Norton CofE School

The following article is very rough and will be developed over time.  If you can help with memories, photos, or anything of interest, please get in touch.

We begin with a short history of the school taken from a leaflet produced to celebrate the centenary in 1976.  Unfortunately, I do not know who originally compiled the leaflet but I offer them our thanks and hope they don’t object to its use here. 

“A Short History of Norton School; Norton Church of England School was opened on January 10th, 1876.  The first move towards its erection was made in 1872 when the Church Commissioners of England gave to the vicar and sole churchwarden a piece of land “about two roods thereabouts” of which they were the owners, as a site for it.  The conveyance of the land is dated on the outside 27th June 1872 but inside it bears the date stamp January 1st of that year.  The vicar at that time was the Reverend Thomas Turner and the churchwarden Mr William Cook.  For some reason, now unknown, nothing seems to have been done about putting a school on it.  This may well be because Mr Turner was Vicar of Norton for only about 18 months longer, until early in 1874.  There was a vacancy of ten months before his successor was appointed.

In December 1874, the Reverend Francis Attwood became Vicar of Norton and he got busy almost immediately on the matter of building the School and it is not too much to say that he was the real founder of it.  The original estimate to build a school here was £880 odd.  Mr Attwood lost no time in appealing for this money; he did not even wait for it to come in before getting the building started.  In April 1875 the work began and it was completed by the end of the year.  In the meanwhile it was discovered that to do the job satisfactorily £880 would not be enough.  A pamphlet issued in 1877 shows that the actual cost was £993.  Towards this there was a government grant of £148.8.1 and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners contributed £40, Mr Attwood himself giving £50.

The site on which it was built was part of Cold Elm Piece and one side of it abutted the turnpike road from Gloucester to Tewkesbury, a historic road indeed.  It was along this road that Queen Margaret, wife of Henry 6th, and her son Edward Prince of Wales led their troops to the Battle of Tewkesbury in May 1471 after being refused entrance to Gloucester.  The road has much more ancient associations than that as it was part of the Ancient British Western Trackway.  Those Britons had an encampment on Wainlodes Hill above the river crossing from which it got its name.  The Romans naturally were interested in this crossing and would have marched past this site down to the river and quite possibly had in Cold Elm a small outpost of troops for this purpose.

When the school was opened, the buildings consisted only of the long room – in which for many years two classes were housed; a house for the head teacher, a cloak room and necessary offices.  The smaller room that for many years was occupied by the infants was built in 1882-3.  Surprisingly, this new room at first had a gallery in it.  It was removed some years later.

The next significant addition did not materialise until 1915 when, owing to the unsatisfactory state of the original offices, the Managers decided that it was time to have better ones.  Once more the Ecclesiastical Commissioners came to the rescue and made a grant of a further 5 perches of land to enable a new sanitary block to be built.  The plans for this block, drawn by the then County Architect Mr Phillips, are still in our possession.  On July 29th 1915, the Managers decided to accept an estimate of £120 for building it and ordered the work to be commenced forthwith.

Nothing more was added to the School buildings till in May 1944, the County Education Committee proposed the erection at their expense of a wash-up place in connection with the scheme to bring midday meals to the school from the Cooking Depot at Tewkesbury.  This building later formed the shell of a Staff Room.  It was built in 1946.

When The Leigh School closed in July 1962, it became necessary to provide further accommodation for the extra children that would come from there to Norton and our first Terrapin was put in position.  Down Hatherley School was closed at the end of 1966 and, as most of the pupils from it would be coming to Norton, the County Education Committee provided our second Terrapin classroom early in 1967.

The final additional building was the new lavatory block, called a Sanitary Unit, erected next to the rear Terrapin in 1975.

Though not part of the school building itself one other addition ought to be mentioned.  Years ago, most of the children came to school on bicycles and they had to be stacked against the wall quite unprotected from the weather.  In 1935, money was raised to build a corrugated iron shelter for them.  This did very well until the roof was blown off in the great gale of March 1947 and the shelter otherwise was a bit damaged.  This was rectified in a short while but with the increase in the number of cars it gradually ceased to be used for bicycles.  It is still in use but as a store shed.

For nearly 60 years, the school was lighted only by oil lamps – a manifest disadvantage.  Eventually, gas came to the village in 1934 and the following year a small sale was got up to put it into the school and the school house.  Then in 1951 electricity mains were installed in Norton and it too was later introduced into the school and school house.  The latter has now vanished.  It was last used by a Head Teacher in 1962, let for some years and from 1967 onwards until it was sold and greatly altered, added to and improved and is now a private house, it was deserted and little used for anything.  With it, the school house garden, for so long a feature of the landscape, also disappeared.

At the opening of the school, Miss Elizabeth Bull, a certificated teacher was appointed head.  She enrolled 47 children on the first day and very soon the numbers climbed to 70.  There was no free schooling in those days; parents had to pay a few pence per week for their children to be educated.  Miss Bull recorded that in the first week she collected 7/1 in fees.  The annual cost of running the school was £85 and this was obtained through these fees plus a voluntary rate of 2d.  of this, the owner of the Estate paid two thirds and his tenants one third.  It is astonishing that a school could be kept going on that tiny amount until we realise that for a very long time the head was paid only a very small salary plus house and a sizeable garden.  Many years later, the payment of the staff was done by the County Education Committee but until 1951, when the Managers applied for what is known as Controlled Status, the bulk of the cost of the upkeep of the school had to be found locally.  Since 1952, all the expenses of salaries and upkeep and improvements has been paid by the Local Education Authority (commonly known as the LEA or even Shire Hall).  For a few years from 1933 the LEA rented a small piece of land at the Vicarage for a school garden so that the older boys could get some practical training in gardening.

From the educational point of view, Norton School had its ups and downs especially in its first 40 years or so. A contributory cause to this was the short time many of the teaching staff stayed.  This will be seen from the subjoined list of Head Teachers.  Occasionally there was some friction between members of the staff and some of them seem to have had poor health.  In one case the Managers were about to dismiss a Head because of adverse comments made by one of His Majesty’s Inspectors on the educational state he found in the school but they were saved from doing so by the said person getting a job in another county.  In another instance a person was appointed Head and had to be dismissed almost at once because she had stated her age falsely and Whitehall complained about it.  It turned out that, from personal vanity, she did not want the Managers to know her exact age.  This, however, could not be accepted as an adequate reason.  It was really not until the late Mr C O J Perrett became Head in May 1919 that the school began to be educationally satisfactory and he stayed here by far the longest of the Heads, retiring at the end of 1946.

Originally the school had been intended for the children of Norton only but from early in this century the older children of The Leigh School were transferred to Norton School.  Up to 1938 it was an all-age school but in that year national policy was altered and a system gradually introduced by which children over 11 were sent to secondary schools of one sort or another.  Until a few years ago, the Norton over 11 children went to Longlevens Secondary School unless they won scholarships to one of the Boys’ or Girls’ Grammar Schools in Gloucester.  Children from The Leigh were, and still are, sent to Tewkesbury.  Thus our school became one for Juniors and Infants only.  The next big change came in 1962 when the County decided wherever possible to close very small schools on educational and financial grounds.  The first result of this as far as we were concerned was that The Leigh School was closed immediately after reaching its centenary and its staff and pupils joined Norton School, Miss N Weston becoming the first Head Teacher of the combined school.  Four years later, just after Miss Weston retired, the village school at Down Hatherley was closed and most of the pupils came on to Norton.  Mrs D M Lewis became the first Head of this triple school.  So now the intake comes from Coombe Hill, The Leigh, Norton and Down Hatherley.  While this arrangement is not altogether satisfactory for the separate parishes for each would have liked to have retained its own school for the sake of the community, there can be no question that it has been enormously to the advantage of the pupils educationally.

Naturally, this series of amalgamations led to a large increase in the number of children at the School.  At one time, in the fifties, the total had fallen to as low as 18 or less and for some time the then Head had to teach the whole school.  Now in Centenary Year there are 100 pupils and we have a very large Infant’s class which has to be divided into two for most of the week.

In recent years the physical side of the children has been receiving considerable attention.  To start with the opportunity occurred when Mrs Lewis was Head for the children to be taken weekly to Tewkesbury Swimming Baths. There many of them have obtained certificates for ability to swim certain lengths and quite a number have covered themselves and the school with glory.  This has continued under Mr Manley.  There was not much scope for PT owing to the lack of a sizeable room or hall until the new Village Hall was opened next door.  This was opened at the end of May 1975 and immediately began to be used on various half-days for PT.  Then there is the matter of a playground.  At one time, as with most village schools, the condition of the playground and its size were not as good as could be wished.  The first real improvement made was in 1938 when the LEA offered Voluntary schools like ours the chance to have part of the playground covered with tarmac on the basis of half the cost paid by the Managers and half by the LEA.  The offer lasted only a short time but the Managers seized the chance and the area of tarmac was laid at a cost of £44, equally divided between the two bodies.  At that time there was a small paddock at one end of the playground in which were a few elm trees containing a rookery.  In the course of time these trees were thought to be rather dangerous and they were felled.  Many years later the whole of the play space was asphalted.  By the time that the two Terrapins had been placed on it problems arose as they considerably reduced the amount of space available for the children to play on,, at last, in 1971, the LEA, at the suggestion of the Managers, rented a piece of field adjacent to the playground from Mr Wilding.  This piece of green ground has been of inestimable value for the school sports as well as for ordinary games.  Mr Manley has been able to make full use of it in order to train a football team although it is not quite large enough for a full sized pitch.  One more small amenity has been added in the early part of the Lent term of 1976 namely a small drinking fountain and this will no doubt be a great joy to thirsty players.

Clearly much more could have been written on all the above topics but lack of space compels us to keep to a mere conspectus.  We now have to turn our attention to the question of who was and is responsible for it all.

Looking back from the point of more than 40 years intimate knowledge of the school, one can see how much it has changed in that time.  It is not too much to claim that in recent years it has become much better equipped, the education provided greatly widened and improved, the staff and the children much happier, and the relationship between staff and pupils very much easier.  Gone is the authoritarian atmosphere of the past, gone are the days when children went unwillingly to school, gone are the primitive conditions that both had to endure.

Naturally we must now pay tribute to the Reverend Francis Attwood whose initiative and generosity and interest made Norton Church of England School come into existence.  That said, we must acknowledge the debt that is owed to the body of School Managers who for so many years had to find the money to keep the school going at all.  As the years have gone by the activities and responsibilities of the Managers have increased in spite of the fact that they are no longer liable for the finances.  Especially in recent years the Managers have very often had to bring long and unceasing pressure to bear on the authorities to provide for the school what it ought to have, with the fullest co-operation of the Head Teacher who attends all their meetings.  A complete small book could easily be written about the activities of the Managers in this respect in the last decade alone.  They fully deserve the gratitude of the parents for all the trouble they have taken, for all the time they have given up to the welfare of the school and all the thought they have given to improving conditions that staff and children have to work in, yet in the end it is the teachers who ultimately make or break a school.  We have lately been most fortunate in our Head Teachers and those who have assisted them.  In this Centenary Year we could not possibly have had a better or happier band of teachers.  It is to them and their immediate predecessors that we owe the present excellent state of the school.  Not the least of their achievements has been the greatly enhanced relationship with the parents.  In turn, the parents themselves have done much to help to make the school what it is today.  Long may Norton Church of England School continue to flourish and to have happy relationships all round”.

The centenary leaflet included lists of people who have held various positions at the school over the previous 100 years.  This is now 50 years out of date so if anyone could update it I would be happy to add in more recent information.

Head teachers.  January 1876 to 1879; Miss E Bull.  July 1879 to 1881; Mr H L Okey.  February 1882 to 1894; Mr H Brew.  1894 to Spring 1885; Mrs or Miss E M Allen.  July 1895 to 1898; Mrs or Miss M C J Palmer.  August 1898 to April 1915; Mrs F Browne.  September 1915 to May 1918; Mrs G Robinson.  1918; Miss Watkin who stayed only a few months.  May 1919 to December 1946; Mr C O J Perrett.  February 1947 to July 1962; Mrs E Morgan.  September 1962 to April 1966; Miss N Weston.  September 1966 to July 1974; Mrs D M Lewis. September 1974; Mr D M Manley.

Managers at the centenary.  Canon K F Evans-Prosser, Mr H M Spiers, Mr C J Rowlands, Mr A C Topham, Mr D Arkell, Mr C G Wothers (Foundation Manager).

Teaching staff at the centenary.  Mr D M Manley (Headmaster), Mrs E Weir-Townsend, Mrs R Horner, Mrs A Edwards, Mrs J Leeke & Mrs A Troughton

Other staff at the centenary.  Mrs J Hipwood (School Secretary), Mrs G Toombs (Supervisory Assistant), Mrs B Ainge (Supervisory Assistant), Mrs V Cook (School Meals Assistant), Mrs M Limbrick (School Meals Assistant), Mrs W Prosser (School Meals Assistant), Mrs H Prosser (School Meals Assistant (Temporary)), & Mrs B Davies (Cleaner in Charge).

Owing to the comparatively large numbers concerned and incomplete records it has not been possible to give a list of all the Assistant Teachers who served throughout the century.

A celebratory service took place at St Mary’s, Norton, on Wednesday 19th May, 1976, and included a song written especially for the centenary which was included in the leaflet as follows :-

Norton School in Cold Elm standing, 

Where the Romans came and went, 

Where Queen Margaret led her soldiers

On to fight at Tewkesbury’s field

Where King Henry and his consort

Anne Boleyn rode gaily by

Where they lit the joyful bonfires

On the top of Wainlode Hill

Here we learned our earliest lessons

How to read and write and count

Learning swimming, making music

Many things and playing games

Founded first by Vicar Attwood

Just a century ago

For the children of the village –

Norton village only then

Now we come from all around it

Leigh, Coombe Hill, Down Hatherley

Yet we all join in together

For we’re one at Norton School

One in work and one in pleasure

One in all that we are taught

How to learn and how to worship

How to live as God desires

Thank you Lord for all our teachers

Thank you for the rest of staff

May we grow up not forgetting

All we’ve learned at Norton School.

The following is a transcript of the speech given by Derek Manley, who was headmaster at the centenary; “On June 27th 1872 the Church Commissioners of the Church of England conveyed a piece of land to the vicar and churchwardens of Norton to build a school.  The original schoolroom and schoolhouse was completed in 1875 and the school was opened by the Rev F J Attwood on 10th January 1876.  Miss Elizabeth Bull was the first headmistress and she commenced with 47 pupils (73 by the end of the term) in one room.  Most of these pupils, aged between four and fourteen, had never been to school before.  Miss Bull had to organise them into four classes, with six examination standards, and teach them on her own.  The children had to pay between 2d and 4d per week, and from this and a voluntary rate of 2d in the pound, plus a Government grant of £39 14s 1d, the school’s expenses of £85 and Miss Bull’s salary had to be met.  From the original room, measuring 39ft 3ins by 17ft, the school has grown physically.  The ‘classroom’ was added in 1882 and two terrapins were added in 1962 and 1969.  Our present number on roll is 101 and we have the equivalent of four full time teachers and two part time teachers.  The present General Allowance stands at £658 per annum.  The school has had ten headmistresses and four headmasters.  At one time the number on roll fell as low as 13 (in 1959); however, the addition of The Leigh school in 1962 and Down Hatherley in 1969 brought our numbers to the present healthy level.  The original Trust Deed said that the school was to be conducted in accordance with the principles of the Established Church.  This we have tried to do.  I am proud of the fact that our school is a Christian school.  We believe in the old fashioned virtues of integrity, truthfulness, discipline and honesty.  Like our predecessors, the present staff try to inculcate into the children an attitude of caring, and valuing the contribution of others however small.  Academically we favour a blend of the traditional and the discovery approach to learning, tailored as far as possible to the needs of the individual child.  We take part in swimming, having gained the Dolphin Trophy on several occasions; and music, we have a choir, violin and recorder classes.  We are taking BAGA awards in gymnastics, and most children have AAA athletic awards.  Our cycling proficiency classes for 1976 start on Wednesday next.  School visits have included visits to France, London, Wild Life Parks, the Forest of Dean etc.  In conclusion, the aim of our school is to give our pupils the best preparation for adult life that we are able and to give them a sense of self discipline and true values which will never desert them”.

Rev Evans Prosser wrote the following account in 1972; “In 1872, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners conveyed to the vicar and churchwardens of Norton a piece of their land as a site for a school.  The vicar at that time was the Rev Thomas Turner.  The school was to be a Church of England School and no-one could be appointed Head unless he was a member of that church.  The map on the Trust Deed shows that Elm House was then owned by Richard Vick; on either side of it the land belonged to Charles Walker as did most of the land round about, with the exception of that on the Gloucester side which was Glebe and the piece opposite the top of the lane which was owned by a Mr P S Mealing.  The large field now belonging to Mr Whittaker is named as Cold Elm Piece.  Then, as we have seen on an earlier page, an appeal was made in 1875 for money to build the school.  As a result the school was opened for use in 1876.  In 1915 a new lavatory block was built and the Commissioners gave the Managers another small of and.  This is the bit that forms a sort of triangle at the back of the playground.  When I came in 1934, there were 80 children in the school.  It was an all-age school until they left.  The exception to this was that from time to time a boy or girl would win a scholarship to one of the Gloucester schools like the Crypt or Richs or Denmark Road.  Those who did so had to cycle to Gloucester each day.  The following year the numbers went up to 90 and this was the high point of our school numbers.  These children were not all from Norton as the older pupils at The Leigh used to be transferred to Norton for their final years of schooling.  Then, in 1938 I think, national policy laid it down that children over 11 years were to be transferred from these all-age schools and sent to secondary ones.  So our older pupils had to leave Norton School and go to Longlevens.  This was a great disappointment to Mr Perrett, the headmaster, who preferred teaching the older pupils and he would have liked to have got a post as head of another school but the Shire Hall thought him too old to be given one.  In 1934 there was a staff of three teachers; Mr Perrett, who had come to Norton in the summer term of 1919, and wo women assistants.  The infants had the room that is now used as an office, while the big room contained two classes.  There were no terrapins then; they were all housed in the original building.  When the older pupils were removed, the school population went down to 50 and by the end of the war was as low as 34.  Mr Perrett retired at the end of 1946 and was succeeded by Mrs Morgan.  In many ways she had a difficult task as the numbers fell eventually to as low as 15 or 18, which meant that for a long time she had no assistant at all and had to teach the children of all ages herself.  I do not think that the parents always realised what a hard job this was.  The reason for this low number of pupils was that for a long period in the fifties there were very few children in the village.  Incidentally, this was why for so long we had no choir in the church.  Mrs Morgan retired at the end of 1959.  The County Education Committee then decided to close the school at The Leigh and to transfer the staff and pupils there to Norton.  This did not actually happen until 1962.  The Leigh School that summer celebrated its centenary and then closed down.  Miss N Weston, the headmistress, wrote a short history of the school for circulation so there is no need for me to say anything about it here.  In due course, Miss Weston became head of the combined school and remained so until she retired in 1966.  The following year the Managers appointed Mrs D Lewis to be the head and happily she still remains such.  Practically as soon as she took over, the LEA decided to close down the little school at Down Hatherley.  This was not without a good deal of opposition there but it had to come about.  When The Leigh children came here a terrapin was supplied to make extra accommodation for no longer was it contemplated that a large number of children could be squeezed into the original building.  Then when the Hatherley children came another terrapin was obtained.  On this occasion a kitchen was attached to it.  A kitchen had been built during the war onto the old school but this was no longer adequate.  Since then, after much delay and heartburning, this original kitchen has been transformed into a staff room.  At the end of the war all over the country schemes of reorganisation of schools were produced.  The Gloucestershire one was based upon three five-year periods and in the third of these Norton School was to become an area school catering for Norton, The Leigh, Down Hatherley, Twigworth and Sandhurst.  It was intended that children from all these villages should be housed in one school at Norton.  Events overtook the scheme and it has had to be revised; a process which is still going on.  Norton will still eventually become an area school but what it will include no-one can yet say.  In the meanwhile, problems arose for the Managers.  In 1946, they were invited by the LEA to extend the school at the cost of many thousands or preferably to build a new one at the costs of more thousands.  Up to this date, the expenses of the school had been met by the Managers but they could not contemplate raising the money for this new scheme.  So they had to apply for what is known as Controlled Status.  This would mean that costs of upkeep etc would be borne by the authority but certain restrictions would be put upon what may be called the church side of the school.  The school, however, would still be a Church of England School.  Now it is desirable to say a few things about this reorganisation, because parents still do not quite see the need for it.  No village likes to have its school closed and its children taken to another village.  There are many who feel that it helps to break up village life.  What then is the need for it ?  One factor is the disproportionate cost of keeping open a very small school under modern conditions.  It simply cannot be afforded if children are to be given modern educational facilities and amenities.  It costs very much less to transfer the children by bus elsewhere than to pay the large sums of money required to keep open a small school.  Secondly, for the last generation it has been thought by the educational experts that no school is viable that has less than three separate classes, each taught by a different teacher.  In short, no child gets full educational value unless it is taught in course by three different teachers.  It is not possible to arrange this unless there are enough children in the school to justify it.  If you look in detail at the various things now provided at Norton School for the children it will be found to be way beyond what was in the three separate little schools that children once attended.  What parents still do not grasp is the vast cost of modern education.  This brings me onto something else that needs to be understood.  People often ask me when the proposed new school is going to be built at Norton; how much longer must we have the rather makeshift buildings that we have now got.  The answer almost entirely depends upon money available.  It is the government that decides how much each education authority can have each year for building new schools.  The authority has to decide how best it can be used.  Moreover, permission has to be sought from the Ministry before any school whatever can be built, or rebuilt, or added to, if the cost is more than so much.  What the Ministry can allow in turn depends upon how much of the national income can each year be given to education. It is all very well to say that we ought to have this or that but it all has to be paid for and everybody knows how much building costs are rising each year.  The money to get all that we should like simply is not there and none of us would like our taxes to be raised greatly in order to pay for what we should like to have.  It is as simple as that.  So we cannot have new school buildings until the Ministry has the money to pay for them.  All over the country, Education Committees are years behind in putting their schemes into effect for the simple reason that the finances of the country will not rise to it".

On June 27th 1872 the Church Commissioners of England conveyed to the Vicar and Churchwardens of Norton 'two roods or thereabouts' of Glebe land as a site for a school.  Work on the new school buildings began in April 1875 and was finished by the end of the year.  Norton CofE School was officially opened on January 10th 1876.  But how was the school project funded ?  There is still in existence a copy of a printed leaflet dated 1877 and giving particulars of how the cost of the school building was found.  The total cost was £993 15s 2d, of which the buildings themselves required £705.  Subscriptions towards the cost were invited and these included £200 from Mr C Walker and £50 from Mr Attwood.  There was also a government grant of £148 8s 1d.  Even with the generous donations and outside funding the village was still left with a debt to repay and three years later, in December 1879, the Gloucestershire Chronicle newspaper printed a letter from Rev Steele of St Mary’s, Norton under the heading Norton Church, School, and Vicarage Debts; “Dear Sir, Your readers will doubtless remember that last year the Rev F J Attwood, the former vicar of Norton, made through your columns ‘a last appeal’ to the public to enable us to put an end to the existence of these debts.  This appeal, I regret to say, was not well responded to, doubtless because so much substantial sympathy and aid had been previously rendered.  I feel sure, however, that it will interest a large number of friends to hear that notwithstanding this, two of the ‘Norton Debts’ have disappeared, owing chiefly to the liberality and kindness which, as vicar of Norton, I have experienced at the hands of our principal landowner C B Walker Esq, and the widely-esteemed tenant of Norton Court, J Watts Esq.  I shall be glad if you will allow me thus publicly to thank these gentlemen and all others who have kindly rendered their aid to this poor parish”.  Rev Steele then adds a short, but hopeful, postscript; “PS – I shall be grateful for any further subscriptions towards the Vicarage House”.  

The earliest reference to a school at Norton can be found in the 1838 Poor Law Terrier that records a ‘School House’ at Norton at that time.   It was described as being a cottage and garden of 10 perches, owned by Edward Webb of the Norton Court Estate and let to Samuel Roberts.  There were two Samuel Roberts at Norton at this time and both unlikely schoolmasters.  The one a 70 year old brushmaker and the other his son, a 30 year old shoemaker and it is believed that they lived where Bradley Cottages now stand.

Norton finally got its school in 1876 but much work had gone on prior to that opening day.  The following is extracted from a report to the ‘Lords of the Committee of Council on Education’ now held at the National Archives dated 29 July 1871; “The Memorial of the Undersigned, who are the chief promoters of a subscription towards the expense of building a school for 33 Boys, and 27 Girls, and 40 Infants, with one House for the master and – in the parish of Norton”.  “Sheweth. I. That this School is intended for the instruction of the children of the labouring Poor in the said Parish of Norton which is 4 miles in length and 3 miles in breadth, and contains a population of 458 inhabitants, the labouring portion of which are chiefly employed as agricultural labourers.  II.  That, besides the labouring population, there are resident in the Parish or in immediately adjacent, 8 persons belonging to the upper class (all in one family) and 22 persons belonging to the middle class – exclusive of servants.  III.  That the School is to be in connexion with the Church of England and is to be called ‘he Norton Parochial School’; that seven eighths families of the labouring population, within the area from which the Children will daily attend the proposed School from their own homes, are Members of the Church of England.  IV.  That within two miles of the proposed site there is the following School for the Children of the labouring Poor, viz., Down Hatherley, Sir Matthew Wood’s National School, Church of England”.  The report then states that Down Hatherley School is for up to 55 Scholars with a daily average attendance of 45 and is located 1¾ miles distant from the proposed new school site.  “V.  That there are no charitable funds and endowments for the education of the labouring Poor in this district.  VI.  That we submit the present Memorial to your Lordships, for assistance towards the erection of this School, on the following special grounds … 1. That there is at present no school in the Parish.  2. That there is no resident landowner, and that the Ratepayers consist chiefly of tenant farmers and small tradesmen who are quite unable to erect the School without extraneous help.  3. That the landowners and the occupiers have already contributed as handsomely as they can afford towards the Building Fund and have pledged themselves to subscribe annually a sum which with this Government grant and child pence will be sufficient to support and maintain the school in a state of efficiency.  VII. That we intend to appoint one master, and to provide satin(?) for the girls being taught sewing”.

The report estimated that they expected to receive £40 per annum from subscriptions and donations and a further £15 per annum from ‘school-pence’.  Richard Butt of Sandhurst was appointed to conduct correspondence on behalf of the signatories who were; Thomas Turner, vicar of Norton Vicarage, John Watts of Norton Court, Charles B Walker, merchant of Gloucester, William Syms, John Green and Thomas Long, farmers of Norton.  The report also includes precise dimensions for each of the proposed buildings even including the rooms of the teacher’s residence (parlour, kitchen, scullery, bedrooms etc).  Exact details concerning the construction methods for the walls, windows, roofs and floors and for the ventilation and an estimate for each building coming to a total of £860 was all provided by Waller & Sons who were eventually to conduct the project. 

The application for assistance was approved and the school was built, as detailed.  The report closes with a statement that “The School was opened on 10th day of January, 1876, under a Certificated Mistress and that the number of Scholars already attending is Boys 43 Girls 29”.  The report closes with the statement “That we consider it practicable, and will endeavour by our exertions to maintain the School in efficiency”.  This testimony is signed off by Francis John Atwood, vicar, trustee, treasurer and one of the committee of management, H Tuthill of Norton, churchwarden and trustee, John Watts of Norton Court, churchwarden and trustee, Richard Butt of Walsworth, Sandhurst, and C B Walker of Wotton House, Gloucester, both members of the committee.

Gloucestershire Chronicle newspaper, 30 October 1875

The following is a list of the pupils that were admitted to the school on its opening day, 10 January 1876; Charles Turk, Alfred Curtis, William Calcott, Sidney James, William Bowskill, Charles Trigg, William Marsden, Frank Perkins, Frank Marsden, William Perkins, John James, Ellen Stanton, Fanny Stubbs, Ida Peters, Winifred Roberts, Jane Freeman, Olivia Bowskill, Annia Calcott, Clara Randall, Ellen Oakley, Minnie James, Kate Edwards, Elizabeth Perkins, Mary A Wheeler, Mercy Mealing, Frank Peters, Samuel Cresswell, Ralph James, Richard Wheeler, Charles Freeman, Charles Piff, William Cummings, Roland Peters, Charles Wheeler, George Randall, Samuel Bowskill, Albert Stubbs, Frederick Stubbs, George Freeman, Minnie Oakley, Annie Smith, Elizabeth Roberts, Julia Limbrick, Elizabeth Bowskill, Lucy Mealing, William Trigg, Ernest Trigg & William Piff.

When people talk about children and their behaviour you often hear the expression “it wasn’t like that in my day – they had more respect”.  Well did they ?  The Log Books from the early years of Norton CofE School tell a slightly different story.  Names have not been used to protect the guilty !

The school opened for the first time on 10th January 1876 and after just one month the following entry is reported “Had occasion to punish two boys for the first time for using bad language in the playground”.  Numerous entries continue in a similar vein “…children throwing stones…”, “…boys trampling down wheat…”, “…the tap having been broken by some of the children…”, “…kicking at and injuring the schoolroom door…”, “…climbing trees…”, “…robbing Mr N--- apple tree…”.   

This was just the boys but the girls were no angels either.  “…Emily O-- left school without permission and went home…”, “…Minnie O--, Emily O-- and Annie W-- were kept in for quarter of an hour in the afternoon as a punishment for calling bad names in the road…”, “…Lucy M-- was kept in for striking Ellen S--…”.

There seems to have been little respect for the teachers either.  “Ralph J-- was very noisy and indolent.  When cautioned about his continued bad conduct told me he used to do as he liked before I came”, “Ralph J-- was very insolent to the mistress and told her that paying 4d per week was too much and that he learned no more than the infants – with other impudent remarks”, “Ernest B-- threatened to kick the shins of the mistress because he was ordered to stand on the form for continued talking”.

The parents did not always seem to set a favourable example to the children either.  “…Mrs M-- came to the school in the afternoon to abuse me because her child was kept in a little more than 10 minutes after school for playing truant…”, “…Mrs M-- came into the school and abused the master because her boy was kept in 10 minutes after school for leaving the playground without permission…”, “…it appears that his mother told him to kick the shins of the master or mistress..”, “…her mother came to the school and abused the teacher in a very shameful manner…”.  This attitude is summed up in one entry that simply states that “If any punishment is administered, the parents come to the school and abuse the teacher”.

If we could not rely on the boys, the girls or the parents, at least the teachers could be relied upon; or perhaps not if the following entry is anything to go by !  “Had occasion to reprove the pupil teacher for reading a newspaper during the reading lesson of the infants”.

The teachers of that day did not have to be so cautious about how they administered discipline although there is little recorded evidence of such.  “…William T-- received a hander for talking after being several times cautioned”.

Attendance appeared to be a little more flexible than it is today.  “…very poor attendance the latter part of this week in consequence of the floods…”, “…several of the elder children gone hay-making…”, “…a good many children absent on account of the fair at Gloucester”, “…a Mop at Gloucester, 30 absent”, “…about 20 children absent, snow on the ground”, “About 23 children absent.  The Band of Hope held a meeting in the village”.  The fairs at Gloucester and the Band of Hope meetings seem to have become an annual event with holidays being given in the end to avoid absenteeism.

Holidays were not always the answer, “…The children seem very tired and stupid after their holidays”.

Attitudes to work were also different in those days and there are several references to the older children leaving for work.  “…Charles W—again absent and is working for Mr W--, farmer”, “…Charles W—and Samuel B—working for farmers in the parish”.

The Log Books also provide details of absences through sickness.  “…Several children absent through having bad feet”, “A good many children absent being laid up with chicken pox”, “Several children absent with Whooping Cough”, “Sent Elizabeth G-- home until cured of ringworm on her forehead”.

All of this – and more - in just the first five years of the school.  Perhaps things weren’t as ‘good’ as some people remember them to be.

Whilst this photo is undated the gentleman to the right may help date it.  Presuming he was the headmaster he must have been either Mr H L Okey who was here July 1879 to 1881 or Mr H Brew, February 1882 to 1894.

  The records show that the annual fair arriving in Gloucester in September each year always resulted in severe disruption to attendance at the village school and no doubt everywhere else as well.  On 29th September 1879 we have; “Re-opened school.  A good many children absent on account of the fair at Gloucester”.  6th October 1879; “Very poor attendance again.  A ‘mop’ at Gloucester, nearly thirty absent”.  4th October 1880; “Nearly thirty children absent on account of the ‘mop’ at Gloucester”.  3rd October 1881; “About thirty children absent chiefly on account of the ‘mop’ at Gloucester”.  29th September 1919; “Attendance today rather poor.  14 children were absent in the morning and 17 in the afternoon.  The majority of these went to the annual fair at Gloucester”.  Finally we find 2nd October 1933; “School closed this afternoon for Barton Fair”.

24 September 1897 sees an entry in the Log Books that wouldn’t be seen today and shows the importance of a ‘crop’ that is now largely overlooked; “attendance not so good this week.  Children kept at home to go blackberry picking”.  This does not appear to have been a one-off although the next reference to it is not until some 20 years later.  This is made to sound like a grand affair on 12 September 1917; “Blackberrying Expedition.  The elder children only allowed to go.  The younger ones and delicate ones and ones for special reasons allowed to stay behind.  Registers were marked and closed and blackberry parties formed.”  Another entry dated 2 September 1918 goes into more detail; “Blackberry picking for the Navy and Army.  Half day holiday.”  Perhaps the berries were sold to raise money or perhaps made into jams and tarts to be sent to the soldiers still fighting in France.  Whatever was happening to the blackberries there must have been an abundance of them as further entries from 10,12,13,17,19,20,23,24 September, and 1 and 4 October 1918 all record a “half day holiday for blackberry picking.”

Mrs Riddick spent several years of her childhood at Norton living with her family at Church Farm and later Ivy House Farm.  We thank her for taking the time and trouble to record some of her memories of Norton CofE School and its headmistress during the years that she was a pupil.  Mrs Robinson was actually head from September 1915 to May 1918; “I remember that her husband worked in a bank in Gloucester and that she had two children; Elsa and Kathleen.  Elsa died from Spanish flu and I believe that she was buried at Norton Church.  She had very modern ideas and had taught in Canada for a time.  She taught me a poem called ‘The One Legged Goose’; can anyone else remember it ?  We were taught cookery every Friday afternoon and we could take home what we made.  A van came from Gloucester every October to teach us Domestic Science.  During the War we did concerts to raise money for the troops and myself and two others sang ‘Three Little Maids From School’.  We always finished with ‘Keep The Home Fires Burning’ but when my brother Jim had been killed just before the one concert Mrs Robinson cut it out.  She was one of the best teachers that I had”.

Extracts from the School Log Book of 1917; 5 Feb 1917; “A heavy snowstorm prevented many of the children from coming to school.  The attendance was just 53% so registers were marked but school was closed down at noon as several of the children were ill in the morning and had to be sent into the school house by the fire and doctored up.”  6 Feb 1917; “The roads still almost impassable.  Fewer children at school still – only 30 children being present at 9:15.  The baby room fire out and Miss Fluck still absent.  The children were kept at school and had instruction in reading, physical exercises, English and writing; small classes being arranged around the stove.  The Rev Cherrington visited the school.  The numbers of children kept were 30.  A good deal of marching physical exercise was necessitated by the thermometer only registering 30o in the school room and 28o in the classroom.  This temperature had raised by noon to 38o in both cases.  Owing to lack of fuel and inability to procure same, the Education Committee (Secretary) granted permission to close down school for the remainder of the week.  This was done.”  13 Feb 1917; "School reopened having now managed to secure coke.”


1923.  Back Row; Percy Tanner, Peter Mealing, Alf Barnes, Lionel Summer, Ken Barnes, ?, ? Centre Row; Martha Wilks, Kitty Barnes, Olive Stubbs, Winnie Sims, Muriel Hunt, Cassy Lawrence, Josie Newland, ? Front Row; Jim Longney, Joan Griffiths, Florie Longney, ?, Nora Perrett, Geoff Newland.


1929.  Back Row; Mrs Hale, Tony Hannis, Ivor Mealing, Harold Wheeler, Sydney Hughes, Roland Slatter, Jim Slatter.  Centre Row; Roy Mullens, ?, Enid Collier, Hannah Slatter, Lavender Hughes, Irene Blake, Kenneth Blake.  Front Row; Arthur Piff, ?, ?, Joan Bradshaw, ?

1930.  Only three names to go with this poor copy.  

Left end of middle row, Jim Patterson.  Right end of front row, Sheila Mullens.  The teacher may be Miss Harris.

School Garden.  The school garden was located at various places over the years including the school house, the vicarage and Court Hay Farm.  The Log Books from Norton CofE School contain many references to the garden which tell us when it was first started and the sort of crops that were grown.  The 25th March 1925 is the first reference; “Received from Badham & Co, Gloucester, requisites for school garden.  1 wheelbarrow, 6 forks, 6 spades, 6 Dutch hoes, 6 draw hoes, 2 rakes and 1 garden line.”  This was followed the next day with the brief record, “Commenced gardening classes.”  The garden was to be well stocked and one month later on 20th April 1925 the following inventory was recorded; “Seeds received from Winfields & Sons, Gloucester.  1 pkt King Edwards, 1 pkt Sharpes Express, 1 pkt long pod beans, 1 pkt scarlet runners, 1 pkt senator peas, 1 pkt English wonder, ¼ pkt Canadian wonder, 1oz onion, 2oz radish, 1oz turnips, ½oz carrot, ½oz beet, ½oz parsnip, broccoli, sprouts, parsley, cabbage, lettuce, cauliflower, leek, savoy and flower collection.”  To generate an interest in the subject, trips were organised such as the following recorded on 9th November 1925; “Took 6 boys, members of the school gardening class, to the Root, Fruit and Grain Show this afternoon.”  Badhams continued to be the major supplier of equipment with Winfields being the supplier of seeds etc for many years.  Occasionally items were purchased from elsewhere, presumably when they were not available locally. 14th February 1929 records one such instance; “Received ½cwt of special fertiliser from Newport for use in the school garden.”  It must indeed have been ‘special’ to have been brought that far in those days.  It is known that hens were also kept in the garden and perhaps the following couple of entries record the original creation of the hen runs.  25th July 1934, “Received 60 yards of wire netting and one stocker from Badhams & Co, Gloucester, for use in the school garden.” and 21st September 1934, “Received 20 yards of wire netting from Badhams & Co for the school garden.”  The garden was also becoming automated by the mid-1930s as the following entry records; 17th May 1935; “Received ‘Leo’ mowing machine (garden) and pair of garden shears from Badhams.”  The garden became a point of interest from outside of the village such as on 22nd November 1935 when it was recorded that “Mr Pymont called at the school at 11:30 this morning.  He visited the school garden to inspect the fruit plot and he suggested treatment of the apples grafted in the spring”.  Mr Pymont was a head of department at Hartbury College.  On 5th May 1936 it was recorded that “Mr Bessey, HMI, visited the school this afternoon at 1:45 and found I was taking the boys in gardening.  He came up the school garden and stayed near one hour and offered many useful suggestions.” and on the 2nd September 1937, “Mr Secker(?) the new gardening instructor for the County visited the school this afternoon at 2:45 and found the boys in the school garden.”  The garden was still in operation at the end of the 1930s but the school log books are not available for inspection after this date so we have no later information.

Tony Bradshaw, who grew up at Dunsworth Cottage, could remember using the garden whilst at school in Norton and shared the following with me in 1998; “When the garden first started it was located at The School House.  Just prior to 1934 the garden had moved to Elm House which was owned by the Boodle family who were dentists in the surrounding city and towns.  The new Gloucester-Tewkesbury Road was constructed in 1931 and cut through the gardens of Elm House and maybe this was when the garden was moved.  It is also known that it was at Court Hay Farm at some time during Jasper Hook’s occupancy and perhaps this was between 1931 when it left Elm House until 1934 when it opened at The Vicarage with the arrival of Rev Evans Prosser.  The garden could be found half way up the road to the rectory on the right hand side.  The soil was poor here being mainly heavy clay and holes were dug in the corner of each plot to help encourage drainage.  The garden fell into disuse about 1939 when quite a few of the senior boys moved to secondary school at Longlevens”.

Harry Wilks of The Leigh also remembered the garden; “The school had a garden at Court Hay Farm; Mr Hook owned the farm.  Mr Perrett took 8 or 9 pupils to work on this garden which was watered by carrying buckets of water from the brook.  Later they had a garden at the vicarage.  Now a house occupies its space on the right hand side of the vicarage drive, where there was a lovely Beauty of Bath apple tree.  These apples were a treat and could only be eaten if Boss gave his consent.  Ted Simms, a local man from Broadclose Road, first dug the garden for the children under the supervision of Mr Pymont who was head of department at Hartpury College.  Harry enjoyed the gardening better than lessons in school.  The garden was square with a point at one end.  Each boy had his own patch.  When the crops were grown they were sold (those that had not been eaten by the boys !).  The school cleaner, Florrie Teakle, bought a lot, also Elsie Mealing’s auntie.  Mrs Bradshaw also bought from the boys.  The money raised was used to buy more seed and potatoes.  Harry cleaned out the fowls for the headmaster for which he used to give him 6d on a Friday afternoon.  The fowls were Wilcima, which produced brown eggs, and White Leghorns.  Although the White Leghorns were good layers they were very active and always flying around !  Going home Harry stopped at Tess Hughes’ shop and spent his 6d".

In 2000, Bill Hannis, at one time of Cold Elm, Norton, recounted his memories of a visit from the dentist to Norton school in the 1930s; “The school dentist visited the school occasionally.  It was a Mr Boodle who had a practise in Gloucester and he was a real butcher.  The children hated him.  If you were unlucky enough to need an extraction you had an injection and as soon as he put the syringe down he started to extract your tooth.  You could feel everything.  I think his legs and shins must have been black and blue when he left as everyone kicked him.  He deserved it.  It did put me off dentists for life”.

In an article written for the Parish Magazine of July 1971 Canon Evans Prosser included the following; “At the same time [I believe this is 1935] we had a bicycle shed put up for the schoolchildren as many children came to school by bike and Mr Perrett [the headmaster] was always concerned about the saddles getting wet when they were piled up against the school wall.  This shed carried on for years until in the great gale that we had in the Spring of 1947 when its roof was blown right off.  Before long it was restored and carried on and it is still there today although now used for a different purpose”.