Roy Crosley

The late Roy Crosley, headteacher at St Teath from 1953 to 1980, wrote about the early days of the school under the title 'Times Past', using information from the school log book. These originally appeared in early issues of Timepiece and illustrate how the school was planned, school events and even amorous goings on amongst the staff.


Part 1

On the tower of St. Teath School a stone tablet that commemorates the opening of the school on 9th December 1878. It also perpetuates the names of the citizens of St. Teath parish who, as members of the St. Teath School Board, were responsible for its building and the first few years of its life as a school. The inscription is almost indecipherable now and one can only wander why, living in a slate parish, they chose Portland stone for the tablet.

Up to 1878 schooling in the village was catered for by two schools, but not, I believe, at the same time. A school had been conducted In the Vestry Room, now the Community Centre, and I have been told that many of the pupils were weekly boarders in the village. A Dames' school operated in No. 1 The Square. Details are scant about these schools and their existence demands further investigation.

There is a memorial in the Churchyard to John Oliver, Schoolmaster for 59 years who died in 1878 at the age of 75. Those figures raise questions. In the census returns of 1861 one Nathaniel Hawken is described as a Schoolmaster, where or whom they taught I have no idea.

However in 1875 the St. Teath School Board was set up under the provisions of the Education Act of 1870 which gave the Boards the duty of maintaining Public Elementary Education (the emphasis was on Elementary) for children aged 3 - 12, The St. Teath Board would be responsible for schools in St. Teath, Delabole and Michaelstow. At Delabole the Methodist School was used before the present school was opened in 1879.

The members of the Board were elected by the ratepayers, and the first members were George Bickle, John May, Job Hockaday, Richard Parsons and Robert Roberts, The Camelford and Delabole Post of that time reported that the then Vicar - Rev. William Rowe had not been elected and, I believe, suggested that inter denominational rivalry might have been responsible.

At the first meeting, no fewer than three members of the Board were proposed as Chairman but the choice eventually fell on Mr. Roberts.

Richard Watts Philp, Assistant Overseer of the Poor in St.Teath, was asked to take a census of children aged 3-12 in the Parish and a precept for £67.17s.6d was raised on the Qverseer to pay the expenses of the Board.

A clerk was advertised for and Mr. Thomas Creber of Camelford was engaged at the salary of £20 per annum.

The first site to be considered was the field behind Union Row but eventually the present site was purchased from a Mr. Philp for £2 in the fields known as Homer New Parks, the name of Valliant Cottage until only a few years ago.

A well known Architect of the time, Mr. Sylvanus D. Trevail was engaged to design the Schools, He was responsible for many schools in the county about that time and a former Secretary for Education for Cornwall commented on his buildings as having "handsome exteriors and inconvenient interiors".

Part 2

Mr. Trevail, the chosen Architect for both St. Tenth and Delabole Schools was instructed to design 'buildings with towers which could house a clock'.

In his designs the school houses were incorporated into the buildings and the School Board on the 8th of gay 1876 further instructed the Architect that the toilets bad to be provided outside and not inside the building. Nowadays of course outside toilets are anathema but one must admit that plumbing in those days left very much to be desired and it was well into the 1930's before water closets and running water was installed in the School and the school house, Indeed our youngest boy found the privy at the end of the school house garden an ideal play house using the wooden bench seat as a variety of seats, tables and anything else that he and his mates thought up.

Also at the meeting the Board decided that the houses for the Masters were too palatial and ordered Mr. Trevail to reduce the accommodation by one bedroom and the sitting room. I am happy to say this resolution was rescinded at the next meeting.

In November of 1876 the plans went out far tender and Mr. John Oliver (the Olivers lived in St. Teath well into the Sixties and still have great ties with the village), obtained the contract with a figure of £4,800 for both, yes both, schools. But the Board were a canny lot and the contracts were not signed until August of the following year.

They then got impatient and by December of 1877 were complaining about tardy progress with the building. This did not stop them from ordering the memorial stones for both Schools - ensuring their immortality if they had used slate instead of the Portland stone they specified.

By March of 1878 they were in trouble with the ratepayers who were complaining about lack of progress with the building but by June of 1878 they were far enough ahead to advertise far a Master and Mistress (to teach sewing) with this proviso - "Teetotallers preferred".

In July 1878 they appointed Mr. Huggins at £120 p.a. but Mr. Huggins refused to accede to the Board's terms. But by 3rd August they had selected Mr. & Mrs. Down who were to become the first teachers in St.Teath and the first to occupy the school house. By November the Board were still dissatisfied with the builder and complained of water penetrating the building. As there was no running water they ordered a 100 gallon slate water tank to be installed at the back of the house. That was only dismantled in 1971. Eventually notice was given that the School would open on 9th December 1878. It did - and oddly no mention is made of this important event in the Boards' minutes. And now the story belongs to the School Log Book.

Part 3

My last notes about the early days of St. Teath C.P. School ended with the appointment of Mr. Frank Down as Head, in those days known as the Master. I remember when I came in 1953 it was some little while before I ceased being the "new maister"!

The earliest entry in the school log reads:
MONDAY 9th SEPTEMBER 1878: I begin work as Master of the St.Teath U.D. (United District) Board Mixed which was opened for the first time this morning when 25 children were admitted. Mrs. Down Is the Assistant- Teacher. I am compelled to disregard the time table this week on account of admitting now scholars etc.

The second entry reads:
THURSDAY 12th: The floor under the stove in the classroom took fire this morning.

The third entry:
WEDNESDAY 18th: The Board visited the school this morning. I find the children very ignorant; out of the whole on the books (49) only four can say the multiplication table.

On Friday December 20th the school broke up for the Christmas Holidays of two weeks.

wage earners were almost equally divided among Quarrymen, Farm workers and Miners (from Treburgett Mines), It must have been shortly after then that the mine closed, as the description 'Miner' soon disappears from the occupation list.

At the start of the new term in January 1879 40 new scholars were admitted and the school really was under way.

In those days fees were charged on a sliding scale

for children of a) paupers - ¼d (farthing) per attendance
b) Labourers, Miners and Quarrymen - 2d per week
c} Tradespeople - 3d per week
d) Farmers - 4d per week

but very shortly John Persons (the Shoemaker), Wm. Neal (Carpenter), Geo. Burnard (Tailor), and Mary Oliver (Dressmaker), refused to pay more then 2d per week. The word obviously soon got around and Mr Auger (Carpenter) and Mr. Warne (Farmer) also refused to pay more than 2d and by May of 1879 the Board had relented and charged a uniform 2d for all children except paupers, whose fees were paid by the Guardians (of the Poor).

The stoves continued to give trouble and the floors in both rooms caught fire later in January and it was not until March that Mr. Down felt happy about his fires, although the coal was consumed at quite a rate. By the end of April, two tons had been used.

Part 4

In February 1878 the Staff of the School was increased by three paid Monitors. These three girls, who would be no more than fifteen or sixteen years old, would be engaged with the intention of training them to qualify as Pupil Teachers. Within another month the numbers had increased so much that two more paid Monitors were added to the Staff.

Part of the duties of the Master was to instruct the Monitors before and after school, but propriety had to be observed by the presence of Mrs Down at these instruction sessions.

These Monitors were a bit of a thorn in the flesh of Mr Down. He constantly complains of their inattention to his instruction, of tbeir habit of just not turning up for school, and on one occasion, of preferring to play with the children of the school instead of maintaining a 'proper distance from their former playmates'.

Another irritant thorn was a certain Mr Richard Parsons who, according to Kelly's Directory of 1873, was a Grocer and Draper. Mr Parsons, having been a member of the original School Board, had lost his place at a later election. That, however, did not deter him from making frequent visits to the School. These visits were faithfully recorded in the School Log thus: 'Mr R. Parsons (ex-Member of the Board) visited the School today' and on some occasions 'tested the classes in Geography' - and no doubt the Master's patience!

Part 5

A bare six months after the School opened the first Government inspection took by H.M.Inspectors H. Cuisine and Cordery. Two of the Pupil Teachers passed as Candidates, and the H.M.I. recommended the appointment of an Assistant Teacher as "Mr. Down ought to have a teacher of some experience to help him in the large school".

In January 1880 Mr. W.T. Bennett took up his appointment as Assistant Teacher, This was to cause problems later. But I can do no better now than to report verbatim some of the entries in the school log book.

MONDAY 26th MAY 1879: Very small attendance owing to Camelford Fair.

WEDNESDAY JUNE 25th: Several children absent today in consequence of a trip of the Church Choir and Sunday School to Polzeath beach.

FRIDAY JULY 18th. Camelford Fair again - very small school.

TUESDAY JULY 22nd Several children absent haymaking.

TUESDAY AUGUST 19th No school today. Several Sunday Schools taking their annual trip to the Cliff.

TUESDAY OCTOBER 14th No school this afternoon. Festival of the Band of Hope to which all the children belong.

WED OCTOBER 29th Bible Christians held a luncheon, bazaar, a tea and supper here. No school today.

THURS NOVEMBFR 15th No school today. Re-opening of the Parish Church after complete restoration.

THURS APRIL 29th 1880 Mrs. R. Parsons visited the school in fresh anger this dinner time because Mr. Bennet kept in her boy a quarter of an hour.

MONDAY 17th JAN 1881 This morning in consequence of a very severe snow storm and the excessive cold (33°F with fires) and the attendance being very small I dismissed the children before 12.

FRIDAY 21st JAN The snow having filled all the roads and the people of St.Teath having consumed all their coal and with the approval of Mr. Teague (of the School Board) I, according to the request of the people, sold the school coal at the rate of ls 1½d per cwt. and 7d per ½cwt, to the following persons (there follows a list of 43 people) and 39½cwt, was sold for £2, 4s. 8d. The school remained closed for a fortnight.

Part 6

This extract from the log book of St, Teath School needs no Introduction. The "I" is, of course, the Headmaster.

MARCH 1881

Wed 22nd I have again to complain of the idleness of 'Miss M.E.' - pupil teacher. She never prepares any lessons. Since Christmas I have noticed. that whenever 'Mr.B' entered the large room 'Miss E.' blushed. At once I began to take more not ice and from various little circumstances I concluded that there must be something wrong, especially as she has not studied her year's work. So of course I tried by various means -to discover the root of the mischief, but failed until this afternoon, when I altered the course of the Time Table. Giving 'Mr.B' the Second Standard Arithmetic Cards in a bag to be worked by his class in the class room for the first lesson I told 'Miss E' that she should give the same cards to her class in the large room for the second lesson. The time to change lessons came. The bag of cards had to be carried from 'Mr-B's" class to 'Miss E's class.

In the transit F took the bag out of the boy's hand and opened it and saw in the bag a love letter written by 'Mr.B' in the class room during the first lesson to 'M.E.' who tried to snatch this note out of my band, but failed. I stood before the class room door and read the note which ran thus:

"My Dear 'M:', I will go with you of course that is if you would rather have my company and if 'C' will not feel annoyed about it. But you did not say what time I was to come up for you, 'M' if you go, what about your lessons, you must not neglect them. I have been finely talked to this dinner time because they say I am keeping you from learning your lessons and that you will not pass your examination and I would not have you to fail for anything and I hope and trust you work. 'M' I want to talk to you about that to-night. Please answer somehow or some and let me know which you would rather for me to do and if to go what time I must come up for you.

I remain Yours for ever 'W.B.'

Thurs 3rd Looking further into this affair I discovered that 'Mr.B' and N.E.' had each two boys whom they had trained to be letter carriers. The way they managed was this:- 'R&B.' would allow a boy to leave the room. 'M.E.' seeing one of the particular boys go out, would let a boy of her class go out immediately. These two boys outside would exchange notes, bring in, and deliver them to 'R&B.' and 'M.E.' This note writing has been going an, it appears, for about a fortnight.

Fri 4th 'M.E.' said her lessons for the third time since the last examination.

The things they got up to, but both 'Mr.B.' and 'M.E.' left the school within 3 months.

Thanks to Peggy Crosley and the editors of Timepiece for permission to use these extracts.