A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.
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Roger Kyrkbie, notary public, was master of a grammar school in 1534. In 1548 Our Lady's priest in the parish church was said always to have kept a free grammar school, and the Crown continued his stipend of £4 17s. 6d. a year to later schoolmasters. (fn. 1) In 1659 land in Ollerton, let for £5 a year, was left to the school. (fn. 2) Some masters served for many years. (fn. 3) By 1639, possibly by 1620, the master had an assistant. (fn. 4) Teaching of grammar was not recorded after the mid 17th century (fn. 5) but the Crown stipend was continued to later schoolmasters like Francis Ore, (fn. 6) who kept a school in the church c. 1693. (fn. 7)
Other early references to schools are rare (fn. 8) but Rowland Griffiths, constable of Walcot in 1625, was then and in the 1630s a schoolmaster (fn. 9) and John Powell had a private school c. 1693. (fn. 10) In 1750 a clergyman called Smith kept a school. (fn. 11) He was perhaps Richard Smith, curate of Eyton, who became vicar of Wellington next year. (fn. 12)
In 1818 the two largest schools in the parish, the charity (later National) school near All Saints' (fn. 13) and Newdale School, (fn. 14) had between them 288 pupils with another 283 at Sunday school. Provision for the poor was then considered sufficient. (fn. 15) There was a Primitive Methodist schoolroom in Tan Bank by 1823. (fn. 16) By 1833 there were 13 day schools in the area, all except Wellington National Schools supported by fees. (fn. 17) They included a Methodist school with 36 boys and 28 girls, and a Baptist school with 35 boys and 20 girls in separate departments; both schools closed before 1851. The rest, except Newdale School, (fn. 18) were private schools, three of which had opened since 1818 and together had 64 pupils. There were nine Sunday schools in 1833, all supported by voluntary contributions. Two Anglican Sunday schools had a total attendance of 20 boys and 90 girls, three Methodist ones had 251 boys and 222 girls, two Baptist ones 103 boys and 93 girls, and two Independent ones 85 boys and 85 girls. From the 1840s day schools were opened in the coalfield townships (fn. 19) and in the 1850s two more were opened in the town, one by the Roman Catholics, one by the Wesleyans.
Wellington school board, formed for Eyton and Wellington parishes in 1872, was the first in Shropshire. (fn. 20) Its first chairman, Richard Groom, was a prominent Wesleyan, its vice-chairman Thomas Ragg, vicar of Lawley; the vicar of All Saints' and the Baptist minister of Wellington too were original members. (fn. 21) There was no sectarian division and the board tackled its responsibilities vigorously. Its survey of 1873 revealed a shortage of school places: in Wellington town the National, Wesleyan, and Roman Catholic schools (average weekly attendance 396, 313, and 56) were overcrowded, as were the schools in the coalfield townships. (fn. 22) Shortage of places persisted throughout the board's existence, as population growth (fn. 23) and stricter government requirements (fn. 24) countered its efforts. The board immediately provided for unschooled gutter children in the town (fn. 25) and then offered to take over all the voluntary schools. Except for the Wesleyans (fn. 26) and Roman Catholics in Wellington, the voluntary managers relinquished their increasingly heavy responsibilities, confident that Anglicans and nonconformists on the board would protect denominational interests. Indeed the board allowed the schools to be used on Sundays and for evening meetings (fn. 27) and to have their own managers, though it kept control of teachers' appointments and expenditure on buildings. (fn. 28) The board, which improved and replaced existing buildings and built three new schools, (fn. 29) was enterprising (fn. 30) and efficient. School fees, standardized at 2d. a week in 1876, were abolished in 1891. (fn. 31) Central premises for teaching cookery and laundry work were provided (fn. 32) and by 1903 there were well built schools (fn. 33) for all elementary pupils except those in the town's Roman Catholic and Wesleyan schools, then the only voluntary schools. No other Shropshire town had such a majority of board schools or new schools, (fn. 34) and the success of the county council's technical instruction classes in Wellington (fn. 35) testified to the schools' efficiency. (fn. 36) In 1903 the board's clerk, as clerk also to the urban district council and secretary to Wellington Science and Art Committee, (fn. 37) was a unifying influence.
The county council, successor to the board in 1903, (fn. 38) soon provided secondary schools in the town. Despite the fees, demand for places, particularly girls', was high. (fn. 39) Secondary reorganization under the Hadow Report (1926) was facilitated in the town because only one voluntary school had survived, St. Patrick's R.C. School. In the poorer coalfield townships a senior school was formed at Ketley in 1931 (fn. 40) but all-age schools continued in Lawley and Hadley as late as 1956 and 1958. (fn. 41)
After 1945 more places were urgently needed to provide free secondary education for all, to raise the school-leaving age to 15 in 1947 and 16 in 1972, and to introduce 'special' education. Between 1973 and 1978 secondary education was reorganized along comprehensive lines. Sixth forms grew larger as children's earnings mattered less to parents. Elementary school accommodation, inadequate in the 1930s, (fn. 42) was improved by new building from the 1950s. increase of population reinforced the effects of post-war bulges in the national school population to keep local schools overcrowded until the 1970s. By 1980, however, the only schools left in old buildings were in the coalfield townships, (fn. 43) in two of which nursery classes had been created in 1967 and 1970. (fn. 44) A special school was opened in 1965 and a special class formed at another school in 1979.
Even before 1903 Wellington's educational facilities beyond the elementary standards were better than in most of Shropshire: there were private schools and, from 1891, the county council's technical instruction classes. (fn. 45) Of several private schools in 1850, Old Hall School, Watling Street, was founded by the Cranages before 1835 (fn. 46) and in 1851 was a boarding school for 50 boys, including local boys. (fn. 47) It became a boys' preparatory school in 1894, (fn. 48) opened a junior department in 1976, and took girls from 1977. (fn. 49) The school later known as the Hiatt Ladies' College opened in 1847 in King Street, taking day girls and boarders. (fn. 50) In 1911 it had 15 teachers and was the largest of the three girls' schools in the town that were approved for county scholars from 1903; the others were Brooklyn House (Miss Sugden's) and Sunfield House. (fn. 51) In 1953 Hiatt's had 80 day girls and 60 boarders, (fn. 52) but it closed in 1959, (fn. 53) a year after the Girls' High School increased its intake. (fn. 54) Wellington College, founded in 1880, (fn. 55) was in 1903 the one boys' school in the town approved for county scholars, and like Hiatt's it prepared candidates for county scholarships in secondary and higher education. (fn. 56) When it was sold by its founding principal in 1920 it was no longer primarily local and all 200 boys boarded. Its name changed to Wrekin College in 1921. (fn. 57) In 1972 it resumed taking day boys; from 1975 sixth-form day girls were taken, and from 1983 day and boarding girls aged 13. (fn. 58)
Technical instruction classes organized by Wellington Science and Art Committee for the county council were especially important for technicians, teachers, and pupil teachers; all classes were free to teachers. In 1891 the council granted the committee £50 and appointed a master to teach drawing and technical subjects in its district. (fn. 59) Mathematics, science, business studies, cookery, dressmaking, hygiene, and nursing were also taught. Local headmasters and specialist lecturers took classes. (fn. 60) Special mathematics and art classes were held for teachers and pupil teachers; (fn. 61) the art classes enabled teachers to obtain a Drawing Certificate, (fn. 62) an important qualification to fulfil government requirements in the 1890s; at least one Wellington teacher gained the full Art Master's Certificate. (fn. 63) In 1893 there were more classes in Wellington union than in any other Shropshire district; (fn. 64) held at first mainly in the Wesleyan Central Hall (fn. 65) but from 1901 in New Hall, (fn. 66) they were consistently well taught and well attended. (fn. 67)
Science and art classes and technical instruction continued and were especially important for pupil teachers. (fn. 68) In 1924 42 out of 187 students took Union of Educational Institutions examinations. Thirty joined a new W.E.A. three-year philosophy course. Mining, woodwork, and building construction classes were very well attended. The area was served by the Walker Technical College opened at Oakengates in 1927. (fn. 69) By post-war standards the college's facilities, despite improvements, were inadequate, and in 1962 the engineering, science, and mining departments moved to new buildings on a 28-a. site between Bennetts Bank and Haybridge Road. By 1972 all departments were concentrated there. (fn. 70) In the late 1960s and 1970s more classrooms, a library, communal facilities, and extra workshops for new engineering courses were provided. (fn. 71) In 1979 the former premises at Oakengates were recommissioned as an annexe. (fn. 72) In 1980 there were full-time courses in engineering, business and management, and general studies, the last group including social care, hairdressing, and pre-nursing courses. A wide range of short courses was arranged, usually in conjunction with local industry, commerce, and other agencies. Nonvocational courses were organized, at the college and throughout east Shropshire, by an adulteducation co-ordinator, first appointed in 1964. (fn. 73) In 1964-5, when Wellington Evening Institute was the largest in the county, there were 258 full-time, 972 part-time, and 1,453 evening students; in 1980 there were 360 full-timers, 1,693 part-timers, and c. 2,500 students attending leisure classes. (fn. 74) In 1983 the college was renamed Telford College of Arts and Technology. (fn. 75)
Wellington National (from 1876 National Board) School originated in a charity school built on the north side of All Saints' churchyard. In 1799 the day school had 60 pupils, the Sunday school 100. On each of its two storeys the plain brick building had a classroom 44 × 30 ft. lit by two windows; boys and girls were in separate departments and there was no playground. (fn. 76) By 1818 numbers had increased to 135 boys and 64 girls with an additional 269 children on Sunday. (fn. 77) The school, then parochial (fn. 78) and on Dr. Bell's plan, (fn. 79) was a National school by 1835. (fn. 80) Until 1833 or later it was free, supported mainly by voluntary subscriptions (fn. 81) but also by small endowments which included, for the boys' school, the annual Crown grant of £4 6s. 10d. previously paid to the masters of the defunct grammar school. (fn. 82) By 1847 fees were charged, income that year including £56 in school pence as well as £40 in subscriptions, £40 from church collections, and £5 from the endowment. Clothing grants for poor boys and girls, amounting to £30, were being made. Salaries were low. The vicar was sole manager and the school had no trust deed. (fn. 83) By 1842 there was a separate infant school, (fn. 84) which remained in the churchyard school after the boys and girls moved to a new building at Constitution Hill in 1855. (fn. 85) There were 288 pupils in 1851. (fn. 86)
In 1876 the school board took over the school with its charities, (fn. 87) improving and enlarging it. By 1885 there were 240 places. In 1897 the infants moved to new buildings at Constitution Hill, where there were 440 places (including infants') by 1900. (fn. 88) There were 420 pupils in 1906. (fn. 89)
In 1928 the main building was converted to provide 210 places each for Wellington Senior Boys' and Senior Girls' Council schools, amalgamated in 1936 and moved to Orleton Lane in 1940. (fn. 90) The infant school continued until 1941 when, to relieve overcrowding at Prince's Street Council School, it became a junior and infant school; it had 151 pupils in 1951, 180 in 1956. Its juniors transferred to the new Park County Junior School in 1956, its infants to the new Dothill County Infant School in 1961. Thereafter the building was used for further education (fn. 91) until its sale in 1966. (fn. 92)
St. Patrick's R.C. School, Mill Bank, was established in 1850 in a room behind St. Patrick's church. In 1856 a brick schoolroom and teacher's house were built nearby: slated and unceiled but with a boarded floor, the room measured 36 × 20 ft. and was for 150 pupils. In 1856 annual income of £51 included £16 in voluntary contributions, £14 in school pence, and £6 from church collections; weekly fees varied from 1d. to 4d. according to parents' means. Teaching was on the monitorial system and the annual cost per child was 9s. Deficits were met by the priest (one of the six managers) and from fund-raising efforts. (fn. 93) Government grants were received by 1874. (fn. 94) In 1873 there were 56 pupils, and 1885-1913 attendance averaged c. 65. (fn. 95) Non-Catholics could attend until c. 1910, (fn. 96) probably to keep up numbers, then low. The number of places was reduced to 86 in 1903. (fn. 97) The building was reported unsafe in 1939 and was extensively altered, pupils moving temporarily to the parish hall. In 1940 Catholic evacuees from Liverpool increased numbers. Conditions were insanitary but the school and parish hall were used until 1964. (fn. 98) In 1956 one class was held in the parish hall, two others at Constitution Hill in classrooms made available by the county council. (fn. 99) Meanwhile, in 1955, the building of a new school in North Road had begun (fn. 100) and in 1957 one senior and two junior classes moved there. (fn. 101) By 1960, when 100 seniors were seriously overcrowded in two classrooms at Mill Bank, a third room was rented at Constitution Hill. (fn. 102) In 1963, however, all seniors moved to a new secondary school in Whitchurch Road, (fn. 103) and in 1965 the remaining juniors and infants to the North Road school, thereafter St. Patrick's R.C. (Aided) Primary School. (fn. 104) In 1982 St. Patrick's had 188 pupils. (fn. 105)
Wellington Wesleyan School, Prince's Street, with 200 places, opened in 1858. It was a tiled brick building with boarded floor. Its 1859 income of £75 included £10 in voluntary contributions and £40 in school fees of 3d. a week. An infant schoolroom for 80 and a master's house were added in 1866 at the expense of Richard and Thomas Groom, school trustees and later to become original and long-serving members of the school board. In 1867 weekly fees were 2d. or 3d. according to parents' means, (fn. 106) but in 1883 they were raised to 4d., 6d., or 9d., probably according to age or class. (fn. 107) By 1903 it was one of only nine Shropshire schools still charging fees (fn. 108) and it was still doing so in 1906. (fn. 109) The school nevertheless remained popular under its two successive headmasters. (fn. 110) By 1873, with 313 pupils, it was overcrowded, (fn. 111) and in 1891 and 1909 it was full. (fn. 112) From 1866 South Kensington drawing examinations were held and in 1896 the mixed school was renamed Wellington Elementary and Higher Grade School. It had a cookery room in 1897, a woodwork room in 1900, and by 1901 a wide curriculum. (fn. 113) Alterations to the buildings were necessary by 1906 (fn. 114) and the trustees sold the school to the county council in 1911, when it became Prince's Street Council School. (fn. 115) For most of 1912, while the building was reconstructed, the Wesleyan Central Hall was used. In November staff and pupils returned to the school, (fn. 116) which then had 200 mixed and 120 infant places. (fn. 117) The school's nonconformist traditions were perpetuated by the long service of staff. (fn. 118) Its good reputation continued (fn. 119) and from 1913 it was always overcrowded. (fn. 120) In 1928 the mixed school became a junior school, 49 seniors transferred to the new senior schools at Constitution Hill, and 49 infants were admitted from the infant school there. (fn. 121) Serious overcrowding in the junior and infant schools, due to council-house building, was temporarily relieved in 1941 by making Constitution Hill a junior and infant school. (fn. 122) In 1951 Prince's Street County Infant School closed when staff and pupils moved to a new school in Mount Gilbert. Prince's Street was then converted to a junior school; (fn. 123) it had 401 pupils by 1956 (fn. 124) but closed in 1970 when staff and pupils transferred to a new school in Churchill Road. (fn. 125)
New Hall Temporary School was opened by the school board in 1873. It was for infants and older children whose poverty and dirt had excluded them from other schools. Twenty-eight were admitted on the first day and after six months attendance averaged 52. (fn. 126) Some parents withdrew their children, objecting to their mixing with gutter children. (fn. 127) Some pupils had no boots and were in rags, (fn. 128) many were undisciplined. (fn. 129) The building, though large and airy, was unsuitable (fn. 130) and the school closed in 1874 when Hadley Board School opened. (fn. 131)
A workhouse school was opened in 1876. (fn. 132) In 1884 its 34 pupils received satisfactory instruction in scripture, geography, and elementary subjects, and industrial training was good. (fn. 133) It closed in 1884, pupils transferring to the nearby board school. (fn. 134)
Wrekin Road Board School opened in 1881 (fn. 135) with 376 places in mixed and infant departments; 26 mixed places were added in 1899. Attendance averaged 264 in 1885, 294 in 1903-4, and 282 in 1913. (fn. 136) In 1886 the school board halved weekly fees for under-fives to 1d., (fn. 137) apparently to discourage parents from withdrawing them in winter, then a common practice. The infant department was overcrowded in 1908 and under-fives were excluded (fn. 138) for a time. (fn. 139) After the 1928 reorganization seniors transferred to Constitution Hill Senior Council Schools and Wrekin Road became a junior and infant school; a special class for backward children was then established. (fn. 140) Overcrowding in the 1940s (fn. 141) was relieved by the infants' transfer to a new school in Orleton Lane in 1950. (fn. 142) Wrekin Road County Junior School continued until Park County Junior School opened in 1956. (fn. 143)
Wellington Girls' High School opened with 51 pupils (fn. 144) in temporary premises at New Hall in 1908. (fn. 145) In 1910 fees were £8 a year; there were 104 pupils, of whom 30 (including 8 bursars and pupil teachers) had free places. Eight girls left in 1911 for training colleges, others (with Oxford School Certificates) for elementary-school posts. (fn. 146) Eighty-eight girls transferred in 1912 to the new dual secondary school in King Street, (fn. 147) with places for 125 girls and 125 boys; (fn. 148) just over half the girls came from Wellington. (fn. 149) The school was overcrowded by 61 in 1915 and New Hall was used again (fn. 150) until, by 1920, the King Street buildings had been extended to take 120 more. (fn. 151) From 1929, or earlier, to 1945 there was a preparatory department for girls aged 5-11 and boys aged 5-8; (fn. 152) fees were £4 10s. a year. (fn. 153) More temporary classrooms were provided in 1931 but overcrowding in the 1930s (fn. 154) was relieved only when the boys moved to a new school in 1940. (fn. 155) When 221 evacuees from Holly Lodge High School, Smethwick, (fn. 156) arrived in 1939, the school worked in shifts for many months, only fifth- and sixth-formers receiving full-time education. (fn. 157) By 1965 the school had been extended and given new technical facilities. (fn. 158) It took its first three-form entry in 1958, peak year of the 'bulge', (fn. 159) and by 1970 it had 580 places. (fn. 160) The school became a mixed comprehensive in 1974 but was phased out by 1978, (fn. 161) leaving the buildings exclusively for a comprehensive sixth-form college. (fn. 162)
Wellington Boys' High School, with 125 places, opened in the dual secondary school building in 1912. In 1920 there were 133 pupils, only 8 of whom were over 16, though the girls' school had 249 with 43 over 16. (fn. 163) Presumably many boys left at 14 for trade apprenticeships. From 1929, or earlier, to 1945 the school had a preparatory department for boys aged 8-11. (fn. 164) Overcrowding in the 1930s (fn. 165) was relieved in 1940 when the school moved to a new building (200 places) in Golf Links Lane (fn. 166) and was renamed a grammar school. (fn. 167) In 1945 it had 330 pupils, some in temporary classrooms. (fn. 168) In 1958, at the peak of the 'bulge', it took its first three-form entry (fn. 169) and was a complete three-form school by 1965; (fn. 170) there were 580 places in 1970. (fn. 171) In the late 1950s extensions included four science laboratories (fn. 172) and new woodwork, metalwork, and engineering workshops with a technical-drawing room, (fn. 173) as part of a plan to make the school a technical grammar school and to close Oakengates Junior Technical School. (fn. 174) With the reorganization of secondary education on comprehensive lines, however, the school closed in 1974. (fn. 175)
Wellington Senior Council School, an amalgamation of boys' and girls' senior schools at Constitution Hill in 1936, moved to Orleton Lane (400 places) in 1940. In 1945 it was renamed Wellington Modern School. (fn. 176) Post-war extensions included (1948) the county's first school metalwork shop. (fn. 177) By 1957 there were 670 pupils. (fn. 178) In 1962 the girls transferred to a new modern school and the school, renamed Wellington Boys' Modern School, admitted boys transferred from High Ercall Modern School, then closed. (fn. 179) In 1974, renamed Orleton Park School, it became a mixed comprehensive school for pupils aged 11-16; it had 832 pupils in 1982. (fn. 180)
Orleton Lane County Infant School, with 180 places, (fn. 181) opened in 1950, staff and pupils moving from Wrekin Road County Infant School, then closed. (fn. 182) The building's aluminium frame was an experiment in design and economical construction. (fn. 183) By 1953 the school was considerably overcrowded, owing to council-house building, and was extended. In 1982, however, it had only 149 pupils. (fn. 184)
Barn Farm County Infant School, Mount Gilbert, with 200 places, opened in 1951, (fn. 185) staff and pupils transferring from Prince's Street County Infant School, then closed. In 1982 it had 159 pupils. (fn. 186)
Park County Junior School, North Road, with 400 places, opened in 1956, (fn. 187) 112 juniors and two teachers transferring from Constitution Hill County Primary School, thereafter an infant school. (fn. 188) In 1963 the school was so overcrowded that Dothill County Infant School accepted juniors until the opening of Dothill County Junior School in 1965. A special class began in 1979. The school had 312 pupils in 1982. (fn. 189)
Dothill County Infant School, Severn Drive, with 250 places, (fn. 190) opened in 1961 on the new Dothill housing estate. It admitted the pupils from Constitution Hill County Infant School. (fn. 191) By 1963 it was accepting juniors from Park County Junior School until the opening of Dothill County Junior School in 1965; additional demountable classrooms were provided. In 1982 there were 169 pupils. (fn. 192)
Dothill Girls' Modern School opened in 1962 and admitted the girls from Wellington Modern School, which then became a boys' school, and from High Ercall Modern School, then closed. (fn. 193) The building had been greatly enlarged by 1974 when, as the Charlton School, the school became a mixed comprehensive school for pupils aged 11-16. In 1982 there were 836 pupils. (fn. 194)
Blessed Robert Johnson R.C. (Aided) Modern School, Whitchurch Road, opened in 1963, (fn. 195) the first Roman Catholic secondary school in Shropshire. Originally a two-form entry school, (fn. 196) it was soon extended. (fn. 197) In 1973, as the Bl. Robert Johnson Catholic College, it became a comprehensive school for pupils aged 11-18. (fn. 198) In 1982 it had 735 pupils; (fn. 199) some came from as far away as Bridgnorth or by train from Shrewsbury and Albrighton and stations between. (fn. 200)
Dothill County Junior School, with 320 places, opened in 1965 and was considerably extended in 1968. It had 336 pupils in 1982. (fn. 201)
Wellington Junior Training Centre for the Mentally Handicapped, North Road, opened in 1965 but became the responsibility of the county education authority only in 1971. It was then renamed the Charles Darwin Special School and had 40 places for pupils aged 5-16; exceptionally, the places were for the moderately as well as the severely subnormal. (fn. 202) In 1982 there were 27 pupils (fn. 203) drawn from a wide area including Shrewsbury. (fn. 204)
Ercall County Junior School, Churchill Road, with 320 places, opened in 1970 to replace Prince's Street County Junior School. There were 263 pupils in 1982. (fn. 205)
New College, a comprehensive sixth-form college, opened in 1975 in the former High School. (fn. 206) In 1982 there were 541 students, (fn. 207) most studying for the General Certificate of Education. (fn. 208)
An observation and assessment centre for secondary-school pupils opened in 1978 at the Vineyard community home. In 1980 there were pupils resident for 3-4 weeks in groups of up to fifteen. (fn. 209)
Ercall Wood School opened in 1979 in the former grammar school, Golf Links Lane. With a first-form entry of 115 pupils, it was intended to develop into a mixed comprehensive school for pupils aged 11-16. (fn. 210) There were 367 pupils in 1982. (fn. 211)