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Tingrith School in the 20th Century

This article was written by Chris Schuster

The White House in 2015
The White House in 2015

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.

Miss Trevor’s School thus became a Public Elementary School in 1903 with accommodation for 50 children and 2 teachers. The school was attended by 14 boys and 21 girls and still belonged to the estate of the late Misses Trevor but was let to the managers, including Colonel Barclay of the Manor and the Rector, Rev Dale.  Mrs. Davies was listed as mistress.

Bedfordshire 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 in the scrapbook took place on 9th June 1911 and the infants were still the problem area: “This small school is carefully taught, and the character of the work done by the older scholars is generally satisfactory. The younger scholars require more attention”.

On 11th November 1913 average attendance was 30: “This little School is in good order and handwriting and the written exercises are very creditable. In the other subjects of instruction a fair level of efficiency is reached on the whole. The small Infants’ Class is in charge of a very young monitor who cannot be expected to do more than amuse the children and keep them quiet. The attainments of these little ones are necessarily low. If the Managers could see their way to appoint a more competent teacher to this Class general improvement might be reasonably expected. The Infants would then take their places in the classes for older scholars better prepared, and the Head Teacher would be able to devote more of her time and do greater justice to the older children".

"The Time Table should provide for an interval for recreation in the afternoon. Two hours is far too long to keep children in School without a break”.

The Local Education Authority responded: “The average attendance of the school is 30, and the staff consists of the Head Mistress and a Monitress, equivalent for an average attendance of 35 scholars. The school has for many years been staffed in this manner. The Monitress in question is young and has at present scarcely realised what is required of her. This condition of affairs will undoubtedly improve”.

In 1918, the Tingrith Manor Estate was sold. Lot 32 was the School and School-house. Mr Stuart Hubbard, a Luton businessman in the hat industry, bought the entire estate including the school. Mr Hubbard is remembered as being a generous benefactor of the children in Tingrith, giving useful Christmas presents such as chairs.

The School was severely affected by the Great War. Apart from the personal tragedies affecting the children, teachers were few and far between. Owing to lack of resources no inspection had been carried out during the War, the next one at Tingrith being on 28th March 1923 when average attendance was 22:

 “The last report entered in the Log Book is dated 1913. Since then there have been eleven Head Teachers in permanent or temporary charge of the School; the work of some of these would appear to have been unsatisfactory. The present – the twelfth Head Teacher – has been here since January 9th this year. The constitution of the School has been changed. It is now a Junior School from which children go at the age of eleven to one or two neighbouring larger Departments”.

“The condition of affairs, in which, judging from the recent and penultimate examinations, improvement has been made since the Head Teacher now in charge has been at work is as follows: - Speech and Reading are very poor indeed. The children classified as Infants’ Class I do not know their sounds and cannot find out words for themselves: “was”, “but”, “now”, “soon” presented insuperable difficulties to them. Standard III, the top class, were equally puzzled by “gale”, “cleaned”, “paid”, “crew”. All alike read carelessly, omitting small words. Hardly a child placed the aspirate correctly, and all vowel sounds were wrong. Questions relative to Historical or Geographical knowledge arising from the reading evoked no response. Arithmetic is all several months behind the standard the children should have reached and Handwriting is poor. There is much leeway to be made up; as the new Teacher has already made some improvement it is hoped that in a year or two the School may reach a reasonable level”.

On 20th February 1924 average attendance was 18: “The report on this school despatched 10th April 1923, has not yet been entered into the Log Book. A very decided improvement in neatness of all written work (including Drawing) and in power to read and speak has been effected during the School Year. Much still remains to be done, but the change for the better already made is to the Head Teacher’s credit”.

The next report was January 1927: “The improvement which was anticipated in the report of March 1923 has come about: the school now does some very creditable work. Children admitted late progress very rapidly, as a rule; and an intelligent boy has now obtained a free place from this – a junior school. All the 17 children on the roll were present at this visit, and though they were, naturally, rather diffident, there was ample evidence that the Head Mistress has worked very well with them”.

On 11th June 1930 the inspector was obviously a proto-feminist: “The Head Mistress has now worked this little school into a very satisfactory condition. The seventeen children on the roll are going on well. The examination books show improvement and advance during the year; the older girls read well and talk intelligently on the subject matter of their books, and the younger girls tackle the difficulties of reading remarkably well. The boys are hardly as good in this subject as the girls, but on paper and in answering questions on their written Arithmetic they are satisfactory – even very satisfactory when their obviously lower mental capacity as compared with that of the girls is taken into account. The recitation is very creditably spoken, and evidently in Speech Training the Mistress has taken a good deal of trouble. The cleanness of the written work and of the drawings is also all to the good. The Head Teacher deserves much credit for the conduct of the school and its tone”.

In 1932 the School and School House formed part of the Sale by Auction of Tingrith Manor Estate, most of which was bought by the Lambton family. It was Gervase Lambton of Tingrith Manor who arranged for the children over 11 to travel to school in Toddington by bus. Their only other option was to walk to school in Westoning.

The school property was listed in the auction as: "built of brick and slate, containing Two Class Rooms, Sitting Room, Kitchen, Larder, Two Bed Rooms, brick and slated Wash-house, Barn, baker's oven and Out-offices.  Playground and small Garden.

Water is obtained from a well (with pump over).

The whole extending to about 31 poles.

Apportioned Outgoings: Tithe Redemption Annuity: 1s.6d.  Land Tax (if any) as assessed.”

The managers of the school, led by the Rector, H. E. Robinson, secured the School for the parish by taking out a mortgage of £300, to which was added a £50 donation from the St Albans Diocese and a £50 donation from the National Society together with rents from the school house and extra garden. Fund raising events such as whist drives, fetes and theatricals raised £164 and subscriptions from local families, including the Tanquerays and Lambtons, not to mention the School Dentist and Nurse, raised a further £79, to fund underpinning of the School and House and other on-going costs and enabling the mortgage to be reduced to £150 by 1934.

The final inspection in the scrapbook took place in June 1933 when average attendance was 19 and Tingrith School had finally reached a standard of which the village could be proud: “This Junior School had the highest percentage of attendance in the County last year: all the 19 children on the roll were present at this visit, and several weeks have passed during the year without any absentees. The work shows that the children have made very good use of their regular attendances, and that the teacher has managed her various grades very well. The attention paid to good speaking is amply rewarded by the correct enunciation in recitation, and its effects are also shown in the interesting free compositions written on subjects in which the children are interested. The other work is quite on a level with that in other successful schools of this type, and the Head Mistress may be congratulated on her careful and successful work”.

On the outbreak of WWll in September 1939, 27 evacuees from London were entered into Tingrith School, 22 girls and 5 boys, aged 5 to 14, but by November several of them had returned to London when the threat of bombing did not materialise.

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. The act also created two types of successor to the public elementary schools - the Voluntary Aided and Voluntary Controlled schools. Tingrith became a Voluntary Controlled school owning its own buildings whilst the staff was employed directly by the governors.

Notwithstanding its pre-war reputation, in 1946 Tingrith School was closed and most children from the village then went on to attend school in Toddington, travelling by bus, or Westoning, travelling on foot. When the school closed, the Diocese of St Albans sold the house and grounds which became a private dwelling, renamed the White House. The old school bell in its bell-cote on the roof still remains as a reminder of its past history.