Penybont and District Local History Group Notes 6th February 2017 at the Thomas Shop Main Topic: History of Llandegley School Rev. Geraint Hughes

 

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.

– See more at: https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/synopsis-of-the-forster-education-act-1870#sthash.zAWLjo15.dpuf

 

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

 Totals

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.

 

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Penybont and District Local History Group Notes 6th February 2017 at the Thomas Shop Main Topic: History of Llandegley School Rev. Geraint Hughes

  1. Just a little bit more on education.
    My Great,Great Grandparents, John and Margaret Owens farmed at Kilmanowydd, Llanfihangel Rhydithon,nestling in the hills surrounding Penybont Common which I think had been in the family for several generations but sadly no longer.
    This is in early 1800’s.
    They were all devout Quakers and were members of a local Quaker Meeting House, The Pales, which probably provided some education. They had 12 children and five of the 12 were sent off to a Quaker Boarding school, Sidcot, in Somerset, aged 10 to 13 years.

    The first to go was Thomas, at age 10 in 1815, Waterloo. They couldn’t have had much money around on a upland farm with all these mouths to feed and Britain was in a post-napoleonic wars depression . Yet somehow they were able to pay the fees. Even the journey from Central Wales to Somerset must have been fraught. This is before the Railways, and the canal network did not reach up here. Even communications would be difficult as mail not established until the1840’s. I guess a sort of Quaker network would help with travel and accommodation on the way. Once there, Thomas probably stayed for the duration of two years, no nipping home for the summer hols.
    Over the next few years, Anne,David,Margaret and Mary followed in Thomas’s footsteps.
    Geof Lewis
    Bromyard
    Herefordshire

    1. Thank-you Geof

      I am involved with the Pales, a more than special place, and I am about to prepare a talk for later in the year, September, on the Pales for the History Group and to add to the 300 years celebration of the Pales. I have also been asked to lead a walk during the week of the Pales Celebration. I am hoping we will alk up Coed Swydd the Common above the Pales as this is where the Quakers held many of there meetings, some with as many as 300 people, extrairdinary in an area with a low population. As I have mentioned in the text there was a school at the Pales for a period, and Martin Williams talked about this in more detail in one of our earlier sessions.

      I am very grateful for your comments as I need to prepare this talk, and need to have things to say that have not already been covered by people who know much more than I do.

      As an additional matter of interest, I am also a member of the Peace Choir that meets in the school-room at the Pales every month.

      Thank-you

      Derek

      1. Hi David

        That sounds like an interesting talk and indeed the Pales seems a very choice place.

        For a bit more information, I enclose an email I received from Sidcot about attendance.

        Best regards

        Geof Lewis

        Thanks for your reply. Gosh – eleven siblings! It’s quite possible that the parents could not afford for them all to come to Sidcot. The school took pupils from all over the south west of England and sometimes even further afield than that, so it’s not unusual to have children from Wales. Each of the Quarterly Meetings would have an agent who would recommend pupils to the school. There was the possibility of a cut in fees if the circumstances warranted it, and again, the agent would provide the necessary information. As far as the journey was concerned, it was common for a child to stay for the whole academic year, which ran from January, and some of them certainly did stay for the whole of their time at Sidcot. I know of a family from Cornwall who sent their children by sea to Bristol and they did not return until their schooling was complete. This was in the 1850s. Their studies would be mainly academic. They certainly learnt Reading, Writing, English Grammar, Arithmetic and Geography, but they also had jobs to do in the kitchen, laundry and on the farm. They would have had Meeting for Worship twice a week in the Meeting House. A new one was built in 1817 so some of the children would have seen that.
        I hope this gives you some idea of what life would have been like. The school was very small then – the current building was put up in 1838, so your relatives would have been living in a house which was originally a farmhouse, but which had been extended. The girls were in a separate building in the gardens. The school only became co-educational in 1838.
        Let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.
        Best wishes,
        Christine

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