A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 7, the City of Birmingham. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1964.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
KING EDWARD VI ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS (fn. 1)
In 1676 the governors of the Free Grammar School of King Edward VI, at a 'solemn meeting' drew up some nineteen statutes for better disposing of the school revenues. Among these statutes were two for the appointment of an English master and a scrivener. The English master was to teach 'in a school distant from the grammar school 50 boys' whose parents at the time of admission lived in Birmingham 'to read English', and the scrivener 20 boys 'continually at once inhabitants of Birmingham' 'to write and cast account'. (fn. 2) The decision to appoint an English master and a scrivener was much more revolutionary than might at first appear. Whilst the letters patent which established the Grammar School in 1552 had given to the governors considerable powers, including that of making statutes and ordinances (fn. 3) for the school, the nature of the charity had been narrowly defined. Thus the entire revenue from the endowment was to be used for the maintenance of a master and usher. No provision was made either for the appointment of additional staff or for the upkeep of buildings. Moreover the education provided by the school was to be entirely classical. Equally restrictive in terms of future development was the limitation of the benefits of the charity to boys and young men. (fn. 4) The statutes of 1676 represent an attempt on the part of the governors to remove anomalies in the original charter and increase the usefulness of the charity. By this time the income of the governors had increased greatly (fn. 5) and it seemed intolerable that the entire proceeds of the charity should go to the master and usher. A great increase of population in Birmingham also brought an increased demand for education of a type more readily adapted to the requirements of a growing commercial town. The action of the governors in fixing a definite stipend for the master and usher was understandable in view of the situation, but the question remained how far their right to make statutes and ordinances enabled them to extend the scope of the charity. Concerned lest they might be accused of misappropriating the income of the charity or of violating the patent of 1552, the governors engineered an action in Chancery to regularize their newly-made statutes. (fn. 6) The action brought forth a confirmatory decree in February 1677.
For the next hundred and fifty years the charter of 1552, interpreted by the statutes of 1676, formed the restricted framework within which the governors acted. The proceedings of 1676 contain hints of further development. The English School was built about 1680 (fn. 7) and quickly proved its value, for by the end of the century the governors had decided to have it rebuilt. (fn. 8) The school was rebuilt in 1704 (fn. 9) and as time went on became more and more an integral part of the Free Grammar School. The success of the English School doubtless encouraged the governors to think of extending the scope of the charity even further, and to embark upon the provision of elementary education.
According to Leach (fn. 10) they established two schools of an elementary character and a night school as early as 1703. This was just before a bitter quarrel with James Parkinson, the contentious and litigious chief master, (fn. 11) who finally took the quarrel to Chancery, where long-drawn-out proceedings followed. It is to be inferred from Leach that the establishment of these elementary schools was one of the things about which Parkinson complained, but no mention of such schools appears in his bill of complaint (fn. 12) and there is no reference to the schools in the governors' orders of the period. The first elementary schools referred to in the order books were those established by an order of 6 March 1751. (fn. 13)
The reasons for the extension of the charity in 1751 must have been substantially the same as those which impelled the governors to make changes in 1676. Birmingham was still growing very steadily, and the demand for education, even of a rudimentary character, must have been great. In 1751, after considering the state of the school, the governors decided to appoint four masters and mistresses to teach English in different parts of Birmingham. Each master or mistress was to have not more than forty pupils. The annual salary of each teacher was to be £15 for the full complement of pupils. Both sexes were to benefit from this instruction, (fn. 14) so that for the first time girls were admitted to share in the Free School Charity. In 1751 (fn. 15) the governors sealed statutes setting up the English Schools, as they were called, and in 1752 two masters and two mistresses were appointed. (fn. 16) In October 1764 the governors established another school, at Hockley, for the convenience of children living in the outer parts of the parish of Birmingham. (fn. 17)
Until 1790 the governors supervised the English Schools little. They merely appointed and paid successive masters and mistresses, (fn. 18) and nominated the children who attended the schools; (fn. 19) they also made allowances of fuel. (fn. 20) No resemblance existed, except in name, between these schools and the English School set up in 1676. The new schools changed hands frequently, and with each change came a new address, for the schools were maintained in the private houses or business premises of the various masters and mistresses. Whether the forty children were taught all at one time does not appear, but this would for the most part seem physically impossible, and in any event, hardly necessary, for until late in the century the children who came to the English Schools were taught to read only. (fn. 21) The school lists which survive show that for many years the schools were mixed: the earliest in which the pupils are all of one sex is dated 1777. (fn. 22) From the first the governors themselves determined what children should attend the schools, and the school lists sent in by the masters and mistresses specify the names of the nominating governors.
The governors' orders give hardly any information about the masters and mistresses. That some at least had little education may be fairly deduced from the character of the school lists which they sent in to the governors. Only once is a master's calling specified in an order. (fn. 23) Other evidence shows, however, that several masters were tradesmen. (fn. 24) For these men, and probably most of the other masters, it is probable that keeping their schools was a side-line occupation; indeed, an annual stipend of £15 (though increased in 1784 to £20) (fn. 25) suggests that they had other sources of income. Of the mistresses, a number were widows, and some of these continued schools previously conducted by their husbands. Family succession - either of widows following husbands or sons following fathers - was a permanent feature of the English Schools.
Undoubtedly the most important step taken by the governors since they had begun to make provision for elementary education came with the opening of a school on the south side of Shut Lane in 1776. In 1774 the governors decided to establish a school for teaching writing, drawing, and accounts to 50 boys living in Birmingham, and to provide the master in charge with a house. (fn. 26) The salary of the master was to be £40 a year (fn. 27) - appreciably greater than that of the English School masters and mistresses. The school was built on land belonging to the Free Grammar School by Thomas Saul, a Birmingham builder. (fn. 28) A surviving plan shows the school to have been rectangular, with the schoolroom directly above the master's house. (fn. 29) The building was completed and a master appointed in 1776. (fn. 30) The importance which the governors attached to this school and the scale of the master's salary leave no doubt that the mastership of Shut Lane school was a full-time occupation.
In 1787 one of the English Schools came to an end. This was the successor to that established in 1764 at Hockley. From Hockley the school moved to Birmingham Heath; then in 1779 it changed hands again and came right into the heart of the town: the governors had either forgotten or abandoned their idea of having a school 'in the outer parts of the parish of Birmingham'. The school continued until 1787 when, upon the death of the master, the governors did not appoint anyone to succeed him.
During the last ten years of the 18th century a great change took place in the attitude of the governors to the English Schools. Before 1790 the schools had been left for the most part to work out their own salvation, but from that date onwards the governors began to take an increasing interest. Inevitably this led to an extension of the educational facilities which the schools offered, and much closer and more precise control by the governors.
In 1790 they established another school for the instruction of 50 boys, under a master at an annual salary of £40. This school differed from its predecessors in certain respects. Whereas previously the English Schools had provided - and were still providing - instruction in reading only, the instruction to be given in the new school was extended to writing and arithmetic as well. Secondly, in the new school pupils of one sex only were to be taught. Thirdly the salary of the master was double that of the other masters and mistresses. (fn. 31)
Barely a month after the governors made the order setting up this new school, they extended the scope of another school by adding writing and arithmetic to the reading already taught there. (fn. 32) They also increased the salary of the master, Samuel Iddens, to £40, and stipulated that he should hire a schoolroom for the 40 boys under his care. At the same time, the masters of two of the other schools, William Taylor and Charles Brown, were given notice on account of negligence; John Tunks Cooper, the master of the remaining school, was warned. This was the first time the governors had taken any disciplinary action. They further ordered that no masters should take 'any other scholars than those sent them upon the Foundation during the usual school hours'. They also resolved to raise the salary of each master to £40 as soon as he should deserve it and because he would be required to instruct 40 boys in writing and arithmetic as well as reading. (fn. 33)
The year 1790, then, marked the turning point in the history of the English Schools. The very name English School began to disappear and the terms 'small school', (fn. 34) 'under school', (fn. 35) 'out school' (fn. 36) replaced it in the governors' orders. (fn. 37) One by one the schools came to instruct the poor children of Birmingham in writing and arithmetic as well as reading; one by one they came to be housed in suitable premises approved by the governors. With the introduction of writing and arithmetic, the governors took upon themselves the cost of providing the necessary stationery. (fn. 38) From now on boys and girls were taught in separate schools, two for girls being established in 1794 (fn. 39) and 1801. (fn. 40) The instruction provided in the girls' schools was less ambitious than that in the boys', for it was confined to 'reading and sewing'. (fn. 41) The governors did not specifically regulate the conduct of the schools until 1810, (fn. 42) but the dismissal of the two masters in 1790 showed that they would no longer tolerate neglect. After 1790 they chose their masters and mistresses with some care, and sought as far as possible to appoint those with some qualifications to teach.
Another important development in the last decade of the 18th century was the establishment of evening schools. In August 1790 the governors ordered that the master of the school in Shut Lane should be allowed an extra £20 yearly in return for instructing 40 boys, recommended by the governors, each evening except Saturday and Sunday, in reading, writing, and arithmetic. (fn. 43) This formed a precedent for the setting up of evening schools associated with the masters of the other small schools. (fn. 44) As with the day schools the governors maintained the right to nominate the pupils. Such evening schools came to be associated with all the small schools for boys but not with those for girls.
Many lists both for the day and evening schools have survived from the early 19th century, and often give the ages of the pupils. The ages of the boys in the day schools ranged from 6 to 14 and those of the girls from 6 to 11. The evening schools contained pupils from the age of 8, often including youths between the ages of 17 and 19, and sometimes youths of 20. (fn. 45) The premium placed upon some degree of education in early-19th-century Birmingham is at once apparent, as also the remarkable facilities offered by the governors of King Edward's School long before the time of compulsory national education.
In 1817 the governors made further provision for elementary education. The Birmingham National School, which had recently been built on land belonging to the Free Grammar School, (fn. 46) had fallen into financial difficulties. The governors tried to help by paying an annual subscription to the National School on condition of always having 60 children, male or female, in that school and of having three of their own number upon its committee of management. (fn. 47) In 1829, however, the Charity Commissioners declared this arrangement ultra vires the King Edward's Charity.
Between 1820 and 1829 all the small schools maintained by the governors themselves were closed, beginning with the evening schools. (fn. 48) The governors seem to have been influenced partly by motives of economy, dictated by the pressing need to rebuild the Free Grammar School itself, and partly by a reconsideration of the constitutional position. (fn. 49) A committee of governors reported in 1823 that the provision of girls' schools seemed to lie outside the scope of the charter, (fn. 50) and in 1826 another committee reported similarly on the English Schools and the drawing school. (fn. 51) The last day school closed in 1827, (fn. 52) and the Shut Lane school in 1829. (fn. 53) With it came to an end the first elementary schools associated with the Free Grammar School in Birmingham.
In 1831 an Act of Parliament began a new chapter in the history of the school. The authors of this legislation took into account the great demand which existed in Birmingham for popular education and the vacuum which had been caused by the closing of the small schools, for the Act required the governors within eight years to appropriate a sum not exceeding £4,000 for building upon the charity estates four elementary schools for poor boys and girls of the town, parish and manor of Birmingham. (fn. 54) After considerable delay (fn. 55) the first three schools were built and fitted between the years 1837 and 1839 at just above the authorized cost for all four schools. (fn. 56)
The first of the new elementary schools was built on the north side of Gem Street, and was opened in 1838, (fn. 57) for the reception of 'children to be pre pared for monitors'. It accommodated 120 boys and 116 girls. The governors who formed the elementary schools committee had themselves interviewed the candidates for admission. Neither the Gem Street school nor any of the subsequent elementary schools was mixed; the departments for the boys and the girls were quite distinct, and were indeed always administered as separate schools. The master of the Gem Street boys' school was appointed at a yearly salary of £140 and the mistress of the girls' school at £50. (fn. 58) The Gem Street school was situated on the town side of an area which had been built up during the previous half century. (fn. 59) The second school was built near the end of the Parade, in an area of Birmingham only then under development. (fn. 60) Referred to for some time as the George Street West school, (fn. 61) it opened in the same year as the Gem Street school and under similar arrangements. (fn. 62) By 1840 this school had acquired the name which it retained for the remainder of its existence: the Edward Street school. (fn. 63) The third school, situated in an older part of the town, near the Digbeth end of Meriden Street, was opened in 1839. (fn. 64) It was at first a boys' school only, (fn. 65) and it was not until 1853 that a girls' school was added. (fn. 66) The fourth school came much later than the others. In 1847 the governors decided to build in Pigott Street, (fn. 67) and building was put in hand in 1851. (fn. 68) The Pigott Street school, the name of which was changed in 1852 to the Bath Row school, (fn. 69) was opened in 1852. (fn. 70) It was situated near the Queen's Hospital and off Bath Row, in a newly-developed district of Birmingham. (fn. 71)
The statute made by the governors on 30 October 1852 'for the establishing of four elementary schools', contemplated accommodation for 1,000 children: 125 boys and 120 girls at Gem Street, Edward Street and Meriden Street, and 135 boys and 130 girls at Bath Row. (fn. 72) The great public esteem in which these schools were held led to a keen demand for places, and children who had been accepted for admission had to wait as long as two years before entering. (fn. 73) In time the number of children in the schools rose steadily. It stood at 1,150 in 1866 (fn. 74) and 1,284 in 1869. (fn. 75) The governors, either by extensions or alterations, sought to increase the capacity of the school buildings wherever possible.
A prominent feature of the elementary schools throughout their existence was that the children attending were mostly of the middle class. The Act of 1831 had established them for the education of the children 'of the poorer inhabitants', (fn. 76) but as the governors themselves wrote in 1866, the schools 'by their excellence and success, attracted children of a higher class than was contemplated'. (fn. 77) The school registers show that, from the first, children of artisans, tradesmen, professional men, and small manufacturers entered the schools, and almost monopolized the places. During the 1870s, when bitter controversy raged in Birmingham over the schemes proposed for the future arrangement of the foundation, this feature of the elementary schools brought forth harsh comments, especially from the Birmingham Liberal Party. The fact that the children in the elementary schools had always had to buy their school books was adduced as an important reason why the children of the poor had not entered the schools. (fn. 78)
At first admission to the schools had been gained by children recommended by a governor and able to read English. (fn. 79) Children so recommended had to pass a very simple examination set by the head master of the Grammar School. This system lasted many years. In 1868 the system of recommendation by governors ceased, (fn. 80) and in 1874 at the suggestion of A. R. Vardy, head master of the Grammar School, the governors ordered that a competitive entrance examination should be introduced. (fn. 81) This order was not in fact carried out. The ages of the children in the boys' schools had been fixed by the statute of 1852 at 8 to 14 years and in the girls' schools at 7 to 13, (fn. 82) but, from an early date, many children continued at school after reaching the prescribed age. (fn. 83)
The system of instruction adopted by the governors for use in their elementary schools was that of the Edinburgh Sessional School, devised by John Wood. (fn. 84) The governors entered into correspondence with Wood, (fn. 85) and in 1837 a deputation went to Manchester to see the system in operation there. (fn. 86) The system advocated by Wood, like those of Bell and Lancaster, relied on the use of monitors; it differed from the others in the emphasis laid upon the stimulation of the intellect. (fn. 87) Except at the Meriden Street school, where the ill health of the master necessitated the appointment of an assistant in 1846, (fn. 88) the teaching in the boys' schools was carried on entirely by monitors under the supervision of the masters until the 1850s, when assistant masters were appointed at various times to the schools. In the girls' schools, however, there were assistant mistresses from the first. (fn. 89) Payment of monitors was instituted by an order of 1848, and at the same time regulations for their appointment and training were laid down. Monitors were to be aged at least 13 in the boys' schools and 12 in the girls' schools. By the third year of service a monitor was to receive £12 yearly. (fn. 90) At the same period assistant mistresses were receiving £20 yearly. (fn. 91) A recurrent difficulty, in the boys' schools particularly, was that in a thriving industrial town, where many opportunities for employment existed, it was 'difficult to retain monitors old enough to be really useful'. (fn. 92) As an inducement to monitors to remain, the governors in 1852 instituted the award of oneyear grants to training schools for monitors who had served in the schools for five years. (fn. 93) The payment of these grants ceased in 1857, as, through a new ruling of the Education Department, the monitors became eligible to compete for Queen's Scholarships; instead, the governors increased their salaries. (fn. 94) In 1865 the governors ordered that the use of paid monitors in the boys' schools should be discontinued and assistant masters should be appointed in their place. (fn. 95) This order, however, was not rigidly enforced. (fn. 96) Promotion of monitors to assistantships was a regular feature of the elementary schools, particularly in the girls' schools, where promotion to the position of mistress might ultimately be gained. (fn. 97)
The administration of the elementary schools was at first entrusted to the elementary school committee of the governors formed in 1831; (fn. 98) this committee was merged in the school committee in 1842. (fn. 99) Until that year it had been customary for the governors to appoint some of their number as visitors to the elementary schools. In 1842, however, visitation was entrusted to the bailiff and the head master of the Grammar School, who was already regarded as inspector of the schools. (fn. 100) The governors did not appoint visitors again until 1866. (fn. 101) The first annual examination of the children in the elementary schools was held under the head master's direction at the Grammar School in 1847. (fn. 102) Thereafter this annual examination became an essential part of the head master's duties. In 1852 the governors began the payment to the head master of a capitation fee of 5s. a child 'on all the scholars in the elementary schools for the superintendence and visiting of which. . . no remuneration has ever been made'. (fn. 103) Before very long the examination of the elementary schools became so onerous that the head master found it necessary to have an assistant from the Grammar School staff. (fn. 104) The head master of the Grammar School was in a very real sense the head master of the elementary schools too, and the governors relied much on his advice in administering the schools. Gifford, Evans and Vardy, head masters of the Grammar School between 1848 and 1900, contributed greatly to the successful development of the elementary schools.
The subjects taught in the elementary schools when first constituted were 'the fundamental principles and doctrines of the Christian religion', English language, history, geography, writing, and arithmetic; in addition the boys were taught bookkeeping and the elements of geometry and the girls knitting and sewing. (fn. 105) In 1851 an arrangement was made with the Birmingham School of Art for the instruction of some of the pupils in drawing and design; (fn. 106) five years later drawing classes under masters from the School of Art were formed in the four elementary schools. (fn. 107) Ultimately instruction in this subject was also given by the assistants themselves. (fn. 108) Music and singing were introduced into all the schools, algebra, geometry, and mathematical drawing into the boys' schools. From 1862 new subjects were added at various times to the curriculum of the top classes in particular schools: Latin at Edward Street boys', French at Bath Row girls' and Edward Street girls', botany at Bath Row boys', geology at Bath Row girls'. In 1874 a science class was instituted at Edward Street boys' school, (fn. 109) and instruction was given in animal physiology and electricity. (fn. 110) Before long, however, great changes took place in the character of the schools, and with them came an extension of the education they provided.
In 1878, after nearly ten years of bitter controversy in which the governors, the town council, the Birmingham School Board, the Endowed Schools Commissioners, the Charity Commissioners, and the political parties were all variously embroiled, a new Scheme for the management of the Free Grammar School came into force. Under this the elementary schools were renamed Lower Middle Schools. (fn. 111) Now, for the first time, the pupils were required to pay fees: an entry fee of 2s. 6d. and a yearly tuition fee of £1 10s. to be raised to £3 by 1881. Persistent applications by the governors to the Charity Commissioners for permission to reduce these fees met with no success. (fn. 112) The Scheme, however, empowered the governors to create foundation scholarships entitling the holders to free places, and King Edward scholarships consisting of annual payments to deserving pupils. (fn. 113) The Lower Middle Schools were to teach reading, spelling, writing, arithmetic, English grammar and literature, the outlines of history, the elements of geography, natural science, French, drawing, and vocal music; in addition, the rudiments of Latin and elementary mathematics were to be studied in the boys' school and domestic economy and needlework in the girls'. (fn. 114) The Scheme did not precisely fix the age limits of the pupils in the schools, but by a subsequent order the governors laid down that boys must be aged between 8 and 14 and girls between 8 and 16. (fn. 115) Entry to the schools depended on written examinations, the first of which was held in 1878. (fn. 116) After the introduction of the new Scheme much closer attention was paid to the qualifications of the masters, mistresses, and their assistants. In 1879 the head master himself examined the competence of some assistants and salaries were now made to depend on qualifications. (fn. 117)
It was not long before the governors saw that the requirements of the new Scheme could not be completely carried out in existing buildings, and in 1878 they contemplated erecting new schools in place of those in Gem Street, Edward Street, and Meriden Street. (fn. 118) In 1879 they removed the Edward Street girls' school to Summer Hill House, (fn. 119) and in 1880 bought land in Albert Road, Aston, for the site of new schools to replace the boys' and girls' schools in Gem Street. (fn. 120) The Meriden Street girls' schools was removed to Camp Hill House, Stratford Road, in 1881. (fn. 121) In 1881 also the governors purchased the Birmingham and Edgbaston Proprietary School at Five Ways, with a view to uniting in that building the Middle School (the English School prior to 1878) and the Bath Row boys' school. (fn. 122)
As early as 1880 the governors had realized that 'it would be a mistake to perpetuate in the erection of new buildings, schools of the type of the Lower Middle Schools'. The advancing standards of the board schools seemed to be overtaking those of their own schools. They therefore proposed that the Lower Middle Schools should upon removal become grammar schools, (fn. 123) and this change was brought about when a reorganization of King Edward's Foundation took place in 1883. The main school became a high school for boys, and a high school for girls was also provided for.
The boys' schools in Bath Row, Meriden Street and Edward Street were closed in 1882 (fn. 124) and the Gem Street schools in 1883, (fn. 125) and the pupils transferred to the new grammar schools at Five Ways, Camp Hill, and Aston. The Bath Row, Summer Hill, and Camp Hill girls' schools remained, but were advanced in status to grammar schools. Of the staffs of the old Lower Middle Schools, some but not all found employment in the new grammar schools. (fn. 126)
MASTERS AND MISTRESSES OF THE ENGLISH SCHOOLS (fn. 127)
Charles Buckton, Coleshill St., 67, High St. (fn. 128) (1808-1827)
Charles Downes, (fn. 129) 15, Temple St. (1794-1805)
Michael Ethell (sen.), 14, Inge St. (fn. 130) (1794-1826)
John Hinckesman, 5, Hospital St. (1796-1827) (fn. 131)
Lucy Kimberley, 160, Bromsgrove St. (fn. 132) (1801- 1825)