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Eggington School

The former Eggington School January 2013
The former Eggington School January 2013

A School Board for Eggington, Stanbridge and Tilsworth was formed on 14th December 1874. On 11th February 1879 Eggington Town Lands Charity conveyed the site for the future school to the United School Board for Stanbridge, Eggington and Tilsworth for £175 [CCE/SB39/1]. The school opened in 1881. In 1882 the old cottage at the rear of the new school was conveyed by the school board to Hockliffe farmer John Warner Adams for £125 [CCE/SB39/3].

A land mark Education Act was passed in 1902, coming into effect in 1903. It disbanded the School Boards and gave day to day running of education to newly formed Local Education Authorities, usually the county council, as in Bedfordshire. The old Board Schools thus became Council Schools whilst the old National, British and other non-Board schools became known as Public Elementary Schools.

Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has a scrapbook of cuttings of visits made to most Bedfordshire Schools by School Inspectors for a period from just before the First World War through the inter-war years [E/IN1/1]. The first inspection report in the scrapbook is dated 5th May 1910: “This little School is, under the charge of Miss Woods, doing very good work. Tone and order are excellent and instruction throughout is intelligent, sensible and suitable”. The report on 28th November 1912 stated that average attendance was 39: “This little School is in a most creditable state of efficiency, the instruction is carefully and intelligently given, the children are responsive and the level of efficiency reached is very creditable to all the teachers”.

Due to the Great War no inspections were carried out for the next decade. The impact of the Great War was also felt in the classroom as teachers were in short supply. There had been a number of changes of headteacher at the school since Miss Woods [see below]. The inspector’s report of 15th December 1921 was quite damning; average attendance was now 28: “I regret to report that the present condition of this School is not at all satisfactory. The methods employed are haphazard and free and easy, and the result is, so far as could be discovered, that the Arithmetic is very weak indeed, that no Recitation has been learnt for some months, that hardly any Geography has been done, and that in History the children have but few fragmentary ideas. Reading is perhaps the best subject, but Standard I are not up to the level of an average Infants’ First Class. Composition is only fairly good. There is no scheme of work, and the Time-Table could not be found at this visit. It is understood that the Head Teacher has had much sorrow in her home life, recently. But in School this condition of affairs cannot be allowed to continue, and the work should be conducted on more methodical lines”.

Due to this poor report another inspection was undertaken in June and July 1922, by which time average attendance was 32. The inspector wrote: “This report is written at the request of the Local Education Authority, in view of the terms of the last report. The School is conducted single-handed by a Mistress of whose keen interest there can be no doubt and of whose industry there is ample evidence. At the time of her appointment here 3 years ago she was without experience of schools of this type and the work was in a very unsatisfactory condition, but the enthusiasm and high ideals with which she approached her task have had a noticeable effect on the tone of the School and have gained for her the affection and willing obedience of the children. The School room is well kept, and is supplied from time to time by the Mistress with a change of pictures, many of them of more than average artistic merit”.

“There is every appearance of industry on the part of the pupils, and in Handwork, Drawing and Nature Study there has been a decided improvement. The School is not inefficient; but the scheme of work adopted has been based on far too high an estimate of the children’s knowledge and capacity. It is, for instance, of little value to attempt the study of great poetry with children incapable of repeating intelligibly or intelligently even the simplest forms of verse, or to introduce them to History and Geography of the Colonies before they have at least some knowledge of their own country and its story. For the older children a simpler and more elementary curriculum is needed, and they should be supplied with books more suited to their limited attainments, and more likely to arouse their interest. The younger children already show some promise. If the importance of a thorough grounding in the Elementary subjects is kept in view, they should be supplied with books more suited to their limited attainments, and more likely to arouse their interest. The younger children already show some promise. If the importance of a thorough grounding in the Elementary subjects is kept in view, they should, in due course, be able to work with profit along the lines of self help and individual effort, while improved health and longer experience should enable the Mistress to apply effectively the principles, in themselves worthy of encouragement, which she desires to put into practice”.

In 1924 the school was reorganised into a junior school, taking children up to age eleven [E/PM4/2/2]. The next inspection, 2ndJuly 1925, produced a very short, but optimistic, report: “The condition of this School was unsatisfactory when the present Teacher came. She has much improved it. The children are thoroughly well behaved, and as a rule do their work very well indeed”. Average attendance was now 24 as it was at the time of the next report in March 1927: “This Junior School is doing quite good work. The response and keenness of the five ten year old children is very pleasant, and te general atmosphere of effort is also good. Some of those in the lower part of the school are decidedly backward and seem slower than those in the top division. They will probably present some difficulty: but they can, at any rate, work cleanly in their books, they enjoy Handwork, and they have begun to read. The older children give them a good example in speech especially in recitation, so that they may progress rather faster than seems probable at present. The Mistress is working on good lines and is much interested in the children and their difficulties”.

The next visit was in May 1930, when average attendance had declined to 18: “The slow or dull children, whose presence was reported three years ago as being likely to be a drag on the school, have now almost all passed through it. Their influence on the school, however, is still felt; the standard of work is noticeably lower than that in the majority of these small Junior departments, and, as the Teacher is sensible enough, their dullness has probably caused an unconscious slackening of standard. At any rate the spelling, generally: the Recitation, generally: the setting out of problems in Arithmetic, among the older children: the Drawing, generally: all these are not really up to the average. The Singing is very good. The Examinations are comprehensive: the children are by no means unwilling to show what they can do. The number on roll is 24: there are 5 new entrants this year: and there is one Mentally defective child. The new comers seem to be making a good start; there is no suggestion of inefficiency – but it is hoped that this little school may attain to the rather remarkable level of effort and achievement which is, happily, often found in this type of school”.

On the visit of 25th April 1932 average attendance was 19: “The retiring Head Mistress has done very good work in improving the various points which were criticised in the last report. The school is in much better case that it was at that time; and the records, reports, and indications of shortcomings or difficulties which her successor will have to meet are extremely honest and should prove very helpful. These documents, drawn up for her own guidance before and added to after the necessity for her withdrawal unfortunately arose, are in themselves evidence of the devotion to the best interests of the children through her knowledge of them which, though it was patent to a visitor, might in other circumstances not have come to light”.

Just under a year later, in February 1933, the inspector wrote another “could do better” type of report:” The condition of this school at present is not satisfactory, even when the mental capacity of the 17 children on the roll and the recent illnesses have been taken into account. The written work in the books is very inferior; it is untidy, smudged, exhibits poor formation of letters and figures, and no continuous advance. The marking is often incomplete, or postponed, and is uncritical to a degree: e. g. “verer beg” = “very big”; “verer” is corrected, “beg” is left as written. Whole exercises of varying date have been untouched and bad punctuation has been overlooked; it is not unfair therefore to draw the conclusion that correction is spasmodic, and its value not sufficiently comprehended. The written examinations of the few better children are far better than the work in the books. One – possibly two – children on the whole are definitely in advance of their position some six months ago. There is a lack of confidence in recitation which was not evident at previous visits: possibly more chorus work is responsible for this. Reading aloud has not gone back”.

“The discipline was satisfactory, and the recent concert, judging by both song and action had been well got up. That there are some children of low mentality is, unfortunately, undeniable: but there are others who should at the age of 10 be doing far better work”. The Board of Education in Westminster remarked: “The Board would be glad to receive the observations of the Authority on this adverse report”. Sadly these observations are not recorded either in the scrapbook or in the Education Committee minutes.

The final report in the scrapbook is an interim report dated 22nd March 1935, when average attendance was 20: “This school, in which there are a large proportion of the 21 children on roll who are retarded or whose circumstances are very poor, is in a much more satisfactory condition than it was when the present Head Teacher came less than two years ago. She seems to have got a definite standard to which the better children are gradually working, and to have raised the power of work in some of the children from large families of poor mentality without undue pressure. All the work seen, by comparison with that which she found on arrival, is much to her credit”.

The third of the great Education Acts was that of 1944 which established the principle of County Primary Schools for children up to the age of 11, at which time they took an examination to determine the nature of the secondary school they would attend until they were 15, the most academically able going to grammar schools, the rest to secondary or secondary modern schools. Eggington became a county primary school.

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has two more school inspector’s reports for Eggington [E/IN1/2]. The first of these is from 1952: “As recently as 1948, only ten children attended this School and it was doubtful whether the School would remain open. To-day, however, there are 35 on roll and of these 13 are mal-adjusted children from a nearby boarding house [the White House]”.

“the building is on a very restricted site being hemmed in by two roads and houses which makes any enlargement of the building or improvement of sanitary provision almost impossible. Water is now available in the cloakroom and a wash basin has been installed during the past year. There is one large room and a smaller one measuring 12 by 15 feet, the latter accommodating the 14 infants”.

“There has been a marked improvement in the general level of attainment, notably in speech, written work, enjoyment of prose, poetry and Music since the appointment of the Head Mistress in January of this year. Her appreciation of the capabilities of each child enables her to cope very effectively with children covering a wide range of age and ability and her stimulating teaching secures a ready response from each child in her class. Mention too, must be made of the satisfactory craftsmanship shown by these young girls in Needlework”.

“Class 2 – the infants – are taught by a Mistress who was also appointed in January. After making allowances for the cramped conditions it is evident that the children rely too much on the teacher and make slower progress than might be expected”.

“The School has acquired, with the co-operation of parents, a wireless set which is an indication of the wholesome attitude of the local community to the educational welfare of the children. It is felt that under the present regime the School now has a promising future”.

In 1960 the inspector wrote: “There are present 36 children in this school; of these 11 are in the care of the local authority, and live in a children’s home nearby. The site of the school is irregular in shape and is approximately 48 by 101 feet. On this are the school building, two sets of outdoor offices, a coal shed and a wall which almost bisects the playground at the back. If this wall were removed or even lowered, there would be more space for active play [annotated: “considered by managers. Cost of demolition of part of boundary wall £30. 17/11/59 Head no wish to have it removed”]. There are two classrooms, both well-lit; the larger is 20 by 19 feet, and houses 20 of the older children. The 16 younger children are in a room measuring about 12 by 15 feet; some of the space is taken up by a stove. In the larger room the furniture, though modern and otherwise suitable, is too heavy to be moved; thus on wet days activity is impossible for any of the children. Sanitation is by bucket; there is one office for girls and infants, with two seats and two buckets, and one office and a urinal for boys. There is no provision for flushing the urinal. Its condition at the time of the inspection was unpleasant; otherwise the offices are well kept. There is one cloakroom for the children, containing a sink with hot and cold water. The site is closely bounded by gardens and two roads, and it would be a matter of very great difficulty to extend the school or improve the sanitation. In spite of its deficiencies, the school building looks pleasant, and even gay. The headmistress has obtained trees in tubs, and window boxes which are kept filled with flowering plants by the children”.

“There is much coming and going in the population of the school. Many of the children from the Home stay only for a short time, and families frequently move to and from the village. Only five children in the junior class, and seven in the infants’ class, were born in the village. The headmistress and her assistant set themselves to provide a steady and happy background for the children, who respond well. In the infants’ class a sound foundation in the 3Rs is laid. Other activities, especially handwork, are much handicapped by lack of space, but music and poetry, and physical education when possible, are enjoyed. In the junior class many of the children show evidence of a disturbed background, especially in arithmetic, but efforts are being made, on individual lines, to overcome this. All the children can read, and the older children write fluently and with reasonable correctness; imaginative topics are frequently set. It might now be possible to apply their skill in writing to the recording of history, geography, religious instruction and nature study. It was suggested that, particularly in history and geography, the children might work in groups according to the stage they had reached; to do this it would be necessary to reconsider the syllabuses and to set them out in more detail. The children are already keen observers of living things, and enjoy bringing specimens to school and identifying them. In handwork also their activities are varied and lively. Both teachers are aware that the stock of books needs to be built up; the children are ready to make very good use of a wide range of books, both for information and for pleasure”.

“There is no school meal [annotated “Project to provide a scullery 1961/62 – meal from L. Buzzard”]. The good relations with parents noted in the last report, evidently continue. In spite of all its handicaps, the school is doing much to help children, many of whom have special difficulties, and is thus making a real contribution to the life of the neighbourhood”. The report is annotated: “Congratulations to Head”.

The teacher and pupils in 1965 [X351-30]The teacher and pupils in 1965 [X351/30]
The teacher and pupils in 1965 [X351/30]

Eggington Women’s Institute scrapbook, written in 1965, has an entry on the school [X351/30]: “Eggington School dates from March 15th 1880 and was built as an all-range school for 60 children, although only 37 were admitted in 1880. It was called the Stanbridge and Eggington Board School. Later on it became the Eggington Council School. It became a Junior School in 1923 and remained so till 1962 when it became an Infants’ School for children up to 8 years. At present only 11 children attend this school, but this enables each child to get individual attention which is not possible in large schools. Frequent country walks are taken to enjoy the wonderful beauty of the countryside and to bring back specimens of flowers, leaves and seeds to study at school. In the days of the First World War, children from here used to go blackberrying in school time to make jam for the soldiers. 60 lbs were collected in 2 afternoons”.

In the 1970s Bedfordshire County Council introduced comprehensive education, doing away with the 11+ examination and grammar schools and introducing a tier of school between the old County Primary and County Secondary Schools. Thus Lower Schools now taught children aged 4 to 9, Middle Schools from 9 to 13 and Upper Schools from 13 onwards.

Eggington School House January 2013
Eggington School House January 2013

In 1980 the old school house was listed by the former Department of Environment as Grade II, of special interest. It is built of yellow brick with quoins in stucco. It comprises two storeys beneath a Welsh slate roof. By 1981 the county council, as local education authority, was looking to close seventeen small rural schools in order to save money; Eggington was one of these. The intention was to close the school and transfer the remaining children to Stanbridge Lower School. A forecast of numbers from 1983 to 1987 predicted a high point of 25 in 1985 and a low point of 18 in 1983. A number of submissions were made to the Small Schools and Surplus Places Working Party [E/SC1/Egg2-3] but to no avail.

The school was left in the dark as to its closure until the last few days of its existence as the last few entries in the log book make clear [SDEggington1/2]:

  • 22nd June: School outing to Ashridge. Unable to enjoy it as still no news of school, all but 2 schools now know their fate. We must hear soon.
  • 1st July: School sports (still waiting).
  • 3rd July: Children took part in Church Flower Festival, very emotional as the thought is in everyone’s mind that this could very well be the last appearance in public of Eggington School.
  • 8th July: The news has arrived, we are to close in two weeks time, how cruel to leave it so late, no time left to close decently. M. Hopkinson came to try and calm down the situation, he received quite a rough reception.
  • 13th July: Medicals held for the last time in Eggington School. P. C. Patrick came to see us before the school closes.
  • 15th July: Open afternoon, a very sad affair.
  • 22nd July: SCHOOL CLOSED.

In 1985 the county council leased the old school premises to Eggington Village Hall Management Committee for use as a hall for £200 per annum [CCE/SB39/6]. The lease was renewed in 1991 for £250 per annum [CCE/SB39/7].

A list of headteachers of the school, with approximate dates, compiled by Guinevere Calder, is as follows [Z849/7/1]:

  • 1881: Mrs. Kate Hunt;
  • 1894: Miss Mary Jane Kirkham;
  • 1895: Miss Agnes Bishop;
  • 1905: Miss Mary Ann Rand;
  • 1907: Miss Margaret Radford;
  • 1907: Miss Annie Waites;
  • 1907: Mr. George Griffin;
  • 1910: Miss Woods;
  • 1911: Miss Kathleen Partridge;
  • 1918: Miss Iris Walker;
  • 1918: Miss Helen Ida Morrish;
  • 1919: Miss Ada Ball;
  • 1919: Miss Elsie Green;
  • 1923: Miss Marion Maud Leary;
  • 1926: Miss Ethel Rigby;
  • 1933: Mrs. Ada Dancer;
  • 1941: Mrs. Smith;
  • 1942: Mrs. Laura Burrows;
  • 1943: Miss Mabel Love;
  • 1947: Mrs. Muskett;
  • 1950: Miss Violet Stanley;
  • 1952: Mrs. Jones;
  • 1958: Mrs. Irene Neale;
  • 1960: Ms. Evelyn Troubridge;
  • 1965: Mr. Williams;
  • 1966: Mrs. Violet Nash, the last headteacher who was still at the school when it closed in 1983.