Woolacombe School Celebrates 100 years

January 13th 1916

Woolacombe New School

Opened by Miss Chichester, of Arlington.

On Monday 11th January, the staff and children of Woolacombe School celebrated its centenary. 100 years previously, 11th January 1916, amidst the events of World War 1, the school rang its bell for the first time.

The centenary celebrations were a great success, with the school hosting an open day to share its memories with past students and friends of the school, followed by a special service at St Sabinus School to mark the occasion.

100 years ago the School had held its own celebrations to mark the great occasion of having the school in Woolacombe:

The full article detailing the days events can be read below:

After several years of ceaseless agitation (the grievance of the parents being that in all weathers and at all seasons their children had to travel along the exposed coast road to Morte-Hoe to School), Woolacombe has its new County Council School, which was opened on Saturday amid general rejoicings. It was quite in accordance with the fitness of things that the ceremony should have been performed by Miss Chichester, of Arlington Court, inasmuch as it is to this noble hearted lady that Woolacombe is indebted for the magnificent site on which the School stands. To the generosity of Miss Chichester, indeed beautiful Woolacombe owes largely the facts of its rapid development of late years; and it was only natural that in recognition thereof the warmest of tributes should have been paid to her in Saturday’s proceedings.

The School site is an acre and a quarter in extent, and the School is just opposite the new Church, with approaches from the main road and lower side of Woolacombe. Roofed in slate, the building is in local stone, faced with waterproof cement, with rough cast finish. Accommodation is provided for 160 scholars, there being three large classrooms. Spacious corridors are distinctive features, affording separate entrances for the boys and the girls and infants. A series of nine windows (three for each classroom) admits ample light to the school, although there are several other windows at the rear. Cloakrooms-in which there are wash-ups in addition to numbered hat pegs-are provided for each department, these being heated by means of hot water popes in the same way as are the classrooms and windows. A wood block floor is laid in each classroom, and the interior walls are treated with patent water paint. There are two tarmacadam playgrounds for the respective sections of the School, with lavatory accommodation on the same up-to-date lines as mark all the other appointments in connection with the building. At a cost of about £2,000, the School was erected by Messars. Slee and Son, of Barnstaple, whose work throughout gave unqualified satisfaction. It only remains to be added that the School was opened under the happiest auspices for the first time on Monday with about eighty scholars. Mrs. Bevan having being appointed the new temporary headmistress.

For Saturday’s opening ceremony a large crowd assembled outside the School premises, those present including Miss Chichester, Revs. T. W. Pigot (Vicar of Morte-Hoe), W. R. Wright, (Curate in charge at Woolacombe), Messrs. W. P Hiern (Chairman of the Devon Education Committee), G. C. Davie, Dr. Slade-King, J.F. Young (Secretary of the Devon Education Committee), Miss Davie, Mr. W. Ellis (Chairman of the Parish Council), Mr and Mrs. C. Squire, Mr. and Mrs. Salisbury, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Beer, Mr. and Mrs. J. Pile, Mrs Huxtable (Over Woolacombe), Mr. and Mrs. J. Chugg (Morte-Hoe), Mrs. Pike, Mr. and Mrs. Wreford, Mr. and Mrs Kivell, Mrs. David Smith, Miss Peters, Mrs Beer (Woolacombe Barton), Mr. and Mrs. Bradley, Mrs. And Miss Hoskins, Messrs. W. B. Harris, G.A Raddmore (Woolacombe). T.S. Watkinson (Barnstaple), and R. Barrett (Headmaster of Ilfracombe Higher Council School). The school children of Woolacombe were also present, their pleasure at the opening of the new School being fully evidenced by their happy faces, and by the waving of a number of miniature flags which they held in their hands.

Mr. F. Beer addressing the gathering said that all Woolacombe was very proud that day. They had had there a good many red letter days, but that day was the crowning one of the whole. (Applause). They had succeeded in getting a School which they learnt was second to none in County, and of this fact, as he had said, they were really very proud. (Loud applause) Personally he had always been interested in the progress of Woolacombe, but he had never experienced more pride and pleasure than on that day, because in that School they had an institution which was calculated to prove the greatest boon both to present and future generations (Applause) It was indeed, a great honour on behalf of the Woolacombe people to ask Miss Chichester to accept some small token of their esteem and regard for her, and their recognition of her noble gift, in the form of a solid silver gilt key, on which was inscribed – “Presented by the people of Woolacombe to Miss Rosalie Caroline Chichester and used by her to open the new Council Schools, January 8th 1916.” (Loud applause)

Amid rousing cheers Miss Chichester proceed to unlock the main door at the Woolacombe end of the School, and the company they adjourned to the adjoining large classroom.

Mr. Ellis, who presided on behalf of the parishioners of Woolacombe and the Managers of the School, extended a most cordial welcome to the visitors there that afternoon. All were pleased and proud, he said that such a fine School had been provided for Woolacombe, and although it had only come after about twenty years of agitation, they now felt amply repaid; indeed all the anticipations had been more than realised (Applause) Now that the building was an accomplished fact, he trusted that all would do their upmost to make the School a success. (Applause) There had, perhaps, been differences of opinion with regard to the School, and some of them might have thought that the time was inopportune for the carrying out of such a scheme; but he sincerely trusted that all would now all sink the differences, and strive to make the School the success which it fully deserved to be. (Applause) If ever there was a time when we needed to give the rising generation a good education it was today. He remarked, incidentally, that in this connection we had had in past years held up as a pattern to us Germany; but he thought that it would be as well if now we could erase many things which Germany had done from our memories. (Hear, hear) He feared that in the past England had not made the progress educationally that she should have done, but he trusted that so far from there being any cause for complaint in the future, England would be held up as an example for all the world to copy. He again urged parents and children to do their utmost to make the Schools a success, in this was helping to promote the best interests of our great Empire. (Applause)

Mr. Hirens, on rising to propose a vote of thanks to Miss Chichester for her services, was received with loud applause. He first remarket that the question of a school at Woolacombe had been actively and vitally before the parish for about five years, its provision being due partly to their own agitation and more especially to the fact that Miss Chichester had come forward in the most generous way and given effect to her keen sympathy for the education of the children in general and to that parish in particular. The site of the School we not only eminently suitable with regard to aspect and position, but was very liberal in the matter of area-so liberal that they could have easily as far as the ground went, have built a teachers house. Indeed, the intention was to have erected a teacher’s house on the round. In the great spirit of economy which prevailed at the Devon Education Committee (Laughter) they felt that it would really be economical to do so because they knew that land there was valuable and increasing its values, and they could have put up a School House for the teacher at such a cost as would be cheaper to the occupier than paying a rent in the ordinary way. However, the County Council took rather a different view- a view in sympathy with that of the ordinary ratepayer, whose great idea was, and was likely to be, to cut down expenditure. Of course, they might say that economy and small expenditure were not necessarily corresponding things. The Education Committee had consequently thought that the money which they could get would be best spent in providing a thoroughly good School such as they saw that day. (Applause) they had, however only got it in the nick of time, inasmuch as if the scheme had only been delayed a few months longer they would have been delayed by the arbitrary rules laid down by the Local Government Board from borrowing money for work of this kind. He was sure it was only fair and proper homage to the generosity of Miss Chichester in providing the splendid site upon which the School stood. (Applause). Having got the School, he had no doubt that the parishioners at large would like to see that the best possible use was made of it, that children who wished to do so should not be debarred from doing so and that they should make proper arrangements so that if necessary the school might become the principal school for Mortehoe. No doubt before making such arrangements the general interests of the entire parish would be consulted. He concluded by remarking that a hearty vote of thanks be given to Miss Chichester on the very handsome way in which she had managed this matter.

Speaking of educational matters, he was not sur that the British public always got value for money spent. He was one of those who thought that education was the play ground of a certain number of Government faddists, who amused themselves by getting all their fads at the expense of the unfortunate rate payers, and still more at the expense of the unfortunate children. Mr Davie related an incident which had come under his notice in support of this contention. It was said that although our children were more knowledgeable than they were thirty years ago they were not so sharp, and in his opinion if they wanted to make their way into the world, sharpness was of as much importance as knowledge. (Hear hear) What we had to see in the future was that our children were educated and received such a training as would enable us to keep the trade which we had got in this country, and not lose it back again to Germany. They could depend upon it that every mortal thing fair and unfair would be done by Germany in order to get back the trade she formerly held, and it would be for us and coming generations to make sure we firmly held what we had already secured (Applause)

Dr Slade King, supporting, remarked that the development of Morte-Hoe and Woolacombe had been the result of the exertions of one and all in the parish. A prominent factor in this connection, however, had been Miss Chichester’s family, which was established there when there was only one single farmhouse standing in the place (Applause) As evidence of the progress which had been made in his time, Dr. Slade-King said he well remembered that when a boy he was told by an old man that his father recollected when, the first vehicle on wheels came into Morte-Hoe. Coming to education, the speaker pointed out that with the teachers in schools lay the work of developing the characters of the children, and that the work had proceeded on the right lines was proved by the number of young men who had patriotically come forward and rallied around the flag in the present great national crisis. (Applause) He trusted that in the future even more liberty would be given to teachers, being of opinion that there was a narrowness and too much of the groove in connection with certain spheres of Government work. He pleaded for the opportunity for adaptability, and liberty of expansion for the teachers, who, to a great extent, had the moulding of the characters of the masses of the people, as he believed that given a little more freedom they would produce even finer materials than they had in the past.

Mr. J. F. Young (County Education Secretary) said he also had the greatest pleasure in supporting the vote of thanks to Miss Chichester. It would not, he thought, be right for him to endeavour to thrust off his own shoulders any share of the responsibility for the nature of teaching given in the schools, and to try to thrust everything onto the shoulders of the Board of Education. What he should like to point out was that this was rather a period of transition in education. In the old days they had that as was known payment by results and the Board of Education laid down absolutely rigidly what each child was to do in each standard. It was found that was not producing a good result; and then, as we always did in this country, we proceeded to go to the other extreme. We went entirely for educating the intelligence of the children, forgetting that there was also other side of steady hard work – the real grind of educations, which had to be got through. In one sort of way in which there had been neglect was in the idea the children need not be taught their multiplication table. Inspectors had objected very strongly to the old sing song way of learning multiplication by rote, forgetting that the multiplication table must be learnt in some way or other. It should not be forgotten, however, that fault was merely an exaggeration of a things which was exceedingly good, namely that the teachers were trying to train the brains and intellects of the children, and not merely to get them to learn things by heart. They had to remember that a child had to be turned out fit to take his or her part in the battle of life, and the important thing also to remember was that they were aiming to train the brains and the intellect of the children. There was one other little point which he should also like to emphasize. In the old elementary schools, especially, it had, he thought, been custom to rely too much on the teachers. The Chairman had said that in order that the child might get on not only the teacher and the child were necessary but also the influence of the parents; and with this view he thoroughly agreed. Hard work on the part of the children was above all, necessary-there was not royal road to learning, and whether the children did hard work or not depended on the spirit of the parents in encouraging their children to make headway and progress. Let parents, therefore encourage their children to get the very best out of school. He pointed out that if a boy or girl was turned out to school able to do a little arithmetic and to write they practically had the weapons with which they could acquire all knowledge for themselves , and it really would not make very much difference in after life whether they had been taught at first a lot more than that. Mr. Young finally remarked on the improvement shown in the building of new schools as he compared with the old school buildings and contended that the extra cost would be well repaid in the beneficial results accruing to the children and the nation.

There was a cordial vote and Miss Chichester, acknowledging, expressed thanks for the opportunity afforded her of allowing her to open the school. She sincerely thanked the people of Woolacombe for the beautiful key with which they had presented her, which she said, she should always keep in remembrance of them and the occasion.

Mr. R. Barrett, submitting success to the new School, warmly congratulated Woolacombe on acquiring that School and also in having such a generous donor as Miss Chichester in presenting the site. Dr Slade King had said it was the product of their elementary schools which was going to win the present War in the end. He had no doubt this was quite true, as character and patriotism were formed in the schools of this country. With regard to the curriculum, teachers were supposed to have freedom of classification and to frame their own schemes. They were, however, subject to H.M. Inspectors and the Inspectors of the County Council, and he was afraid that the liberty of formulating schemes was not quite what it might be. In his opinion, teachers often did not show sufficient independence in this matter. He held that no man knew the requirements of his School, for example, as well as himself; and he therefore considered he was the best judge of what should be taught there. Teachers should asset their position, and say that they were the best judge in this matter. If they could not judge they were not fit for their positions. The should be allowed to do their work in the best way, and if the product was satisfactory then the Inspectors and authorities should be satisfied . He was one of those who thought that one large School was immensely better than two small ones, and if they could get that School full and well-staffed it would be all to the advantage of Morte-Hoe and Woolacombe.

Rev. W. R Wright seconded, and also tendered his congratulations in respect of the School. He reminded the children that their happiest days were their school days, and the parents that the work must not simply be left to the teachers, because, like charity, religion, and education began at home. Let them all do their best to see that their children were worthy of the School, and sink any little differences that might have existed in order to promote its success.

Mr. W. B. Harris supporting spoke of the difficulties which had to be contended with in order to obtain the School, ‘Keep On” had, however, been their motto, and now they had got the School, let them all work for its success.

“”Success to the School” was marked by hearty cheers.

The Chairman proposed a vote of thanks to the Chairman of Devon Education Committee and others attending, and for the instructive addresses which had been given. The Vicar, seconding, said few of them (he himself had been 32 years in the parish) ever dreamt that they would have at Woolacombe such a splendid School as that in which they were now assembled. The School buildings at Morte-Hoe were at one time thought to be excellent, but the Woolacombe school was in every respect a superlative building. The site of the School was only another instance of Miss Chichester’s generosity; but for her neither the beautiful Church, nor the School would ever have been builts.

Mr. G. Redmore moving a vote of thanks to the worthy Chairman, said he believed that in their efforts to obtain that School they had done the right thing, and that the Devon Education Committee had also done the right thing.

Mr. J. Pile. Seconding, said the School would be a credit to any builder, and they were all very indebted to Mr. Slee for the beautiful work which he had put into it. Whilst rejoicing in the completion of the School, he was sure that no one, would in any way wish it to be disadvantageous to the other end of the parish.

The Chairman, acknowledging, a cordial vote, said he was always very pleased to be able to do anything in the interests of the Children. While singing two verses of the National Anthem, the opening proceedings terminated.

Subsequently, in the Parish Rooms, the visitors were entertained at tea in honour of the event. There was also a public tea, whilst the whole of the school children were also entertained. The Committee which had acted throughout was responsible for the arrangements Altogether it was a great day in the history of Woolacombe.

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