A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 17, Offlow Hundred (Part). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1976.
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From 1670 Harborne was entitled to send two boys to the Old Swinford Hospital School (Worcs.); by 1834 it was customary to choose them alternately from Harborne and Smethwick. (fn. 1) Smethwick was later given three places at the school and is still entitled to send boys to it. (fn. 2) In 1730 Smethwick children were attending a recently founded charity school at Harborne. (fn. 3) In 1734 a charity school was established in Smethwick, (fn. 4) and by 1819 there were also two Sunday schools. Fiftyfour children then attended the three schools, and the minister of Smethwick chapel considered that there was insufficient provision for the education of the poor. (fn. 5)
Smethwick and Harborne were formed into a school district under the 1870 Education Act. In 1871 a public meeting rejected proposals for the establishment of a school board; at the meeting one of the warmest advocates of a board was Joseph Chamberlain, then a partner in Nettlefold & Chamberlain. By then Smethwick had 2,900 school places, about the number officially judged adequate. There was, however, an average attendance of only 1,580, and it was generally agreed that three more free schools were needed; it was claimed that these could be provided by voluntary effort. (fn. 6) A board was eventually formed in 1873 on the orders of the Education Department. It was known as the Harborne School Board and remained in existence until 1891, when Harborne became part of Birmingham and the school district was broken up. What remained became a new district under a board originally called the School Board for the ExtraMunicipal Part of the Parish of Harborne and from 1896 the Smethwick School Board. (fn. 7)
Under the terms of the 1902 Education Act Smethwick became a Part III authority responsible for elementary education, while Staffordshire county council, the authority responsible for higher education, delegated to it control of technical instruction and evening continuation schools. (fn. 8) When Smethwick became a county borough in 1907 it automatically assumed responsibility for higher education.
Between 1932 and 1939 there was an extensive reorganization of the borough's schools as a consequence of the Hadow Report. (fn. 9) In 1946 Smethwick and West Bromwich published a joint development plan for education. They had met the Ministry of Education's proposal in 1944 to create a Joint Education Board for the two boroughs by pointing out that they were already considering a complete merger to form one new borough. Although the amalgamation did not take place and both boroughs retained their autonomy in educational matters, the plan remained the pattern for education. A tripartite system of secondary education was adopted; in 1970 Smethwick had grammar and secondary modern schools but had closed its technical school. (fn. 10)
A pupil-teacher centre was opened in 1894. (fn. 11) Special education for handicapped children also began in 1894 when, under the 1893 Elementary Education (Blind and Deaf Children) Act, (fn. 12) the school board first sent a child to a school for the blind. In 1907 the borough obtained permission to build Victoria Special School for the educationally subnormal; (fn. 13) it was replaced in 1959 by Highfield (now Arden) School. (fn. 14) The Firs Open Air School for delicate and physically handicapped children was opened in 1929; the building was completely remodelled in 1964-5. (fn. 15) The Edith Sands Nursery School, opened in 1938, remained the only nursery school run by the local authority in 1970. (fn. 16) Since 1928 parties of Smethwick schoolchildren have been sent during the summer to a school camp site at Ribbesford (Worcs.), presented to the borough by Frank Chapman and his wife. (fn. 17)
Smethwick Old Church Church of England School.
Dorothy Parkes (d. 1728), founder of Smethwick Old Church, bequeathed £200 for the building and endowment of a charity school on a site on her estate at Smethwick and made the trustees for building her church responsible for its establishment. The schoolmistress, a single woman chosen by the trustees, was to teach reading, sewing, knitting, and the Catechism, without charge, to poor children chosen by the minister of the church, who was also to be responsible for the day-to-day management of the school. (fn. 18) A house with a schoolroom was completed in 1734 adjoining the east end of the Old Church graveyard. The first mistress had been appointed by Lady day 1734. (fn. 19) What remained of Dorothy Parkes's bequest, £136, was invested. (fn. 20) The school-house was later allowed to fall into disrepair, and by the early 1780s the school had apparently been discontinued for several years. A group of inhabitants then repaired the building with help from neighbouring parishes and petitioned the trustees for further action. They asked that a master to teach writing and accounts should be appointed as well as a mistress, and that some local people should be nominated by the trustees to supervise the school's affairs. No mention was made of the responsibilities which Dorothy Parkes's will had laid upon the minister. (fn. 21) The school was revived, but there is no evidence to suggest that a local committee of management was set up, and in 1823 there was still only a mistress who taught the original curriculum to between 12 and 20 poor girls recommended by the trustees. (fn. 22) In 1846-7 the school was attended by 35 girls; there was also a Sunday school attended by the girls and 30 boys. Some of the children were then paying fees, and the school had received a grant from the National Society. (fn. 23)
In 1855 new schools with a separate house for the mistress were built on the corner of what are now Church Road and the Uplands; the former schoolhouse was demolished and the site added to the graveyard. In 1864 there were on the books 72 feepaying pupils (26 boys, 36 girls, and 10 infants) and 15 children taught free. The school was managed by the minister of the church. (fn. 24) After the 1902 Education Act the school continued as a nonprovided school with some local authority representation on its committee of managers. In 1904 the older boys were transferred to Bearwood Road Council school, leaving departments for girls and infants. In 1905 there was an average attendance of about 164. Numbers declined as additional council schools were built, and the school was closed in 1932. (fn. 25) Part of the building is incorporated in the church hall built in the early 1950s. (fn. 26)
Hill Street Infants' National School, later Hill Street Board School.
An infants' National school was established in 1836 by James Moilliet of the Grove and his wife; the initiative may have come from Mrs. Moilliet, who took an interest in the education of poor children. (fn. 27) In 1840 there were 80 children. (fn. 28) In 1846-7 there were 43, taught by a mistress who received a salary of £10 and the children's pence and was provided with a house. (fn. 29) Although the incumbent of Holy Trinity stated in 1847 that it was a separate foundation and not part of his National school, (fn. 30) it was in his parish, its management was apparently in his hands, and by 1850 it was acting in effect as the infants' department of Holy Trinity School. It was then stated to be off Rolfe Street, (fn. 31) presumably in Hill Street, where it stood in 1860. (fn. 32) When Holy Trinity School built its own infants' department in 1880, Hill Street School became once more fully independent as a Church of England infants' school. In November 1880 there were 143 children on the books, and the average attendance was 98. It was transferred to the school board in 1883 and replaced in 1885 by a new board school for infants in Crockett's Lane. (fn. 33)
Smethwick National School or North Harborne Parish School, later Holy Trinity Church of England Schools.
A National school for 400 children was built in 1840-1 in Trinity Street with the aid of grants from government and the National Society. In 1846-7 there were weekday, evening, and Sunday schools with 289 pupils under a master and a mistress. (fn. 34) The girls' department was put under government grant c. 1850 and the rest of the school later. (fn. 35) Classrooms and a master's house were added in the 1860s. Further extensions in 1880 included an infants' department. In September 1880, after the building of the extensions, there were 224 boys, 210 girls, and 76 infants. (fn. 36) The buildings were again extended and remodelled in the 1890s. (fn. 37) The schools were finally closed in 1939, and the buildings were destroyed by enemy action in 1940. Smethwick post office stands on the site. (fn. 38)
Crockett's Lane British School.
A British school for boys and girls was opened c. 1840 in newly built schoolrooms in Crockett's Lane behind the Congregational chapel. It still existed in 1851. (fn. 39)
In 1845-6 Chance Brothers & Co. built British schools at its Spon Lane glassworks, with accommodation for 200 boys, 150 girls, and 100 infants. (fn. 40) The buildings, which included three schoolrooms, two classrooms, and houses for the teachers, were designed in a simple Gothic style and were opened in stages, the boys' school in 1845 and the girls' and infants' schools in 1846. They were intended primarily for the children of Chance's workpeople; the firm's decision in 1846 not to employ children under 12 was an attempt to persuade its workers to send their children to school. Outsiders' children, however, were also admitted, and the schools gradually became those for the Spon Lane area in general. The Chances engaged a master, a mistress, and an infants' mistress. (fn. 41) Frederick Talbot, master from 1845 to 1892, was a notable teacher and under him the schools gained a high reputation. The buildings were extensive, and there was a good supply of books and apparatus. A playground and a gymnasium were provided in 1858. The curriculum included the elements, grammar, geography, mechanics, and, from 1848, free-hand drawing. In 1858 a special class for drawing was organized in connexion with Birmingham School of Art. An evening school for older boys, teaching the elements and other subjects, was maintained from 1846. A Sunday school was also held: 30 of the 299 children attending Chance's schools in 1846-7 were Sunday-school children only. (fn. 42)
In 1887 the schools were transferred to the school board. Average attendance in May-November 1887 was 352 (185 boys, 170 girls, and 97 infants). (fn. 43) Accommodation for girls was increased in 1900; in 1900-1 there was accommodation for 702 children and an average attendance of 633. (fn. 44) The schools were closed in 1914 on the opening of Smethwick Hall Council School (now Devonshire Road School). (fn. 45) The buildings were sold back to the firm and in 1971 were used as a canteen and social centre.
Cape Hill School, or Henderson's School.
In 1846 John Henderson of the London Works built a day and Sunday school in the Cape Hill district. It was apparently rebuilt in 1854. It was still standing in 1857 off what is now Montague Road, but it probably did not long survive Henderson's bankruptcy in 1856. (fn. 46)
St. Matthew's Church of England Primary School.
A school in connexion with St. Matthew's Church was established in temporary premises in 1859. After six months there were 85 pupils on the books. In 1861 the temporary accommodation was replaced by a National school for 300 children in Windmill Lane; three certificated teachers were engaged. In the early months of 1862 there was an average attendance of 185. (fn. 47) The buildings were extended in 1872. (fn. 48) The older children were transferred to council schools in 1935. (fn. 49) The school was moved to new buildings on the site of the former vicarage in 1966, and in 1971 it was a one-form-entry primary school. (fn. 50)
St. Philip Neri Roman Catholic Primary School.
A Roman Catholic mixed and infants' school was built in 1860 on the site of the present church hall in Watt Street. Roman Catholic children had for some years previously been taught at 'Catten's School' in Cranford Street, so called from the name of the woman who ran it. The new school, which had a schoolroom for boys and girls, another for infants, and a classroom, was run by two mistresses on National-school lines. In February-March 1861 there was an average attendance of 103, of whom 38 were infants. Of the children 91 paid fees, while the others, whose parents were out of work, were taught free. (fn. 51) From at least 1863 until 1893 the building was also used as a church. (fn. 52) The school continued to cater for all Roman Catholic children of school age until the opening of Cardinal Newman Roman Catholic Secondary School in Edgbaston (Birmingham) in 1959. This took children from both Birmingham and Smethwick, and Smethwick corporation contributed towards its cost. The first part of a new St. Philip's School in Messenger Road was opened in 1959, and when the second part was opened in 1965 the old school was demolished. (fn. 53)
Smethwick Wesleyan School, later Rabone Lane Board School.
In 1861 a Wesleyan Methodist day school was opened in the former chapel in Rabone Lane under a certificated teacher. There was a schoolroom for boys and girls and three classrooms. After a month 60 children were attending. (fn. 54) A new school was built in Rabone Lane in 1866. (fn. 55) It was subsequently enlarged and in 1888 was a mixed and infants' school with accommodation for 522 and an average attendance of 410. (fn. 56) It was handed over to the school board in 1894 and was closed in 1914 on the opening of Smethwick Hall Council School (now Devonshire Road School). (fn. 57)
Abbey Infants' School, Maurice Road, was opened in 1952. (fn. 58)
Abbey Road Junior School, built in 1909 by Oldbury urban district council and officially opened in 1910, stands in the area added to Smethwick borough in 1928. It was then a school for boys, girls, and infants but became a junior and infants' school in 1932 and a junior school in 1958. (fn. 59)
Albion Junior School, Halford's Lane, was opened in 1954. Since the 1966 boundary changes the building has stood in West Bromwich. (fn. 60)
Annie Lennard Infants' School, the Oval, was opened in 1954. (fn. 61)
Bearwood Road Junior and Infants' School, opened in 1882 as a board school for boys, girls, and infants, was considerably extended in the 1880s and 1890s. It became a junior and infants' school in 1932. (fn. 62)
Brasshouse Lane Infants' School was opened in 1876 as a mixed and infants' board school. In 1878 the mixed department was divided into separate boys' and girls' departments. The buildings were later enlarged several times. (fn. 63) From 1923, after another building had been added, Brasshouse Lane was a five-department school (senior boys, senior girls, junior boys, junior girls, and infants). It became a junior mixed and infants' school in 1935 (fn. 64) and an infants' school in 1962. (fn. 65)
Cape Infants' School, Cape Hill, was opened in 1888 as a board school for boys, girls, and infants and was enlarged in 1894 and 1901. (fn. 66) It became a junior and infants' school in 1935 (fn. 67) and was an infants' school by 1950. (fn. 68)
Corbett Street Infants' School, opened in 1879 as a board school for boys, girls, and infants, became a junior and infants' school in 1935 and an infants' school in 1965. (fn. 69)
Crockett's Lane Junior and Infants' Schools are the sole remnants of the former Central Board Schools, opened in stages on adjoining sites. An infants' school and a higher grade school for boys and girls were opened in 1885, an infants' school for boys was built in 1892, and a separate girls' school was added in 1898. The higher grade school took almost all the standard VI and standard VII children transferred from other schools, and subjects taught included chemistry and mechanics. (fn. 70) In 1935 the boys' school became a senior boys' school, the girls' school a senior girls' school, the infant boys' school a junior mixed school, and the infant girls' school a mixed infants' school. (fn. 71) In 1947 the senior girls' school became Park Secondary School for Girls and the senior boys' school was closed, its premises being taken over by James Watt Technical School. (fn. 72) Park School closed in 1957; Crockett's Lane Junior School moved into the vacated building, and James Watt School took over what had been the premises of the junior school as additional accommodation. (fn. 73)
Devonshire Road Junior and Infants' School was opened in 1914 as Smethwick Hall School, taking the pupils from Chance's and Rabone Lane schools and many pupils from Oldbury Road School. When Smethwick Hall Senior Schools were opened in 1939 the existing school became a junior and infants' school and was renamed. (fn. 74)
George Betts Junior and Infants' School, West End Avenue, was opened in 1954 as a junior school. It was extended in 1970 and has since taken infants also. (fn. 75)
Holly Lodge Grammar Schools, Holly Lane, originated in 1922, when a high school for girls was opened in Holly Lodge, formerly the home of the Downing family. It moved to a new building near by in 1927, and a boys' high school was then opened in Holly Lodge, moving in its turn in 1932 to a new building adjoining that of the girls' high school. (fn. 76) The schools became the borough's two grammar schools in the reorganization after 1944. After the boys' grammar school had absorbed James Watt Technical School in 1967 its buildings were extended. (fn. 77)
James Watt Technical School, Crockett's Lane, was established in 1914 as Smethwick Junior Technical School. It took boys aged between 12 and 15 and was housed in the buildings of the Municipal Technical School. Until the Second World War girls were admitted also. In 1947 the age of entrance was lowered to 11, no more girls were admitted, and the school, renamed, moved to the premises formerly occupied by Crockett's Lane Senior Boys' School. In 1967 it was absorbed by Holly Lodge Boys' Grammar School. (fn. 78)
Merry Hill Infants' School, Foundry Lane, was opened in 1969. (fn. 79)
Oldbury Road Infants' School was opened in 1875 as a mixed and infants' board school, sometimes known as West Smethwick Board School. The mixed department was divided into separate boys' and girls' departments in 1878, and the school was subsequently extended several times. (fn. 80) It became a junior and infants' school in 1939 and an infants' school in 1959. (fn. 81)
St. Gregory's Roman Catholic Primary School, off Park Road, was opened in 1968. It has an annexe for infants, attached to the near-by Abbey Infants' School. (fn. 82)
Sandwell Schools, Halford's Lane, were opened in 1957. They are separate boys' and girls' secondary schools in a single building, which has always stood in West Bromwich. (fn. 83) They had been preceded during the school year 1956-7 by Sandwell 'Nucleus' School, which consisted of children moving up from Albion Junior School and was held in part of the Brasshouse Lane Junior School building. (fn. 84)
Slough Lane School was opened in 1875 as a mixed and infants' board school. It was originally housed in the Congregational chapel but moved to new buildings in the same road in 1882. It was closed in 1937. (fn. 85)
Smethwick Hall Schools, Stony Lane, consisting of separate secondary schools for boys and girls, were opened in 1939 as senior schools and became secondary schools in the reorganization after 1944. (fn. 86) See also Devonshire Road School.
Uplands Secondary, Junior, and Infants' Schools, Thompson and Addenbrooke Roads, were opened in 1932 with senior boys', senior girls', junior, and infants' departments. The senior departments became boys' and girls' secondary schools in the reorganization after 1944. The secondary school for girls was closed in 1962, the premises being taken over by the boys' secondary school. (fn. 87)
Waterloo Road School was opened in 1907 (the boys' and girls' departments) and 1908 (the infants' department). In 1932 the boys' and girls' departments became senior departments. In the reorganization after 1944 they became Shireland Secondary School for Boys and Shireland Secondary School for Girls, the rest of the school becoming Waterloo Road Junior and Infants' School. The boys' school was closed in 1960, the girls' school taking over its premises. (fn. 88)
Evening classes in science and art were established in 1846 by the Chance family at the schools attached to their Spon Lane glass-works. An institute formed at the works in 1852 flourished for almost twenty years. (fn. 89) John Henderson of the London Works formed a library and reading room in the Cape Hill district and was patron of an institute which met there in the mid 1850s, (fn. 90) while a few years later Joseph Chamberlain was fostering adult education at Nettlefold & Chamberlain's Smethwick works. (fn. 91) St. Matthew's Church had some 140 pupils at an evening school in 1870, (fn. 92) and Holy Trinity Church organized evening classes about the same date. (fn. 93) Smethwick Institute, formed in 1887, met at the higher grade school in Crockett's Lane. For a few years after its foundation its activities included evening classes. It closed in the later 1920s. (fn. 94) Another institute was meeting at Bearwood in the 1880s. (fn. 95)
The school board constituted itself a local committee of the Science and Art Department in 1885 and organized evening classes in science and art at the higher grade school in Crockett's Lane. (fn. 96) In 1892 a technical instruction committee was set up consisting of members of the local board and the school board. It took over the management of the science and art classes, forming them into a municipal technical school. (fn. 97) The school board members withdrew from the committee in 1898, and from 1899 the whole committee was appointed by the town council. (fn. 98)
The technical school continued to meet in the evenings in the higher grade school until 1910, when a technical school building was opened in Crockett's Lane. (fn. 99) By 1913 there was an attendance of nearly 4,000. (fn. 100) From 1914 until 1947 (fn. 101) the buildings also housed a secondary technical school, and pupils from it continued to use classrooms and laboratories until 1956. Evening classes were still the most important part of the institution's work in the late 1920s, although after the 1918 Education Act the first day-release students were enrolled, with originally five firms sending workers. The school became Smethwick Municipal College in 1927 and was renamed Chance Technical College in 1945. A block of engineering and building workshops was opened in 1950. Between 1952 and 1966 major extensions were built on an adjoining site in Crockett's Lane; they enabled the college to accommodate some 3,500 students by 1966, two-thirds of whom attended courses during the day. In 1968 the college was merged with Oldbury College of Further Education to form Warley College of Technology, with the buildings in Crockett's Lane (Chance Building) housing the main administrative centre of the new college and six of its eight departments. (fn. 102)
The original building, extensively renovated, is of brick with grey terracotta dressings, and was designed in a 'free Renaissance style' by F. J. Gill. (fn. 103) The extensions of 1952-66, designed by W. W. Atkinson and Partners, consist of five main blocks faced with Portland stone and coloured brick. They house workshops, classrooms, laboratories, assembly and recreation halls, and administrative offices.
Smethwick never maintained many private schools, and only a few are known to have survived for any length of time. Directories listed three private academies in 1835 and nine in 1872. (fn. 104) Both lists are evidently incomplete, but it is difficult to assess how many schools were omitted. In 1875 there were 30 private schools in Harborne School Board district, most of them dame schools; according to a census taken by the board in that year only some 38 per cent of the pupils were being efficiently taught. (fn. 105) Shireland Hall housed a succession of schools for middle-class children: a girls' school in 1818, a school for the sons of clergy of all denominations from the earlier 1850s until at least 1865, and another girls' school from later in the 1860s until the mid 1870s. (fn. 106) Smethwick Hall off Stony Lane was used as a school from at least 1872 until c. 1885. (fn. 107) A favoured area for genteel private schools was that around South Street (later South Road), where a number of such schools flourished between at least 1851 and the early 20th century. (fn. 108)