All Saints’ Schools, Upper Norwood

A History of the All Saints’ Schools from 1834 to 1984. Leslie Foster 1985.

This is an account of the life of the All Saints’ Schools of Upper Norwood. It is a story which began in 1834 when Norwood was a charming and prosperous village of 3,000 people. It was a favourite haunt of London’s ‘Society’ who visited it to taste the mineral waters of Beulah Spa and enjoy its beautiful pleasure grounds.

The Year 1834 was an interesting one. William IV was on the throne and Sir Robert Peel, who had founded the London Police Force five years earlier, was Prime Minister. Both Houses of Parliament were destroyed by a fire which raged for several days. Samuel Coleridge Taylor, the poet, died during the year and earthquakes were reported in Chichester and Portsmouth.

Earthquakes of a different kind were felt that year in Britain and overseas. The end of slavery in the British Empire was celebrated in London but there were signs of industrial and agricultural unrest throughout England. In Leeds 3,000 woollen workers went on strike against their ‘masters’ who refused to employ members of a union. At Dorchester Assizes six farm labourers, who have since been known as the Tolpuddle Martyrs, were sentenced to seven years’ transportation for demonstrating unlawfully.

The Start of All Saints’ Against this social background, a year before the first Education Department was established in England, and three years before Queen Victoria’s reign began, a school started in Norwood. Strangely the date of the building is unknown, although, like the Church, it was designed by Sir James Savage. The date of the centenary celebrations would place its start in 1838 but it appears that there was a Dame’s School on the site four years before. The School probably began as a Sunday School attached to All Saints’ Church.

There is little doubt that the School was started by middle-class members of the congregation anxious to train the increasing number of poor children in the parish. In 1838 there were three separate departments under three head teachers and, although the School was a great success, it never seems to have been quite big enough. The Trust Deed of the School was signed in 1849 and it appears that the land was given, or sold, by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The School was to be ‘Church of England by usage’ and be held in trust for solely educational purposes under the trusteeship of the Vicar.

Enlargements to the School were made in 1864 when it was united with the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor. The parish erected a schoolroom at a cost of £700 but it was a great task to raise that huge sum. After a bit of an argument the Society chipped in with £15 to furnish the room with desks and forms!

Education in the Nineteenth Century.

There is a written record of the story of the School since 1866 when the Log Books started. They paint a clear picture of educational conditions in the last century. Teachers were hard to find and the normal staffing was one Head Teacher with as many monitors as it was possible to train. The Head taught the monitors who tried to teach the children or ‘hear the lesson’. Learning was a feat of memory helped along by the Head’s stout cane.

The monitorial system gave way to the employment of Pupil–Teachers. These were introduced by Dr Kay Shuttleworth of the Norwood Poor Law School. This has previously been known as Aubin’s School from the name of its Manager. St. Aubyn’s Road was named after this man who is the only School Manager to be falsely canonised* as there is no such Saint in the Calendar!

The Pupil Teachers started their training when they were little more than children. They had to have a testimonial (as did their parents) and a medical certificate before they were allowed to begin their apprenticeship,. In 1890 one trainee was advised to ‘attend to his Geography and History and also to his Arithmetic and Euclid’. The poor lad had not ‘proper control of his classes’ and this led to changing the school policy of taking Pupil-Teachers from among the boys they taught. However, this particular trainee eventually obtained a post as Assistant at Streatham with a salary of £50 a year!

*There is such a Saint (a French one), as visitors to Jersey will know! Ed.

Payment by Results.

One of the worst features of the educational system of a hundred years ago was something called ‘Payment by Results’. All children had to sit examinations in the 3 R’s to pass from one ‘standard’ to the next. A grant to the school was paid on the results of these exams. This, of course, led to teaching where the emphasis was on instruction rather than education. Mathew Arnold, the poet, was an educationist and an Inspector of Schools. He said that it was possible to get children through these examinations without their knowing how to read, write and ‘cipher’.

The school log-books show how the teachers drilled the children for months before the Inspectors came. In 1879 the Headmaster wrote:

‘I don’t see how the exam is to be passed. Standard III has not yet conquered Long Division as there are several boys pretty backward. Arithmetic seems to come very hard to these boys’.

The Inspectors agreed and reported that there were several failures in Arithmetic.

By 1882 either the Headmaster had become more persuasive or the pupils were more attentive. The Inspector’s report for that year said that ‘the boys had passed a good examination in elementary and special subjects’. The grant was increased from £68 to £74.

Reading was by repetition to ensure that the set book was literally learned by heart. There was no reading for pleasure or information. However, still in 1882, the Headmistress wrote in her log:

‘Standards V and VI read twice during the week from unseen readers and fairly well’.

Over the years All Saints’ School impressed the Inspectors with its steady progress. In 1894 the Boys’ School received its highest grant of about £1 a head on an average of £84 with £1 for the Pupil-Teacher.

Children’s Attendance

One of the great troubles last century was that of children’s poor attendance at school. Although attendance was made compulsory in 187 0, it was difficult to enforce. Not many children had birth certificates and it was not certain what was the school-leaving age. Many children worked before, during and after school hours. In 1871 the Headmistress complained that some girls had returned to school after being ‘in service’ as maids. The same year the Headmaster wrote that Standard V was attending only half-time because the boys were working at houses in Norwood during the mornings.

Any excuse was enough to keep children from school: hay-making, Guy Fawkes’ Day and Treats in the locality are listed in the log-books as causes of absences. Crystal Palace was a great attraction to truants, and festivals, choirs, concerts and entertainments are often quoted as reasons for absences. The School Board Man seems to have been very busy rounding up offenders, and the Head Teachers were always complaining of the sin of truancy, especially before the exams.

Another cause of absence was that the poorest children could not afford the fees. In 1873 the Headmistress noted that many fathers were out of work and unable to send their children to school. One girl was always being sent home for her fees ‘she being a poor payer’. In 1891 this situation eased a bit. The Headmaster wrote that it was the first week of free education: boys and girls were being charged only two pence a month with Infants quite free! Some children attended very well indeed. For three years at the end of the century two boys had 100% attendances. Of course one of them was accepted as a Pupil-Teacher shortly afterwards.

The School and Parish

From the school records it is possible to piece together a picture of life in Norwood a hundred years ago. The most important figure in the parish was the parson who visited the School most days. His wife was also involved in the life of the School and one found the girls very useful. She sent ‘a half-dozen towels to be hemmed’ and ‘received one nightshirt, 2 nightdresses and 4 shirts finished and sent to the Parsonage’. Other ladies also sent sewing to the school ’to occupy the girls ‘. One of them was continually sending ‘a half-dozen pairs of wristbands to be made by the children’.

This intervention in school affairs was often inspired by charitable motives. The ladies of 100 years ago, who visited to give ‘buns to the little ones’ and ‘2 little shifts to the 2 best children’ obviously had the kindest intentions. As also had a certain Admiral* who was a local landowner. Every autumn for eighteen years he provided gifts of clothing and necessities to the children. A half-holiday followed the distribution of the largesse.

To the end of the century the School was dependent on the Parsonage for its supplies of slates, books, pencils, ink, coal and sewing-cotton. In return the School made a full contribution to the life of the Church by the children’s participation in Saints’ Days and Festivals.

*Admiral Cary (later the Earl of Falkland) of nearby Grangehurst no doubt. Ed.

Cramped Conditions

During its first 60 years the School flourished and its numbers increased. Several minor alterations were carried out and there are constant references to repairs and decorations. By 1900 the Head Teachers were helped by higher grants and assistance from the National Society and so became independent of the Church for educational supplies. The building itself remained the Church’s responsibility. The School was so overcrowded at the turn of the century that the Heads complained that ‘there is neither room to draw or write properly’. An extension was added to a classroom in 1937 but, apart from small additions, the old All Saints’ School was never enlarged but remained its original building until its demolition.

Clifford Cartwright

For almost the first half of this century All Saints’ school was dominated by the personality of Mr. Clifford Cartwright F.R.C.D. He was appointed Headmaster of the Boys’ School in 1915 and became Head of the combined Schools in the 1920’s. During his 37 years at All Saints’ he was organist, choirmaster and churchwarden. It was during his time that the School became known as the Academy on the Hill. The Staff were all graduates and many of them later became Heads of Secondary Schools. The School enjoyed a great reputation until the Second World War dispersed the children and staff. The Church’s bombing and decline in the 1940’s had an inevitably bad effect on the School.

Controlled Status

The decline in the 1940’s meant that there was no money available in the Church funds to maintain the fabric of the building. This was in such a bad state in 1953 that it became necessary for the School to be controlled by the Local Education Authority which took over the maintenance of the building.

The task of building the School’s reputation, and restoring the fabric, was an exciting one. The School slowly revived in the 1950’s through the help of Croydon’s Education Committee, the support of the School Managers, the co-operation of a loyal teaching staff and the growth of a strong, vigorous and articulate Parent-Teacher Association. The School was made rain-proof and central heating replaced the open fires. The building was redecorated and new cloakrooms and lavatories were built. The PTA worked had and long to raise vast sums of money to provide equipment and supplies to augment the Authority’s allowance.

Educational Developments

It so happened that the rise in the School’s fortunes coincided with the dramatic changes which were taking place in schools throughout the country. These changes affected the nature of primary education and, in particular, the teaching of mathematics and science. These entailed changes in methods of teaching and in the content of syllabuses. The methods were influenced by the work of the Piagetian school of psychology, by the advent of the computer and other calculating devices, and by the Nuffield Teaching Projects.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s the All Saints’ Schools became models of development in modern education. Thousands of visitors were attracted to Upper Norwood to see children learning through carefully structured experiences. During these years the Schools provided a centre where other teachers could see developments in the use of structured apparatus and in the way that mathematical and scientific concepts are drawn from children’s practical experiences.

New Buildings.

There had been plans for rebuilding the School in 1939 but these had to be shelved because of the War. In the 1950’s the whole community of the Parish, Church, School Managers and Parents insisted that the children in their care be provided with a building more suitable to the times and their educational needs. With the support of Croydon Council, the Chief Education Officer and Mr. Fred Harris, M.P., the age of the building was brought to the attention of the House of Commons and to Mr Christopher Chattaway who was the Minister of Education. It was a great victory when permission was given, for the first time in educational history, for plans to be put into the Education Estimates for 1955. Work on the new schools began in January 1966 and was completed by September of the next year. They were opened by the Chief Education Officer on All Saints’ Day 1967. Among the principal guests were Mr. and Mrs. Fred Harris, and representatives of all the bodies responsible in some way for resurrecting the All Saints’ Schools. These comprised a Junior Mixed Church of England Voluntary Controlled School and a County Infants’ School. They were differently designated as, by law, it was not possible to increase the size of the existing building without losing its Trust Deed Status. Unfortunately, much against the wishes of many, the original buildings were demolished in 1971.

The Present

Unfortunately the new school buildings proved to have serious faults. The flat roofs leaked within a few years of the Schools’ opening and children working amongst buckets to catch the rainwater became a common occurrence. The windowsills and frames began to rot and much of the chipboard and plywood used in parts of the structure began to give way. School Managers, teachers and parents had again to campaign for essential repair work to be carried out and eventually the Schools were re-roofed. For a period during the later 1970’s the Schools came under pressure as the number of children of primary school age increased and the Education Authority provided an additional classroom which was built on the School field. As this ‘bulge’ in the birth rate declined space became available for a school library and, with money provided by parents through Summer Fetes and Markets at Christmas, one room was equipped with library shelving and now stores several thousand books.

The Junior School has eight classes with just under thirty children in each class. There are ten full-time teachers including the Head and a number of visiting teachers who assist with music. Close links are still maintained with the Church, the Vicar visiting weekly to take assembly, and a school service is held in church every term. The annual Carol Service always attracts a large congregation of parents and friends as the School has become noted for its high standards in music. Today’s children not only have access to very many books but also to a whole range of aids to learning which would have astonished both pupils and teachers of years gone by. They include radio and television programmes, audio- and video-tapes as well as film strips, film and computer discs. With the aid of the computer children of junior age now can write a story or poem which can then be stored on disc or printed out in seconds and then reproduced in hundreds of copies for others to read.

While all these advances are of great value, the School maintains its belief that direct first-hand experience is the most important aid to learning and so children are encouraged in a variety of practical experiences and educational visits. In recent years parties of All Saints’ children have visited Snowdonia, and climbed to the summit of Snowdon, crossed the Channel to camp in Dieppe to visit many parts of Normandy and Paris and undertaken field trips to outdoor educational centres for work in Geography and Science.

In 1984 the Schools celebrated the 150th Anniversary of their foundation. On 8th November, a service was held in church attended by the Mayor of Croydon, the Chairman of the Education Committee, the Director of Education and other guests. Following the service the Mayor planted an oak tree in the School grounds and the children released nearly 250 balloons from the School playground. The balloons travelled North across London over Lincoln and on to Scotland, where the furthest reached Grampian. So news of the School’s celebrations travelled nationwide!

At the end of this 150th year a box containing children’s work, photographs, a computer disc, sound tape, film and other items from 1984/85 was sealed and hidden away for safe-keeping for children of a later age to discover. One wonders what education will be like for children of perhaps the 22nd Century who open this time capsule of life today.

© The Norwood Society, Registered Charity 285547
https://www.norwoodsociety.co.uk/

Go to top