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Carlton School 1872 to 1901

This page was contributed by Pamela Hider

School Logbooks 1872-1901 

The information below is taken from the logbooks for Carlton School. Logbooks from the 19th and 20th centuries give us a fascinating account of life at schools from the beginning of our national education system and of how education evolved throughout its first hundred years, particularly in a rural setting such as Carlton. They also reflect the many changes in society that took place during that time such as hardship, disease and world wars, through to population growth, the affluent society, a National Health Service, technology and vast opportunities. Access to the logbooks was provided courtesy of the Headteacher of Carlton Primary School.

Originally from Nottinghamshire, the new Master was Edwin Simpson (born c.1836), who came to Carlton with his wife Mary, from Sandhurst, Kent, where he had been teaching. With them, they brought their five children and another was born in Carlton in 1874. 

Edwin took charge of the school on September 30th 1872. He was assisted by trainee teacher William Francis. In November, the average number of children attending the school was 73. Their ages ranged from 3years 9 months - 14 years 9 months and there were five Standards. Attendance was generally poor owing to severe weather and the whole gamut of childhood illnesses. Principally though, Carlton being a rural area, several children were away assisting on the farms and several girls were only half-timers as they were at 'lace schools'. Some children were away for as long as six months. By February 1874, 'the highest average was 81'.  

The passing of The Agricultural Education Act in 1873 prohibited the agricultural employment of children under the age of eight and also provided for the education of children involved in farm labour. As part of this, the Act stated that children could not be employed in agricultural work without parental confirmation that they had attended school a certain number of times in the preceding twelve months, specifically 250 times for children aged eight to ten and 150 times for individuals over the age of ten (a time = a half day). Mr.Simpson wrote that the Act was 'doing more harm than good for it lets parents who did send children regularly know that they may come only 15 weeks in the year and 25 as the case may be'. Attendance declined further and in October 1875, he wrote 'The pauper children will make the best scholars now. Their attendance is almost the only regular attendance we have, some of the very best of the others being absent one hundred times a year'. Excluding the Harvest holiday of one month, children were also away cowslipping (for wine), pea-picking and acorn picking (for pigs); sometimes, as many as 50 children were absent. Good reports were made however, in these early years, about singing and the learning of new songs. Not only was good tone often commented upon, but the learning of an alto line was mentioned and done so well that 'it was sung to all our songs for this year' and ...'nearly every child knows the words to all the songs'.  Mr Simpson's achievement obviously reflected his love of music. Vestry minutes record that he was the organist in church. 

Girls stayed at home 'nursing' and both boys and girls were required to take meals to members of their family working in the fields. But it was also noted that boys were 'playing about the lanes and streets'. In October 1877, one lace school keeper 'wouldn't allow the half-timers to come to school and one parent said 'he'd go to prison before his children should come'. The Act was clearly ineffective and was replaced by the Elementary Children's Act of 1880 which drew up bye-laws on school attendance practically making it mandatory. 

In 1878, William Francis now became partially qualified as a teacher because of his experience at the school and left to pursue examinations which would qualify him completely. Mrs. Simpson, who had up to now been caring for her six children, was appointed Qualified Assistant Mistress and taught the Infants. She was to earn many plaudits from the School Inspectors over the years for 'her energetic and very creditable teaching'.  Notwithstanding the Act of 1880, the June 1882 attendance was 26/91 due to pea-picking. In January 1883, the school had to be closed due to a measles epidemic. On September 24th, the first day back after Harvest, the school closed again as so few turned up. In May 1884, Mr. Simpson wrote 'attendance very disheartening'. Elsewhere, he had written that although he reports absentees to the authorities, nothing happens.  

Attendance had to be 25 weeks per year in order to take exams leading to the next Standard. The Master was paid by results and although some improvements were recorded by School Inspectors over the years, they wrote, for eg. 'greater proficiency expected if grant to be earned again'.  By 1885, the Diocesan report finally admitted failure was due to irregular attendance as they noted 'careful and conscientious teaching'. After 13 years of being described in Inspectors' reports  as 'Second Class', Mr. Simpson's efforts were finally recognized and from hereon he was described as First Class for the remainder of his Headship. 

In June 1886 a parent thought it 'very hard that she should have a notice about her little boy's attendance as he has only been absent 202 times (20 weeks) in the year'. In July, Mr.Simpson wrote 'sometimes I have only 10 or 12 in six standards just now. The children are so very useful at home'. In January 1889, financial incentives were offered for attendance. The Rector W.H.Dennison noted  that in November of that year 'every child on the books was present this morning, 80 in no. -  a perfectly exceptional circumstance'. However, when the awards were made in March 1891, 'the result was not as encouraging as we could wish'. In November 1892, the school was closed for over a month because of a measles epidemic. 

School building 

From 1893, the Inspectors' reports (made in a February, which marked the end of the previous school year) were particularly concerned with the condition of the school and made suggestions for improvements in both the fabric of the building and interior organization. By 1894, a new floor had been laid and by 1895, a partition was in place between the Infants and the Main Room. The Main School Room occupied a space of 35ft x 16 1/2 ft x 11 1/2ft sloping to 15ft high; and the Infants a space of 16ft x 15 1/2ft with the same sloping height. Up until now, the children had spent 35 years all being taught in the same space! A Boys' Cloakroom, improved sanitation, adequate ventilation plus 'suitable desks' were still in the future. It seemed the improvements didn't always have the desired effect, as the Inspector reported in 1895 that 'sixty girls and infants were being taught in the Infants' room which accommodates only 32 children'. In 1896, needlework was reported as being taught 'in a room crowded to excess'. 

 In 1897, a 'very good' report led to a grant being made for a 'teacher to complete staff; apparatus and desks', though the overcrowding of the Infants' Room was still going on by 1898. The Infants themselves though were so 'bright and happy' and the teaching so good 'that the highest grant is recommended'. The report of 1900 included words such as 'praiseworthy, decidedly good and improved' and 'the general efficiency of the school is very creditable to the Master'.  But in February 1901, it was reported that 'The Master (who is now retiring after many years of conscientious work) has been very unwell during the latter part of the year'. He left in August 1901.  For more than 20 years, the Simpsons had been living in the school house which had been built in 1878 just behind the school for the Master and his family. After leaving, we find them on the Electoral Rolls at Flitwick, Bedfordshire.  Our last record of them is in the April 1911 census, still in Flitwick, with their youngest child, Alice, now aged 40. Edwin was aged 74 and Mary 73.  

School House & Simpsons

Edwin Simpson (born c.1836 Mansfield, Notts) and his wife Mary Jane Simpson (nee Pogmore) outside their home, Carlton School House; part of the schoolroom is visible to the left, .c.1900. [Z50/25/20] 

It is a sobering thought that boys at the school at this time would have numbered amongst those going to war in 1914. In 1898, 1899 & 1900, one Fred Mole (born in Carlton 1889) was recorded amongst those winning prizes in the annual Diocesan exam. In 1915, one Fred Mole (born in Carlton) aged 26, of 2nd Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, was killed in action, France & Flanders. His name appears on the Carlton Roll of Honour.