THIS selection of photographs comes to us courtesy of Bill Jennings of Cradley Heath who has kindly donated a copy of a booklet called The Knowle Infants’ School: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow 1877-1970.
The booklet was written by the long-serving headmistress Miss M.E.R. Tubb to commemorate the new school buildings and the photographs illustrate the contrast between the old, Victorian buildings and their late 1960s counterparts.
Knowle School was first built by the Rowley Regis School Board and opened on Monday, February 12th, 1877. On that first day there were 32 pupils under the guidance of headmistress Edith Davison.
Following the passing of the 1870 Education Act thousands of primary schools were built in England. Prior to the act wealthy parents would send their children to fee-paying schools. Those that could not afford fees would send their children to the local charity school, if they sent them at all. The 1870 act changed all that, it established local school boards across the country to administer the partially state-funded board schools that were set up in areas where education was inadequate. Pupils at these schools still had to pay a fee, which may explain why there were only 32 pupils on Knowle school’s first day. Primary school education for 5 to 10-year-olds only became free and compulsory in 1880.
There certainly was a need for a school in the area. The rapid growth of the iron works, clay and coal mines brought more families to Rowley Regis and their children needed an education. Edith Davison recorded in her school log book, “from February 26th – March 2nd eleven admittances, order improved, still the children are in a wild state, owing to some of them never having been to school before.”
Lessons at this time would have been the basic reading, writing and arithmetic but as the 19th century drew to a close further subjects were added such as nature study, singing and physical training.
The hop-picking season brought the school to a close for a week and the pupils were given holidays for special events. 6th June, 1893, saw the children have the day off to celebrate the wedding of the Duke of York to Princess Victoria Mary of Teck, later George V and Queen Mary; there were two days off for Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1897; during the Boer War there were half-holidays for the relief of Ladysmith and Mafeking; and there was a whole week off school for the coronation of Edward VII in 1902.
In 1905 Edith Davison stood down as headmistress and was replaced by Miss E.M. Yeoman. She would be headmistress through the years of the First World War, which would affect the running of the school in various ways. On 10th January, 1916, one of the teachers was absent because her husband was on leave from the front line and the Zeppelin raid of 31st January saw poor attendance the next day. Staffing levels were a consistent problem and by 1918 there was just the headmistress and two assistants to teach the whole school of 195 pupils.
In 1926 ill health forced Miss Yeoman to retire as headmistress and in her place came Miss C. Parson, who came from Old Hill Infants’ School. By this time the school had come under the aegis of Rowley Regis Urban District Council. On 6th July, 1928, the school was given an unusual holiday to commemorate the retention of Tividale by Rowley Regis UDC after Dudley Borough Council had tried and failed to annex the district.
Miss Tubb became headmistress in January 1943. The following year, the Education Act saw the introduction of school meals. The first school cook was Mrs L. Griffiths and she was still serving school dinners when Miss Tubb wrote the booklet in 1969.
In 1954 Brickhouse County Primary School opened and 74 pupils transferred there from Knowle. In 1959 the seven year old pupils were transfered to Knowle Junior School.
New school buildings were proposed in the 1940s but work did not start until the ’60s. By September 1969 plans were well under way to transfer half the school to the new buildings and part of the old buildings would remain while the rest were to be demolished to make way for the main entrance to the new school. This work was completed by 1975 and shortly after that the school was renamed Springfield Infants and Junior School.
Do you recall Miss Tubb or anyone else from Knowle Infants School? Please share your memories, contact dshaw @blackcountrybugle.co.uk or write to the usual address