Castlethorpe School Re-Opening 1899

The Bucks Standard, September 30th 1899




On Monday, September 25, an interesting function took place in the Board School of this village, in celebration of the re-opening of the school after renovation and extension. Owing to an increase in population, it was found necessary to enlarge the school by the addition of a commodious classroom, and under the supervision of Mr. H. H. Dyer, architect, of Northampton, the work was well carried out by Mr. J. M. Panting, builder, of the same town. The large room of the school was requisitioned for the meeting, and here willing workers had been engaged in erecting a very suitable temporary platform, the front of which was prettily decked with pot plants, whilst bunting was festooned on the walls. The room was crowded, much interest evidently being manifest in the proceedings. The chairman of the School Board, Mr. O. Nicholls, presided, and was supported on the platform by the Right Hon. the Earl Carrington and Lady Carrington, Mrs. Charles Whiting, Mrs. Amos, Mr. F. Woollard, C.C., Mr. J. E. Whiting, C.C., Mr. Dyer (architect), Mr. Slade, and the following members of the School Board:- Messrs. J. Pike, C. Whiting, G. Rainbow, and E. Richardson, and Mr. T. Osborn, clerk. In the body of the room were the Rev. J. W. and Mrs. Harkness, Rev. W. Sargeant, Mrs. Grant, Miss Heaneage, Mrs. Sargeant, Dr, Easte, Miss Pike, Miss Whiting, Miss Dorothy Whiting, Miss Dickson, Miss Linnell, Mr. Amos, Mr. J. Paine, Mr. J. M. Panting, &c. &c. The programme opened with a well-executed duet, “Tarantel,” by Miss Jenny Jones and Mr. Middleton.

Mr. T. Osborne, clerk to the Board, at the request of the chairman, read the following report:- “Mr. Chairman, my Lord, Ladies and Gentlemen, - Possibly it is within the recollection of some present this afternoon that this school was opened on Thursday, October 15, 1891, by the Right Hon. Lord Carrington. The event marked a turning point in the history of elementary education in this village. It was a demonstration that there is no such thing as finality, especially in our educational institutions. (Applause) Without wishing to depreciate the efforts of the old school under the voluntary system, it was clearly shown that the methods and quality of teaching adopted, as well as the school itself, were behind the time, and did not satisfy the requirements of the Education Department. It therefore became necessary to take an important step in the direction of progress. This the Board did, fully conscious of the responsibility, and not without opposition. In due course the Board School, was completed, and I think everyone must admit that it is a building such as few villages can boast of, besides being eminently satisfactory from an architectural standpoint. It was built and furnished at a total cost of £2097, with room to accommodate 138 children, and it thus gave the Board a means of introducing an improved quality of education, and more suitable to the advanced requirements of the times. (Applause). From 1891 to the present time the result of the school work has been very satisfactory. The Inspector’s reports, year after year, have been highly encouraging both to the teachers and the Board. (Applause). For example, take the report for 1897, which reads as follows:- ‘The upper school is in exceptionally strong hands, and is doing exceptionally well. I am much pleased with Mr. Middleton’s methods and the condition of his school.’ (Applause) The two subsequent reports are equally encouraging, the 1899 report reading as follows:- ‘The school is being extremely well cared for in every way, and the children are diligent and responsive.’ In reference to the present enlargement, the inspector’s report for 1898 contained the following paragraph: ‘the infants’ class is a good one. There is a difficulty about accommodation. It is sufficient during a considerable portion of the year, but during the last three or four months the numbers are excessive, and this is a hot, ill-shaped room. A dozen more cottages are being built, which will be immediately tenanted. The Board must at once contemplate enlargement. The infant room was built to accommodate 44 children, but for several years, during some months of the year, the number of infants on the register had been over 50. The Board having no choice in the matter set to work at once to obtain the necessary plans and specifications for enlargement. Finally, these were approved by the Department for providing additional accommodation for 20 infants. The total outlay of this addition has been £180 5s. 6., divided as follows: Cost of building £158 17s. 6., cost of furniture and fittings £11 8s., and architect’s commission £10. In addition to the enlargement, the Board decided to have the school generally renovated, at a cost of £40 10s. To meet this expenditure, the Board thought it would be better to raise the money by means of an additional school rate, extending over a period of twelve months, rather than increase their liabilities with Public Works Loan Commissioners. Of course there changes necessarily involved the expenditure of money. We could not have efficient education and an efficient staff without it. Economy without efficiency was the worst form of extravagance. (Applause). The Board therefore venture to hope that the ratepayers will see that their money has been wisely spent, and that the parents will encourage their children to regularly attend the school, so that they can reap the full advantage of a powerful lever for helping them to fight the battle of life.” (Loud applause).

Letters of apology were then read by the clerk from S. M. Howard Esq., L & N. W. Railway, Euston, Mr. Councillor Wilmer, Newport Pagnell who concluded his letter by that “the cause of education is a most important one, and we must take care we are not left behind by the rest of Europe” (applause); from E. H. Watts, Esq., Hanslope Park and the Rev. J. Foster.

Song, “Twilight Pictures,” Mr. Impey.

The Chairman said he was sure they all felt delighted to see amongst them Lord and Lady Carrington. (Applause). He believed it was something like eight years since his lordship was present with them at the opening of their Board School, and it was with pleasure he remembered some of the remarks Lord Carrington then made with respect to Castlethorpe. He then expressed pleasure in seeing so many working men securing pieces of land and erecting houses for themselves. That day he had had the pleasure of going round with his lordship and inspecting those houses, and was delighted with the approval Lord Carrington manifested in the progress and improvement made in the village. But for his lordship’s kindness in allowing land to be sold they would not have had the opportunity of improvement, and therefore he thought their hearty thanks were due to him for this, as well as for the very kind interest he always manifested in the welfare of the working classes of the country, the men who were trying to help themselves. (Applause). In consequence of that improved condition in the village they had found it necessary to increase the size of their school, and he thought those who inspected the new classroom would find it a decided advantage. (Applause).

Song, “Tra-la-la,” Miss Watkins.

Earl Carrington who was received with a hearty warmth of approval, said he gladly took that opportunity of saying a few words, and he promised them they would be few, of expressing the great pleasure afforded him and Lady Carrington to be there again. His memory went back seven or eight years ago, when they met together for the opening of that school, and he thought he might say, without fear of contradiction, that everyone interested in Castlethorpe must have been pleased to hear the very satisfactory report which had been read by the worthy secretary of the Castlethorpe Board. (Applause). It was indeed a good record, and it only showed what could be done by men who, for the love of their fellow countrymen, came forward and voluntarily took up positions of great trust. He congratulated them on the result of their eight years’ work and was pleased to be permitted to join in that re-opening ceremony. He thought it showed that the work had been properly and well done, and was thoroughly appreciated. (Applause). As regards education, his memory went back to the old dame schools which existed at that period; but he was thankful to say those days had gone by. He also remembered the anxious days and nights they had in the House of Commons when they tried to bring forward a system of national education. Of course it was thrown in their teeth at the time that they were advocating a system of Godless education. He was, however happy to say that was not the case, for in that school, as also at Wycombe, and in almost all the schools throughout the United Kingdom, they always opened with prayer and the reading of a chapter of the bible. (Applause). It was right, he thought , that there should be, however, no denominational teaching in these schools; but the good old honest truths of religion were laid before the children. (Applause). The reception of that was perfectly optional, for those who did not agree with it could withdraw their children. He remembered his old school at Eton, in the fifties, and he greatly acknowledged the education that grand old college gave him. It taught them to tell the truth, and never-under fear of the head-master’s birch-under any circumstances to betray or turn round on a friend. He acknowledged that was a fine manly education. They were also taught Latin phrases, but their education, though a classical one, was of little practical use in after life, for he could not call to mind any education of any practical use in after life, for he could not call to mind any education of any practical value that was ever drilled into his stupid head by the Eton master. (laughter). He was glad to see that now they had better education in their public school, for they were taught mathematics, and boys were prepared for the army. Still he could not help thinking that in the Board Schools they were running under the danger of having their education a little over bookish. (Applause). There was a remarkable letter in that day’s Times by Sir Walter Gilbey that he thought might interest them. He was aware he was speaking to an audience largely made up of men who were earning their livelihood at Wolverton, but he could not help thinking they were living in an agricultural neighbourhood. Sir Walter Gilbey says:- “Of the industries and employments needing elementary education as well as particular instruction in the principles of the arts and sciences underlying their application, the largest, perhaps the most difficult, and certainly the last to be dealt with educationally, has been agriculture. To make a farmer, as to make a sailor, practical handiness and training are elementary and indispensable requisites. The pupil’s abstinence from practical work during the long summer days in order to participate in the teaching of a classroom is undoubted a loss to manual and practical training, and has therefore, not unnaturally aroused, the misgivings of country parents. It may be that a time-table suitable to country farm work, such as obtained in parish schools in Scotland, longer school hours in winter, and comparative freedom from school in summer will be found necessary to surmount these objections. Still there remains the teaching of the principles of the sciences (mathematics, chemistry, mechanics, physiology, botany, &c.), as well as further detailed instruction in the particular branches of those sciences applicable to agriculture, and in the method of their application, to be assimilated by minds young, teachable, and plastic, if the farmer if the future, like the master mariner of to-day, is to deal as master or as foreman with the congeries of subjects comprised in a farm business, which are the means to the end of agriculture as an intelligent industry.” He did not venture to give his opinion, but Sir Walter Gilbey was an eminently practical man, and took a great interest in agriculture, and therefore he ventured, in the presence of his friends and the Messrs. Whiting, to ask whether there was not in Sir Walter Gilbey’s remarks something in the way of education as regards the great and noble pursuit of agriculture which might not with advantage be introduced into their schools. (Applause).Children might be permitted to work in the workshops of Nature, in the fields, where they would get a practical idea of nature. And when they got a home of their own, together with a small piece of land at a moderate rent, they might be able to build up a small farm, and thus they would be supporting what he regarded as the backbone of England – agriculture. (Applause). Thus they would be doing something towards stopping the failure of that great and important industry. He had always maintained that landlords did not want any relief out of the pockets of the ratepayers. (Hear, hear). If landlords would let their land at proper rents, and they had security of tenure, with freedom of cultivation, there would be plenty to make money, and then they would be able to jog along well together, and without the terrible apprehension of fiascos and danger ahead. (Applause). He would say a word or two in regard to the education of the country. They knew they had got Board Schools, but they were monstrously unpopular. Then they had Voluntary Schools, and he did not want to say a word against them; they had done a great, good, and practical service to the country, and had been worked and managed by good and practical men, but still he was bound to admit that the word “voluntary” was rather a misnomer. Voluntary Schools, as Voluntary Schools, in this country had ceased to exist. They were supported, to a great extent, out of the public purse, and he hoped the day was not far distant when there would be co-operation and they would have a certain amount pf public control over the Voluntary Schools as over the Board Schools. (Applause). He took one exception to a remark of the secretary, that it was owing to his kindness in granting land that Castlethorpe had been able to increase. He did not regard it as kindness, but a positive duty on the part of every man who owned land to share it with those who wished to have a small piece. (Applause). He did not mean to say that he desired to see every estate cut up, but a man ought to be able in their country towns and agricultural districts to obtain small plots of land. He was pleased to see the progress which had been made at Castlethorpe, and that day he had been over one of the homes and was delighted to see what a comfortable and happy home it was. (Applause). Such a condition, as the chairman had remarked, was good for themselves and their families, for they benefited, instead of, as in the big towns, the money finding its way into the pockets of the landlords. He was pleased to see the houses were such a success, and was glad there were other applications for land, and trusted that others would be good enough to let him know if they wanted an, and what their requirements were, and, as far as he could, he would do his best to grant them. (Applause). One other point he wished to mention, and that was a request had been made for land for a public recreation ground (applause), and personally he quite saw how necessary it was. The streets and lanes were not the places for children to play in, especially where the streets had sharp and dangerous corners where a cart might come round suddenly, as in Castlethorpe, and cause a fatal accident. Therefore he asked his friends the Messrs. Whiting, who were always ready to meet the wishes of their neighbours (applause), whether they could suggest any scheme, and they walked round together, and he had come to the conclusion that there was a field on the left-hand side of the railway, called “The Chequers” which would be well adapted for the purpose Messrs Whiting had a brook which ran through it that was necessary for their cattle, but with certain conditions as to right of path, &c., they were perfectly willing to give it up for recreation purposes. (Applause). He hoped they would permit him to call it “Lady Carrington’s Recreation Ground.” (Applause and hear, hear). It would be handed over to the Parish Council, and thus be placed under proper management, so that the fences could be properly repaired, and no damage caused to the cattle, or injury done by gates being left open, and the ground could then be kept in proper condition, so that it could be managed to the satisfaction of both parties. (Applause).He would say once more, not as a mere matter of form, but with all sincerity, that he wished them every possible success, and when they met together again his little boy might be grown up and come amongst them to greet so many old and esteemed friends. (loud applause).

Miss Edith Stapley, A.R.C.M., then gave a pretty and well-executed violin solo, entitled “Gypsy melodies.”

The Chairman remarked they must all have been pleased with the address of Earl Carrington, and he could not help thinking what a splendid thing it was when people came amongst them with the desire to make others happy. That appeared to him to be the pith of Earl Carrington’s remarks, and he hoped it would not be long before they had his presence amongst them again. (Applause).

The Rev. W. J. Harkness said when he first heard that Lord Carrington was coming to Castlethorpe he could hardly believe it, for knowing how many things he had to do-for he was not only a public man but a very popular one also-he scarcely thought he would be able to find time to visit that village. He ha been reading lately a good deal about some of the Roman Emperors who were very ignorant, and were kept in ignorance by the lieutenants, and he drew from that an inference that it would always be a good thing for the heads of affairs to come down from time to time to see how things were going on in matters in which they were interested, and not trust merely to their subordinates. He thought there was no subject more interesting than education; but, in his opinion, there were three requisites to its success. First, if their education was to be lasting and beneficial, as Christian men, they should see that it had a good moral foundation. (Applause). Secondly, schoolmasters or schoolmistresses ought to be a religious force in the village, and every facility should be given to boys and girls to obtain knowledge that would be useful to them in later life. And thirdly, every facility should be afforded scholars at village and town schools that would enable them to carry on the education taught in those schools. (Applause).

Song, “The bugler,” Mr. Woolliams.

Mr. Councillor Woollard said Earl Carrington had referred to dame Schools and he could carry his mind back some sixty-three of four years ago, when he went to Dame School, where they were taught to sew handkerchiefs and make napkins (laughter), and the boys and girls were taught to see who could best turn out a piece of needle work; but if any mother thought well to complain, the old Dame replied “It’s very little they pays me, and it’s littles I teach,” (Renewed laughter). The gradually grew up the Lancastrian system, but that was not particularly satisfactory. Unfortunately he lived in the town of Stony Stratford, where they had three wretched school, and he should be glad to see when he returned some of them in flames, for he did not know how they were to get rid of them otherwise. They were all incompetent, and all were literally in a starving condition. That was a condition of things which ought not to exist, and was indeed, a disgrace. He was therefore pleased they had given him the opportunity of attending there, and to see that beautiful school, which could not do any other than turn out good boys and girls, subsequently to become good men and women. (Applause).

Song, Miss Watkins; and violin solo, “Cavatina,” Miss Edith Stapley, A.R.C.M.

Mr. Rainbow, in an appropriate speech, proposed a hearty vote of thanks to Lord and Lady Carrington for so kindly coming amongst them that afternoon, which was seconded by Mr. Richardson, and suitably replied to by Lord Carrington.

Song, “Lord of the sea,” Mr. Impey.

Mr. Slade proposed a vote of thanks to the Chairman, which was seconded by Mr. J. E. Whiting, who after remarking that the School Board of Castlethorpe was more progressive than many villages, which might be accounted for in the fact that they had such an excellent milch-cow in the London and North-Western Railway, took exception to the remarks of Mr. Woollard in respect to Voluntary Schools, observing that he knew of several such schools where the work and the management was very satisfactory. (Applause).

Mr. Woollard, in reply, said he referred chiefly to the buildings, and thought if they had a Board School at Stony Stratford they would be able to do the work infinitely better.