Record numbers attended this, the first meeting of 2017. Fifty five people squeezed into the room where members were treated to their usual teas and coffees, but chairs appeared from the museum and the house to ensure that everyone had a seat.
Programmes for the year were made available for everyone but Geraint apologised that some did not include an amendment that involved a change in May and June. It should have:
1st May Shirley Morgan – ‘Sale of Ormathwaite Estate’
5th June Andy Johnson – ‘The Old Walkways of Radnorshire’
Despite the large number of people present there were only 2 new Members: Sue and Tony Cook from Crossgates.
Geraint welcomed Jenny back to the fold after some personal challenges. He paid tribute to the work that she has done in transcribing the Admissions Book from Llandegley School. Despite the challenges she has faced, Jenny has made significant progress which Geraint described as more of a ‘work of art’ rather than simple transcribing. Jenny told us that, while the writing was often in beautiful copperplate handwriting, the wording had faded and it was a long process of examining each word and line with a magnifying glass before she could make sense of what was written. One of the challenges however she attributed to a grandchild who had managed to get a Remembrance Day Poppy into the mechanism of her printer! Geraint explained again, to ease concerns of some members that the Admissions Book was in transition from the Oak Chest in the Church to Powys Archives. He has just slowed the movement down to obtain a transcription due to the concern that once it is in the Archives it may become very difficult to gain access to it again as any information about ‘children’ can be blocked. Geraint told members that they could look at Jenny’s transcription later in the morning and see for themselves how brilliantly she has included, not just the straight transcript, explanations about the context she has found in the Admissions Book.
It being Norma’s ‘21st birthday’ we wished her many happy returns.
Main Topic: Llandegley School – Geraint Hughes
Education in Llandegley, as in other places, did not start with a school. Schooling would have gone on from time immemorial informally in the home, in churches, and with private tutors. Schools have formalised the process of education but people have always invested in their children, and children have wanted to learn from much earlier times. It was in the middle of the 16th century that the first interest in the promotion of educational opportunities in Llandegley began to show itself. A Will witnessed by David ap Rees ap Ieuan Athro in 1572, and prebends, church tithes, were collected in Llandegley to provide education for a Prebendary at Christ College, Brecon (founded in 1283). The Prebendary, Thomas Huet, who had no direct connection with Llandegley, later collaborated with Richard Davies and William Salesbury in the translation into Welsh of the New Testament in 1567, particularly the Book of Revelation.
By the end of the 17th century and into the 18th century schooling in this part of Wales was almost non-existent. The Churchwardens at Llandegley wrote in 1694:
“we have neither hospitall, alms house nor any school in our parish, no doctor of physick, midwife nor chirurgeon”.
By 1721 things were no better across the Diocese, Eramus Saunders wrote:
“there are no Welsh schools and but rarely any English ones, except it be in market towns”.
During this period there was a movement in Wales towards the development of schools. In 1674 Thomas Gouge’s Welsh Trust led to the establishment of 400 schools. A further 180 schools were set up in 1699 by the SPCK, and in a separate initiative the Revd Griffith Jones of Llanddowror founded Circulating Schools, in 1737. These latter schools were set up to cover certain seasons rather than a permanent presence. One did visit Llanbadarn Fawr over a few winters, but there is no record that they ever came to Llandegley.
In the same year that Erasmus Saunders raised concerns about the state of education in the diocese, Samuel Williams died, 1721. He was a Churchwarden of Llandegley and in his Will he left £40 to the Vicar and Churchwardens:-
‘for ye educating and teaching of some poor children of ye parish of Llandegloy’.
Intriguingly Samuel Williams signed documents with a cross, which would suggest that he was illiterate. This however might not be the case. Geraint himself had a relative in the past who also signed with a cross. He was literate but did not want to be seen as someone who was acting above his station, or putting his head above the parapet.
His generosity did lead to the school being developed. In 1738 The Vicar and Churchwardens purchased 17 acres and a house at Port -ys-y-Gyrthe to provide the salary for a teacher. School met in the church tower or in a room at the west end of the church.
Geraint is convinced that some education would have been taking place in the Church prior to that date but there are no records of this period.
When, in 1772, Charles Thomas was appointed to the role of schoolmaster it is of note that his qualifications were:
“qualified to teach an English school with writing and accompts”
The schoolmaster’s teaching, it can be assumed, was in the medium of English whereas his pupils spoke Welsh.
Within the Topographical Dictionaries of Wales in the early 19th century there are references to the community of Llandegley.
- Benjamin Heath Malkin 1804
- Nicholas Carlisle 1811.
- Samuel Lewis 1842
In one account there is reference to the ‘obliging manners, and degree of intelligence, that might be expected, displayed by the people in Llandegley, which is very much to their credit.’
The next significant change that impacted on the school was in 1834 when the school that was being held in the church became a Church of England School within the National School system. The National Society for Promoting Religious Education established a system of National Schools in England and Wales to provide education for the poor. Education was based upon the teachings of the Church of England.
As a National School the school at Llandegley has the same aspiration of other National Schools to provide a system of elementary education to the poor children within its Parish. In 1847, however, the school was found somewhat wanting when an Enquiry into the state of Education in Wales was carried out. The Report on the school stated:
“10 or 12 children in a room at the end of the nave entered through the tower which formed the shed for the calves pastured in the churchyard and in a filthy state….. The children reading to an old man….incompetent to teach anything…there could scarcely be a more wretched school”
This ‘Enquiry’ was not entirely objective. It was set up following a speech by William Williams, a Coventry MP, who was originally from Wales. He questioned the state of education in Wales and the role of the Welsh language. At that time 70% of people spoke Welsh as their first language. The Enquiry, as well as deriding the use of the Welsh language in schools contributed to the introduction of the hated ‘Welsh Not’ that has such a negative impact on the language of Wales over the next 100 years.
The inspectors were not well received at Llandegley, in fact the Vicar’s wife told them not to come. The inspectors however came and let themselves in and, when 3 girls could not answer questions on a passage from the Bible, them referred to the ‘wretched school’.
There were some complaints locally from a local farmer, John Duggan from Trewern, who had commented that there was ‘no proper school’. Most of the local schools were criticised and some like Nantmel were given more damning reports.
Geraint referred very briefly to another educational establishment that had an impressive but short history in the area. A school ran at the Pales from 1867 – 1886. We have discussed the Pales at a previous meeting so this was not explored on this occasion.
At Llandegley things took a turn for the better when Walter William Vaughan was appointed Vicar 1862. He was largely responsible for the building of the new School in 1873, new Church 1876, and a new Vicarage 1884.
The building of the new school, and subsequent extensions (Extension 1886 (architect F Roberts) and the Canteen 1944) became an imperative as a result of the Education (Foster’s) Act of 1870.
What did the Act bring into force?
- Local education boards were established to inspect schools and to ensure there were sufficient places available in the local area
- Elementary education must be provided for all children aged between five and 13.
- Schools were to be publicly funded through local rates
- Parents would be required to pay for their children’s education, unless they could not afford to.
- Attendance at school should be compulsory.
- Religious teaching should be non-denominational, and parents could withdraw their children from religious education.
- Schools should be regularly inspected to maintain the standard of education.
The new school (at a cost of: £386.2.0) opened on 3rd February 1873 with a new Head Teacher: Miss Lizzie Morris. 1873 who was in post until 1887. There was an average attendance of 31 pupils. The Boards supported 20 free places for the children of poorer families. Other families had to pay charges that ranged between 4d and 6d a week.
The introduction of compulsory education from 1878 was a challenge in a rural arear like this as children were needed to help on the land and in the kitchen. This persisted over many years. Examples of the many ‘excuses’ are held in the school records that are now held by Powys in the Archives.
The work of the school was underpinned by the use of monitors and pupil teachers. The latter were sometimes kept on and given a small honorarium.
The Head Teachers at the school were:
1873 – 1877 Miss Lizzie Morris
1877 – 1887 Mrs Mary Osborn
1888 – 1901 Mr William Hill
1888-1901 William Hill
1901-1902 William Wager
1902-1919 John Vickery
1920-1927 Edith Barrow
1928-1929 Ethel Curtis
1930-1953 Dinah Pugh
1954-1971 Catherine Thomas
1971- ? Harry Capp
197?-1977 Cecelia Williams
Assistants: 1954 Mrs Evans; Georgie Duggan
Holly Richards was asked by Geraint to read his transcript of the interview he had recorded with her great-grandmother Mrs E.M. Richards:
“I began my studies at Llandegley School at the age of five in 1887. Each morning I walked to school from Mill Cottage where my father, the local carpenter lived. In wet weather my mother gave me old stockings to put on over my shoes as the roads were very muddy, and then I would take these off when I got to school. On my way I passed the cottage where Mr Jones the shoemaker and his son had their shop, and the shop where Mr. John Price the stone-mason, our church organist lived; then past the ‘Lodging House’ near the churchyard gate where Mrs Clayton kept a home for poor travellers at 1d per night. There might be time to call in the village shop near the school gate, kept by Mrs Caldicott, or stop to speak to some of the women on their way to the village well below the church. The boys would always linger at the blacksmith’s shop by Tynllan or stop to watch a coach getting ready for its journey outside the Burton Arms, but whatever the temptation when the bell rang at 9 o’clock in to school we had to go.
Once inside, we took our places in the long benches and desks which filled the main classroom, all facing teacher’s desk by the door. The infants stayed in the small classroom which is now the porch, and were taught by Miss Agnes Jones, a girl of 19. All around the big classroom were maps and pictures – I remember there was a large picture of Queen Victoria on the wall next to the school-house – and the school clock, which often held our attention.
When I started at school, Mrs Osborn was the Headmistress. Soon after I started Mr Hill came from Dolau. He had a paralysed right arm, but he managed very well, even playing the school American Organ. Mrs Hill helped her husband by teaching needlework.
Every morning school began with a hymn and prayers,and then our first task was to copy down three or four sums from the blackboard and work out the answers on our slates. When our answers had been checked, we had to copy them into our copy-books, which had to be kept carefully and taken home when they were full. Every pupil had to buy his own books, paper, pencils, slates, slate pencils, and sponges from the teacher. I am afraid that some of the children were not able to afford all that they needed.
Each child had to take turns reading aloud in front of the class; usually from the Bible or the Prayer Book. Some of the other subjects were: spelling, dictation, history, geography – which usually meant making a copy of one of the large maps which hung on the wall, singing – using the sol-fa chart, and on two afternoons a week, sewing and knitting. The boys wrote essays or worked in the school garden on these afternoons.
Before going to dinner we all said together: “Be present at our table, Lord, be here and everywhere adored, all creatures bless; and grant that we may feast in paradise with Thee.” I went home for my dinner, but most of the children brought food with them. We used the porch at the back of the school where there was a wash up on a stone slab and water was carried from the village well. Our toilet was an open ditch with two long planks over it divided down the middle by a wooden wall and with five holes in each plank; the boys used one side and the girls the other.
Discipline in school was very strict; anyone who came late was kept in at play-time, talking or Laughing in class was punished with a hundred lines, copying with a tap on the hand and more serious offences with seven or eight strokes over the desk. Mr Hill administered this most effectively with his left hand.
Most of my school friends left school when they were 14 to go back to work at home or go into service. Some went on to college or other schools. I can remember William Charles Caldicott and James Mackintosh who went into banking and William Mackintosh who took his father’s place as agent for Lord Ormathwaite.
I am sure these years were the happiest of my life, and I will always remember with pride my days at the little Church School at Llandegley.”
To add to the poignancy of this interview related by Holly, Geraint was able to show a picture of Mill House, derelict now, where the family lived.
Geraint then showed a number of photographs of the school and pupils over the years and members were able to identify many from the photos that were taken more recently.
He finished his talk with a list of the children who were evacuated to the area during the 2nd World War and who were an important part of the school community at the time.
Llandegley School Evacuees
Arrival Name Address From Return
8.7.40 Sheila Carter Ffaldau Willenhall 14.2.41
8.7.40 Peter Pope Carnau Willenhall 4.10.40
8.7.40 Valerie Pope Carnau Willenhall 4.10.40
27.8.40 David Crossley Red Cote Hove 14.7.41
9.9.40 Joyce Bladen Swydd Brynmill 18.10.40
9.9.40 Peter Myers Redcote Brighton 10.4.41
2.12.40 Patricia Abbot Carnau Coventry 30.7.42
2.12.40 Josephine Abbot Carnau Coventry 31.7.42
7.1.41 Annette Ward-Hicks Carnau Walthamstow 1.8.41
7.1.41 Wendy Ward-Hicks Carnau Walthamstow 1.8.41
9.1.41 Forden Burke Ffaldau Seaforth 7.2.41
9.1.41 Thomas Burke Ffaldau Seaforth 1.8.41
13.1.41 Mavis Wright Little Graig Seaforth 31.7.41
13.1.41 Joyce Wright Little Graig Seaforth 31.7.41
14.1.41 Sydney Smith Eaglestone Crosby 3.12.42
14.1.41 Margaret Melsant Cornhill Letterton 25.7.41
14.1.41 George Nelson Cornhill Letterton 25.7.41
23.1.41 Patricia Cunningham Vicarage Seaforth 22.11.41
23.1.41 Mary Cunningham Vicarage Seaforth 22.11.41
23.1.41 Edith Dwyer Vicarage Seaforth 31.3.42
15.1.41 Mary Kinsella Larch Grove Seaforth 31.3.42
15.1.41 Alice Kinsella Larch Grove Seaforth 3.12.42
15.1.41 Mary Smith Penybont Shop Letterton 28.5.41
14.1.41 Madeline Berry Haulfryn Letterton 28.5.41
15.1.41 Gerrard McCabe Rhonllwyn Seaforth 24.10.41
29.1.41 Raymond Downey Caedildre Seaforth 12.3.43
3.2.41 Ros James Gt Trewern Seaforth 9.6.42
3.2.41 Rita James Gt Trewern Seaforth 9.6.42
3.2.41 Norma James Gt Trewern Seaforth 9.6.42
17.2.41 Harold Pritchard Pales Seaforth 14.11.41
17.2.41 William Pritchard Pales Seaforth 14.11.41
25.3.41 Glanville Dacey Carnau Bonymaen 17.6.44
31.3.41 Michael McCarthy Bwlchycefn Bootle 17.12.43
31.3.41 James Mc Carthy Bwlchycefn Bootle 17.12.43
31.3.41 Robert Roberts Nantddu Bootle 1.7.42
5.5.41 William Gooridge Rhos House Portsmouth 4.7.41
20.5.41 Beryl Humphries Trewern Villa Bootle 2.4.42
20.5.41 Ken Humphries Trewern Villa Bootle 2.4.42
20.5.41 Peter Humphries Trewern Villa Bootle 2.4.42
10.6.41 Richard Doughty Lwr Trewern Anfield 11.9.41
2.3.42 Winifred Thomas Tybryn Seaforth 23.12.42
2.3.42 Patricia Thomas Tybryn Seaforth 23.12.42
2.3.42 Maragert Thomas Tybryn Seaforth 23.12.42
2.3.42 Teresa Thomas Tybryn Seaforth 23.12.42
2.2.42 Garry Shawn Coednewydd Seaforth 29.1.43
10.6.42 Robert Scullin Dean Cottage Bootle 22.12.43
10.6.42 Philip Scullin Dean Cottage Bootle 22.12.43
Arrived:1940……8 1941………..3 1942………..7 Total: 49
Returned:1940….3 1941……..21 1942……..19 1943………6
Length of stay: One year or less: 43 Two years – 5 Three Years – 1
Origin: Liverpool – 40 South England – 5 Coventry – 1 Manchester – 1 Swansea – 2
Geraint ended his formal talk at this point and invited members who had been pupils at Llandegley School.
First up was John Abberley. He started at the school in 1936 and was there through the war years until 1943. John’s most vivid memory was of the state of the roads, or as they were seen as then lanes, with children having to walk miles in all weathers along the very muddy lanes. They were often wet through by the time they got to school. A tortoise stove was all there was to get them and their clothes dried out.
School started with a religious assembly, followed by sums, arithmetic, spelling, history, and geography. John hated it! If there was an opportunity to work in the school garden John would be first in the queue. When Ted Brown came to do some building work at the school John would volunteer to help. He remembers well mixing the concrete – 3 of sand to 1 of cement. John most successful ‘academic’ achievement was when Ted Brown told him he would take him on when he finished school. It did not happen as John went in other directions. The other exciting activity at school was playing football. The pitch was in the ground where John now lives.
Una was next to tell us about achievements at the school. She remembers how proud the school would be of successes at the 11+. These older children went on the Llandrindod and she remembers that they were a great loss to the school.
Ray Price however remembered the cane been the instrument of discipline used by Mrs Gould and Mrs Pugh. Discipline was the top priority of the school as he remembers it. Ray is still shocked by the incident when John Price faced the cane d ue to something he had done. As the cane came down he caught the cane; he then broke it in half. Silence reigned with nobody quite knowing what would happen next!? What did happen next opened up a mystery that remains unresolved to the present day. Mrs Gould sent John out into the woods to cut another cane and bring it back. John went off, but did not return until the next morning. A kind of hush invaded the school as no one has ever known how this matter was resolved between Mrs Gould, John, and his parents??
Ray passed his 11+ and went off to Llandrindod – a very different experience.
John started school at 4 years old and was at the school until he joined Trotter’s Transport. He has memory of Lilly Thomas sitting on the bar of a bicycle and falling off. He found writing a problem during his school years and this was probably not helped by the repeated cane across his knuckles, which was supposed to help him improve. He has fond memories of ‘chips’ for dinner.
Shirley Morgan joined the school in 1954 when Mrs Thomas was the Head Teacher. In Shirley’s time no one was ever caned. Shirley described Mrs Evans the Classroom Assistant as being near to being a ‘Saint’. She wore high heels and nylons and was ‘very glamorous’. Shirley enjoyed her school days at Llandegley, albeit she thinks, having trained as a teacher herself, that the education was probably not too good – even dire! She remembers struggling with long division and multiplication and still his anxieties over – ‘where did that zero come from?’ It was a gentle time.
Lynda Price attended the school for a short period before its closure in 1977 during the time of Mr Harry Capp and then Mrs Cecelia Williams. There were only about 10 to 13 pupils in those latter days.
Factors leading to the closure of the school included the small number of pupils. A lot of work was done to try to keep the school open. There had been no water, no electricity, no canteen, and a hole in the ground served as a toilet. Having overcome these obstacles the school was closed and most of the children, including Lynda, transferred to Crossgates. Geraint, in hindsight, feels that despite the efforts of the Vicar, David Wilkinson, to keep the school open, its time had come – progress?
Geraint related a few items from the log book that gave an insight into the eccentricities of school life:
One of the teachers entered into the log book that the book that contained all of the answers to the arithmetic items for the exams had been lost. It was later found in the possession of one of the boys.
Children who were late were made to say: “You must not be late.”
A girl who was very frightened having swallowed a pin was made to drink lots of ‘salt-water’!
Mary mentioned the important role of samplers. She had come across one that was done by Granny Gould in 1840 which had the letters of the alphabet and the numbers.
When Marion mentioned that girls and boys were taught to knit during the war years, Geraint declared he had been properly brought up!
Geraint was thanked for a ‘brilliant’ session.
Jane and Shirley mentioned that there will be an event in the Community Centre to share experiences of living and working in Llandegley on 25th February at 5.00 p.m. There will be a Bring and Share Tea.
Our Next Session will be on Monday 6th March at 10.30 when Richard Davies will lead the Main Topic on “Local Place Names and their Meaning”. If anyone has a house or property name that they want interpreted please let Richard know.