A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.
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In 1693 Robert Bromhall, LL. D., was licensed as deacon and schoolmaster in the parish. (fn. 1) By 1833 20 boys and 21 girls were attending two private day schools, 30 boys and 80 girls a church Sunday school, and 300 boys and 250 girls a Wesleyan Sunday school. The Sunday schools were supported by voluntary contributions. (fn. 2) A National school opened in 1846 and a short-lived British school in 1860. (fn. 3)
George Collins, vicar 1872-8, (fn. 4) tried in vain to raise money for a new church school at Ketley Bank where 250 children lacked school places in 1875, (fn. 5) when Wombridge school board was formed. A turbulent election returned a nonconformist majority; the board included the vicar but the Congregational minister became chairman. (fn. 6) The National school was offered to the board for a nominal rent but the board rejected the managers' conditions (fn. 7) and the offer was soon withdrawn. (fn. 8) Controversy raged over the board's intended school site at Ketley Bank, some ratepayers demanding a more central position. Anglicans, led by the vicar, still wanted a church school. (fn. 9) The Education Department, however, approved the Ketley Bank site (fn. 10) and the school opened in 1878. A continuing shortage of school places was relieved by enlargements of the board and National schools in the 1880s and 1890s and by the opening of Ketley Board School in 1898 and Wombridge Infant Council School in 1910. (fn. 11)
There were two girls' private schools. One at Belle Vue House, Stafford Road, existed in 1891 and 1910. (fn. 12) By 1903 there was another called Oakengates High School; it was approved by the county council for minor scholarship holders and still existed in 1910. (fn. 13) One of the two may have been the private school at Oakengates mentioned in 1914. (fn. 14)
Elementary schools were reorganized when senior pupils transferred to senior council schools in Ketley (fn. 15) and in New Road (fn. 16) in 1931 and 1933. The old C.E. school closed in 1933 and the two remaining council schools in Wombridge became junior mixed and infant schools. Nursery education was established in 1945 and comprehensive secondary education (to the age of 16) in 1974. (fn. 17)
In 1891, at the instigation of C. C. Walker, (fn. 18) Oakengates Science and Art Committee was formed to promote technical education in the district. The first chairman was William Perrott, secretary of the Lilleshall Co. (fn. 19) He was soon succeeded by Dr. J. McC. McCarthy, (fn. 20) who served for thirty years, as did the committee's first secretary, R. L. Corbett. (fn. 21) The enrolment of 222 students at Oakengates Coffee Palace assembly rooms in 1892 was the beginning of continuous technical education in east Shropshire. In 1900 other rooms at the Coffee Palace were also rented, and by 1903 classes were being held five nights a week and on Saturdays for teachers and pupilteachers. (fn. 22) Courses, ordinary and advanced, included mining, engineering, and commercial subjects. (fn. 23) When the Coffee Palace lease expired in 1915 (fn. 24) senior classes were held at Wombridge Infant Council School and at the Primitive Methodist chapel. By 1924 sixty per cent of local boys leaving school attended courses jointly financed by the county council and the Walker Trust.
Walker Technical College, Hartsbridge Road, opened in 1927. (fn. 25) It became the county centre for mining engineering, and its wide range of courses included those for the Ordinary and Higher National Certificates in mechanical engineering. Student numbers increased more than tenfold between 1927 (227) and 1962 (2,580). There was a junior technical school with 27 full-time pupils (aged 13-16) in 1930, 69 in 1931, and 120 in 1935 when they were drawn from ten miles around. In 1939 it admitted 148 evacuees from Smethwick Junior Technical College and temporarily adopted double-shift working. (fn. 26) The junior technical school closed in 1959 when technical facilities were provided in Wellington at the Boys' Grammar School and Girls' High School. (fn. 27)
Extensions to the college in the late 1930s and after 1945 failed to keep pace with increases in student numbers, (fn. 28) and in 1962 the engineering, science, and mining departments moved into new buildings in Wellington. (fn. 29) The Oakengates building accommodated the college's commerce and general studies department until 1972 (fn. 30) and its courses for unemployed young people from 1979. (fn. 31) Oakengates Teachers' Development Centre was located there from 1968 (fn. 32) and Wolverhampton Day Teachers' College had an outpost there for mature students 1969-77. (fn. 33)
Wombridge National School, Bridge Street, was built in 1846, chiefly at James Oliver's (fn. 34) expense aided by parliamentary and National Society grants; Oliver (d. 1867) left the school an endowment of £1,000. (fn. 35) In 1851 attendance averaged 80 boys and 50 girls. (fn. 36) By 1865 government grants were being earned (fn. 37) and by 1875 the boys' department was qualifying for drawing grants. (fn. 38) The school was efficient: in 1880, when attendance averaged 263, the government grant reached £326. (fn. 39) In 1889 accommodation was increased to 290 places when a new classroom at each end of the school was built at Sir Thomas Meyrick's expense. (fn. 40) Attendance averaged 241 in 1892 and 290 in 1909. (fn. 41) In 1903 the school was reorganized in three departments. (fn. 42) Overcrowding, however, caused bad working conditions (fn. 43) and in 1910, since expansion on the cramped site (fn. 44) was impossible, the infant department transferred to a new council school (fn. 45) at Hartshill, (fn. 46) and recognized accommodation was reduced to 236 places. (fn. 47) By 1913, however, the school was again overcrowded (fn. 48) and in 1925 the building was condemned. (fn. 49) It closed in 1933, staff and pupils transferring to the enlarged council school at Hartshill. (fn. 50)
Oakengates British School opened in 1860. It was re-established in 1864 at the Independent chapel, (fn. 51) a new master and mistress, man and wife, being appointed to teach at least 100 pupils. (fn. 52) It closed before 1870. (fn. 53)
Ketley Bank Board School, Main Road, opened in 1878 with 243 places in three departments; there was a master's house. Infants paid 2d. a week and older pupils 3d., more than in other board schools in the coalfield. (fn. 54) Enlargement provided 406 places by 1882, 477 by 1896. (fn. 55) Attendance averaged 237 in 1880, 386 in 1892, 425 in 1909, and 452 in 1913. (fn. 56) By 1930, however, there were only 327 pupils. Next year the boys' headmaster became head of the new Ketley Senior School, (fn. 57) to which Ketley Bank's senior pupils then transferred. (fn. 58) The girls' headmistress stayed as head of what then became Ketley Bank Junior Council School. (fn. 59) The number of pupils halved between 1932 and 1935, (fn. 60) when mixed and infant departments amalgamated and the school became Ketley Bank Junior Mixed and Infant Council School. (fn. 61) Numbers fell to 68 by 1949 (fn. 62) but increased in the 1950s, (fn. 63) reaching 244 by 1965. As Ketley Bank County Primary School it then closed, staff and pupils transferring to the new Queenswood County Primary School. (fn. 64) The noted efficiency of the Ketley Bank schools (fn. 65) owed much to the long service of competent head teachers. (fn. 66)
Wombridge Infant Council School, Hartshill, opened in 1910, admitting the National school's infants; it had 160 places and was full by 1916 and in the 1920s. (fn. 67) Under its first headmistress (1910- 31) (fn. 68) it became an excellent school where, in the 1920s, H. M. Inspector sent teachers to observe the methods and apparatus in use. (fn. 69) In 1933, when the church school closed, the school was reorganized as Wombridge Junior Mixed and Infant Council (from 1945 County Primary) School with 302 places. (fn. 70) Attendance averaged 243 in 1940. (fn. 71) In 1952, with 320 pupils, the school was overcrowded and admissions were restricted. (fn. 72) Numbers increased from 290 in 1969 to 382 in 1975; (fn. 73) the building was then extended and modernized. (fn. 74) There were 318 pupils in 1981. (fn. 75) Throughout the school's history there was notable stability of staffing and management, and church links were maintained by local incumbents' service as managers or correspondents. (fn. 76)
Wrockwardine Wood Senior (Mixed) Council School, New Road, opened on a 3-a. site in 1933 to serve an area extending from Priorslee and Wombridge to Donnington and Trench. (fn. 77) Its 400 places were not filled even by 1943, (fn. 78) but in the 1950s it became seriously overcrowded (fn. 79) until, in 1955, the boys transferred to the new Wrockwardine Wood Boys' Modern School. (fn. 80) Extensions to the Wrockwardine Wood Girls' Modern School (as it became) produced 600 places by 1969, 750 by 1972; (fn. 81) there were 459 girls in 1965, 637 in 1972. (fn. 82) In 1973, renamed Wrockwardine Wood School, it became mixed, and in 1974 comprehensive for pupils aged 11-16; there were 683 pupils in 1973. (fn. 83) By 1977 there were 900 places and by 1981 1,004 pupils. (fn. 84) From the early 1970s the school had a unit for educationally subnormal pupils. (fn. 85)
Oakengates Nursery School, Hartshill, with 40 places, was established in 1945 in a former wartime nursery. (fn. 86) Forty-two children were admitted immediately but many were left waiting. (fn. 87) The school served an area stretching as far as Donnington Wood. (fn. 88) It was replaced by a new twoclass building in 1967. (fn. 89) In 1975 a part-time system was introduced, (fn. 90) and 80 pupils attended morning or afternoon sessions in 1981. (fn. 91)
Teague's Bridge County Primary School, Teague's Crescent, opened in 1964 (fn. 92) with 320 places. (fn. 93) It became a junior school in 1967 when the infants transferred to the new Teague's Bridge County Infant School. (fn. 94) There were 309 pupils in 1972 but only 269 in 1981. (fn. 95)
By 1824 in addition to a National school there were three nonconformist schools in the area. By 1838 many of the National school's day pupils also attended Methodist Sunday schools, membership of which made a child eligible for a £2 burial grant from a local burial club. (fn. 101)
A National school, opened at Snedshill Coppice in 1818, (fn. 102) served the Pain's Lane (in Lilleshall) and Priorslee districts. Run on Dr. Bell's system, the school was supported by subscriptions and annual church collections. It seems always to have had about 100 pupils. Sunday scholars, though at first only 30, were soon more numerous: 120 in 1824, 150 in 1838. (fn. 103) The school, which was free, (fn. 104) continued until 1860 when a new one (fn. 105) opened at Snowhill.
St. George's church school, opened in 1860, was built on an extensive open site south of what became School Street, Snowhill; the cost was met by the Lilleshall Co. and a government grant. There were three departments and two adjoining houses for the master and the girls' and infants' mistresses. (fn. 106) Enlargement produced 300 boys' places, 150 girls', and 200 infants' by 1885. (fn. 107) In 1894 the schools affiliated to the National Society to obtain a building-improvement grant; (fn. 108) they were not, however, called National schools. (fn. 109) Exceptionally the boys' school was, by 1863, supported entirely by capitation grant and fees; (fn. 110) the latter were high, though varied according to parents' means, and payable even during absence from school. (fn. 111) Its excellence was consistent and remarkable: under long-serving masters it was almost certainly the most efficient school in the coalfield. Attendance was high and the first master dismissed irregular boys. Boys did very well in the South Kensington drawing examinations and by 1884 there was a Standard VII examination. (fn. 112) The girls' school was overcrowded until at least 1917 and before 1900 no mistress stayed long; (fn. 113) fees were not high. (fn. 114) Boys' and girls' departments amalgamated in 1939. (fn. 115) From 1949 pupils aged 13 transferred to Wrockwardine Wood Modern School. (fn. 116) In the early 1950s boys aged 11-12 attended a woodwork centre at Ketley Bank County Primary School. (fn. 117) Only in 1955, however, did all senior pupils leave for secondary schools. (fn. 118) That year too the infants transferred to the new St. George's C.E. (Controlled) Infant School nearby, (fn. 119) and the school (itself controlled since 1957) (fn. 120) became a junior school. In 1971 a threeclassroom extension on the site of the nearby C.E. Infant School added 120 junior places. (fn. 121) Junior and infant schools combined in 1981 (fn. 122) and the old buildings were closed in 1982.
In 1872 the Lilleshall Co. paid for a new Priorslee National School, known in the 1880s as the Granville School, with 200 infant places; it was soon enlarged for 69 more places. In 1872 income included weekly fees of 2d. from 137 pupils and voluntary contributions, (fn. 123) and by 1876 church collections. (fn. 124) In 1881 a mixed school under a master was established (fn. 125) and the infants transfer red to unsuitable accommodation rented from the United Methodist Free church. The withdrawal of government grant was threatened if infants remained in the condemned premises and in 1890 the Lilleshall Co. built a new school for 200 next to the existing school. (fn. 126) Attendance averaged 350 in 1885, 370 in 1895, and 299 in 1904. By 1906 the accommodation limit was 444. (fn. 127) By 1940 mixed and infant departments had combined. The school became controlled in 1956. (fn. 128) A fall in numbers (from 183 in 1955 to 104 in 1958) and the need for repairs caused the school's closure in 1958. (fn. 129)
St. George's C.E. (Controlled) Infant School, London Road, opened in 1961 with 120 places in four classes. (fn. 130) Infant numbers fell from 166 in 1975 to 101 in 1980, (fn. 131) and in 1981 the junior and infant schools combined as St. George's C.E. (Controlled) Primary School, with 320 pupils. (fn. 132)