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Up End Schools Kempston

Elevation of Up End School in 1854 [AD3865-23-2]
Elevation of Up End School in 1854 [AD3865/23/2]

Until the middle of the 19th century there was no school in the urban part of Kempston. A school was built at Church End (today’s Kempston Rural Lower School) in 1844 which meant that children in the urban part of the parish could have quite a walk.

On 1st March 1854 a notice was issued, published in the Bedfordshire Times on 4th March which read as follows: “PARTIES WILLING TO CONTRACT for the several Works to be performed in the Erection of a School House and Master’s Dwelling, at Kempston Up-End, near Bedford, may inspect the Drawings and Specifications at the Office of MR. WOODROFFE, Surveyor, Bedford, on and after Monday, the 6th of March, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. The Tenders must be delivered, sealed, on or before the 18th day of March 1854, at Mr. Woodroffe’s Office, Bedford, endorsed “Tender for Building School House and Master’s Dwelling at Kempston Up-End””.

“The Committee for Building the School House and Master’s dwelling do nor bind themselves to accept the lowest Tender”.

The site of the school, a National School, was conveyed on 29th May 1854 by Rev. Edmund Riland Williamson of Campton to the vicar and churchwardens of Kempston [STuncat591/3]. The land measured 27½ poles, and formed a part of Browns Close, bounded to the west by a cottage of Williamson’s in the occupation of Thomas Teedon, north and east by the rest of Browns Close and to the south by the public highway. A further piece of land was conveyed on 11th June 1858 [STuncat591/5] measuring 115 feet north to south and 20 feet east to west at the west end of the school site.

One of the parish registers for Kempston [P60/1/5] contains the following information about the school: “In the year 1854 a School was built at Upend for the Education of the poor in the Principles of the Church of England. The School is for Infants and Elder Girls, the former attend daily, the latter twice a Week and for Instruction on Sundays. The School is in Union with the National Society and with the Bedford Diocesan Board of Education. The site of the School and Dwellinghouse for the mistress adjoining has been duly conveyed to the Churchwardens of the Parish and their Successors. The School is under a Committee of Management. Their names are as follows:

The Vicar and his Curate Ex Officio: The Revd. Hamilton J. Williams, Vicar and Revd. J. W. Haddock, Curate

Elected Members: Henry Stuart, Esq, M. P., Henry Littledale Esq., Robert Newland, Esq., Stephen Thornton, Esq., Talbot Barnard, Esq.

Ladies’ Committee: Mrs. Talbot Barnard, Mrs. Stephen Thornton, Miss Williamson

Elected 3rd March 1859: Lieutenant-Colonel Dixon of The Grange, Kempston in the room of Stephen Thornton, Esq., deceased to be a Member of the Committee of Management”.

The note goes on to list the funds spent. The schools cost £1,006/10/0. A list of subscribers follows together with the following note: “In the Year 1858 an addition was made to the School room built in 1854 by Voluntary Subscription on a piece of land given by Revd. E. R. Williamson, Lord of the Manor”. The additional cost was £310.

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 questionnaire for Kempston noted the first schools built in the urban part of the ancient parish of Kempston - the Church of England Mixed School at Up End for 55 children and Up End National Infants' School in Saint John’s Street for 135 children”. Clearly junior boys were now admitted to the school.

The report also noted "In course of being supplied: Enlargement of Kempston Church of England Mixed School at Upend. Accommodation for 122 children". Unfortunately this estimate was grossly short of what was required and a notice appeared in the Bedfordshire Mercury in 1875 stating that unless schools for 400 children were provided within six months a School Board would be formed for the parish to drive the building programme forward. A School Board was duly formed on 18th February 1876. Consequently the two schools at Up End changed from National Schools to Board Schools.

For the first twelve years the Kempston school board had been ineffective in dealing with the problems of a growing and changing district. Improvements occurred when the right people were elected: "Across the river from Bedford lies the important village or suburb of Kempston. Two years ago it was, so far as education is concerned, almost the most backward place in my district. Since then a large new infants’ school has been erected, existing premises have been improved, and additional teachers and apparatus procured. Considerable progress has already been made, and the outlook is most hopeful. To Mr Edwin Ransom, of Bedford, the energetic chairman of a new board, belongs the credit for these improvements". [Mr Synge’s General Report for the Eastern Division for 1890 quoted in BHRS Volume 67 The Bedfordshire School Child edited by David Bushby]

In 1889 a new infants’ school was built in Bedford Road, the infants from Up End Transferring to it. Up End Board Mixed School was made into a Board School for boys only in 1896, the girls being sent to a new school in Bedford Road on the same site as the infants.

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. The boys' school at Up End duly became a Council School.

Up End Boys School class group in 1896 [Z50/67/11a]
Up End Boys School class group in 1896 [Z50/67/11a]

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]. The first report on Up End was in 1911, when average attendance was 278 boys: “This School continues to be admirably organised, ordered and taught and both tone and discipline most praiseworthy. The supervision by the Head Teacher is thorough and helpful and a high level of efficiency is reached in all Classes”.

The next report was not until after the Great War, which interfered with the school reporting process. In January 1923 average attendance was 272: “It is a very considerable time since a Report was made on the work of this school. In the interval the school has been inspected on numerous occasions, and has always been found to be in good order. The teaching is well considered and thorough, and at present the Department is better than it has been since the war”.

“At the recent visit of inspection, Arithmetic was tested in four out of the six classes, and was found to be very sound, especially in the upper part of the school. Writing is carefully formed, and by the time the boys leave they have developed a really good style. The Composition of the second class is quite satisfactory, but in the first class it is not so good as most of the work of the class; it is the subject in which development is most to be desired. History is up to the average in the first class, and in the second is distinctly above that level, the boys’ knowledge being thorough and reliable. The teacher of this class is to be congratulated on the marked general advance he has made in his work during the past fifteen months. Drawing has made considerable progress of late, but is still not one of the best subjects; however it is going on very well indeed in the two upper classes, and promises to become good is rather better progress is made in the middle part of the school. Physical Exercises are developing well, and Singing is in many respects excellent, but it is hardly possible to do full justice to the songs until the school possesses a piano”.

The next inspection was in September 1925 when average attendance was 262: “There was a serious epidemic of mumps during the first quarter of this year, and the attendance was low – sometimes below 60 per cent, and only 71 per cent for the quarter. This could not fail to affect the work, and probably explains why the Arithmetic – which, however, is good in Standards III and V – is, in Standards IV, VI and VII, like some of the writing, hardly up to its usual level. Composition, Spelling, Reading and History are all quite satisfactory. Drawing shows some further improvement, and Physical Training, certain aspects of which were discussed at the visit of inspection, is as a rule very well carried out. Singing is excellent in every respect”.

The school’s final inspection was in June 1926, when the school garden, alone, was inspected. Growing skills would be very valuable in the war just thirteen years away: “This is a good garden with a wide range of work on vegetables, fruit and flowers. A good deal of propagation work is done by means of layers, cuttings, budding and grafting. A large area is cultivated and kept in good condition though only an hour a week is devoted to the work in the school time-table. Some work is done out of school hours. Suitable records are kept by scholars and observation and experiment are encouraged. Good educational use is made of the subject”.

In 1928 schools in Kempston were re-organised and Up End reverted to a mixed junior school. Two inspections were made before World War Two. The first of these was in April 1932 when average attendance was 185: “There are five classes in this school of which two are for infants. As the juniors spend four years in their section there are only three classes, each composite in character. The children from the Public Assistance Committee’s “Children’s Home” [Kempston Lodge] attend this school. Many of these are subnormal, either physically or mentally, and the admission register shows that many of them are birds of passage”.

“Organisation is not easy, as the five classes have all over 40 on roll. Any absence from teaching work means that some member of the Staff has to deal with a number approaching 80. The Head Mistress has many interruptions for the heavy routine work of medical and dental inspections and following up visits, as well as the visits of unemployed and pensioners for certificates that their children are in fact at school”.

“Both classes of infants are taught carefully and the children make progress. Some advice was offered on the use of apparatus which may defeat its ends if not properly graded. The other classes are doing good average work. In the highest class the use of the dictionary is taught and the children understand the use of the Key words found at the top of each page. Response to questions in History and Geography was good in all classes, though the tome sense in the former subject needs attention, and certain aspects of the latter should be included in the syllabus for proper conceptions to be formed. Recitation was good but many of the older children offered pieces more suitable for infants”.

“Throughout the inspection the children showed keenness, the result of systematic and careful work of the staff, and they were orderly and well behaved. The girls particularly spoke nicely”.

The last report was made in February 1937, average attendance 179: “There has been no change in the character of this school since the last report. There are 230 children on the books with a Head Teacher and four Assistants, two of whom are Uncertificated. There are two classes with 50 on the registers and the Head Teacher is in charge of one of them. There is no hall, the playground is small and the heating of the classrooms inadequate. Extra cupboards are needed and wall blackboards would be safer than the easel type in the middle room which is small and a passage-way as well as a classroom”.

“The standard attained in the fundamental subjects is generally satisfactory. It would, however, be well to consider more modern methods of approach, particularly to such subjects as Number and Reading. Speech and written work are good but the type and quality of the Needlework and some of the handwork seen, especially in Class 3, was a little disappointing. A more carefully graded scheme and more suitable apparatus is needed for these younger children. The discipline is kindly and the children are happy and well-behaved”.

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. Up End Council Mixed School became Up End County Primary Junior School. However, in 1953 the school changed to become a County Primary Infants' School, for 4 to 7 year olds.

The remains of the hall at the school [FSD/RR1/111]
The remains of the hall at the school [FSD/RR1/111]

On the night of Sunday 16th February 1975 the school burned down. This was the second fire in two years and happened at the end of half term. The school was 75% damaged and could never be used again. Temporary classrooms were installed at Balliol Lower School to accommodate the displaced children. The blackened ruin stood for a number of years before being demolished in the late 1980s and housing built on the site. A report sent to the Home Office by the Fire Service [FSD/RR1/111] concluded that the cause of the fire was arson.

The following list gives all the sources relating the schools at Up End held by Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service. Due to the terms of the Data Protection Act records containing personal details of living individuals will be closed in total, or in part, depending on the nature of the information.

The site of Up End School July 2007
The site of Up End School July 2007

Up End National/Board Junior School

  • Bedfordshire Times article on tenders invited for school and school house: 4th March 1854;
  • CRT130Kem42: Up End School 1854-1992;
  • P60/1/5: notes on erection of schools with accounts and subscription lists: 1854;
  • AD3865/23/1/5: plans of school and school house: 1854;
  • SDKempstonUpEnd1/1: printed notice regarding foundation of school: 1854;
  • Bedfordshire Times article on service held in unfinished school: 13th January 1855;
  • Z278/1: arithmetic book of pupil: 1857;
  • P60/1/5: memorandum with details of management and accounts of subscriptions for enlargement: 1858;
  • X254/76: printed annual report: 1862;
  • CRT130Kem29: photocopy of sampler done by a pupil: 1863;
  • SDKempstonUpEnd2/1/1: school logbook: 1865-1876;
  • CRT160/140 p.502: "Up to two years ago the Wesleyans were not admitted to the Kempston school unless they would attend the church Sunday School": 1867;
  • Z808/1/1 and Z50/142/374: group photograph: 1869;
  • AD3865/23/6-14: plans for extension: 1871;
  • SDKempstonUpEnd2/2/1-2: admission registers: 1872-1884;
  • SDKempstonUpEnd2/3/1: duplicate examination schedules: 1874-1895;
  • SDKempstonUpEnd2/2/2-3: admissions registers: 1875-1899;
  • STuncat74: deed: 1876;
  • SDKempstonUpEnd2/1/2: school logbook: 1876-1896;
  • SDKempstonUpEnd3/2: boys' evening school examination schedule: 1877-1902;
  • SDKempstonUpEnd2/3/2: Inspector's annual returns: 1879-1902;
  • SDKempstonUpEnd6/1: duplicate returns: 1881-1928;
  • SDKempstonUpEnd2/3/3: duplicate managers' returns: 1881-1882;
  • SDKempstonUpEnd2/3/4: general correspondence: 1882-c.1900;
  • SDKempstonUpEnd3/1: annual inspector's reports of boys' evening school: 1890-1901;
  • SDKempstonUpEnd3/3: annual inspector's reports for girls' evening school: 1890-1895;
  • SDKempstonUpEnd2/3/5: duplicate examination schedules: 1891-1897;
  • SDKempstonUpEnd2/3/6: proficiency schedules: 1894-1897.

Up End Board Boys'/Council Boys' School

  • SDKempstonUpEnd6/1: duplicate returns: 1876-1903;
  • SDKempstonUpEnd2/3/2: Inspector's annual returns: 1879-1902;
  • SDKempstonUpEnd2/2/3: admissions register: 1881-1928;
  • SDKempstonUpEnd2/3/5: duplicate examination schedules: 1891-1897;
  • Z808/1/9 and Z50/67/11: school class copy photograph: 1895;
  • Z808/2/12: photograph of unnamed school group: 1900;
  • E/TE5/1: details of teachers: 1904-1908;
  • E/TE5/2: details of teachers: 1908-1912;
  • SDKempstonUpEnd5/1: school logbook: 1896-1928

Up End Council Junior Mixed/County Primary Junior/County Primary Infants' School

  • SDKempstonUpEnd7/1/1: school logbook: 1928-1964;
  • SDKempstonUpEnd7/2/1: admissions register: 1928-1947;
  • WW2/AR/C/2/89-90: blacking out of the school: 1941;
  • CA8/147: building maintenance file: 1947-1966;
  • SDKempstonUpEnd7/3/1-3: summary registers: 1948-1962;
  • SDKempstonUpEnd8/2/1: attendance register: 1961-1969;
  • E/YM7/9/20: use of the school by girl guides: 1961-1975;
  • SDKempstonUpEnd8/1/1: school logbook: 1964-1976;
  • PY/E2/1/155: file on the caretaker's house: 1964-1977;
  • CA8/633: building maintenance file: 1966-1979;
  • Z1301/1: survey of police cadets: 1968;
  • DSA3/13: pupil numbers and details of religion of pupils: 1970-1971;
  • CA8/188: building maintenance file for new classroom: 1971;
  • FSD/PC17: newspaper reports of fire at school, with photographs: 1975;
  • FSD/RR1/111: research report file on the fire at the school: 1975;
  • X494/64/23: newspaper report of the fire at the school: 1975;
  • PY/E3/1/9: short-term lettings: 1975-1976;
  • PY/E2/2/293: tenancy agreement: 1977;
  • BP64/24/19-21: photograph of the gutted school: 1981;
  • BP64/24/22: photograph of the gutted school: 1982;
  • BP64/24/23: photograph of the gutted school: 1983;
  • TCKempston26/5: proposed adult training centre at the former school: 1984.