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Education in Bromham

Bromham church N porch Aug 2007
Bromham church north porch Aug 2007

The Bishop of Lincoln carried out visitations to Bedfordshire in 1717 and 1720 and for both of these a list of questions was sent out in advance, one of which enquired about the provision of schools in each parish. For both of the visitations the answer from Bromham was the same: "The Right Hon. the Lord Trevor gives five pounds per annum for the teaching of poor children to reading and the instructing them in the Church catechism". This education was undertaken in a small schoolroom above the north porch of the church

In 1818 a Select Committee was established to enquire into educational provision for the poor. This was no doubt prompted, in part, by the recent foundation of two societies promoting education and specifically the building of schools. The Society for Promoting the Lancasterian System for the Education of the Poor was established in 1808 promoting schools run along the lines pioneered by Joseph Lancaster, who had himself copied those of Dr.Andrew Bell, in which older children taught their younger fellows. The Society was renamed the British and Foreign School Society in 1814,. It was supported by a number of prominent nonconformists, Lancaster himself was a Quaker, and sought to teach a non-sectarian curriculum. In answer to this perceived nonconformist takeover of local education the National Society was formed in 1811 to encourage the teaching of poor children along Anglican lines, including the catechism. The Select Committee sent a questionnaire to all parishes in the country asking for: particulars relating to endowments for the education of children; other educational institutions; observations of parish needs etc. The reply for Bromham revealed that there were no endowments but that a school had been built in 1811 by John Trevor containing up to 20 children, the teacher being paid by voluntary subscription. There was also a Sunday School for 60 to 70 children. In those days a Sunday School was just that, a school which met on a Sunday, usually in the church or nonconformist chapel or other similar building, teaching more than the religious topics with which they are associated today. The vicar noted in the observations section: "The poor have sufficient means of education".

The Trevor family continued to take a keen interest in the school as this letter, written on 6 Jan 1825 by George Rice Trevor to the vicar indicates [P67/29/1]: "You were good enough to write to me some time ago when you were anxious on the subject of the School &c at Bromham. I have great pleasure in writing now to you to say that I wish the £20 which was paid to the Schoolmaster by Lord Hampden [Thomas, 2nd Viscount Hampden, also 5th Baron Trevor] shd still be paid & I have told Mr.Holding to do so for me. I have also asked him to pay the per centage as before to the Benefit Society & shall be much obliged to you if you would superintend that Fund as before. I have also directed that the Premiums which need to be given for the West Gardens should be continued".

In the country generally the number of schools built continued to grow over the next fifteen years so that by 1833 the government agreed to supplement the work of the two societies, and local benefactors, by making £20,000 per annum available in grants to help build schools. It also prompted another questionnaire to be sent to each parish in England asking for details of local educational provision. The answer from Bromham was that there was: "One Day and Sunday School, attended by 28 males and 26 females, daily, and 6 males and 12 females additional on Sundays, towards the support of which the Hon. George Rice Trevor contributes £20 per annum, a further sum of £9 being allowed by the Parish, and £1 by the minister annually".

 The former St. Owen's Lower School - Aug 2007
The former St.Owen's Lower School - Aug 2007

The next national enquiry was in 1846/7 when the Church of England made an enquiry as to all its church schools. This was against the background of a new Whig government which championed secular education and the increasing importance of nonconformists, particularly Wesleyan Methodist, and Roman Catholics in providing schools. Bromham's, of course, was essentially a church school, though it was never affiliated to the National Society and was known as Bromham Free School; it reported that the daily school taught an average of 21 boys and 16 girls, whereas the Sunday school taught 31 and 32 respectively. These figures are somewhat down on those for 1833 and may, perhaps, show an increase in nonconformity in the parish.

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. In Bromham the only school existing was "Hon.Miss Rice Trevor's School" which accommodated 144 children and had been built in 1861 by Countess Longford and Miss Rice Trevor. Bromham never formed a School Board and so the school continued to operate as a Free School,

In 1885 an Inspector described the school: ‘The general character and order of the school continue good, and the elementary subjects, including the sewing, are satisfactorily taught.’ (Ref: Micf 28/13) At this time children were often kept away from school to help at home or on the farm. This is a typical extract from the school logbook.  July 18 1884 ‘Many children have been employed by the farmer in pea picking.  Average for the week very low’ (Ref: Micf 28/13). Nevertheless, Bromham Free School must have had a good name because in 1888 children from Kempston Rural were being sent there, their fees paid by a charity in that parish.

X535-3p24 Bromham School
Bromham School class around 1900 [X535/3 p.24]

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. As a former Free School, Bromham became a Public Elementary. Unlike other schools around the county boys and girls continued to be educated in the same school.

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]. In 1911, when the average attendance was 67, the inspector found "The older scholars are in very good order and the progress which they may is, as a rule, quite satisfactory". The infants, however, were not quite so good, in particular: "The habit of prompting, which is rather prevalent in this division, should be suppressed". Things were looking up in 1913 when: "The School continues to be in good order and to be carefully taught; a creditable level of efficiency is reached in all classes. The Infants are brightly and well taught and general improvement is shown in their work".

The First World War, as in so many walks of life, was detrimental to education, with so many male teachers volunteering for action overseas or, from 1916, being conscripted. When the Inspector visited in 1921, when average attendance was 57, he was only interested in the school garden, reporting as follows: "Even in this difficult year the School Garden has been cultivated with success and is in its usual excellent order. The boys always show interest in their work, and possess considerable knowledge of methods of cultivation, of insect attacks and their prevention, and of weeds and their eradication; they are, too, able to discuss these and similar subjects with intelligence. In short, School gardening in this School is just what School gardening should be". In a still largely agrarian county and society it was very important to fit boys to the sort of life they might expect when they left. This was particularly important in the national consciousness as in 1917, as during the Second World War, Britain was close to starvation due to U Boat attacks on merchant shipping and desperation measures including ploughing up ancient pasture for growing crops were instituted; in such circumstances school gardens became even more important. Only boys did such work girls, of course, undertaking domestic subjects which would fit in with their later lives. By 1926 things in the garden were not so rosy, the Inspector reporting: "The plots are clean and the gardening operations satisfactorily carried out. Boys understand the work and answer fairly well when questioned about it. There is however little practical work beyond vegetable culture, and not much class-room work associated with it; the scope is somewhat narrow for a three-year course".

The visit of 1923 reverted to general education and found the school in "excellent order, and its general condition is very satisfactory indeed". About the only subject to show any weakness was drawing though even this showed "painstaking care". The success achieved was all the more creditable because: "…during May and June there was a closure of three weeks and during three other weeks the attendance was low, through measles". In 1925 the inspector continued to be pleased with progress, drawing now being as good as the other subjects, though singing had fallen off. However the favourable comments "apply to the Bromham children. The children recently transferred here from a neighbouring School were much lower in attainments, but they are receiving every attention, and are steadily improving". The other school was Biddenham which had just been reorganised to teach children under the age of 11 only.

The School House was valued in 1927 under the Rating Valuation Act 1925 [DV1/C/3 p.58]. The valuer found a stone and tile building occupied by John Thomas Grandey and the property comprised a parlour, kitchen and scullery downstairs with three bedrooms above; outside were a washhouse, coal shed, earth closet and big store. Water was provided to a tap and the house included a "nice garden".

The Inspector in 1929 commented that the master (John Thomas Grandey) was contemplating retirement and that he had "done many years of good work in school and for the village [he was also clerk to the Parish Council]: his wife who has been an assistant to him has also done excellent service. The school is one in which work on old-fashioned lines is conscientiously carried on, examined and criticised. There is little which cannot be praised given these conditions: the weaker children are known and considered: the better children get on well".

By 1934, when average attendance was 55, the school was: …"well conducted…in which steady honest work is found in all subjects. There are one or two somewhat outstanding children; and a few equally marked backward. or retarded, are on the roll". The last report in the scrapbook, for 1938, noted that the good features of the school continued. It noted that there were two classes, the upper of 36 children from 7 to 10 years and the lower of 21 children. Of the elder children it noted: "The work of the brighter children is, indeed, better than it is usual to find in a class of this type". However, of the infants' reading, the inspector remarked: "the teacher should bear in mind the importance of training the children to attack phrases and simple sentences"

The effect of the Second World War on the organisation of the school can be seen in these logbook extracts:

11 September 1939 "School reopened this morning at 9 am.  The senior children have been returned from the Kempston Senior School and we have 80 on the registers.  There are several small groups of evacuees, besides the larger group of Willesden children with their teachers.  Miss Elvie, an evacuee teacher from Oakley has joined the London group.  The Bromham Senior Children have been merged into the classes of the London session; in return for which we have 15 junior evacuees – this gives 16 infants and 37 juniors and 15 junior evacuees" [Micf28/13].

18th September 1939 "3 unofficial evacuees have been admitted.’ [Micf28/13] During the war lessons were also disrupted by air raid drills and warnings as well as by frequent re-arranging of the classes.

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. Voluntary Aided schools are those in which the Local Education Authority funds the school but the governing body is independent, they are usually Anglican or Roman Catholic schools. Voluntary Controlled schools own their own buildings whilst the staff are employed directly by the governors. Bromham became a Voluntary Controlled County Primary School. Then, in 1963, a new school was built in Bromham specifically for children aged 7 to 11 and became Rice Trevor County Primary Junior School, the old school becoming a school for infants aged 4 to 7 under the name Bromham Voluntary Controlled County Primary Infant School.

 ex Rice Trevor Lower Aug 2007
Former Rice Trevor Lower School in Sep 2007

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. Both the schools in Bromham became lower schools - Rice Trevor retained its name whilst the infants school, still in the 1861 buildings, became associated four-square with the local church, being renamed St.Owen's Lower and retaining its Voluntary Controlled status. In 1995 the two schools then merged as Bromham Church of England Lower School, with both the former schools still being used for teaching.

 Z50-21-22 Miss Rice Trevors schoolroom
cottage room housing Miss Rice Trevor's girls' school c.1900 [Z50/21/22]

Private School

Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has a number of photographs from the latter half of the 19th century regarding a small school run by Miss Rice Trevor. This was for about a dozen girls and met in a cottage near Bromham Hall. As well as lessons she led Sunday evening hymn singing. Other records do not survive but the school may have been a vocational establishment or have taught a trade such as lace making as well as school lessons.


Free/Public Elementary/VC County Primary/St.Owen's Lower School
- P40/25/9, 19, 22, 23: notes by Oakley vestry on Bromham school: C19;
- P67/5: "bill for singers at the school": 1818;
- P67/29/1: letter regarding school and payments to schoolmaster: 1825;
- P67/29/2: inspector's report and letters regarding school: 1864-1865;
- Z50/21/73: photograph of Miss Rice Trevor with pupils at cottage school: c.1869-1879;
- SDBromhamStOwen's1/1: school logbook: 1882-1915;
- PCKempstonRural11/22: Recipients of Cater's Charity - lists all schoolchildren, their attendance records and how much the charity pays them at  Bromham School 1886-1888;
- Z50/21/22 and X535/3 p.43: photograph of schoolroom in cottage by Bromham Hall: c.1900;
- E/SA3/1/2: managers' and inspector's reports: 1903;
- SMM35/2/1: school managers' minutes: 1903-1984;
- E/TE5/3: details of teachers: 1904-1908;
- E/TE5/4: details of teachers: 1908-1912;
- E/IN1/1: inspector's reports: 1911-1938;
- SDBromhamStOwen's1/2: school logbook: 1915-1954;
- SDBromhamStOwen's2/1: admission register: 1917-1963;
- Z50/142/162: photograph of schoolchildren: 1923;
- CCE1468: title deeds to playing field and school house: 1927-2000;
- P67/29/3: School Trust account book: 1929-1958;
- P67/29/4-5: papers regarding school: 1930-1957;
- P67/29/7-12: papers concerning school building and school house: 1938-1962;
- E/PM3/1/3B: evacuee attendance register for Mora Road School, Cricklewood at Bromham: 1939;
- Z474/38: photograph of school: c.1940;
- SMM4/2/1: headteacher's reports: 1954-1974;
- SDBromhamStOwen's1/3: school logbook: 1954-1978;
- PCBromham26/2: correspondence about land for proposed school extension: 1956-1966;
- CA8/513: school maintenance file: 1965-1979;
- CA2/464: building file on classroom extension: 1972-1975;
- SMM4/2/1: headteacher's reports: 1974-1985;
- SDBromhamStOwen's1/4: school logbook: 1978-1995;
- PCBromham26/1: renovation of school clock: 1976-1978;
- PY/PH154/1: slide of school exterior: c.1980;
- E/TE3/4: return of teaching staff: 1981;
- CA10/59: contract for upgrading heating system: 1982;
- SMM35/2/2: school governors' minutes: 1984;
- PCBromham26/6: correspondence regarding a shield awarded in memory of Sir Evelyn Barker: 1984;
- E/TE3/7: return of teaching staff: 1986;
- E/MS3/2/2: kitchen and other details: c.1987

Rice Trevor County Primary/Lower School
- CA2/90: building contract for school: 1960-1963;
- SMM3: school managers' minutes: 1963-1975;
- SMM4/1-2: headteacher's reports: 1965-1980;
- CA8/412: building maintenance file: 1965-1981;
- PY/PH7/1: exterior photographs: 1966;
- CA2/161: classroom extension: 1969;
- CA2/196: classroom extension: 1969;
- CA2/341: classroom extension: 1970-1975;
- SMM4/2: headteacher's reports: 1974-1980;
- SMM4: school governors' minutes: 1975-1980;
- E/TE3/4: return of teaching staff: 1981;
- PCBromham26/6: correspondence regarding a shield awarded in memory of Sir Evelyn Barker: 1984;
- PCStevington26/5: plans for new changing room: 1984;
- PCStevington26/6: correspondence regarding appointment of governor: 1985;
- E/TE3/7: return of teaching staff: 1986;
- E/MS3/2/1: kitchen and other details: c.1987