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Hereford Times , November 1st 1913


Newton School, Protest meeting 1913

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The Hereford Times of the 1st November 1913 has a full two column report of a meeting of local ratepayers held the previous Friday evening at the Newton School. The report is transcribed below in full.


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Elementary Education at Newton
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The scattered parish of Newton has one of those small schools characteristic of Herefordshire, where from 50 to 60 children, from the parishes of Bacton, St Margarets and Newton assemble each day to receive the usual elementary instruction, their tuition being entrusted to a headmaster and two lady assistant teachers. It appears that for some time the quality of the instruction given has been questioned by several ratepayers whose children are called upon to attend the school, and the Inspector, after a visit on May 20th 1912, was also critical.


He wrote:-
“The Master’s ill health, and irregularity of attendance on the part of some scholars, may account in some degree for the somewhat low standard of attainment here, but the chief defect is that the instruction is of too old-fashioned a type, and does not sufficiently develop the children’s intelligence. Too much dictation and not enough composition is done in the upper standards and in standard l, and in the infants’ division the arithmetic is very mechanical, children working large abstract sums, the answers to which they cannot read, and showing little knowledge of principles.
The hand writing of standard lll, is promising, but is backward in the upper classes except in the case of two girls, and in the composition exercises children do not seem to have been trained to revise carefully what they have written.
The boys at the top of the school read creditably and answer with interest but the girls are very unresponsive and dull.
Three or four children, at present in the infants’ division might with advantage be transferred into the main room, in which the most advanced scholars, who should be provided with dictionaries, might be encouraged to do independent work.
The bad habit of irregular answering should be checked and the use of slates for writing and drawing be entirely discontinued.
The pegs in the cloak-rooms should not be placed one above the other, or be arranged in more than two tiers.
One of the desks in the main room is very unsteady.”


As a result of the feeling on the part of the ratepayers a somewhat remarkable meeting took place in the school on Friday evening. The meeting had been called by Mr Ebenezer Gwillim, chairman of the Newton Parish Council to consider the efficiency and discipline of the school, and there were about thirty people present, Mr Gwiillim occupying the chair. Others in attendance were Mrs R Watkins, Mrs J Jones, Mrs Sharp, Mrs M Hughes, Mrs J Ballinger, Mrs Collins, Messrs W Price, E Pritchard, J Steward, F Bowen, R Powell, F Watkins, R Jenkins, JN Price, J Gwillim, A Williams, A Jordan, J Prichard, T Williams, D Watkins, J Hughes, J Reece, J Lewis and A Sharp.

   The CHAIRMAN, at the onset, said he had received a letter from Mr H H Wood, correspondent to the managers of the school, with a request that it should be read. He proceeded to read the communication, which was as follows:-

   “Dear sir, I am much grieved to find you have thought it right to call a meeting of rate-payers as to want of efficiency and discipline in teachers of the Newton school. I have had the honour of being correspondent ever since the school came under the County Council, and have seen excellent writing in the children’s copy books and fair composition. I have always been present at the scripture examination, and the children answered well on each occasion. Their answers on paper were fair, and we received a good report every time from the examiners. This is the most important part of education, for ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’. Mr and Miss Lloyd and Miss Jordan are painstaking and conscientious in the discharge of their duties, and I trust that those present at the meeting will not pass any resolution which will discourage them, and if they are treated unfairly the National Union of Teachers may take steps to defend them. The managers of the school of this district have saved the ratepayers many pounds by acting as correspondents and preventing undue expense in altering the porch. The persons who were last appointed would not accept the school. It is a difficult place to fill, and we are happy in having such respectable and kindly teachers here (hear, hear). Children tell me they like the school better than holidays. Some parents are negligent in sending them in time. I shall be obliged if you will please read this at the commencement of the meeting as I may not be present.  Yours obediently, H H Wood, correspondent.”

   Mr JOHN PRICE said if Mr Wood had attended the meeting instead of writing that letter they would have thought much more of him. He supposed he (Mr Wood) was the squire and they were the poor people. “I could have sat down and written a letter,” Mr Price proceeded, “and got off by doing that, the same as Squire Wood. If you think he is going to rule you, let him rule you.” Mr Price went on to say that he had been given to understand that the last report from His Majesty’s Inspector, concerning the school, stated that it was through ill-health of the master that the school has suffered. Suppose he (Mr Price) could not pay his landlord and told him that it was on account of ill-health, what would he say to him? They were suffering on account of ill-health of the teacher. Did they think they were a lot of ignorant fools in that parish? If the Inspector said it was through ill-health why didn’t the master stand aside so another could be appointed? He was quite willing that he should continue to receive his pay, but why should children be suffering in consequence? There were boys out of the towns who could teach them as men.If they went to the market they would “take them down”. Let the master lie by for a time and let another master teach the children”
   The CHAIRMAN inquired at this point what action the meeting would take with regard to the letter from Mr Wood?
   Mr PRICE: I should say that that letter ought to be thrown on the fire. If he had come here we should have been able to ask him a question or two.
   The CHAIRMAN: Will you propose that the letter lie on the table?
   Mr PRICE:I will.
   Mr SHARP said he wished Squire Wood had said something about the educational report. His letter dealt with the Scripture report. They were there to discuss the discipline and the teaching of the school. There was not a word about H.M.Inspector’s report. Why didn’t Mr Wood tell them what the Inspector said with regard to the school. He seconded the motion that the letter lie on the table and that they should discuss what they had come there to discuss.

The proposition was put to the meeting and carried.

   Mr JORDAN asked the chairman whether the notice convening the meeting had been posted at Bacton and St Margarets.
   The CHAIRMAN: In all the parishes where the children come from. Mr Gwillim went on to say that they met that night out of no bad feeling, or spite, as some people seemed to think. They helped to pay to keep the school going, and he thought they had a right to inquire as to its efficiency or inefficiency. He did not wish to say a word against the managers. They had to gather their information from observation and from the children. They [the ratepayers] had no chance of knowing really what was done at the managers’ meetings. They got no report in the newspapers from one year’s end to the other. For the last nine years, at least, there had been no report in any paper he had seen as to whether the school had passed or had failed to pass. He thought that as ratepayers they had a right to know what the Inspector said about the school. They had to rest satisfied by doing nothing but pay. They wished to know whether their money was fairly expended and whether they were receiving value for their money. They sent their children to school to be taught. He did not believe that their idea was the same as that in the mind of Squire Wood, who believed that a boy who was going to learn to plough and sow, reap and mow did not want to be educated. He begged leave to differ with him; he believed that every child in the country had a right to a fair education. He did not see why any child should not receive as good an education as the Squire’s son himself. They were told the school would do for them, but did Squire Wood think of sending one of his sons to the school? (Voices ”No.”) He believed that God had made of one blood all nations and all men who dwelt upon the face of the earth. Every child and every man were subject to the laws of the country and he thought it was their duty to see that all children were educated so that they should know how to keep the laws. Moreover, if there should be an opening in life why should not the poor man’s son have as good a chance as the squire’s? He believed there was as much brain in that part of the country as any other part, but they wanted a chance, and that was why that meeting had been called; not out of any disrespect at all to the teachers. They had not a word to say against them. But the school was most defective and they wanted their children to be given a chance. The idea of a boy or girl being in the 4th standard at the age of twelve where they ought to be at the age of nine! Were they satisfied with the condition of things? He was not - and it concerned him. He had only one child to finish her education. She was in the 4th standard and would soon be 12 years of age. He supposed he had the chance of sending her elsewhere to finish her education, but they would have to send their children to the school for a long time, and it was to their interests to see they were properly educated. The Chairman concluding said: Why cannot we compete with the towns? We have no Secondary education in this school; we have no evening schools, and why? I brought the matter before the Secretary at Hereford. There is a reason. We had no teacher.
   Mr SHARP said he had nothing against the master, and no one could say he had. What he was against was the teaching which his children were receiving. He had said ever since he had come to the village that the school was inefficient. Under the old rule it could never have been in the state that it was at the present time. In former years the Inspector came and tested the school every 12 months, and grant was paid according to the result of the annual examination. If the children did not pass well the grant was reduced. The Inspector now visited the school perhaps once a year, or perhaps not as often. When did they receive a report? He thought he was right in saying that there had only been one elementary report given in four years. That report had been a very bad report. There was only one word of praise, he thought given; that for the class Miss Jordan took. Otherwise the report was a bad one, and was attributed to the bad health of the master and the bad attendance of the children. People were saying “What is the use of sending the children to school?” He wished the school to be tested by H.M. Inspector on the subjects which the school had taken, and if the school was efficient no one would hear him say another word against it. If it was not efficient, things ought to be altered. Mr Sharp went on to say that they were referred to as a “pack of fools” a “lot of idiots” and were looked down upon as a lot of ignorant people, which was a fine training for the children. Having made some detailed criticisms of the school, the speaker urged that the school should be tested and that the Inspector’s report be published. When Mr Wood was asked for the last report he refused to give it. Why shouldn’t they see the report? Religious education would not get a child a living nowadays. No one upheld religion more than he did, but he liked it to be practised as well as preached. Among other complaints Mr Sharp alleged that the discipline was defective. His children were attending the school, and he wanted them to receive a decent education. They were paying for something they were not getting. Let them go to the market or elsewhere at the present day and see what anyone could do without a good education. He did not believe there was a person in the parish who could say a child got a good education at the school. Gentlemen like Squire Wood would get up at Hereford and propose the establishment of a Secondary School, but they only got a plain elementary education. Personally, he did not want anything else. The school was over-staffed. They had 60 children on the books. It ought to be one of the best schools in Herefordshire. The meeting ought to have attracted a large attendance, for there had been any amount of grumbling in the parish, and that was the time to speak. The people grumbled, but would not come and say what they had to say at a meeting.
   Mr PRICE (warmly) We are all dummies; we ought to have upstirred this thing before.
   Mr J. STEWARD said his child was sent home, and he was summoned for not sending her to school. One of his children had been at the school 14 months, and did not know the alphabet.
   Mr SHARP: If there was a good school anywhere near there would not be a child to teach.
   Mrs JONES here remarked that her boy attended the school, and had made good progress.
   Mr SHARP: I am pleased to hear someone speak up. I hope others will speak up as well.
   Mrs JONES added that Mr Price had told her his own child had got on well.
   Mr PRICE replied that he did say so, but they were speaking of the school generally. They were going on the report.
   Mrs JONES: There had not been a report.
   Mr PRICE: We had one twelve months ago.
   Mrs JONES spoke sympathetically of the headmaster’s ill-health.

   The Chairman: I think we had better have a resolution.
   Mr SHARP: A good many are afraid of offending the squire, who is not favourable to this meeting. That is why they are not here.
   Mrs HUGHES informed the meeting that her child was nearly ten, and had been attending this school since she was five, and that she was in the second standard. She had learned very little.
   The CHAIRMAN: if she had attended regularly she ought to have been in the fourth standard, or past it.
   Mr PRICE: We have got to pay to help these teachers, and here they are talking about going on strike. I think we want to strike (laughter).
   Mrs SHARP said they all knew her as a manager and as one who had been a head teacher. Her sympathy would naturally have been with the master, but conscientiously she did not consider the work of the school was anything like it should be. The children, she admitted, could write very well, but that was about the only thing. The reason they wrote well was because they did so much writing. If they had more actual teaching their intelligence would be a great deal better. She found the children, on the average, very intelligent, but as for discipline there was none at all. They did not require to go into the school to hear the noise. The mark of a good school was quiet, order, and good manners.

   Mr SHARP then proposed the following resolution:-

    “ That this meeting considers that the teaching and discipline of the Newton School are most ineffective and harmful to the children: that the managers and Education Authority be asked to take up the question with a view to remedying it. We also consider the time has come when the present Master be asked to resign, so that a younger man might be appointed. That a copy of this resolution be sent to the local managers and the Education Authority,”

   Mr PRICE seconded.

   The CHAIRMAN said there was a complaint sent to the Education Authority at Hereford with regard to the cleaning of the school. It was then sent to Mr Wood, who immediately replied that the school was cleaned to the satisfaction of the managers, but the report was never brought to the notice of the managers. Did they call that gentlemanly? Was that straight forward? He was not saying what he was not certain about. He saw the letter with his own eyes. He was told by some managers that there was only one manager of the school.
   Mr PRICE: You ought to say who that “one” is.
   The CHAIRMAN: Well, I am not going to tell secrets (laughter).
   Mr JORDAN said they had some good managers, who were capable of doing their duty.
   The CHAIRMAN: I think they will if the facts are brought before them.

The resolution was then carried:

   Mrs WATKINS afterwards called attention to the water supply to the school, which, she said, was not pure.

   Mr D WATKINS said he had called Dr. Jones’s attention to it, and he promised to look to the matter.
   The CHAIRMAN: He took a sample of the water, but we have heard nothing.
   Mrs SHARP said the managers had the water question in hand.

The meeting then concluded.



There is much to read between the lines of this report. The report itself is very extensive, and very well written by an experienced reporter of the Hereford Times. His editor must have thought deeply before sending him out to report on an arranged ‘meeting of ratepayers’ to be held on a Friday evening at the end of October in such a remote parish of Newton. In 1913 there was no public transport and the reporter’s journey would have had to be made by pony and trap or hired motor transport, an overnight stay in a local inn would have been required. All this at an expense not lightly undertaken. There is little doubt that this was arranged with the editor by the organisers of the meeting who wished to ensure that local concerns were heard in Hereford.


The organiser of the meeting was Ebenezer Gwillim in his capacity as Chairman of the Parish Council. It is significant that the meeting was publicized as ‘for ratepayers’; a meeting of ‘parents’ would have been a matter for the school managers to be chaired by Mr H H Wood. Mr Gwillim along with others, which included Mrs Sharp, were members of the ‘Managers’ of Newton School; what we would know today as ‘Governors’. It is evident that their power to act in this capacity was being frustrated in doing what they saw as their duty, by the Chairman and ‘Correspondent’ of the school managers in the person of Squire H H Wood of the Whitehouse estate.


Besides recounting the problems of the educational standards in the village school the report tells us much of the social relationships in the area at that time. Many of the role players stand out with the vividness of characters from Chaucer. We have the Squire, Mr H H Wood, physically absent from the meeting but whose attitudes and out dated Victorian views were very much present. We have the robust and outspoken Yeoman freehold farmer in the personage of John N Price of Newhouse Farm. Mr & Mrs Sharp were incomers to the parish with a wider knowledge of what was done elsewhere, Mrs Sharp was a manager of the school and had previous experience as a head teacher. They were chicken farmers of Court-a-Pella in the parish. The quite wisdom and guiding hand of Ebenezer Gwillim, farmer of Wain Herbert Farm, is evident, here as Chairman of the meeting, he was also Chairman of the Parish Council and a school manager.


We do not know here what the outcome of the meeting was; did things continue as before or was the ailing Headmaster replaced? That is a story yet to be told.

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