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«The Minster Grammar School 1914-1919 Written and researched by Paul Birks As a part of the Southwell History Society’s book “Southwell and World ...»

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The Minster Grammar School 1914-1919

Written and researched by Paul Birks

As a part of the Southwell History Society’s book “Southwell and World War I”

In common with the rest of society, the Southwell Grammar School had to adjust to operating in a

country that was at war. Money was in short supply, able-bodied staff were called up for military

service, and some of the older pupils had to abandon their studies to help out in family businesses

when manpower was lost to the armed forces.

Notwithstanding these ongoing difficulties the school still managed to function with temporary staff covering the absences. The school records provide an interesting insight into its operation during the war period.

Buildings When the war broke out the Minster Grammar School was situated at the top of Church Street in the red brick Georgian building now occupied by HSBC bank, with accommodation for both teaching and boarding of the boys. The school also owned the adjacent properties of the Crown Hotel and three shops along the frontage of the Market Place. In 1908-09 the school had undergone a significant renovation, with tenders existing from many Southwell, Newark and Nottingham builders to relay wooden floors, renew the drains, add new urinals and put in new partitions, including bespoke glazed panelling across one of the large classrooms.

The much heralded glass screen of 1909 was criticised in the 1937 Inspection Report which said that it separated two of the “noisy” classrooms and was “ineffective as a sound screen”. The contracts and receipts show the works when completed came to sum £1,102:10s.8d. The Education Committee of the County Council gave a grant of £100 towards the cost of new equipment presumably for the refurbished laboratories and woodwork room.

The science laboratory - pre war (Minster School) On examination of the February 1907 HMI report the reasons for the extensive building works became apparent. The report states that “the teaching accommodation falls considerably short of modern requirements”. It goes on to report two classes being taught in an un-partitioned room and the “ugly stove standing in the middle of the room” which gives off noxious fumes…The atmosphere is vitiated and bad”. The rooms are said to be in “urgent need for redecoration” and “far from attractive”…”Equipment generally is somewhat meagre”. “The cloakroom and lavatory accommodation is totally inadequate…and the urinals are insanitary and should be slated”. The conclusions are that “The deficiencies in the school premises…are serious”.

The damning report was cause for a renewed inspection of the school in February 1912. The inspectors reported on the new laboratory accommodation and the more satisfactory heating appliances. However, work was still to be done as the cloakroom accommodation was not satisfactory. The 1926 Inspection Report still said that “some improvement in the lavatory accommodation is much to desired”. The dormitories for boarders were classed as satisfactory. Not until the 1937 Inspection Report was there was there a mention of the “installation of electric light throughout the school” An improvement to the premises in March 1913 was the Governors agreement to purchase three water fire extinguishers “one for each storey of the school”. But at the same meeting recommendations for the improvement of the upper floors heating was postponed due to “financial considerations”.

The overall inadequacies of the schools buildings was noted by the Education Board for Nottinghamshire. Their acting Head, a Mr Bromley, wrote to the school in March 1918 to comment on the expensive nature of running such a small school. He asked for a meeting to “discuss the whole situation”.

In March 1919 the Governors were informed that the County Council had decided to proceed with a new County Secondary school in Southwell. The current buildings would become a hostel for the new school and the Minster School’s Head would be Head of the new school. The matter went on and on, and by the Governor’s minutes of January 1928 the issue was still being discussed!

The school was also in possession of buildings which were not directly used by the boys or Masters.

The Crown Hotel was rented out to an Eliza Taylor up to and during WWI to bring in rent (£38 p.a.

reduced by the Governors in November 1916 to £25 for “the period of the war”). The Governors agreed to pay £25:15s for the fitting of a new kitchen range in 1916, as the old one had been “in daily use for cooking for over 20 years and is quite worn out”, reported Mrs Taylor in a letter to the Governors.

In 1914 three other premises along the Market Place going west from the Crown were owned by the School. They were occupied by (going from the Crown); Mr Knowles, a painter; Pitchford’s, a furniture dealer; and Mrs Lane in a domestic dwelling. In 1914 the school was in a heated debate with the Inland Revenue over the valuation of the non-school buildings. The Finance Act had brought in duties on land values and the Crown and three other properties had been assessed at over £2,000 for the purposes of the Act. The Governors not only disputed this figure, but had their own valuation of the properties to try to get the figure significantly reduced. Correspondence from 1915 seems to indicate that the Governors were successful in their appeals.





In 1919 with the appointment of a new Headmaster, the former Head, Mr Wright, offered to the school an extensive range of furnishings including “desks, baths, cupboards, gas pendants, fittings” and even “ linoleum flooring” for the sum of £25.00. This indicates that these were the property of the Wright family not the school’s and had been accumulated over the term of the two previous heads who were father and son.

Finances The war had a significant impact on the schools finances. In 1912-1913 the claim to the Board of Education for the annual grant was for £352, based on 80 pupils attending in the year 1912-1913.

The impact of the war was dramatic as pupil numbers fell each year until 1915. Correspondence shows the difficulties families were having contributing towards their sons’ education and boarding. The low point was in 1915-1916 when 54 pupils brought in a grant of £234. Finances did improve from 1917 onwards as the amount of grant per pupil was increased from £5 to £7.

Not until the school year 1919-1920 did the pupil numbers climb back to the 1913 figure. The increased amount per pupil was outlined as a preliminary supplementary grant to all schools as a means of establishing a national pension scheme for teachers in secondary education. The matter was being investigated by an Education Department Committee, which was expected to report in 1918 in favour of the 1914 recommendations on teachers’ pay scales and pensions.

Fees from parents, which included boarding, also displayed a dramatic decline. In 1913 they stood at £584, but dropped to a low of £360 in 1916 and recovered slightly by the end of the war.

Costs had to be trimmed accordingly. The Head’s salary and bonus went down from £378 in 1914 to a low of £230 in 1916, partly because the bonus figure was arrived at by the number on roll, which was decreasing. Other staff expenses were similarly reduced from £439 in 1914, down to £399 by 1916. Part of the reduction can be accounted for through fewer staff, but also later in the war female staff were employed at a lower wage than their male counterparts. Further costs were added by the ongoing conflict, with the Governors taking out additional cover with the Ecclesiastical Insurance Office in March 1916 against the threat of damage by aircraft. The princely sum of £6:16s:6d was approved to cover the threat. Government regulations also created additional payments to cover the new Workmen’s Compensation (War Addition) Act 1917.

In January 1917 the national financial situation had become so grave that the school received a letter requesting it deposit with the Treasury the £500 of Midland Railway Stock that it had held since 1904. The stock had been gifted to the school by Mr Lewis Starkey to create a selfperpetuating fund for a ‘Starkey’ scholarship and additional prizes. The Government request for the deposit of the stocks with the Treasury described the “urgent need for the immediate deposit” to stabilise the “American exchange”. The Governments’ actions displayed their concern over the threat to the pound due to the massive deficit being run up in fighting the war. The school went further in its patriotic duty the following year with the Governors voting to buy £250 of War Bonds by taking money away from the school’s Building Fund. Dividends on the War Stock were reported annually up to the 1941 accounts. Rents from the business properties owned by the school also went down showing the depressed state of the town’s commerce. On several occasions the Governors discussed the need to reduce rents for “the duration of the war”. The Crown Hotel’s rent was reduced from £38 to £25 in 1916. Overall rents reduced from £88:6:3 in March 1914 to £76:7:2 in March 1918. Even the students felt the cut backs with no prizes or scholarships being awarded during the war but certificates only.

Below are two summary charts showing details of the School’s finances during WWI.

Grant Payable from Central Government to The Minster School.

–  –  –

Through careful studying of the individual staff records during the period there appears to have been 20 teachers and tutors employed at one time or another during the years 1914 – 1918. This included a number of peripatetic and visiting specialists who only did a few hours per week and a number of very temporary appointments lasting for as little as one month. Including the Head (who taught), the main teaching staff seems to have been 5 – 6 teachers with another 3 or 4 part-timers to supplement them and bring specialisms such as Music and Drill. The Head, Reverend Wright, along with Harry Collins were the stalwarts (see later detailed tables) and backbone of the teaching staff. Both served throughout the war.

Subtle changes can be observed as the conflict went on. On the very first day of the war Frederick Walker left the school’s employment and was listed as “on war service” (aged 29). Not surprisingly he had been the “Sergeant Instructor” of “Drill”. In December 1914 Mr Houseman took up a “Commission in ASC Northern Division”. Mr Atkin, who left the school six days before the outbreak of war was soon recorded as Lieutenant in the Gordon Highlanders. Mr Wilson (Drawing) joined the Royal Engineers (September 1916 listed as on “War Service”), and Mr Earp (Maths and Science) left in 1916 (aged 24) to join the Artists’ Rifles. Another Drawing master left in July 1915 to take up a position in the Admiralty labs in Sheffield.

Interestingly the Governors’ minutes reveal a hint at the change from voluntary enlistment and conscription, brought in by the Government in 1916. The Head asked the Governors to support Mr Earp if he had to appear “before any tribunal to obtain exemption from military service”. As previously alluded Mr Earp left the school voluntarily and joined the forces.

In March 1916 the advent of another change was heralded by the arrival of Miss Dorothy Collier, aged 22, fresh from Manchester University. Female teachers had arrived. Her short stay (one month!) brought a replacement in Miss Cecil Butler in May, a 23-year-old Dublin girl.

Shortly afterwards a third school Mistress, Miss Hilda Hedderley, arrived in September as a drawing teacher. Times were indeed changing!

The last year of the war was also noticeable because of the recruitment of two local vicars, the Reverend F. R. Dean (Vicar of Halam and Edingley) and the Reverend E. S. Longhurst (Rolleston, Morton and Fiskerton) to supplement the teaching staff, both were around 50 when appointed. Another interesting appointment was made in March 1917 when William JohnsonCoope, a 30-year-old, was employed to teach Drill. He was listed as a Sergeant in the Sherwood Foresters, and worked at the school for over 18 months - presumably he was a soldier discharged on medical grounds due to injury.

The conclusions seem clear, the older men “held the fort” whilst the young enlisted. Young women and older clerics filled the gaps of those going off to serve King and Country. In November 1918, in response to a circular from the Board of Education, the Governors replied that they “proposed to return to the employment of the normal staff…as soon as practicable”.

Details of Minster School Staff taken from the School Records with comments from the documents added.

–  –  –

This diagram shows which staff were serving at any time during the war. The number for each member of staff is the one allocated in the table above.

1 10 11 14 17 19 21 22 23 24 25 27 28

–  –  –

Detailed numbers for the boys at the Minster School can be clearly ascertained as both the annual return documents survive in the archive and a range of correspondence exists between the school and the Board of Education between 1912-14. They wrangled over the number of free school places the Minster School should be making available annually, to receive a Government grant.

The Board in 1912 discussed the “school being liable to the loss of a whole or part of the grant” unless “4 free places” were offered. The school managed to argue its case for a reduction in the number, but the board in September 1914 warned that [the free place students] were to be placed “as far as possible on the same footing as the fee paying pupils”.

The Grammar School pre the First World War (Minster School)



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