The National School
The National School, Doseley Road, Dawley, (c) 1910
Dawley (mixed), built in 1841, & enlarged in 1893, 1899 & 1904, for 370 children ; average attendance, 300
The trees have grown and so has the gate posts!
Coronation 1902Photo courtesy of Dawley History Group.
Dawley C of E School Sports Day in Dawley ParkPhoto courtesy of Dawley History Group.
Dawley Church procession passing The National School Doseley road on it’s way to the vicarage, The building on the left is The National School with the school bell tower being hid behind the banner, Dawley Park is on the right, and the buildings in the back ground are in the High Street, Burton Street and George Street area of Dawley.
Extracts from the book, Dawley Green By B. T. Duckett.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS, SCHOOL AND PLAY.
This Book is based upon the memories of a school boy living in Dawley during the 1930's. It hopes to give some idea of life in the years prior to the Second World War, when the writer was a pupil at the Dawley C of E or "National" School.
Although born in Horsehay I lived in the Black Country until 1935, when my family returned to Dawley. I recall how quiet and almost rural the area seemed when compared with our previous surroundings. The streets appeared to have only light traffic, much of it horse- drawn, and in the days before starting at my new school I used to look forward to seeing the little delivery vans and milk floats, and the drivers of these vehicles were among the first local people that I came to know.
Within a couple of weeks I had been accepted at the National School, this being the most convenient place only a few minutes walk from my home. The Head Teacher at the time was, Mr F. Clayton, of Horsehay, and among the other staff were, Mr C. Tranter of Doseley, and the Misses Barnett, Peake, and Price. Being an all-age school it took children from five to fourteen year's, and here I was to stay until shortly after my 14th birthday.
The school day began with a general assembly for prayer and a hymn, usually accompanied by the Head- master playing a small harmonium. When this little service was over we went to our desks and lessons would commence. The length of a school day was similar to that of the present time. Our desks had small china ink-wells and old fashioned wooden nib- pens and under the sloping lid was a space for books. Two pupils shared a desk in large classes which must have had over forty boys and girls.
Many children living up to a mile away would walk home for lunch and back within the hour and a quarter which was allowed. There was of course no school dinner service, but we could buy small bottles of milk, about a third of a pint, at morning break.
The main subjects on the curriculum were the basic essentials of reading, writing and arithmetic, plus geography, history, and religious instruction, but in between a story would be read to us. Most of these stories were from popular classics such as the works of Charles Dickens and Mark Twain and we heard plenty of "David Copperfield", "A Christmas Carol" and "Tom Sawyer", which were read to us in short episodes.
During the morning break, we were let out to play on the old pit mound behind the school which was alright in dry weather, but the clay was liable to "run" in heavy rain and wash down into the yard like thick milk, making a mess of our shoes if we stepped into it. The afternoon break was longer and for this we could go down to the "Council Field" by the park to play foot- ball or cricket, according to season. It was mostly unsupervised play with no coaching and only minimal equipment. Sports Masters and P.E. Instructors were not employed in Elementary Schools, and few families could afford to provide sports gear, so these activities were not developed to the standards existing today.
The Anglican Doctrine played a large part in the life of C of E schools, and in addition to morning prayer, a prayer was said at the close of each session, usually "Be present at our table Lord", before lunch, and "Lighten our darkness" at the end of the day. On certain occasions the Vicar of Dawley would take morning service and on Ash Wednesday we were marched down to the Parish Church for a special service after which we could go home for the rest of the day,
The better known bible stories were often read to us and periodically an examination in religious knowledge would be held. Children reaching the age of 13 were invited to apply for Confirmation and help was given to candidates preparing for this, but only a minority of parents were regular churchgoers and the number of applicants was very small.
When winter came the classrooms were not very warm, especially for those sitting a distance away from the large open fireplace at the front of the class. It was a case of wrapping up warm and it did not matter how we looked as there was no kind of uniform. Uniforms were only worn at Grammar Schools such as Wellington or Coalbrookdale High Schools, to which places a few of our brighter pupils went after passing the 11-Plus examination.
In due course, I sat for one of these exams, but like the majority of my fellows, application to study had been insufficient and failure ensued. I think only about 4 or 5 out of over 20 who sat with me were successful and did go to Grammar Schools, although it must have meant quite a sacrifice on the part of their parents who would then receive little in the way of financial help towards the extra expense involved.
Those selected for secondary education were looked upon as a kind of elite and most of us had no great sense of disappointment at not being among the "chosen". In fact I think we realised that we would not fit in at the more advanced seats of learning. I was however, old enough to understand that my failure to qualify might have an effect on my future working life.
School discipline was not over strict and canes were used sparingly even on some unruly characters who no doubt deserved more than they got. The school was by no means a "Blackboard-Jungle" although it was regarded by some as a "rough" school when compared with Lawley or Pool Hill which were then thought of as the best elementary establishments. I do not doubt that our teachers did their best in a rather deprived catchment area.
In the free time after school and at weekends, I discovered that there were vast expanses of waste land with numerous pit mounds on all sides of Dawley. These areas had become the main playgrounds for local children and we were fortunate in having so much space with un- limited access. All the usual games were played on this derelict land where some of the mounds had large flat tops, suitable for ball games. Sometimes "Cowboys and Indians", "Cops and Robbers", or some battle we had seen on the "pictures" would be enacted.
My main area in the early days was the old Roughground which has largely given way to the new estates of Chiltern Gardens, Purbeckdale, and Mountside. There were some dangerous old mine shafts, still open and often fenced with only a few strands of wire, into which we could drop stones and count the seconds till they reached the pit bottom. No doubt there would be an outcry if those shafts were still open, but I never heard of any accidents, and no-one seemed concerned about them.
The Brandlee and Paddock mounds also afforded plenty of play space, and another "place of interest" was the old council tip at the side of the Doseley Road. Here could be found all kinds of things, including bicycle wheels to make "Bowlers", and pram wheels to build onto wooden go-carts. Some ingenious boys would' keep visiting the tip to build up a stock of bike spares, and the end result of their efforts became a home-made bicycle which was often ridden round the side streets without brakes, tyres or saddle.
By B. T. Duckett