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Salford School

Salford School about 1912 [Z50/98/8]
Salford School about 1912 [Z50/98/8]

In an enquiry on church schools made in 1846/7 the Rector of Hulcote and Salford wrote: "The children go to work at such a young age that a Day school would not be attended". Despite this view, a school did open in Salford. The Kelly's Directory of 1894 states that the school opened in 1860 (the buildings are still there, opposite the Swan public house), the Victoria County History states that it was 1867 and that it was supported, in part, by the Salford Town Lands Charity. The date stone on the building also says 1867! The earliest records directly from the in Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service are logbooks which begin in 1872, although in the parish archive [P77/12] we have as part of the account of the Overseers of the Poor for 1868 the line: "Received for the support of the School, this balance of £18-0-10½".

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 return in association with the Act states that Salford was a National School (i.e. formally in union with the National Society rather than simply a Church of England School) and had accommodation for 74 children.

The school log book records irregular attendance throughout the 1870s and 1880s. On 9th July 1872: "Mr Redgrave, inspector of factories, called.  His object was to enforce half day attendance at school of all lacemakers under 13.  He also visited the two lace schools in this place to make known his purpose" [SDSalford1]. There were treats for those children who did attend such as on 25th August 1888 when: "A half holiday was given on Wednesday, as the Sunday school treat took place at the Rectory".

In 1892 the school inspector visited and wrote [SDSalford4]: "This little school is in a creditable state of efficiency, reading is decidedly improved, recitation and Sewing have been successfully taught, the written work is neat, accurate and well arranged and the infants' work is creditable to the Teacher (though Object lessons and Recitation might be better). Few problems however were done and the children talk too much at their ordinary work, though the discipline and general tone appear to be satisfactory. An additional stove seems to be absolutely necessary".

In 1894 the inspector reported [SDSalford4]: "MIXED SCHOOL. The school has been taught with care and success, the children are fairly intelligent, the written work is very neat and accurate, Geography is fair and Sewing on the whole is creditable. The tone is good, though the order at times lacks precision. A new map of the World is needed and the offices [toilets] require more light. INFANTS' CLASS: Considering the disadvantages under which they are taught, the infants have made fairly satisfactory progress in the elementary subjects and the girls' Sewing is good, but Singing is bad, Drill, recitation and the Object lessons need great improvement and the children should be more smart and orderly in their movements. A gallery or group of suitable desks is necessary and some pictures of animals are much needed. The gallery and desks for the infants should be provided without delay and the lighting of the offices should be attended to".

In 1897 the inspector wrote [SDSalford4]: "The School is carefully taught and making very fair progress; the written exercises on the whole are neat and accurate, and Recitation and Sewing are satisfactory (though the latter subject is hardly so good as usual). On the other hand the instruction of the infants is wanting in life, brightness and variety, the methods of teaching are too mechanical, Geography is only fair and much improvement is required in drill and in the order, which should be much more exact. Some new books are wanted for the third and fourth Standards and for the infants, and a properly constructed urinal should be provided. The Registers must be tested by the Managers at least once a quarter, at irregular intervals as required … the School must improve to enable H. M. Inspector again to recommend the grant under Article 105. If improvement is not effected in Geography and the Needlework only the lower rate of grant will be paid next year for these subjects. The Managers should endeavour to find the means for giving instruction in Drawing". The improvements were duly made.

The last detailed report received until 1910 (see below) was in 1898 [SDSalford4]: "There is some weakness in the Spelling of the lower standards and in the Arithmetic of the first standard, but the general efficiency of the School is good. The children show considerable intelligence in the class subjects, the written exercises are neat and accurate, Sewing on the whole is good and the Infants' Class has been taught with care and success and is much improved. The tone is satisfactory, but the order should be more precise and the oral work of the Infants is much affected by habitual answering out of turn. The Boys' offices (which require a wooden partition) are offensive, and the open brickwork in the party wall should be closed up: some new books for the first class and a proper official cash book are required". Further reports until 1910 show the school performing adequately.

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. Salford was such a 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 1910 the Inspector noted: "Considerable improvement has been effected in this School since it was last reported upon, both in the instruction of the older scholars and infants. Order and tone are both satisfactory and the level of efficiency reached is creditable. A playground is very much needed. At present the public road is the only space available for outside exercises". In 1913 it was recorded: "This little school [average attendance 29] seems likely to do well under the present Mistress. Owing to several recent changes of Head Teacher the children have naturally lost ground but there is every reason it think it will soon be recovered".

During the upheaval of the First World War inspections ceased, the next was in 1921: "When the present Head Teacher took charge of this School just over a year ago, it was not in a satisfactory condition, and but little progress can be reported. Most of the work is very poor and far below the average. The lower section of the upper children is very weak indeed, and the condition of the Infants is thoroughly unsatisfactory. There are only six of them but the Supplementary Teacher has done so little for them that the class is almost inefficient". This poor situation continued as the report for 1924 explained: "This small JuniorSchool (with only 17 children on the books and a monitress to aid the Head Teacher) is not doing satisfactory work. Most of the work was seen or heard in some part of the School and it was all very disappointing. A great improvement must be made".

By 1925 things were improving a little: "The school a year ago was practically inefficient. There is still much lee way to make up, but the Head Teacher appointed in July has done very well in improving neatness and encouraging industry. She is approaching her task in the right spirit, and is not afraid to jettison schemes which, after trial, are found too ambitious. In time this should become a good little school". As far as buildings were concerned: "Here there is no playground: the heating is poor: the cloakroom is not satisfactory and the offices [toilets] are in need of repair". By 1929 there were just 16 on the roll one of whom was "decidedly backward, but has improved lately in writing, reading and recitation, to an extent which proves he is not Mentally Defective though this was suspected: and the girl…who has been admitted…seems to be at least many years retarded…The Mistress, then, is working well, and is generally successful up to a point. She would welcome the opportunity of seeing similarly situated schools in the county at work, with a view to getting a clearer standard…" The final inspection, in 1933 noted marked progress, there were 22 on the roll.

During the Second World War the school admission register shows that children were evacuated from Walthamstow, London and Bromley [Kent] [SDSalford3].  The school became much larger than usual as the following two entries from the logbook show:

  • 11th September 1939: "School reopened today – owing to the exceptional circumstances the senior scholars who would normally attend Aspley Heath Council School have returned here. (4 boys, 4 girls)";
  • 18th September 1939: "Mr Hewitt headmaster of the William Morris Central School called.  It was arranged that the Senior Boys should work entirely with the evacuated children in the Parish Hall and the Senior Girls should take certain subjects with them"

The usual school routine was interrupted by air raid warnings, practice drills and special talks from ARP wardens.  On 31st October 1940: "Registers not marked this afternoon.  Air raid siren sounded at one o'clock the 'all clear' being given at 3:10" [SDSalford2].

Salford schoolchildren in 1940 [X50-98-12]
Salford schoolchildren in 1940 [X50/98/12]

The photograph above (to see a larger version, please click on the image) shows the following people [Z50/98/12]: Back, left to right: Mrs. Linnell, the teacher; Eileen Sedgwick; Doreen Newell; Joan Cox; Dorothy Young; Winnie Brooks; Lil Bigge. Second row: Donald Rust; Dennis Young; Pat Perring; Enid Pettit; Marina Sedgwick; Judy Gadsden; Peggy Cameron; Margaret Brooks; June Hill. Front row: John Hill; Joyce Defraits; Ron Bass; Peter West.

Though only a small village Salford did have its moments. On 24th September 1940 two parachute land mines were dropped over the parish, damaging electricity cables [WW2/AR/CO/2/2]. One exploded and caused damage as far away as Bedford Road in Aspley Guise whereas the other became tangled in a tree and was put under guard by the local Special Constables. On 18th November 1941 an RAF Blenheim training aircraft from nearby RAF Cranfield crashed and both occupants were killed [WW2/AR/CO/2/3].

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. Salford became a Voluntary Controlled County Primary School, however, it closed in 1952.

A clue to the reason for closure can be found in the last inspector's report, copied in the log book [SDSalford2] for 1951: "There has been an increase from 14 to 26 children between the ages of 5 to 11 years since 1946: over half of those in attendance are in the lower age groups, 6 being five year olds. The only teaching space is the one room of a building erected in 1867. The building falls very far short of normal requirements; the major defects include sanitation, washing facilities, cloakroom amenities and a roof with many loose tiles that are a source of danger. The playground is cramped and poorly surfaced and the disposal of refuse is unsatisfactory. The closure of the school was considered in 1946. Whatever the future of the building may be it is the welfare of the children which deserves primary consideration. In one respect, at least, the physical needs of the children have been met by the provision of hot mid-day meals, which, although cooked under unusual conditions in a very small room attached to the school house, are thoroughly enjoyed by the children".

"The Head Mistress was appointed in January of this year and she has already won the respect and confidence of the children. She has evolved new schemes of work and is developing methods designed to improve the quality of English and Arithmetic and to stimulate the cultural and creative interests of the children, through art, music and Handwork. Careful planning of class work however is needed if the older children are to reach a reasonable attainment in reading, speaking, writing and calculation. The supply and use of suitable reading material will doubtless receive attention".

The last two entries in the log book are poignant:

  • 22nd December 1952: "Mr. Swales called  for the names and addresses of the children. He told us that the school is definitely closing on Tuesday December 23rd 1952. Miss Fox called to arrange for the transfer of stock etc. from the canteen".
  • 23rd December 1952: "The vicar called this afternoon. SalfordVoluntaryPrimary School met this afternoon for the last time. After the Christmas vacation the children will go to Husborne Crawley School. This is also my last afternoon at Salford. I have been very happy here".

In 1964 the Saint Albans Diocesan Board of Finance conveyed the school to three trustees, one of whom was Mary Agate, for £725 [PCHulcote&Salford6/2]. The old school together with the single storey former church hall immediately to the north and adjoining it were used as a larger parish hall whilst the former school house was let [PCHulcote&Salford6/1].

Mary Agate died in 1975 and the two surviving trustees conveyed the school to the parish council in 1977 [PCHulcote&Salford6/3]. The school house was sold as a private house in 1981. The sale particulars [PCHulcote&Salford6/1] described it as comprising a hall, a living room, a dining room and a kitchen with a bathroom and three bedrooms above. A garden store, vehicular access for parking and a garden lay outside.

The former school and Mary Agate Hall January 2011
The former school and Mary Agate Hall January 2011