Schoolroom History

Julian Hawley, long time resident of Charlton, has written a detailed history of the Old Schoolroom, which was serialised in recent editions of the Five Alive Parish Magazine. The complete article  is reproduced here.


2020 is the 140th anniversary of the opening of the Old Schoolroom in Charlton. Here is its story.

Construction of the Schoolroom behind the church started during 1879 and was completed early the following year. On Christmas Eve 1879, Rev James Jennings, through the generosity of Henry Workman of Charlton Manor, at whose expense the building was constructed, distributed a loaf to every poor family in the village to commemorate its near completion. It was designed by George Hunt an Evesham architect, of brick with a pitched roof supported by wooden beams. Internally the dimensions at that time were 33.5 x 18 feet and 11.5 feet up to the wall plate, with a raised platform for the teacher’s desk and there was legal capacity for 66 children. In the roof were two triangular dormer windows on the north and south sides of the roof, letting additional light into the room. The room was heated by a fireplace to the south with a substantial chimney, to which outside was attached the school bell protected by a wood framed cover. The large east window was partly stained glass with heraldry dated 1879, sadly this disappeared during repair work in the 1990s. In 1882 the appearance of the school was enhanced by the addition of a lancet widow of coloured glass at each gable end. 

A coach house, stabling accommodation and a saddle and harness room were added as an extension to the west of the building, specifically for the use of church goers as well as the teacher. Two water closets were also built to the south-west. Outside was a manure hole, an ash pit and a coal house. There was also a play area for the children separated from the church land by metal railings. 

On Workman’s death in 1889 the schoolroom was managed by a trust, initiated by his brother Joseph Baker Workman and this trust still manages the schoolroom today. It was used solely as a Sunday school, co-ordinated by the vicar, for several years and it was open for public hire for 2/6d per session without a fire and 3/6d with a fire. It was open to all parishioners of Charlton for general and public purposes.

Public use included the holding of inquests and in 1892 the body of George Potter, a coal man from Hampton, who had been missing for two months, was found in the Avon. Having been dragged to the bank, the body which “presented a horrible spectacle” was transported to the Charlton schoolroom for the inquest into the death. The schoolroom was sometimes also used for political meetings, in 1895 Jesse Collings a Liberal Unionist MP addressed a large gathering at a meeting presided over by James Faulkner, then of Charlton Manor. Collings was a great advocate for the well-being of agricultural workers. The schoolroom was also the venue of the Charlton Cricket team annual dinner in the 1890s when the members were provided with a good meal followed by speeches related to the performance of the team during the year and musical entertainment.

From 1894 the managers of the Charlton Elementary Day School rented the schoolroom at the rate of £5 per annum and the school opened on 1st March 1894, the teacher being Mrs E. Hughes and was visited on this day by the vicar Rev Willis who continued to do so on a regular basis. Around forty-five children were in the class at the time of opening. The first inspection took place the following December and received a good report in spite of being closed for six weeks as a result of a scarlet fever epidemic in the village. In 1896 the management body of the elementary school objected to this rent being paid and as a result was given notice to quit but a legal enquiry confirmed the trustees of the schoolroom could not be compelled to let the schoolroom rent free. James Faulkner was in an awkward position here as he was a member of both bodies.

The school day commenced with registration and scripture and then at 9.50am there was singing for around ten minutes, usually a marching song. From 10.00 to 10.25 was arithmetic, from 10.25 to 10.45 was speech training by telling stories and then playtime until 11.00 after which it was reading until 11.20 when it was physical exercise or games. From 11.40 to 12.00 was writing and lunch was from 12.00 to 1.30 for which most children went home. Lessons recommenced after lunch with drawing, needlework and playing on the “kindergarten” equipment until 2.30. The rest of the afternoon was taken up with reading, writing and music.

The needs of the market gardening families were such that sometimes children were absent during certain times of the year. In 1898 three families in Charlton were fined up to four shillings for not sending their children regularly to school.

The inspection in1895, the year after it opened, identified that the school had attracted good numbers of Charlton children but that a lot of these were too old for an infants’ school and should be sent elsewhere. This would improve the standard of education Mrs Hughes, who really needed an assistant, could give. There were recommendations made for some paintwork to be done and better ventilation. Mrs Hughes was said to be industrious, discipline was good, as was the standard of reading and writing but arithmetic needed improvement in both method and results. Unfortunately, Mrs Hughes was given three months’ notice in January 1897 as a result of insubordination and was succeeded by Emily Eliza Pomeroy, who in a subsequent inspector’s report was said to be a painstaking mistress under whom the school was making steady progress, although apparently it still needed a lick of paint! Mrs Pomeroy remained as mistress until March 1910 when sadly after several weeks illness she died. The children from her school attended her funeral three days later. 

She was replaced by Edith Rushworth for a period of a few weeks until May 2nd1910 when Florence Mary Wakeman became the last mistress of the school. On 28th January 1916, on economic grounds owing to the war, the school was closed and Miss Wakeman, the children and equipment were transferred to Cropthorne school. Shortly afterwards damage done to the windows was put right by parents of the boys responsible!

After the First World War the schoolroom was let to the Charlton Working Mens’ Club and James Faulkner, the squire, constructed a wooden hut between the church and schoolroom which was also used as a club room and became very popular as it  contained a billiard table. 

The first electric lights were put in in 1938 and during the second world war it was used as a canteen for the Womens Land Army and in 1941 the doorway was put through from the main room to the kitchen. In 1949 the schoolroom was used for the first time as a polling station which it still is today. Throughout its history the schoolroom has been used for social events, dances, political meetings, football and cricket club celebrations, adults and childrens parties and entertainment, fund raising events, indoor sports, society dinners, wedding receptions, parish council and church meetings. On some occasions in the past over 100 people attended various events, it is now difficult to understand how so many could possibly be accommodated!

In 1959 the financial situation led to suggestions that it would have to be sold but it was ultimately decided that as it was such a valuable asset in serving the interests of the village, this would not be appropriate and other means of funding necessary repairs were identified. In 1962 the Byrd brothers demolished the section of building which joined the single storey extension to the threshing barn, which was their property and consisted of pig sties etc. Unfortunately, this caused damage to the end of the schoolroom property which eventually the Byrds put right. In 1965 a false ceiling was put in to save on heating.

The wooden hut between the church and the schoolroom became a house, occupied by Mr Charlie Cook, an ex RAF serviceman and gentleman’s hairdresser, who lived alone with his dog but was made over to the church on his death. For a short period in the 1960s it was used as a youth club but was subsequently demolished.

In 1971 new toilets were put in and joined to the main sewer, replacing the previous chemical toilets. In 1973 a playgroup for young children was started up in the village which brought an additional income. 

In 1983 it was again suggested that the schoolroom should be sold as the cost of necessary repairs could not be met by the trustees. To avoid this a lot of voluntary work was carried out by members of the village and some work was funded by the organisations using the building. In 1990 the Friends of Charlton Schoolroom was set up to raise funds by donations and social events. From 1992 to 1995 major renovation took place both inside and outside including rebuilding the extension, new heating and new suspended ceiling. Grants from Wychavon and Hereford and Worcester County Council and a contribution from the parish council were obtained to support this. In more recent years a new main window was put in together with a new floor and in 2018 the building was fully insulated, redecorated, and a new heating system added, the work being paid for by grants, donations and income from social activities. 

The Old schoolroom continues to be hired by a Pre School and the scouts and is available to hire for events and activities. It remains an important social centre for the village. Ambitious plans for the future of the building are currently being considered and a recent grant from the National Lottery has been achieved to support this.

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