Girton: Education

A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 9, Chesterton, Northstowe, and Papworth Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1989.

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'Girton: Education', in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 9, Chesterton, Northstowe, and Papworth Hundreds, (London, 1989) pp. 128-129. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/cambs/vol9/pp128-129 [accessed 24 April 2024]

EDUCATION

A school was held in the chancel before 1576. (fn. 1) There were schoolmasters in the late 1570s, one a graduate licensed to teach grammar, and continuously between 1605 and 1620. The latter taught reading, writing, and accounting. (fn. 2) In 1807 the rector paid for some children to go to a dame school, (fn. 3) and by 1818 and in the 1830s was supporting a Sunday school with 30-40 pupils. By 1818 and in 1833 there were also two day schools attended by 30-45 children, the rector paying for 10 in 1833. (fn. 4)

In 1845 that rector's daughter Anna Maria Cotton built west of the churchyard a schoolhouse of red brick with two classrooms, for a church school, which she endowed in 1847 with £1,000 of Consols, mostly for the teacher's wages. Although the National Society gave £100 towards the building costs, she specifically forbade the school to be associated with it. Rights of management were reserved solely to the foundress, (fn. 5) who dominated the school until her death in 1883, frequently driving over to inspect it from Bartlow. Only reluctantly, under threat of a school board, did she accept in 1877 State inspection of her school. (fn. 6) Her friend, the rector G. B. F. Potticary, taught there almost daily in the 1870s, but his successors, unable to agree with the 'arbitrary patroness', ceased to do so, although it was still reckoned a church school in the 1890s. (fn. 7) In 1877 the endowment income, £30, was supplemented by almost £60 of voluntary contributions. (fn. 8) The landowners still paid voluntary rates in the 1890s to meet a deficit. (fn. 9) After 1902 the endowment was mostly used for repairs, including those of a master's house newly built on a site given by the rector in 1901. In 1955 a Scheme allotted a third of the £30 endowment to a Sunday school. (fn. 10)

In 1847 there were 87 schoolchildren, including only 22 boys, although 33 older boys attended weekday evening classes. (fn. 11) The number of pupils rose from c. 60, two thirds female, in the 1850s, (fn. 12) to a nominal 100 c. 1870. John Muggleton, the rapidly trained master appointed by Miss Cotton in 1846, taught them with tolerable success until 1884. (fn. 13) Actual attendance in 1877, when a winter night school had 19 pupils, was 52 out of c. 75 on the books. (fn. 14) In the late 1890s the rector again promoted evening classes with 10-15 pupils, whose subjects included commercial arithmetic, drawing, and English history. (fn. 15)

At the church day school attendance rose to c. 95 in the early 1890s. (fn. 16) History and geography were added to its curriculum by 1883, gardening and cookery c. 1903. (fn. 17) Increasing numbers had led to the building of an infants' classroom for 62 children in 1887, and another clasroom behind in 1893-4, and from 1900 the school could take 146 pupils, although attendance dropped from c. 100 in 1905 (fn. 18) to c. 65 in the 1920s, before recovering to 85 in the late 1930s. (fn. 19) Although the older children were sent to Impington village college in 1939, (fn. 20) increased immigration led to fresh overcrowding in the 1940s, classes overflowing into the village institute. A large council primary school, planned by 1945, (fn. 21) built on former rectorial land south-east of the church, and called therefore the Glebe school, was opened in 1951, the old one being converted c. 1960 into a village hall. The school, which had seven classes in 1960, was twice enlarged by the 1970s. (fn. 22)

About 1920 the scientific instrument maker Sir Horace Darwin (d. 1928) and others had installed at the Old Rectory, bought after 1917, a school for mentally backward boys, originally at Littleton (Surr., formerly Mdx.). (fn. 23) The Littleton House school had 66 pupils in 1960. (fn. 24) The county council took over its management and funding in 1970 and in 1973 moved it to new buildings at the north end of the village street, (fn. 25) where some 90 boys, two thirds boarders, were c. 1980 instructed by a staff of ten. (fn. 26) The Old Rectory was sold in 1974 by Cambridge University for use by an academy teaching English to foreign students. (fn. 27)

Footnotes

  • 1. C.U.L., E.D.R., D 2/10, f. 27.
  • 2. Proc. C.A.S. lxx. 160.
  • 3. C.U.L., E.D.R., C 1/4.
  • 4. Ibid. C 1/6; C 3/21; Educ. of Poor Digest, 59; Educ. Enq. Abstract, 62.
  • 5. C.R.O., R 60/4/2/19; cf. Nat. Soc. Inquiry, 1846-7, Cambs. 4-5; Gardner's Dir. Cambs. (1851).
  • 6. J. H. Hallam, Hist. Girton School, 1846-1945 (copy in C.R.O.: R 57/10/10), 5-8; cf. Camb. Chron. 26 Apr. 1851.
  • 7. C.U.L., E.D.R., C 3/26; C 3/30; C 3/37.
  • 8. P.R.O., ED 7/5.
  • 9. C.U.L., E.D.R., C 3/37; St. John's Coll. Mun., corr. 1894, 1900.
  • 10. Char. Com. files; Hallam, Girton Sch. 16.
  • 11. Nat. Soc. Inquiry, 1846-7, Cambs. 4-5.
  • 12. P.R.O., HO 107/1759; ibid. RG 9/1018; RG 10/1579.
  • 13. Ibid. ED 7/5; Hallam, Girton Sch. 5, 12.
  • 14. P.R.O., ED 7/5; C.U.L., E.D.R., C 3/26.
  • 15. Camb. Chron. 16 Oct. 1896; St. John's Coll. Mun., programmes 1897-8; cf. Schs. in receipt of Parl. Grants, 1895-6 [C. 8179], p. 23, H.C. (1896), lxv.
  • 16. Rep. of Educ. Cttee. of Council, 1890-1 [C. 6438-1], p. 563, H.C. (1890-1), xxvii.
  • 17. Hallam, Girton Sch. 12, 18.
  • 18. Ibid. 13-14; Public Elem. Schs. 1906 [Cd. 3510], p. 55, H.C. (1907), lxiii; cf. St. John's Coll. Mun., appeal 1894.
  • 19. Bd. of Educ., List 21, 1910 (H.M.S.O.), 24; 1919, 66; 1927, 15; 1938, 19.
  • 20. Black, Cambs. Educ. Rec. 60.
  • 21. Hallam, Girton Sch. 25; cf. C.R.O., R 54/25/1C, pp. 122, 151, 168, 181, 227-8.
  • 22. Black, Cambs. Educ. Rec. 60; cf. Camb. Ind. Press, 4 Mar. 1960; 'Girton: Survey', 54-7.
  • 23. 'Girton: Survey', 54; Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1922-37); cf. Alum. Cantab. 1752-1900, ii. 229.
  • 24. Camb. Ind. Press, 4 Mar. 1960.
  • 25. Camb. Evening News, 19 Oct., 22 Dec. 1972. New site formerly in Histon.
  • 26. Ibid. 30 Sept. 1975; 20 June 1984.
  • 27. Ibid. 14 June, 20 Nov. 1974.