Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community Histories > Kensworth > Kensworth School in the 19th Century

Kensworth School in the 19th Century

The former school house and old school buildings April 2007
The former school house and old school buildings April 2007

Rev Ivan Young wrote in 1968 [CRT120/40]: “During the Incumbency of Vicar Richard Allen (1851-53), a move was made to initiate a School. Mr. Allen was interested in young people. The result was as follows, and I quote from the examination of the Trust Deed to which also a Conveyance of land is attached made by Sir Ralph Bond … The site on which the School and School House have since been erected was given by the Dean and Chapter of Saint Paul’s [Lords of the Manor of Kensworth] and conveyed by a Conveyance dated the 12th of September 1853 by the Very Reverend Henry Hart Milman, Dean of the Cathedral … and the Chapter of the same church and Edward Fossey of Kensworth, yeoman under the authority of an Act passed in the fifth year of Queen Victoria’s reign explaining the same to Richard Allen (Vicar of Kensworth) and James White and James George (churchwardens) to hold to them and their successors for the purposes of the first mentioned Act and upon trust to permit the premises and all buildings thereon erected to be for ever thereafter appropriated and used as a School for the education of children and adults or children only of the labouring manufacturing and other poorer classes in the Parish of Kensworth and for no other purpose”.

In a further paragraph it is stated: - "It was declared by the Conveyance that the School should be at all times open to the Inspection of the Inspector of Schools appointed in conformity with an Order in council dated the 16th of August 1840 and should always be in Union with and conducted according to the principles and in furtherance of the ends and designs of the National Society for promoting the education of the poor in the principles of the Established Church throughout England and Wales"”.

“All this, of course, took place under the Privy Council and the Board of Education came into being later. The School main building was erected in 1853-4. Money was subscribed by the Dean and Chapter of Saint Paul’s, the Brugis Charity, Public Subscription and the National Society. A Committee of Management was appointed and steps taken regarding a Master’s and Mistress’ appointment. In 1871 a School House was erected by Subscriptions and by the Brugis Charity contributions”.

On 5th October 1853 a letter was sent to the trustees of the Brugis Charity reading as follows [P34/25/18]: “I shall feel obliged if you will attend a meeting of the Trustees of the above Charity on Monday the 10th October 1853 at the Packhorse, Kensworth at ½ past 3 o’clock in the afternoon. For the purpose of examining the accounts of the acting Trustee and of taking into consideration the propriety of placing the Charity children at the new school now about to be opened at Kensworth”. Attached was a list of names of the charity children:

  • Ann Willis, 12
  • Eliza Willis, 5
  • Mary Sharp, 13
  • Emma Sharp, 7
  • Hannah Sharp, 12
  • Ann Willis, 13
  • Thomas Austin, 6
  • Abraham Sharp, 10
  • John Crawley, 8
  • Daniel Wright, 5
  • James Willis, 9
  • George Perry, 10
  • Joseph Perry, 7
  • James Willis, 8
  • George Osborn 8
  • Jonathan Holles, 5

The trustees evidently decided in favour of sending the Charity children to the school because a letter and list of children dating from 20th January 1863 reads [P34/25/19]: “The School Master has made out the enclosed List of Children who are now receiving Education in the Kensworth National School, in accordance with the terms on which the Grant is made from the Brugis Charity. Elizabeth Harley, No. 18, belongs to a Family, some members of which, as you are aware, are supposed to have conducted themselves so as to disentitle them to encouragement. But this child’s Father has been crippled, and dependent on parochial aid, for about a twelvemonth; and her mother is so deserving a person that, at the intercession of two Ladies in the Village, I have added her name to the List”:

1. Albert Cook
2. Amy Willis
3. Amy Willis
4. Emily Perry
5. Frederick Holland
6. Hannah Winnell
7. Hannah Ward
8. Sarah Stokes
9. Arthur Durrant
10. Frederick Jackson
11. Rebecca Evans
12. Edward Durrant
13. Alfred Avery
14. Edmund Durrant
15. Jesse Kempson
16. Frank Willis
17. Lizzie Elborn
18. Elizabeth Harley

By 1865 attendance at the school was evidently a problem. On 30th October 1865 the following letter was sent out by the vicar [P24/25/20]: “At a Meeting of the Managers of the Kensworth National School, held on Tuesday October 24 1865 the following Resolution was passed “That, with the sanction of the acting Trustee of the Brugis Charity, 140 attendances in each six months of the year, commencing January 1st, be required of every free Scholar, except in case of sickness, as a condition of its being continued, as such, on the Books of the School”. This Resolution has been adopted in consequence of the very irregular attendance of some of the children placed on the Charity. We find that, excluding Holidays, and reckoning two attendances each day, which is the plan on which the Government Inspectors act, a child may attend about 470 times within the year. The minimum required by the Committee of Council as the condition of a Grant is 200. Some of the free Scholars have been below that, which is both an injury to the school & an abuse of the Charity. It was thought that 280 Attendances would be a moderate and just requirement. Will you kindly sanction this. The Rule to be put in force from January 1, 1866”.

A list of Brugis Charity children attending the school in 1867 reads [P34/25/22]:

1. Thomas Woodman, parents Samuel and Elizabeth;
2. Frank Willis, parents William and Elizabeth;
3. Frederick John Hall, parents Richard and Maria;
4. Alfred Jackson, parents Shadrach and Hannah;
5. Ruth Winnett, parents Isaac and Anne;
6. Emily Kempson, parents Thomas and Hannah;
7. William Harley, parents Frederick and Hannah;
8. William Hall, parents Joseph and Ellen;
9. Amos Skinner, parents John and Martha;
10. Thomas Birchmore, parents Abraham and Hannah;
11. George Grizzle, parents William and Eliza;
12. James Cutler, parents Thomas and Emma;
13. Emily Osborn, parents Henry and Mary;
14. Emily Key, parents John and Emma;
15. William Jackson, parents David and Rebecca;
16. Alfred Evans, parents George and Rhoda;
17. Harry Martin, parent Sarah, father deceased;
18. Lizzie Hawkins, parents Jeremiah and Eliza.

An list of 1870 [P34/25/26] gives the following names:

1. Alfred Jackson, parents Shadrach and Hannah;
2. William Harley, parents Frederick and Hannah;
3. Clara Willis, parents William and Elizabeth;
4. William Hall, parents Joseph and Ellen;
5. Emily Osborn, parents Henry and a deceased mother;
6. Emily Key, parents John and Emma;
7. Alfred Evans, parents George and Rhoda;
8. John Woodcraft, parents James and Harriet;
9. Annie Punter, parents James and Sarah;
10. George Punter, parents George and Emma;
11. Martha Grizzle, parents William and Eliza;
12. Frederick Punter, parents Mary and deceased father;
13. Charles Cutler, parents Thomas and Emma;
14. Lizzie Skinner, parents John and Martha;
15. Alfred Ward, parents James and Emma;
16. Frederick Hawkins, parents Eliza and deceased father.

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).

Kensworth continued as a National School. Rev. Young continues: “In 1891 the Infants room was added to the main building. The School property has never been taken over by the Education Authority but the Board of Education under Section 11 of the Education Act 1902 made regulations regarding the appointment of Foundation Managers. The School House has, of course, been excluded from any maintenance by the LEA”. In 1897 the infants’ room was enlarged [P24/29/14].