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Teachers at Tingrith School in the 19th Century

This article was written by Chris Schuster

The White House in 2015
The White House in 2015

Kelly’s Directory for 1847 shows Thomas Harris as master and Mrs Eliza Harris as mistress but by the census of 1851 they had been replaced by John Reily, aged 26, as schoolmaster, and his wife Sarah Reily, aged 24, as schoolmistress.  They had 2 daughters aged 3 and 2, and a son aged 10 months living with them in the schoolhouse.

In 1873 William Capell began work as schoolmaster and the School Log Books of this period were filled in weekly with entries such as ‘The children have been orderly and attentive this week’ or ‘Gave a little more time to arithmetic this week’ being the norm. Recordings of an individual’s lateness, weather disruption or changes to the afternoon start times because of winter darkness were also made. In 1878 HM Inspectors noted that the school was in a very satisfactory condition giving evidence of care and ability on the part of the Master (Mr Capell).

Monthly receipts for 1883 and 1884 show that Mr Capell was paid £4 3s 4d monthly, and that the children too were paying in line with the published school fees.  A letter from Truman Tanqueray, the Rector and head of the school managers, indicates that he had to apply to his son, Fred the Woburn solicitor, for the cash to pay the salary and school expenses, including 6s a month to Mrs Rogers for cleaning and 4s for lighting oil.  There is no mention at this time of heating.

In 1890 HM Inspectors that year found an improvement in the children’s work but noted that discipline was lax. The infant’s class could barely reach ‘fair’ in any elementary subjects and was in a very feeble condition needing the employment of a good monitress or assistant teacher. “The school staff is not sufficient for the managers to claim a special grant under Article 105”.

The following year some improvement in discipline and attainment was noted but the younger infants were ‘very backward’. Again the staff did not qualify for the special grant but some extenuating circumstances must have been found as HMI persuaded the Lords to pay it.

In 1892 the infants had improved and William’s daughter Sarah was now working in the school and recognised under Article 68 but needed to ‘improve in teaching’. (Article 68 indicated competence to teach infants.)

Things were not looking good for Mr Capell in 1893 as the Inspectors would not award any grant until the efficiency of the staff and the intelligence of the children improved and during 1894 there was a spot inspection by the inspectors and a mumps epidemic and in November the curate, Rev. Waterfield, who had been taking a much larger role in the running of the school, due to the illness of the Rector, brought in a candidate for the role of schoolmistress.

On February 1st 1895 Mr Capell wrote in the log [SDTingrith1]: 'W.S. Capell quitted this post as schoolmaster of this parish after 22 years 4 months service much against the wishes of the parents and children. Likewise some of the managers of the school’.

This was just before the Inspection Report came in noting that the tone and order of the school were good as usual, the work was fairly satisfactory, drill was smart, needlework deserved praise and infants were more efficient. No wonder Mr Capell felt hard done by.

Mr Capell was replaced by Helen Hall as Schoolmistress with an attendance of 37 pupils. Discipline proved to be an immediate issue with frequent punishments being given for disobedience including ‘filthy conduct’ and rudeness to the monitress.  The cane was now being used: George Smith received three strokes on his back for making disgusting drawings on his slate. Parents, who were possibly still upset at the departure of Mr Capell, were not always supportive. When Miss Hall saw fit to correct boys who had been touching and striking horses in the village, some parents told her it was none of her business even if those boys were ‘kicked and killed’.  

Miss Hall’s health suffered.  A week off in January 1896 for illness (which had followed the usual week’s holiday in that month) was compensated for by shortening the summer holiday and another week off was taken in October, when the Rev Waterfield stepped in to take the school. Still, the inspectors were not satisfied. Although there was praiseworthy order and fairly good work by the older children they were not fooled by children being moved down a class just before the examinations. Improvement was needed and the grant was only to be paid on the average attendance of the children.

The monitress was replaced by an Assistant Mistress in April 1897 but she did not return after the Whitsun holiday and a new assistant Miss Tay, began in September.  By the end of the year the new assistant (who had no right hand) had been given responsibility for needlework by the Rev. Waterfield, without Miss Hall’s consent, and Col. and Mrs Barclay from Tingrith Manor had resigned as managers, not returning until 1899 on the death of Rev. Tanqueray and the appointment of a new Rector who took back control of the school from the curate.  The inspectors refused to recognise Miss Tay as being competent to teach infants and they were unhappy with standards of discipline.  Miss Hall tendered her resignation in February 1898 after the inspectors’ report came out. Difficulties between her and Miss Tay continued during the notice period, Miss Hall reporting her assistant’s insolence in refusing to attend to a child with a nose bleed saying she would ‘faint away’.

Miss Hall and Miss Tay both left the school in May 1898 and were replaced by Mrs Johnson with her daughter Daisy as monitress. Miss Johnson was very critical of the children’s current standards and produced much more detailed schemes of work. Although there was a marked absence of self-reliance and intelligence the inspectors felt there was a definite improvement in discipline and instruction. Daisy was approved under Article 68. Progress continued and the children were ‘nicely taught’ by Daisy Johnson but in November 1900 Daisy left and her mother resigned the following March.

In April 1901, Edith Parr took over the school.  She was a provisionally certified teacher and was assisted by a monitress and her brother Rev. Parr who took Geography lessons and looked after the school when his sister was absent taking her exams.  It is unclear if the exams were passed although the second attempt had ‘better results’. Miss Parr was concerned that the boys appeared to have been ruled wholly by fear of the ruler and were incapable of understanding kindness. She held the first Open Day for parents to see their children’s work and listen to them sing and have tea.

Without an Infants teacher and with the new Rector too ill to conduct interviews, after less than a year Miss Parr resigned due to ill health and was replaced in April 1902 by Ethel Walling, with her sister Alice as Infants teacher, both of them certificated schoolmistresses in their twenties, at a salary of £40 plus a £5 fuel allowance . Predictably they found the school very backward and requiring new timetables with the ‘offices’ needing repairs. At the end of 1902 the inspectors felt the school should do well under the new teachers, although they needed proper contracts of employment, but by August 1903 they too had left. The new teacher A. Hughes found everything ‘poor’.