The Thornes Lane Schools
I had originally intended to research the history just of Christ Church National School but found that St James’ National School, which had been opened fourteen years earlier, in 1861, had been built specifically to serve the waterfront area twelve years before the parish of Christ Church had been formed. So I am looking at the two schools together. There is plenty of material in the surviving log books for the Infant Schools but, as there are no log books for what were called the ‘Mixed Schools’, the part of the buildings where older children were taught, it is more difficult to learn much about the day to day activity there. There are no log books at all for the half-century from 1911 until the schools closed in the 1960s, but information about the later years, from the 1940s, has come from people who have talked to us during our waterfront sessions last year.
So far I have been particularly interested in the problems both schools faced in their first thirty years or so – overcrowding, desperate poverty, illness such as the epidemics of measles, whooping cough, scarlet fever and – the most dreaded – small pox, and in what the children were taught. (Both boys and girls learned to knit!) I am also looking at the effect on the schools of the Education Acts of 1870 – when the Wakefield School Board came into being – and 1902 which brought the schools under the authority of the Wakefield Borough Council Education Committee.
Further primary sources which I have trawled are the files on both schools which are held at the Church of England Record Centre in Bermondsey and which originated with the National Society for Promoting Religious Education. These include substantial correspondence between the clergy of the two parishes of Christ Church and St James and the Secretary of the National Society.
I would love to see more privately owned material relating to either school or both.
Kate Taylor 2014