1878 - Board School
The schools built by local authorities in the late 19th century exhibit a marked family likeness in their architecture. Some of them were, by the standards of the day, enormous. The Gothic style of contemporary churches is echoed in steeply pitched roofs and pointed windows set high in the wall (it used to be maintained) to stop children gazing out. The use of local materials such as stone often gave way to slate and Fletton bricks. These elements helped create a distinctively Victorian 'school board' style that was devoid of regional characteristics. What might the arched area be used for?
In 1870 Queen Victoria signed an Act of Parliament that empowered local authority School Boards to use money from the rates (the precursor of today's council tax) to provide education for children in their area, thus lessening the burden on the church societies. To Sherlock Holmes, these 'brick islands' in a 'lead-coloured sea' of roofs were like seed capsules 'out of which will spring the wiser, better England of the future' (from 'The Naval Treaty'). Stubbings School at Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire (now an infants school) is typical of many schools set up by local Boards at the end of the 19th century, but it has a number of unusual details. Solidly built from the local stone, it has large, airy rooms and the windows are set noticeably high in the walls; traditionally this was done to prevent the children looking out and being distracted from their lessons. On the ground floor there is a covered 'play shed' behind the open arcading. This feature was found at a number of schools in the area, where the winter weather can be severe; it allowed the children to get some fresh air at break times without being soaked to the skin or blown away by the winds gusting down the Calder Valley. The most extraordinary aspect of the school, though, is its location - set into a hillside so steep that many of the surrounding houses have one and sometimes two storeys more at the front than at the back. Stubbings School is reached by climbing a daunting switchback of steps from road level; the small, cobbled playground slopes at such a sharp angle that ball games would be impossible. Designed by a local architect, John Sutcliffe, it was opened on 25 February 1878 and was capable of accommodating up to 380 pupils. Staffing levels and facilities were geared to an average class size of 60, but the figures from July 1881 indicate that at least five hundred children were being taught here. With only seven teachers on the register, classes must have been extremely overcrowded.
|1859 - Mechanics' Institute|