The School Board of 1881

The School Board of 1881

In 1876 a new Church of England school was built in Ullenhall by T.H.G. Newton of Barrells and for many years he financially supported it. Henley’s Church of England school which had been established in 1860 was not so fortunate and in 1877 it closed due to a lack of financial support. Henley did have two schools, the Church of England and the British and Foreign School (run by the non conformists) but there were not enough spaces at the latter for the needs of Henley.

In 1880 a notice dated 18th May was issued to inform the parish that sixty more places were required at Henley as the schools at Wootton Wawen and Ullenhall were too distant to cover the shortfall. The parish consisted of Wootton Wawen, Henley-in-Arden and Ullenhall. The notice fixed to the door of Ullenhall Church stated that the school accommodation in the civil parish of Wootton Wawen was:

Wootton C of E – 86

Wootton Roman Catholic – 73

Henley-in-Arden British & Foreign – 126

Ullenhall C of E – 89

Total – 374

On August 23rd a final notice was issued which stated that unless the parish made the necessary provision within six months a School Board for the Wootton Wawen school district would be formed. School Boards were allowed to levy rates in their locality for building new schools and decide whether religious instruction should be given. The idea of a School Board was not very popular in Ullenhall and Wootton because it meant that a compulsory rate would be levied in the whole parish.

Still the Church of England School in Henley was not reopened and at the end of March 1881 an order was made for the formation of a School Board. At a meeting of ratepayers held at Henley five lay candidates were selected to represent the three ecclesiastical parishes, the Roman Catholics and the Non Conformists. However the Reverend G. E. Bell, the Vicar of Henley, wanted a place on the School Board and so an election became necessary. There were six candidates for the five positions, and the one who was subjected to real opposition was the Rev. Bell. Apparently several parishioners had left the Church due to his sermons and he expressed his views without ‘fear or favour’.

Some of Reverend Bell’s supporters composed this poem praising him and criticizing his opponents.

In Henley Town there now does dwell

A man with honest heart,

Who, in the question of the day,

Must play a noble part.

But like all men of sense and truth

Has enemies quite a horde

Who try with all their might and main

To keep him off the Board.

They say that he has been the cause

The Board has come about,

But if to me you list awhile,

The truth you will find out.

He’s preached the truth, and they have heard

With faces much amazed,

Their faults exposed, their sins found out,

And all their guilt displayed.

He seems to have hit them very hard,

And put them to the rout,

For many a guilty one you know,

Has from the Church come out.

They thought that they had got a man

They could mould into their plans,

The same as they did the Rev. Jones,

Whom they drove to strangers’ lands.

But this one’s made of stauncher stuff,

He is all bone and muscle:

They can’t do what they like with him,

For he’s the best man in the tussle.

Their dog may bark, and want to fight,

With his barrels, taps, and spigots,

But his howl will be changed to a yell of pain

When we upset the Bigots.

Churchwarden H — with his grizzly face

And disagreeable growl,

Must change his song, and that ere long,

Or ‘twill finish in a howl.

The Quack must take a cooling draught

To soothe his fiery brain,

And a dose of Bell’s good wholesome stuff

To get him right again.

The Lord Mayor, too, his blowing must cease,

For he’ll find it now such weather

That he will soon pop off, and the Parson then

Can pop him beneath the heather.

Poor Calico, too, will look very blue

When he’s left out in the street,

For there is no doubt, he will find out

That’s the fate he is sure to meet.

His smirking grin is just the thing

With his false religious scruples

To through him out, like a dirty clout,

From the Board Room’s stately portals.

Now all kind friends just look at this,

And take this little warning,

Be sure and PLUMP for the Rev. BELL

First thing on Saturday morning.

The poem has been attributed to a Mr Robert Newcombe, but it is probable that the effort was the result of collaboration. The man in the poem with “honest heart” was, of course, the Reverend Bell whose sermons had caused several parishioners to leave the church. His predecessor was the Reverend Jones who, it appears, had not been very happy at Henley and eventually resigned the living.

Verse eight apparently refers to Mr James Wakefield, proprietor of a cooper’s business and a fearless and doughty fighter in any cause which had his sympathy.

Churchwarden H was Mr James Harvey, licensee of the Swan Hotel. Harvey was something of a character. He was well educated and apparently had been a schoolmaster and secretary to Charles Dickens. But he had an unfortunate manner of speaking, and his remarks were uttered with something like a growl.

The Quack may have been a Mr C. Saunderson who kept a grocery and patent medicine stores at the premises now occupied by One-Stop.

The Lord Mayor was Mr John Hannett, who had a mannerism of blowing out his cheeks when speaking. He was getting an old man – he was 87 when he died in 1893 – but the remarks in the poem may have been uncalled for in reference to a man who had a long and useful life in Henley.

Calico was Mr George Hough, who kept a draper’s shop where the Opticians now is. Apparently he did have a perpetual grin but the remarks concerning his religious outlook may have been rather harsh.

The “plumping” referred to in the final verse meant that any voter could give all his five votes to one candidate. Only a few people had votes in those days.

Voting took place on April 9th 1881 at the Henley C of E School building with Mr T. H. G. Newton of Barrells being elected for Ullenhall. The result was:-

Newton (Ullenhall) 375; Hough (Henley) 357; Smallwood (Wootton) 303; Hawkes (Wootton – and independent Church candidate) 246; Bell (Henley) 243; Morrall (Wootton – Roman Catholic Priest) 236. The first five were elected.

Negotiations between the Board and the managers of the British and Foreign School and the C of E School in Henley soon began. Eventually the Board proposed to build a new school in Henley for all public elementary pupils. There was some delay before the new school was built because the Board was unwilling to face the necessity of new buildings, mainly because of the injustice of rating the whole of the Wootton parish especially when Wootton was already supporting two voluntary schools (C of E and Roman Catholic) and Ullenhall its newly erected school. The proposal was carried by a majority of one with Mr T. H. G. Newton and Mr H. G. Hough opposing the plan. Three years later in 1884 the new school was built in Henley at a cost of £2,834. In other words, Wootton and Ullenhall eventually paid a very large share of the cost of something which was of virtually no benefit to them at that time.


Stratford-Upon-Avon Herald, January 1935

Ullenhall Parish Magazine, 1880s