June 2nd 1902 in honour of the Proclamation of Peace
the war in Africa has extended from October 11 1899 to May 31 1902
The school is closed on 16th June 1908 to enable the schoolchildren to attend the Colchester Pageant.
There are several references to school being closed on account of the annual feast (in June), for jumble sales in aid of the school and on account of the room being wanted.
School photographs are reported as being taken in May 1897 and in September 1909 which may help date some of the school photographs that have been passed down through local families. This photograph probably taken around 1916 is one of the few we have where we have the names of the girls.
Back Row: Mrs Green, Lily Ponder, Maggie Elliot, Flo Baldwin, Dorothy Christmas, Ginny King
Middle Row: Kate Goody, Winnie Mason, Phyllis or Joyce Smith, Reenie Wenlock, Margery Hyam, Topsey (or Una) Smith
Front Row: Rose Purtell, Blanc(he?) Ogden, Lily Mallett
Picture courtesy of Marianne Smith
In the photograph, the girls are all holding pieces of needlework on which they would be assessed. Throughout the time covered by the school logbooks there are visits from the great and the good in the village, the Vicar, Curates, School managers and inspectors. Also the wives and daughters of the clergy and some of the landowners visit and bring sewing for the girls to do. From Peldon Hall the Beans and the Fosketts call and from Peldon Lodge, The Aspinwalls. Sometimes they or the Rector dispense buns, oranges or money to the children near Christmastime.
It is noted when the swallows return and primroses flower. Major events such as the Earthquake of 1884 and severe weather such as snowstorms and heavy rain are entered. In June 1897
On Thursday afternoon a thunderstorm broke over the village and at about 3.30 a shower of hail of extraordinary size fell for about six minutes. Some of the windows were broken and the children had to be huddled up on the opposite side of the School to avoid the falling glass. Great damage has been done to crops and windows in and near Peldon. The hailstones were nearly spherical in shape and many were as large as a fair sized hen's egg
Because of the 100 year rule at the Records Office, the final log book which covers 1932 - 1942 cannot be accessed. However, with the 1910 - 1932 log book ( Essex Records Office E/ML 36/3) I have been able to read from 1910 - 1918 with the later years sealed off by the archivist. Tantalisingly, the final entry for the section I was allowed to read speaks of the closure of the school in November 1918 due to the influenza outbreak.
This log book lists bookings for the schoolroom which is also being used for whist drives, socials, scouts and guides. It enters the dates when the piano is tuned and coal and wood delivered. It lists all the subjects taught in each Standard. It mentions school being closed for the funeral in May 1910 of Edward 7th and Coronation Week June 23rd in 1911 when again there is a holiday.
During WW1 there are fundraising events for the Prince of Wales' National Relief Fund, often a Magic Lantern show. Children and mothers collect hundredweights of blackberries for Wilkins Jam Factory and the Food Control Office. Older girls knit socks and gloves for wounded soldiers. Significant events like the Zeppelin coming down at Little Wigborough and the German Naval attack on the North East Coast are also reported and pride is expressed in the school master's responding to the call from his King and Country.
During the final decade of the school's existence (it closes in 1942) the school celebrates its centenary in 1933 which coincides with Empire Day.
Peldon School Centenary 1833-1933. Sent to Jean Ponder from Miss A.P. Tyrer, June 1933
(Miss Tyrer was the schoolmistress for six years until her retirement in 1933)
In a scrapbook of Essex County Standard newspaper cuttings compiled by Peldon's columnist, Mrs Caroline Dansie, she writes of the headmistress setting up a village library within the school in 1933. The school premises are still being regularly used by the village for meetings, whist drives and entertainments in the evenings.
The farming year still influences the school holidays, children being needed for two weeks to help with the pea picking, usually late June to early July, then back to school until another two weeks' holiday during harvest in August.
Miss Anne Tyrer retires and leaves her post as governess of the school in Summer 1933 after six years in post. Miss S M Barr replaces her and her sister moves into the School House with her. By Christmas 1935 a Miss Glenny is the governess.
16 Children from the school take part in the N E Essex Schools' Sports held in Clacton in May 1934. The District Sports still runs today.
The school finally closes on 18th December 1942 with an average attendance, according to Kay Gilmour, of only 6 children.
West Mersea School logbook suggests that the Seniors were transferred in stages to West Mersea.
25 April 1938 12 new Senior children were admitted from the school at Peldon
8 September 1941 9 from Peldon & Langenhoe (Sens), 7 Infants
7 September 14 Seniors joined school from Langenhoe and Peldon schools.
Finally, we learn that furniture from Peldon School is delivered to Mersea School on 21st December and on 11th January 1943 at the start of a new term West Mersea School adds 9 children from Peldon onto its roll.
In February 1943 a meeting is called to make all the arrangements necessary to use the old school building as a Village Hall ... but that's another story!
Photo courtesy of Pat Wyncoll
Peldon History Project
Essex County Standard
Tony Millatt, Mersea Museum
Peldon in WW1 from School Log Books