Wythenshawe's Schools

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EARLY SCHOOLING IN WYTHENSHAWE

In 1801 Joseph Lancaster founded the system named after him of un­denominational elementary schools in urban districts maintained by the British and Foreign School Society. Ten years later in 1811, the National Society began the institution of Church of England schools until one or more schools were provided in almost every parish, their control being in the hands of the clergy. There were some factory schools such as that of Robert Owen. Ragged schools began to teach the children of the destitute.

In Wythenshawe we see from the Directories that there was the Infant School in Northenden in 1841. It was built in the previous year and that Susan Ormerod was the schoolmistress in 1848. The Methodist (Wesleyan) Chapel was erected in 1828 and ran an Infant and Sunday School. Mr. Richardson was a schoolmaster at the poor school at Heyhead in Etchells which is shown on the 1839 tithe map and is described as a National School in the Apportionment Schedule in 1843. 

‘Sharson’ (or Sharston) School at the NE end of Sharson Green on the Estate Map was erected some years before 1814 when it was conveyed by William Tatton to five trustees to provide on land given by him;
‘for the instruction of young children, both male and female, and for the use of such man of prudence and discretion and sufficient capacity as the trustees should elect to reside on the premises as a schoolmaster, to teach such males, reading, spelling, writing and accounts, and such females, reading writing and accounts with sewing, and knitting as should apply to the trustees and be approved by them'.

Some early accounts survive in the Royle collection. Some additional money was given by James Coope and Samuel Gardiner to instruct poor children in the principles of the estab­lished Church. The Charity Commissioners' Report published in 1837 noted the affairs of the school were neglected and the accounts in confusion. William Richardson was schoolmaster from 1817 onwards at £30 a year and was still listed there in the 1841 Directory but at the time of their visit he was confined to his room through ill health and 'not capable of much exertion in teaching the children, but his place is supplied by his son who was represented to us to be equally competent'.

The school was conducted by Thomas Richardson, evidently William's son, until 1853. The school was probably sited at Sharston rather than Northenden because this area was more central geographically for the whole parish, and was also on an important well-maintained road. 

The second half of the nineteenth century saw many significant develop­ments in the provision of education in Wythenshawe. These developments give illustration to the theme of the extension of government involvement in the lives of the people. In 1850 there were just three schools in the area. The Infants' school in Ford Lane, Northenden, built in 1840, where Susan Ormerod was the schoolmistress; and the National School, in its second building built in 1842, at Sharston, where Thomas Richardson was the master, served the northern part of Wythenshawe.

There was also a small National school, dating from 1835, at Shadow Moss in the control of an uncertificated teacher.

It is possible that there was a dame school at the house of 73 year old Elizabeth Smith at Heyhead. The Congregationalists in Baguley opened a school near the Turnpike Road during the 1860s. Thus all the educational opportunity offered in the area was provided by the churches, with the help of a government grant.

‘Sharson’ (or Sharston) School was erected some years before 1814 when it was conveyed by William Tatton to five trustees to provide on land given by him;
‘for the instruction of young children, both male and female, and for the use of such man of prudence and discretion and sufficient capacity as the trustees should elect to reside on the premises as a schoolmaster, to teach such males, reading, spelling, writing and accounts, and such females, reading writing and accounts with sewing, and knitting as should apply to the trustees and be approved by them'.

William Richardson was schoolmaster from 1817 onwards at £30 a year and was still listed there in the 1841 Directory but at the time of their visit he was confined to his room through ill health and 'not capable of much exertion in teaching the children, but his place is supplied by his son who was represented to us to be equally competent'.

The school was conducted by Thomas Richardson, evidently William's son, until 1853. The school was probably sited at Sharston rather than Northenden because this area was more central geographically for the whole parish, and was also on an important well-maintained road. 

Thomas Richardson was succeeded by Joseph Bancroft in 1853 and then for two years John Richardson, who was later to be the assistant overseer of the poor, took charge of the school. The first log book still in existence begins in 1862 when Thomas Gullon was the master. The master was helped in the teaching by a sewing mistress and some monitors, chosen from the older pupils. In 1864 an older pupil Hannah Lomax of Holly Edge Farm was engaged as a monitor at a salary of £5 a year. Following the Revised Code of 1862 the school concentrated on teaching reading, writing and elementary arithmetic together with religious instruction and sewing. These were taught to such a satisfactory extent that the Inspector's report of 1866 declared that 'the master may safely give as large an amount of general knowledge as time will permit'.

By 1868 the size of the school at Sharston was considered inadequate and there was a danger of forfeiting the government grant. The Trustees decided they would have to build a new school. £300 was made available by the Charity commissioners, considerable sums were subscribed by Mr. Tatton, Mr. G. B. Worthington and Mr. Watkin and lesser amounts from many other local residents. In this way the £1000 needed to build the school was raised and it was opened on 24 July 1869 with a special tea for the pupils. 

In August 1869 the Parish Magazine announced,
'that the number of free scholars remains as before - 20; also that the fees for the children of ordinary day labourers remain the same; but that the children of small occupiers and persons above the condition of day labourers pay sixpence per week in the upper classes of the school, fourpence per week in the lower, that the children of farmers and persons for whom no government grant can be expected pay 10/6d per quarter. Parents who desire to have their children instructed in extra subjects to receive it in extra hours at an additional charge of 10/6 a quarter.'

At this time although there were 34 children in attendance, no government grant was available for the school at Shadow Moss because the school was not under a certified teacher. As the building would not meet the government requirements under the 1870 Education Act and the Sharston schools were too far for the children from Heyhead, a new school was built at Shadow Moss and opened in November 1871 with Mr. Henry Cubbin in charge. This building contained a schoolroom 40' long by 18' wide and a house containing a parlour, kitchen, scullery and three bedrooms. This Church school later became the William Temple Church on Simonsway.

The building of these schools together with the Congregational school at Baguley meant that there was adequate provision of education for the children of the area and therefore there was no need to raise a rate to build a Board School.

One of the great difficulties facing the teachers in the eighteen-seventies was the problem of absenteeism. Many parents required the children to help with the farming and the market gardens at certain times of the year so that the log books frequently include statements such as:
'1873, July  ii. Attendance on the decrease owing to the garden fruit ripening, strawberries, peas, etc.' at Shadow Moss, and at Sharston:
'1875 July 26. The attendance still very small, many children arc required at home to pick fruit etc.'

Generally it was the older children who were required to work in the fields and although the schools generally received good reports there was concern about the progress of the older children. New by-laws were passed in 1878 in an effort to improve attendance and a school attendance officer was appointed. This job was added to those already performed by the Relieving Officer and after 1880 it was possible to bring the parent of persistent absentees before the magistrates at Stockport where they could be fined or, as in the case of one parent in Northen Etchels, imprisoned.

The master of Sharston school, Henry Goldie, held the post till 1889 when C. H. Royle succeeded him and received a total salary of £30 for the period of three months. Florence Martin was the monitress who later became an assistant teacher till 1923. The school text books and other equipment are interesting. Didsbury College library has some examples of readers, arithmetic books, spelling and grammar books of this period.

Attendance gradually improved as the century came to a close, but Sharston proved an exception where in 1890 the attendance officer described the attendance as 'by far the most irregular in his district'. The reason commonly given for this was the fact that most of the children lived in the rapidly expanding village of Northenden and had to walk to Sharston to school. The journey was often over poor roads and if the children were caught in the rain they had to be sent home again, con­sequently bad weather always brought a considerable drop in attendance. By 1890 there was an increasing demand for the school to be located in Northenden.

Another difficulty which affected progress was the prevalence of infectious diseases. Parents kept children away from school when there was an outbreak of mumps, measles, diptheria or scarlet fever. Six pupils at Shadow Moss died of diptheria in 1877. In the 1880s the school managers closed the schools during epidemics, a practice that was intensified after the appointment of a Medical Officer of Health by the Bucklow Rural District Council in 1894.

On 20 October 1879 a further school opened in Wythenshawe. This was St. John's School at Baguley under the management of the Brooklands Road Church.

In 1883 Emily Gresty began as the schoolmistress in charge and stayed at the school for forty years. As in other schools she was helped by monitors or pupil teachers to whom she would try to give additional instruction during the day or after the smaller children had gone home. The pupil teachers were inspected annually and sat for examinations which enabled them to  qualify to teach.

In 1876, for example, Matilda Royle of Brownlow Green was among the first to qualify in this way in the Wythenshawe area after five years apprenticeship, but many lacked Matilda's ability and knowledge and so exposed the schools to the weaknesses of the pupil-teacher system.

Towards the end of the 1870s Northenden was becoming increasingly identified in the region as a pleasant place for week-end trips. The influx of visitors seems to have increased considerably after the building of the new bridge and by 1879 the Parish Magazine found it necessary to warn that 'On Good Friday we must expect to be again visited by crowds and it is hoped that not only those who trade in intoxicating drinks but that others who may have intercourse with the visitors will do their best by example and practice to defend the moral character of our village.'

Several refreshment rooms were opened in the village as people took advantage of Northenden's expanding reputation. In 1876 Robert Parkinson, when chosen as one of the Overseers of the Poor, was described as a 'restauranteur'. Five years earlier the Census had described him as a cotton merchant and a farmer, living at Oak House. Although certain places are specifically described as refreshment rooms in the Directories, six in 1894, many other people took advantage of the trade to the extent that in 1887 Tomlinson recorded that 'The village houses are, almost without exception, tea places; and a fine business they do on this afternoon of the week in tea, ham, and eggs, muffins and bread and butter.' This source of income for Northenden continued well into the next century for the school master at Northenden was frequently to complain as he did in April 1903 of 'a very slack attendance throughout the week. Many children are assisting their parents in preparing their houses for the visitors expected at Easter.' Further evidence of this enter­tainment offered by Northenden may be found in T. A. Coward's ‘Picturesque Cheshire’, which in 1902 notes that
'Northenden is a strange place now, much resorted to by trippers from Manchester on Saturday and Sunday. It is not the fine old church they go to visit, but the swing-boats and booths and the river, for here the Mersey is navigable for craft of a sort.'

In 1906 the Cheshire Lines committee who controlled the local railway 
issued an official illustrated guide in which it was asserted that
'This scattered village or township is a favourite resort of Manchester people, the river Mersey being here available for boating for several miles, with good accommodation provided for pleasure and picnic parties.'

When Sharston school was closed it became famous as the 'Sharston Tea Rooms'.