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North Mymms Schools & their Children
1700 - 1964

by Peter Kingsford

Chapter 5
Towards the promised land 1918-1939

In education the Fisher Act of 1918 did not have the hoped for results, particularly in respect of day continuation classes. It did, however, because of the exploitation of children during the war, fix the school leaving age at 14 and restricted the employment of children between 12 and 14 to two hours a day. In North Mymms the aim was now to restore the standards of the pre war years.

The war, as wars do, had begun to stimulate new ideas. At the girls’ and infants’ school there were signs of the times. In 1919 a woman joined the school managers for the first time, Mrs Kate (later Lady) Clausen, banister’s wife, and she made her presence felt at Water End, often calling to inspect the school, the registers and the needlework and donating prizes for needlework (to M Chuck and D Street). Miss Seymour of Potterells, assisted by Mrs and Miss Wilson Fox of Moffats, taught folk dancing. Six new dual desks replaced old gallery desks. Naturally, some of the old traditions remained, albeit weakened. The lengths of serge were still given under the Casamajor bequest but since the dividends from it had fallen, only a few rewards could be given on the basis of stricter limits of attendance.

A more notable event was the retirement of Mrs Cooke in 1920, the headmistress who had been the brave new spirit of 1902, and the presentation to her of a pair of silver candlesticks from the managers’ funds. One happy reward for her work was the success of her pupil teacher, Dorothy Field, who came top of the list in the county in the preliminary examination for the teachers’ certificate and proceeded to training college. Miss Field, as Mrs Colville, was herself to be headmistress at Water End nearly thirty years later.

From many applicants for headmistress in 1920 the managers appointed Miss Elsie A Simon from Chiddingstone School, Bucks. The new headmistress, a member of the National Union of Teachers, had a passion for drama and, later on, she had the girls dress up and act out the stories they read in the books from the school library. She had one assistant teacher, a pupil teacher and a monitress to teach 92 pupils in three rooms. Changes in the staff were frequent; there were eight such changes in the 1920s. The managers took an unprecedented step towards solving the old problem of accommodation for teachers by renting, from the lady of North Mymms Park, a house for two new teachers who paid ten shillings a week (including furniture). They granted Miss Simon’s request for £5 for a school library, long overdue, but they were not prepared, or able, to spend money on the eighty year old school building. When, in 1925 His Majesty’s inspector recommended improvement in ventilation, cloakrooms, "offices", playground, lighting and furniture, only the first was seen to and only after a long delay. £74 had been spent on the building only a few years before.

Religious instruction continued in its proper place. The diocesan inspector could report that "The atmosphere of the school is reverent and the children are well in hand", and at the end of the 1920s - "Real care and thought are being given to the Religious Instruction." At that time, also, the managers found the HMI’s comment on the general education "very satisfactory". The major and ultimately decisive issue of the 1920s and later, was one which concerned both the girls’ and the boys’ schools. It was the one, which had been raised in the parish council during the war - whether the boys’ school could have a mixed infants’ department. The purpose was to save the little children from walking long distances in all weathers to Water End. The issue developed into a larger request for both schools to be mixed schools.

Only six months after the war the matter surfaced again in the parish council. It was then taken up by the Rural District Council which was told by the County Council that it would not reorganise the schools because of the cost, that the managers had no funds, and that the County Council’s only course would be to build new council schools three quarters of the cost of which would fall on the parish, since there was already sufficient school accommodation. The District Council asked the managers if, as a smaller project, mixed classes for the 5 to 7 year olds could be made at Welham Green, but without success.

These events began a fifteen year long conflict. Another parish council "demand" for mixing the infants was followed by a parish meeting at which the managers "apparently satisfied them that it was not possible". The meeting was content to resolve that there should be an infants’ class at the boys’ school as a temporary measure. Pressure continued, however, and again in 1923 and in 1924 parish meetings renewed the request.

Then a new turn to events was given when the county council agreed to a senior mixed school at Water End and a junior mixed school at Welham Green. This reversed expectations. It would have been a very large undertaking and the managers had recently spent over £100 on drainage and water supply. They had the last word and now they had a new reason for taking no action — the effect on Water End of construction of the Barnet By Pais in l92~5. Moreover the boys’ school had been in debt for several years;

It was pressure of another kind, which provided a break through. A request from the County Council to reduce one teacher at the boys’ school because of falling numbers was met by transferring twenty infant boys only from Water End to Welham Green, and this was at last done in September 1926. Thus expediency spared the little boys their long trudge from Roestock and Welham Green; those living at Water End remained at the girl’s school. The event was decisive for the future of both schools. The roll at Water End began to fall, that at Welham Green to rise. Not surprisingly, the managers were still more disinclined to spend on the girls’ school. Moreover, it would be possible to transfer sums from the Casamajor dividends to the boys’ school.

There, at the beginning of the twenties 48 boys were on the roll. Change was to take place under another headmaster. Benjamin Mallett was obliged to resign because of ill health in 1922. He had already relinquished his work of church organist and choirmaster which he had carried out for thirty years. The vicar wrote: -

"Mr Mallett concluded his life’s work at the Boy’s School on September 29th. For more than thirty-three years he gave of his best to the important work of teaching the boys of this Parish, by precept and example, moulding the characters of those who were to form part of the manhood of the nation. During that long period he made hosts of friends, and not a single enemy. His boys have left the school - many have gone forth to lands beyond these shores, but all, wherever they may be, regard their old master with the greatest respect and affection. Many of them are parents, whose boys have also been taught by Mr. Mallett, and these have delighted to commit their children to his care, knowing that their education would be in the best of hands and that they would receive the same kindly treatment that had been meted out to themselves in their youth. Mr Mallett has decided to remain amongst us, and it is the hope and prayer of us all, that his health, which is much impaired, may speedily be restored, and that he may live for many years as an honoured inhabitant of North Mymms.

His many friends in this Parish have united in giving him a testimonial as an expression of their appreciation of the splendid service, which he has rendered to the community during so many years. This testimonial will take the form of a cheque for about £42, which will be handed to him by the Vicar and three of his old boys, privately, because his health will not permit him to face the ordeal of a public presentation. Together with the cheque a framed illuminated parchment will be given him bearing the following inscription: - The Parishioners of North Mynns herein named wish to express the respect and admiration which they have always felt towards their late Schoolmaster, Mr Benjamin Mallett, who has been for thirty-three years the tutor, guide and friend of each lad who has had the good fortune to come under his benevolent care."

The cheque was subscribed by those whose names were recorded: -

E Austin, Mrs Barber, H Beach, L Beach, W Beach, H Bean, L Bean, W Bean, G Bodger, H Bray, J Brett, J Brookes, Sen. E Broomfield, F Brown, Mrs F Brown, Mrs Bullock, W S Burns, Mrs Burns, C Canham, H J Canham, Mrs Canham, R Canham, J Capes, Mrs Capes, S Capes, A Carter, R Chatfield, Mrs Childs, E Chuck, Miss E Chuck, G Chuck, J Chuck, Jonah Chuck, Miss M G Chuck, Miss Clark, E G Clarke, P C Clarke, A C Clauson, Mrs Clauson, B Coleman, Mrs Iris Collins, Mrs Cooke, A Cooper, E Cowland, I Crawford, Mrs Crawford, Miss Crelling, A Crouch, W Crouch, Mrs Croucher, Mrs Currell, B Currell, E Day, Mrs Day, J Day, Mrs T Day, Percy Day, W E Day, Mrs W F Day, Mrs Denchfield, Mrs Dobson, Mrs Dorey, Mrs Eaglestone, J Eaglestone, H Fallen, Mrs Field, Mrs Flint, Joshua Franklin, Mrs Franklin, John Franklin, R Gadsden, G Game, Mrs Game, E Game, J Game, L Game, Mrs Gaussen, Mrs Gilbert, Mrs Gilham, Mrs Goodman, Mrs Gray, H Groom, R Groom, F Hall, Mrs Harrow, Mrs B Hassan, E Hawkins, W D Henderson, A Hickson, A Hickson, Mrs Hickson, C Hickson, F Hickson, Miss F Hickson, F Hickson, Mrs G Hickson, A Hill, G Hill, L Hill, Mrs W Hill, Mrs B Hipgrave, J F Holland, C C Honour, W Honour, F Homey, W Hull, Miss E Knott, G Knott, Mrs Laing, V Large, Mrs Ledger, Mrs A Little, J Littlechild, W J Littlechild, Mrs Maddocks, F Mardell, W Mardell, B Marlborough, F Marlborough, Mrs F Marlborough, I Marlborough, Mrs J Marlborough, J Marlborough, Jun.T Marlborough, Mrs W Marlborough, Miss Marsden, W F Marsden, A C Marsden, Mrs Martin, Miss Mason, Mrs Maynard, S Maynard, Mrs Mills, Mrs Mime, B Money, Mrs Morris, Mrs J Morris, Miss B Nash, C Nash, Mrs C Nash, C J Nash, D Nash, B Nash, H Nash, S Nash, W Nash, Mrs Neal, Miss Nightingale, G North, Mrs Nott, J Newton, Mrs Overton, H Page, L Payne, Mrs L Payne, L Perry, R Perry, R Peters, Miss C Pollard, Mrs Pollard, F Pollard, Mrs I Pollard, Mrs T Pollard, Miss Pratchett, Miss Price, S Randle, Mrs Randle, T Reynolds, G Saltmarsh, School Managers, H Seymour, Mrs Seymour, H Shadbolt, J Sherick, Miss Simon, A Smith, Mrs A Smith, Mrs Smith, H Smith, T Smith, A Speary, Mrs E Speary, F Speary, W Speary, J Speck, W Stephen, Mrs Stephen, D Stephen, Miss J Stephen, F Stowe, A Swain, Mrs Swain, C Tharby, Mrs Tharby, Mrs Thompson, Miss Town, Mrs Townsend, Mrs W Tyler, Mrs Vyse, W Want, C G Ward, Mrs Ward, Mrs C Wheeler, F Wheeler, Gardiner Wilson, Mrs Wilson, Mrs Wood, A Wren, E Wren, F Wren, L Wren, L Wren, G H Wright

Out of no less than seventy applications for the post of headmaster the managers appointed F W Merritt, assistant teacher at South Mymms, and Miss Lines as supplementary assistant. The managers were soon faced with heavy expenditure at the boys’ school. Water supply, which had been refused in 1913,and improved drainage were to cost £109. The new headmaster was already active, organising whist drives to raise funds. He himself needed a new pump and a new copper in his house. Attendance rose because of a higher birth rate after the war and the county council at last agreed to an additional teacher to relieve the strain. Forty new desks came from the council while the school piano was repaired.

One of Merritt’s innovations was to promote "the more intelligent and industrious children" at the end of each term instead of annually. The HMI’s report was, in •the managers’ view, "a credit to the school". But after only four years, in 1926, the headmaster resigned on gaining promotion in Welwyn. He left behind a model school garden and his boys won a certificate of merit in competition for a challenge cup for gardening.

His successor, A J Bradbeer, assistant at Cowper School, Hertford, remained much longer, in the Welham Green tradition, for another twenty-three years. He was a keen games player and organiser of school sports. This was the same year in which the infant boys were transferred to his school from Water End. Clearly his school had a future. The managers seem to have recognised this by agreeing to an expensive folding partition in the big schoolroom and by providing gas in the headmaster’s house.

1930 is a useful point to pause, for new thinking about education had appeared and was about to inspire re-organisation. One authority has commented on the inter-war years:

"Much of the record is, unhappily, of recurrent setbacks, frustrations, and outright failures: the dropping of the day continuation school scheme; the savaging of teachers’ material prospects by the Geddes and May Reports; the repeated failure to raise the school leaving age; the stillborn compromise of the 1936 Education Act; the exasperatingly slow progress of ‘Hadow reorganisation’ in many rural district, and among church schools; the virtual cessation of new school building between 1931 and 1936; the concurrent serious unemployment among teachers, due partly to financial stringency, partly to falling school rolls..."

The significant word in that passage is Hadow. The Hadow Report of 1926 on The Education of the Adolescent shaped English education for several decades by its recommendations for primary (not elementary) education and secondary education for all in grammar, modern and technical schools. The change from one to the other was to be at eleven years and the minimum leaving age to be 15 years. Since the governments of the day could not face the cost of these proposals they went for the easier and cheaper reform also recommended by Hadow; dividing the all-age elementary schools, such as in North Mymms, into two departments, primary and senior. But reorganisation in church schools was slow. The cost to the managers was likely to be heavy, even though under a later Act of 1936 grants of up to 75% could be made for buildings "for the benefit of senior children".

With all these ideas current, the school managers were in for a busy time until 1939, though not so heavily as after the war. They were joined by Dr Flora Shepherd, Capt R Rushbrooke and Mrs Buxton, the new vicar’s wife. Following extensive criticism of the boys’ school building by the inspector, in the light of Hadow reorganisation, the managers opened a school extension fund in 1934. Subscription lists were opened; a garden party at Frowick, a church collection, a concert, a carnival dance at the scout hut, a sale, Bradbeer’s boys playing the handbells, a gift of two turkeys, all contributed to bringing in £328 in one year. £73 had been raised by the headmaster himself and the vicar gave generously. It was enough to pay for minor works - a new water closet, bigger urinals, modification of the wash house and additional lighting. The managers postponed the larger alterations recommended.

Meanwhile the new ideas stimulated both the parish council and the recently formed Ratepayers’ Association. Both bodies wanted the infant girls, as well as the boys, transferred to the Welham Green School. The Association went further in requesting that both schools should be mixed ones, and it expressed its concern whether the North Mymms children were getting the same facilities in practical subjects as in other parts of the county. It was told that two mixed schools in the parish were unnecessary and impractical; and that as regarded woodwork, the boys were having instruction at the Hatfield centre, which was better equipped than the school workshop. At last, however, the little girls won the day. The inspector had made no objection to a few girls aged 5 to 7 going to the boys’ school provided they had their own toilet. They were duly admitted in January 1935, nine years later than the infant boys and twenty years after the whole issue was first raised. There were now nearly 150 pupils at Welham Green. Later that year HMI’s report on both schools was considered satisfactory.

The building at Welham Green was another matter altogether. All the changes required by the inspectorate had not been made. The managers had to grapple with the problems of matching priorities with the funds available to them. There were day to day demands as well as the major extension; the headmaster’s house was given a bathroom, the girls’ school a cycle shed, surfacing the boys’ playground had to be left over. In the boys’ school not only was gas heating required but now County Hall was suggesting an assembly hall of 1200 square feet in which the infants could have their physical training and dancing, as was customary for them. The vicar issued a general appeal in April 1937: -

North Mymns Boys’ School

The time has come when it is necessary to appeal to the parishioners for help towards the extension and improvement of this School, which in some respects is inadequate for modern requirements.

The immediate needs are :

  1. The rebuilding and enlargement of the main entrance to provide additional cloak-room for boys.
  2. The alteration of the infants’ cloak-room to do the same for infants.
  3. The re-surfacing of the playground. These items will cost about £450. In addition, the infants’ classroom is already full, and it is evident that either another classroom or an assembly hall will be required in the near future.

Why are these things needed? The children’s coats, when wet, are hung on top of one another and cannot be dried. In wet weather there is no covered room for exercise and games, and the playground is a quagmire, whilst in dry weather it is unfit owing to stones, for children’s use. The infants’ class-room is too crowded for satisfactory teaching.

Appeal. At present the Managers appeal for subscriptions for the £450 which is immediately required. The Parochial Church Council has agreed to give two Sundays’ collections towards this object, and it is hoped that we may receive grants from the Diocesan Fund and from the National Society. But it is obvious that generous help must be obtained from other sources as well.

We can remember with thankfulness those who in the past built the School, and the excellent work that has been done there under successive Headmasters. As a Church School it stands for the principles of religious education and for the grounding of the children in the Christian faith. It is for the make of the Children that the Managers ask you to help. It is hoped that present and past scholars and their parents will give as they are able. Small subscriptions, as well as larger ones, will be welcomed. The need is immediate. The work must be carried out this year. Please give now.

Subscriptions will be thankfully received either by the Vicar or by Mr A J Bradbeer at the School.

L BUXTON
Chairman of Managers

To the managers’ relief County Hall agreed that additional cloak rooms and improved heating would be enough for the present, so that the larger works could, if necessary, be left over again. Collecting money still went on; the boys by amassing Daily Mirror and Daily Sketch coupons and by making a mile of pennies, the parents by running a coconut stall at the fete. But the school extension fund now had a serious competitor for money in the proposed village hall. And so when in 1937, the managers considered tenders for the school extension they decided to leave the work in abeyance.

The reason given for that decision was that the managers had first to know how the Hadow Scheme of reorganisation would affect them. They discussed the future of the two schools. If the girls’ school was to be closed, the financial situation would benefit from transferring the Casamajor endowment to the Welham Green school. Eventually, in 1938, they agreed that when the Welham Green school was extended it should provide for all the girls and then the two schools would be combined. In the mean time the extension fund had to continue. A performance of Midsummer Night’s Dream brought in £60. By the year before war the fund had .accumulated a large sum, thanks to village activities as well as handsome contributions from some of the gentry. All ranks had raffled. The use of the fund would now wait until after the war.

Meanwhile the girls’ school pursued its quiet, if lesser, way under Miss Simon’s devoted direction. The number on roll fell from 70 in 1927 to 48 in 1937 and the staff to two. During that period there was at least one staff crisis as the inspector reported: -

"During 1930 the normal conduct of the school was much interrupted by a series of staff changes but since September last already work has been done to make good lost ground. The essential subjects are in very fair condition. Compositions written on the day of inspection showed that the children have plenty to say and are able to express themselves on paper with some fluency. The result in arithmetic were especially praiseworthy. The schemes of work were recast in geography and history."

"Very fair" was not high praise, but in religious instruction the diocesan inspector gave a glowing report at the end of the decade: -

"It gives the greatest pleasure to visit this school Its tone and general character are distinctly good, and there is every good reason to feel that both teachers are doing the work in a thoroughly conscientious way."

The children had numerous holidays and trips: for the jubilee of George V, for the Coronation in 1937, for the Hatfield Show, for the Military Tattoo at Aldershot and, as before, for Empire Day, celebrated with a Maypole and folk dancing and, of course, appropriate lessons. The bright girls could do well. What seems to have been the first success in the eleven plus scholarship examination occurred in 1937 when Constance Bevan won a place at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Barnet, and before 1939 at least two other girls, Isobel Clark and Beryl Honour followed her. Some others would have gone too if their parents had been able to afford the expense.

Parents who could afford to pay school fees, and who preferred private education, were more usual in. the new commuter village of Brookmans Park which was expanding rapidly in the 1930s. There was provision for them; a preparatory school in Moffats, The old house where, by a curious irony, had lived Miss Caroline Casamajor, the benefactor of the parish school at Water End. From the following description it seems that nothing was lacking.

Situated on a hill at Brookmans Park with twelve acres of playing fields and gardens, is Moffats preparatory day and boaniing school for boys, with a pre-preparatorv section for little boys and girls. Boys are prepared for entrance and scholarships to the public Schools and Royal Navy. Special attention is given to music. There are Squash and Tennis courts for the boys besides the usual games. The School can call daily for pupils living at a distance and take them home. Grade A tested milk only. Vegetables, jam and eggs are home produce. Health in charge of trained nurse matron. Sole charge of boys with parent abroad. Fees are strictly in accordance with modern conditions inclusive of "extras" for boarders. Prospectus from Messrs Engleheart and Foxon, Moffats, near Brookmans Park station

Although it is not likely that the school came within any inspector’s purview, no doubt as much attention was given to "tone and general character" as at Water End, even if of a different kind.

Peter Kingsford, 1987


Chapter 6 - The promised land 1939-1964
Index - North Mymms Schools & their Children 1700 - 1964
Preface - Why Peter Kingsford wrote the book
Time Chart - Key dates in the educational history of North Mymms
Sources - Where Peter Kingsford researched his material for the book

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