The Magazine of Lenton Local History Society

Lenton Schools

School Rules OK - Well Eventually! - Issue 9 (Nov - Dec 1980)

Lenton Boulevard's Schools - Issue 44 (Feb - Mar 1987)

The Primary Reason For Celebration - Issue 44 (Feb - Mar 1987)

From 'The Lenton Listener' Issue 9

November to December 1980

School Rules OK - Well Eventually!

A Look at Schooling in Nottingham & Lenton in the 19th Century

At the start of the 19th century the average age for starting work in the lace or hosiery industries, which dominated Nottingham employment was seven or eight. You could say that the work these children did was not all that unpleasant when compared with that in the Potteries or mining areas. But, nevertheless, pleasant it was not. The children worked long hours - twelve hours was customary, eighteen not uncommon if business was brisk. Schooling simply played no part in a poor child's life.

Public charities, some with educational aims, had for some time been supported by members of the Nottingham middle classes in the hope of improving the lot of the poor. In the first place, schools were run on a Sunday so that working children could attend school on their rest day. Then between 1835 and 1870 there was a sudden growth in the number of day schools provided for the poor. These institutions were built and maintained by public donation and largely promoted by the Anglican Church. The first voluntary school in Lenton was built in 1841 on a site given by Francis Wright, one time High Sheriff of Nottingham. This building now houses the Sikh Temple on Church Street. By 1855, the school required considerable enlargement to accommodate greatly increased attendance in the boys school. On extension it housed 180 boys and 120 girls in separate parts of the building. In 1851 an Infant School to accommodate 200 children was established further down Church Street in the building recently vacated by River Scientific Ltd. This building was subsequently extended and much later in 1896 the infants and boys schools swapped round.

School Teacher's house - part of Lenton Church School.
Photograph by David Nicholson-Cole.

Elementary schools in Nottingham faced two major problems. Firstly children attended on average for between one and two years only and finished their schooling at about the age of 9. Even this short period was often interrupted by forays back into employment in factories when business was good. Secondly, schools were always short of funds relying as they did on voluntary donations.

There is little doubt that in the Lenton School what was known as the monitorial system would have been practised. In this system a teacher was assisted by a number of monitors chosen from the older pupils, and could be responsible for large numbers of children, in some schools up to 300 or more pupils. Any direct influence the teacher might have on the bulk of the pupils was lost and the progress of the monitors retarded because of the time they had to spend assisting younger children.

From 1846 onwards, though, came the introduction of pupil teachers and Lenton was among the first schools in Nottingham to have these apprentice teachers instead of monitors. The scheme was also a boon to teacher training which until that time had been pretty rudimentary - a week or two's observation learning the system and then a dive in at the deep end as teachers in their own right.

Inspectors in the 1850s were still recording very poor reports of the attainments of pupils in the voluntary schools. Over half the pupils leaving school were unable to read even simple narrative and the majority could not write without copying. Some of the pupils who had been in school a reasonable length of time had a rudimentary grasp of arithmetic - generally referred to then as accounts. Nearly all the girls would have learned sewing and knitting. Religious instruction was ever present throughout the schools.

An Inspector's report of 1854 states that Lenton Boys School was considered to be run efficiently and to have secured for itself a good, if not enthusiastic, reputation. Lenton School therefore seems to have been one of the better ones in Nottingham. The cost of an education for a Lenton pupil at the time varied from 1d to 3d per week. Whether the variation is related to the number of subjects studied or the age of the pupil is not known.

A copy of the architect's original drawing for Lenton Girls' School (now part
of Lenton Primary School). Picture courtesy of Nottingham Local History Library.

In 1870 Parliament passed the Education Act by which authorities locally elected had specific responsibility for education in their area - these were known as the School Boards. It was the Lenton School Board, which promoted the building of a public unsectarian school at the corner of Lenton Boulevard (then known as School Street) and Sherwin Road. This was to provide premises for a temporary school, which had started in 1871 in an empty factory in New Lenton. This school for 400 children was opened in 1874. As a result of the Borough Extension Act of 1877, the Lenton Schools were incorporated into the Nottingham School Board, which existed until 1903 when local Education Authorities were set up. The Board developed the site opposite the Unsectarian School (now Edna G. Olds Nursery) and by l887 erected further boys and girls schools in the buildings now forming part of Lenton Primary School.

The latter part of the century between 1870 and 1901 saw the transformation of elementary education in Nottingham. Compulsory attendance laws solved the problem of getting all children into school - most children stayed from five to thirteen, some children from five to eleven - and average attendance improved from 60% to 90%. The curriculum of the elementary schools was extended to include some science, practical cookery, manual work and a fair range of academic subjects. In fact so liberal was the Board's outlook that when the Education Authority assumed power one of its first tasks was to narrow the curriculum and cut out much advanced study. But then that, as they say, is another story.

Much of the detail used in this article was drawn from Education and Society in Nineteenth Century Nottingham (pub.1971) by David Wardle.

From 'The Lenton Listener' Issue 44

February to March 1987

Lenton Boulevard's Schools

Apart from a few Dame schools which operated from private residences, the first schools in Lenton were the National or Church Schools on Church Street, (the building now houses the Sikh Temple). This was built in 1841 and further enlarged in 1855. A separate Infant School was erected in 1851 beside the railway line (in the building which presently houses Trent Valley Restoration). In 1896 the Infant School premises were enlarged and given over to the Boys' School, the Infants being accommodated once more in the main building along with the Girls' School.

Unhappy that the children of fellow co-religionists could only be taught at a Church of England establishment, various local well-to-do non-conformists started a school in 1871, 'conducted upon purely unsectarian principles' and housed in an unoccupied factory somewhere in New Lenton. Following the Education Act of 1870 the Lenton School Board had come into existence in 1872, charged with ensuring that there was adequate educational provision within the parish of Lenton. It was soon brought to the Board's attention that the factory premises used by the unsectarian school were wholly inadequate to cater for all the children in attendance. Rather than set about the construction of new buildings themselves, the cost of which would have to come from the parish rates, the Board were content to permit the non-conformist community to raise the money for new school buildings, which were subsequently constructed on Lenton Boulevard (Edna G. Olds Nursery Unit is now housed there). The Lenton Public Un-sectarian Schools were formally opened by the Mayor of Nottingham on June 29th 1874. Three years later Lenton was absorbed into the Borough of Nottingham, following the Borough Extension Act of 1877, and Lenton's Unsectarian Schools were then handed over to the Nottingham School Board.

Photograph by Paul Bexon - 1987

The population of Lenton continued to grow rapidly at this time and it wasn't long before the Nottingham School Board was faced with chronic overcrowding at their newly acquired schools on Lenton Boulevard. After failing to secure temporary accommodation to relieve the situation, the Board decided to build a new Boys' School on the land across the road from the existing schools. This was built in 1887. Once the Boys' Elementary School took up residence there, which they did in early 1888, the Girls' Elementary and Infant Schools were able to share out the Boys' former premises between them. Further enlargement of the Schools was soon required and the Board had a new Girls' Elementary School constructed and opened in 1899 on land to the rear of the Boys' School. This cost £3,782 to build. At the same time building works to the tune of £3,634 10s. were carried out on the Boys' and Infants' Schools. Without being entirely clear as to what took place, the substantial sum involved suggests that major alterations or additions were carried out at this time.

Following the dissolution of School Boards in 1902 responsibility for these schools passed to Nottingham City Council. No major changes occurred until the 1930s. After the opening of the Cottesmore 'Central Schools, Lenton's Elementary Schools were both closed down in July 1932. In their place Lenton Junior School (Mixed) came into being and was housed in the buildings vacated by the Girls' and Boys'. The Junior School survived until 1969 when it was merged with the Infant School, still across the road, to form Lenton Primary School.

The infant classes moved into new buildings in 1974. This was initially to have been Phase 1 of a gradual redevelopment of the school. Phase 2 and any other ensuing phases appear to have remained stuck fast in the pipeline - a consequence of the shift of responsibility for education from .the City to the County Council. Part of the old Infant School building had been converted for use as a nursery and this became part of Edna G. Olds Primary School in 1969.

From 'The Lenton Listener' Issue 44

February to March 1987

The Primary Reason For Celebration

The date stone in our photograph can be found on Lenton Boulevard above the doorway in to Lenton Primary School. The Primary School, as such, has only been in existence for some seventeen years but, with a fellow feeling for its predecessors, the School is intent on celebrating the building's centenary in the coming year. After rooting through some of the school log books, Philip Ball, a teacher at the School, has written the following article which recalls a little of the Schools' past.

1887 saw the celebration of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. The Coal Mines Regulation Act was passed in that year and from that time onwards boys under 13 were not allowed underground. Britain annexed Zulu-land and in Trafalgar Square Irish agitators attended a socialist meeting and the ensuing trouble became the first 'Bloody Sunday'. It was also the year in which the Nottingham School Board undertook the construction of the building on Lenton Boulevard, which was subsequently occupied by Lenton Elementary Boys' School.

Lenton Elementary Girls' came and joined the Boys' on the site when the building shown below was opened in 1899. Later the buildings were given over to Lenton Junior School. Now Lenton Primary School are the present incumbents and so it falls to us to celebrate the buildings' official centenary. It has been an invigorating experience conjuring up historical highlights from the past one hundred years and I would like to share a few of them with you, gentle reader.

An Act of Parliament in 1876 required all children between the ages of 5 and 10 to attend school. Flora Thompson in her 'Lark-rise to Candleford' referred to one such place of learning. 'School began at nine but the children set off on their mile and a half walk as soon as possible after their seven o'clock breakfast. They carried their flat rush dinner baskets over their shoulders. In cold weather some of them carried potatoes.....The one large classroom had several windows. Beyond was a playground enclosed with white painted palings. ....The girls wore ankle-length frocks and long straight pinafores, the bigger boys in corduroys and hob-nailed boots the smaller ones in home-made sailor suits or petticoats if they were under seven..... Reading, writing and arithmetic were the main subjects with a scripture lesson every morning and needlework every afternoon for the girls.'

Lenton Girls' School and its teachers in about 1918
The ladies in the photograph are Miss Friar, Miss Wheat, Miss Saxelby, Miss
Robertson, Miss Lizzie Friar, Miss Lloyd and Miss Symonds.
The photo comes from the Lenton Local History Society archive.

The population of Lenton continued to grow rapidly at this time and it wasn't long before the Nottingham School Board was faced with chronic overcrowding at their newly acquired schools on Lenton Boulevard. After failing to secure temporary accommodation to relieve the situation, the Board decided to build a new Boys' School on the land across the road from the existing schools. This was built in 1887. Once the Boys' Elementary School took up residence there, which they did in early 1888, the Girls' Elementary and Infant Schools were able to share out the Boys' former premises between them. Further enlargement of the Schools was soon required and the Board had a new Girls' Elementary School constructed and opened in 1899 on land to the rear of the Boys' School. This cost £3,782 to build. At the same time building works to the tune of £3,634 10s. were carried out on the Boys' and Infants' Schools. Without being entirely clear as to what took place, the substantial sum involved suggests that major alterations or additions were carried out at this time.

Perhaps closer to the Lenton reality are the recollections of Sheila Carpenter, published in Issue 22 of The Lenton Listener. She recalls her Lenton childhood in the 1920s, 'At the age of 4½ years it was time for school. My mother took me along to the infants' school on Lenton Boulevard. I wore a handkerchief pinned to my dress and carried my lunch (a piece of toast, wrapped in brown paper) - no greaseproof paper, plastic bags or Tupperware boxes in those days. I clearly remember that first day - even down to the position of the chairs, benches and the teacher's desk and the large cards fixed to the walls, each carrying one letter of the alphabet with a suitable picture underneath. When I was seven, I moved up to the Elementary School with its entrance on Albert Road. Memories of this institution were on the whole quite pleasant, though I was occasionally given the 'strap' for not learning how to spell the words that were put on the board at the beginning of each week. Dad eventually visited the headmistress and put a stop to this form of punishment. Chatterboxes were invited to stand on their seats with their hands on their heads and individuals not paying attention to their lessons often felt a sharp rap on their knuckles with a ruler. I could never cope with knitting lessons and in the early days, used to sit with a pair of thick wooden pins and hairy wool, just passing the stitches from one needle to the other - no progress at all! In my last year at the school I became a monitor, helping to mix the powdered ink, but that job was short-lived as I dropped a whole tray of heavy glass inkwells. I still remember spouting 'poetry' with great vigour. At Easter we were taught 'Think on this sacred festival; think why Cross Buns were given; then think of Him who died for all, to give you right to Heaven'. Of course, we preferred to chant 'Hot Cross Buns, Hot Cross Buns, one a penny, two a penny, Hot Cross Buns.'

There are many rich and fascinating memories buried deep in the log books kept at the Schools. They provide further information on school life. For instance on January 8th 1923 the head teacher records in the log that 'the attendance is only fair, many children are absent owing to measles and chicken pox.' Things were little better three years later, for on 23rd February 1926, 'attendance has fallen considerably owing to measles and influenza'. Another reminder of medical conditions is indicated on 22nd March 1934 which reads 'nurse examined children's throats and took three swabs in Class 1 following two cases of diphtheria reported. Disinfectant has been freely used in school'.

Pupils from Lenton Boy's School c.1910
Photograph courtesy of Nottingham Local Studies Library

Multicultural education was alive and well, although admittedly in a somewhat different form, because on May 24th 1927 the schools celebrated Empire Day with 'a special feature of a display of Empire Productions, consisting of raw materials, Australian apples, currants etc., Indian tea, rice etc., sugar, bananas, tinned fruit etc.'.

Charity featured prominently in April 1929. The school took part in 'Hospital Egg Week'. The school collected two hundred and forty two eggs, which were sent to the General Hospital. Creativity was also much to the fore on 'Open Day' in December 1932, when 'the children gave a programme in the hall consisting of dances, recitations and dramatised stories'.

The years of the Second World War loom large in the history of the Schools. During the 'phoney' war period the Infant School was evacuated to Worksop on the 5th September 1939. However, on the 3rd October the School 'returned from Worksop' and remained open for business all through the war, with one or two minor exceptions. On the 5th June 1940 a number of children were re-registered under a new plan of evacuation and for good measure 47 cases of measles were reported. The Infant logbook for 28th August 1940 records that the morning session began at 10 am 'owing to an air raid warning'. This happened seven more times in the next two months during the period known as the Battle of Britain. To cope with local circumstances new school times were introduced in November 1940. School opened between 9-30 and 12.30 and between 2 and 4 pm. Academic life was still occasionally disturbed by the threat of war. On the 9th May 1941 the schools were closed all day 'owing to an unexploded bomb in the near neighbourhood.'

Despite their own adversity the pupils turned their efforts towards raising money for the troops. An entry in the Infant school logbook for 30th September 1941 shows that '£57 10s. 0d. was saved in the National Savings during September. The target was £50 to buy rubber dinghies'. Even during the Christmas holidays the Infant school was an important part of community life as it opened every day from 10.30 to 11.30 am for the distribution of milk for the children. Across the road at the Junior school on July 3rd 1943 'seven children were put out on firewatchers' beds in the yard as an experiment; the Headmaster having been struck with obvious signs of fatigue in the faces of the children. These seven children fell fast asleep and slept from 11am until noon when it was necessary to wake them'. The Junior's own war effort was reflected by the fact that on the 12th May 1944 the school reported that it had collected 5,064 books in a Book Drive for the Forces. By 22nd May the total had increased to 8,461 books.

The neighbourhood also had several notable celebrity visitors during this time. On the 3rd March 1943 school was dismissed 'from the morning session at 12.05 pm in order that those attending the canteen might get dinner early. These children (30) were then taken by 3 members of staff to Derby Road to see their Majesties the King and Queen'. On the 26th October 1945 school had a half day holiday 'granted in honour of the visit of General Eisenhower to the City'.

A 1987 contingent from Lenton Primary School
Photograph by Paul Bexon

Moving forward in time there is reference in the Junior log to a rather hectic day trip to London on the 12th May 1966 'following a coach tour and river trip to the Cutty Sark, the party split into groups, visiting the City of London, the Zoo, Kensington Science Museum, the Tower and Greenwich College'.

Remonstrating pupils has always been an integral part of school life as witnessed in the following. 'A pupil has today been distributing considerable sums of money. Investigation showed that he had taken £5 from his aunt, at home, and changed the note by purchasing a ball from a local shop. £4 10s 11½d was recovered and the rest accounted for'. This was on the 14th March 1967.

The schools have apparently always been fairly conscious of the local media. One of the possible 'highlights' of such a liaison must have happened on the 17th October 1968 when it was noted in the log that 'a photographer from the Post took pictures of the gerbils this morning'.

The Infant and Junior Schools were eventually merged on the 18th July 1969 when a short statement 'school closed and reorganised' marked the end of one era and the beginning of another. On the 2nd October 1974 the Infant School moved across from their old building to a new one now known as Unit 1. The children walked 'holding aloft one furry. Bugs Bunny' - an event still celebrated today on an annual basis as part of our school tradition.

Possibly the biggest event of the 1970s came when Doug Scott conquered Everest in September 1975. His wife, Jan, was a teacher at this school at the time and we featured heavily in all aspects of media coverage. Doug himself and several of the sherpas involved in the expedition visited the school in the ensuing months. A party was held featuring Everest cakes and Jan eventually went off with her son, Michael, to join Doug in Kathmandu.

One hundred years on from 1887 we have Queen Elizabeth with quite a few more years to go before her Golden Jubilee. British Coal has made considerable strides in the past century and what was the British Empire is now linked as a federation of independent states known as the Commonwealth. There are sadly still political problems in Northern Ireland, as well as in South Africa. Amidst our ever-changing world, however, there remains Lenton Primary School, all set to celebrate our own place in history.


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