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Husborne Crawley School

Husborne Crawley Lower School January 2011
Husborne Crawley Lower School January 2011

Husborne Crawley National School opened in 1867 in new buildings designed by Henry Clutton (architect of Aspley Heath church and the new Woburn church) and paid for by the Duke of Bedford [CRT180/162]. The school logbook illustrates the first few days:

  • 9th October 1867: "Commenced school for the first time.  54 children admitted"
  • 10th October "only nine can write even small words or do a simple sum, the rest can hardly form a letter". [SDHusborne Crawley1] 

The Duke of Bedford took a real interest in his schools and the logbooks record a number of visits and estate correspondence reveals that he provided pictures and apparatus for the school in 1884 [R4/938]. 

The first Education Act was passed in 1870 (more correctly it was known as the Elementary Education Act). It was a milestone in the provision of education in Britain demonstrating central government's unequivocal support for education of all classes across the country. It also sought to secularise education by allowing the creation of School Boards. These were groups of representatives, elected by the local ratepayers and the Board had the powers to raise funds to form a local rate to support local education, build and run schools, pay the fees of the poorest children, make local school attendance compulsory between the ages of 5 and 13 and could even support local church schools, though in practice they replaced them, turning them into Board run schools (known as Board Schools). Naturally, and luckily for local historians, the Act required a questionnaire of local schools in 1870. The return for Husborne Crawley noted that the school could accommodate 155 children.

In 1878 a School Board was set up for Husborne Crawley and thus the name of the school changed from Husborne Crawley National School to Husborne Crawley Board School. A proposed list of object lessons for the infants in 1894 included: the silkworm; butter making; seasons and a cotton plant. Perhaps not surprisingly, later that year an inspector described the object lessons as '"wanting in interest" but found that on the whole the children were well taught and disciplined [SDHusborneCrawley1].

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 [LEAs], 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. Husborne Crawley Board School duly became Husborne Crawley Council School, the LEA replacing the School Board in such areas as employing staff, caring for buildings and so on.

Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has a scrapbook of reports made by the School Inspector for most schools in the county [E/IN1/1]. In 1910 the Inspector's report was as follows: "In both divisions of the school order and tone are most praiseworthy, and the level of efficiency reached is very creditable of to the Head Teacher and her Assistant. Reading, writing and needlework all deserve praise. The written work is very neat and the supervision by the teacher is careful, thorough and effective". In April 1913, when average attendance was 35, the report was brief: "This school has been visited several times since it was last reported upon and has always been found in a very creditable state of efficiency".

The next report was not until November 1922 due to the First World War. It reads as follows: "There is much that is promising in this school. The Infants have made a good start in reading and an excellent beginning of Script writing. They say their recitation with confidence – but here, as elsewhere in the school, speech is indistinct, and wants a lot of attention. The older children in all standards make very fairly good efforts at Composition, but the handwriting is not quite as good as might be expected from the standard achieved in the Infants' room. The oldest children recite too fast, and therefore the Recitation as well as the Reading of Standards II-III was not really clear. The Arithmetic books are up the level of those seen in school of this type. Singing seems to be rather loud and nasal".

"The Head Mistress has made a good beginning in this, her first Head Teachership. She has improved Drawing, and introduced successfully, pastel work: she has revived examinations which had lapsed; and is not afraid to report that subjects which are not up to her expectations are weak. When she has grown accustomed to the charge of all the standards, and has devised a Time Table which will give proper scope for speech work, the school should go ahead. At present it is very fairly satisfactory but the work wants polish in almost every subject".

"There are no literary or continuous Story Readers: a further supply is essential, and some more Atlases. Other Reading Books too, are out of date". In May 1925 the report was brief and limited to the physical environment: "The temperature in the main room is not warm enough in cold weather. The surface of the playground is unsatisfactory. The Boys' urinal is too small". The academic report for 1925 was made in July: "This School has made good progress since the last Report was sent. The points therein criticised have received careful attention, and the general condition of the School is now decidedly creditable. Some little further improvement in Writing and Speech is desirable, but Arithmetic, Drawing, Physical Training and Singing are above the average of small Schools. Most of the work of the Infants' Class is very good: the only comparatively weak point – the teaching of Number – was discussed at the inspection".

On 11th February 1929 average attendance was 32. The inspector reported as follows: "This Junior School, whose numbers on roll are now 35 and which may expect – on the basis of a census taken in December 1928 – the numbers to increase in successive years as follows: - 37: 36: 40: 37: 39 until the 10 children in the 6 and 7 age group on April 1st 1929, have worked out of the school, is in the hands of two capable but inexperienced Teachers – an Uncertificated Head and a Supplementary Assistant".

"They are working well. As far as the more capable children are concerned the work reaches a good level. There are several children of slower mentality who are fair only. The better Infants are beginning to read, write and do little sums well; they speak out well also; the others are making a move – in fact it is a fairly promising class. Standards I and II are fairly conversant with tables, but not good at their application. Of the elder children in the arithmetical test, two did very good work, and one was fairly good: notation was weak in other cases: copying prevented the assessment of three older papers, and there is a tendency to careless reading of questions. There is a better result in the Teachers' examinations, however, and the figures used in the test at this visit were rather larger than those with which they have been working".

"On the whole, satisfactory results are obtained in most cases in written English and speech is confident in recitation, though vowel sounds and the aspirate require much attention. Dictation and Spelling appear to be rather better than is usually found, though in this subject and in the silent reading the Teacher will have to watch her system of grouping very carefully".

"The tone is pleasant, and when the Teachers have more experience and have a clearer idea of the aims of the Senior Department in Arithmetic, it should be a successful little school. The Teaching of History and Geography should also be quite clearly understood with reference to the syllabus of the other school. Apparently these have been mentioned in conference;  but the choice of Historical Stories, and the points of chronology which are necessary might be more clearly defined, and the question as to whether "Periodic" or "Concentric" Instruction in History is best suited to fit in with the Seniors' Schemes also needs settling".

In October 1931 average attendance was 35 and the report as follows: "This School is doing good work; the Teachers work well together, and the children are enthusiastic and keen to show their efforts in books or to recite. Recitation is a very good feature, and speech training generally has improved greatly since the last report was written. The Teachers may both be congratulated on the condition of the children in their respective grades".

Husborne Crawley School group about 1930
Husborne Crawley School group about 1932 [Z818/64] - to see a larger version please click on the image. The names are as follows:

Back row: G. Willis; Geoff Hulance; B. Peacock; D. Cripps; Robin Deacon; B. Norman; R. Pearce; R. Collins; D. Neal. Second row: J. Wickens; M. Woods; M. Flatt; E. Dove; B. Woods; M. Allan; B. Lawrence; Winnie Sibley; Ena Sibley. Third row: T. Yates; M. Lawrence; Olive Peacock; N. Sibley; J. Appleby; P. Muller; B. Appleby; M. Sibley. Fourth row: J. Fleet; H. Peacock; G. Pearce; Ken Sibley; K. Muller; G. Smith

The final report, of March 1935, when average attendance was 29, is short and to the point: "This Junior School continues to do work of a very high standard in all respects, much of it, indeed, being excellent. The teachers deserve very great credit".

At the beginning of the Second World War children from Walthamstow in London were evacuated to Husborne Crawley.  During the war children air raid drills and gas mask inspections became part of the school routine. All of this had a big impact on school life. The following entries come from the school log book [SDHusborneCrawley2]:

  • 21st September 1939: "owing to their having no desks the evacuees have been given permission to use the reading room with tables and chairs.  11 Husborne Crawley Seniors were taken by the Walthamstow teachers.  6 Walthamstow juniors are being taught with resident juniors".
  • 6th December 1939: "Gas mask drill during afternoon session.  Every child must bring gas mask to school".
  • 10th February 1940: "there are 31 resident children and 21 evacuees attending the school".
  • 8th May 1945 [Victory in Europe or V. E. Day]: "Children assembled in the morning and after having a short service and games were sent home at 12 o'clock.  The Prime Minister broadcast at 3 pm".

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. Husborne Crawley thus became a County Primary School.

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. Husborne Crawley became a Lower School; it still occupies the 1867 buildings in School Lane, though with a number of on-site additions and improvements.

The school was listed by the former Department of Environment in February 1987. It is described as having most of its structure covered by colourwashed roughcast render and applied timber framing – for visual attraction rather than structural use. It stands on a high plinth and its buttresses and chimney stacks are built from red brick. It has clay tiled roofs. It comprises a one storey block with attics and the former schoolhouse, at the left hand end, has two storeys.

Husborne Crawley Lower School February 2007
Husborne Crawley Lower School February 2007