Helme School Through a Hundred Years (1970s) by A.M. Bishop

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A. M. Bishop, M.A., : (Senior Lecturer, Ilkley College of Education )

a. short account of the environment, beginnings, and development of a Yorkshire village Church of England School

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HELME SCHOOL THROUGH A HUNDRED YEARS by A. M. Bishop, M.A., (Senior Lecturer, Ilkley College of Education)

A short account of the environment, beginnings, and development of a Yorkshire village Church of England school.


Contents :— Preface: The Hamlet of Helme Chapter I The Brook Family

II The Beginning of Education in Helme 38 III Teachers ll IV Problems of Attendance 14 Vv Building and Equipment 21 VI The Curriculum 27 VII Notable Events 32 VIII The School Today 38 IX Conclusion 39 Bibliography and Acknowledgements 41 Photographs: Christ Church, Helme facing 4 The earliest surviving photograph about 1895 facing 14 Interior of School about 1910 facing 24 May 1949 facing 34

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If to have no history is to be happy, as the old saying goes, Helme has indeed been a happy place, as until the nineteenth century there is no clear record of anything about Helme at all. The name is of Saxon origin and means a shelter, or more prosaically, a cattleshed. The name first appears in a written document in 1421. In 1559, there is an entry in the register of the church at Almondbury, then the parish for all this area, of John Sykes, son of Barnard of Helme, being baptized at AI- mondbury, and there are other later entries of baptisms. As it was the custom for baptism to take place within a few days of the child’s birth, it is not surprising that baptism entries are sometimes followed within a few days by burial entries, for it cannot have been good for infants to be carried all the way to Almondbury in the depth of winter, when roads were almost non-existent. There are records of very severe winters, as in 1614 and 1634, when tracks were covered in snow and travellers lost their way and died of exposure. In 1634, it is recorded that snow and frost lasted from January 10th to March 3rd. The snow drifted so deep that it was hardly possible to go outside to corn mill or butcher, and many died through hunger and cold. Though Helme is not specifically mentioned in these accounts which are general to the area, there can be no doubt that the few inhabitants of Helme would equally be affected.

All we can say for certain of Helme through the middle ages, sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, is that it was a very small agricultural community. The oldest farm buildings date from the eighteenth century, two near the village centre and several others within a short distance, and a few cottages of various dates, no doubt for farm workers, were built near them.

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The development of Helme into a larger community with need for school and church, came during the nineteenth century with the rise in population and the development of the textile industry from the domestic to the factory systems. With the latter change, the Brook family is closely connected, and as this family played such an important part in the early history of the school, some account of it is relevant. The first Brook of this family in Meltham is recorded as William Brook, who in 1774 came from Bradford and took Thick Hollings, then the principal house in the neighbourhood, on a 21 years lease. He owned several small mills for scribbling and carding wool, on the stream running through Meltham Mills. In 1785 he built a new mill for the manufacture of woollen cloth, worked by a water wheel. The amount of water in the stream not being enough to work the wheel, he acquired a steam engine (surely one of the first in the district) which pumped water up from a small pool below the mill to a dam above it. The water from this dam was fed onto the water wheel, turned it, drained down into the pool and was pumped up by the engine and so the same water was used over and over again. This inventiveness seems to have founded the family fortunes. A son of William, Jonas, changed to the manufacture of cotton thread and greatly enlarged the mill. In 1855, he constructed a reservoir, which ended the need for the pumping engine. He founded the firrn of Jonas Brook and Brothers, in which many members of the family were concerned, and cotton thread was manufactured at Meltham Mills until 1939, when the premises were sold to David Brown’s. One member of the family, James, built the first church at Meltham Mills in 1838; another, William Leigh, built and lived in Meltham Hall (in 1841). James’ son, known as Charles Junior, was a great benefactor to Meltham. The branch of the family chiefly concerned with Helme is that of Charles Brook, youngest son of the original William. He made an advantageous marriage with Anne, eldest child of the wealthy manufacturer William Brooke (with an ‘e’) of Honley and Armitage Bridge. He lived at Healey House till his death in 1869 and his widow continued there till her death in 1882. (Both are buried in Helme churchyard). He left the family cotton business in 1840, and started on his own account a silk mill at Bent Ley. This mill employed many women and girls “preference being given to females for their delicacy of touch which fits them for the handling of the slight material’, as a contemporary account puts it. Evidently this new mill brought new families into the area; there is some evidence that families migrated from Nottingham and the Midlands. A few cottages for the overlookers and skilled workers were built at Bent Ley


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but some families settled at Helme. New homes were built, and Mr. Brook himself erected “some picturesque Gothic cottages” in Helme Lane. One wonders why the workers lived at Helme rather than at Meltham Mills; perhaps there was some idea of keeping the workers in the two mills separate. Certainly it is only a short distance from Helme across the fields to Bent Ley, and until quite recent times what is now a footpath was a broad well-trodden track.

Charles Brook had a large family, nine in all. One son, Charles John, died in 1857 at the early age of twenty-seven, and his brothers and sisters subscribed to build a church at Helme in his memory. His father endowed it with £5,000; the church was consecrated in 1859, and Helme became a separate parish. Bent Ley mill, farm and cottages and the district known as Spink were in Helme parish until 1938/9 when they were given to Melthan Mills parish, making the Huddersfield Road the boundary. This is geographically tidier, but it broke the histor- ical connection between Bent Ley and Helme.

From the founding of the school until 1951, when Miss Dorothy Mary (Dolly) Brook died at Helme, many members of the Brook family helped the school, both financially and with practical help of various kinds, and unfailing interest. The new school buildings were given by the widow and children of Charles Brook, in his memory. An unmarried daughter of Charles, Miss Frances Brook, laid the foundation stone of the Memorial Schools, on Whit Tuesday, May 30th, 1871, and was presented with a silver trowel by the teachers, scholars and con- gregation. She was a most devoted supporter of the school until her death at the age of 78, in 1901. She is buried in Helme churchyard. Charles Lewis Brook (the son of Charles John), who had laid the foundation stone of the church as a child of three, was always a most generous friend of the school as well as of the church. He lived for many years at Harewood Lodge, and the children always went there to sing on the Whit Mon- day walk. After the death of Miss Frances, he provided the Christmas gifts for the children for very many years. His sister, Ruth Mary, who had married another Brook (Arthur), came when widowed to live in Helme at Manor Croft. Her son was Arthur Charles, known as Archie, who is mentioned in later chapters. He and his wife lived at Helme Edge. It was his sis- ter, Dolly, who lived at Manor Croft and worked for years in many ways to help both Day and Sunday Schools. She was the last of the Brook family to live locally, though there are des- cendents still living elsewhere.

The Brooks were connected by marriage with the Hirsts of Meltham Hall; Helen Hirst was a grand-daughter of Charles


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John Brook. She married Edward Lindsay Fisher, and they came to live at Helme Hall about 1890, where the family re- mained until 1945. The Fishers, too, were generous supporters of the school, serving as managers, contributing to the funds, and giving presents to the children. We cannot read old records of the school without meeting the names Brook and Fisher on almost every page; they are bound up with the history of the school, and it would need a work much larger than this to give details of all that they did for it.

After the Fishers left, Helme Hall was occupied by Mr. E. Greenhalgh, who was a benefactor of both church and school. In the same way, the new owners of Manor Croft, Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Sykes, have also continued the tradition of giving valued help.


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It was the Industrial Revolution which brought about the beginning of formal education in Helme; for centuries the nat- ural education of farm and home had sufficed, but as the nine- teenth century progressed, the need for at least basic instruction in the three R’s was felt. Industrial progress called for more educated workers and for even the humblest jobs in the mill literacy was a help. There was also concern felt by the wealthier people for the well-being of the poor (this is well illustrated by the Brooks), coupled with the idea that a little education (not too much), particularly in religion: and good manners, would keep the people peaceful, law-abiding, and industrious. The growth of the population in Meltham and district made the opening of schools a practicable proposition; between 1801 and 1901 the population of Meltham increased fourfold, and Helme shared in this increase, as has been described, after the opening of Bent Ley Mill in 1840. It is probable that education in Helme was first given in a Sunday School, which was nothing like Sun- day Schools as we know them now, but was primarily to teach reading and a little writing, and would last all day, with inter- vals for attending church services. This school was held on Sunday for the benefit of children employed in the mill during the week. In Hughes’ “History of Meltham”, it is stated that in 1864 there were 138 children attending Sunday School in Helme! As the total given for Meltham and district as a whole is over 1,000, at a time when the population was just about four thousand, one may think this figure too high—but evidently there was a Sunday School in Helme.

A Day School was started in Helme in 1858, according to the records of the National Society. This was actually before the church was built. The school was maintained by Mr. Charles Brook as the Rev. C. S. Green mentioned when he preached the sermon at Mr. Brook’s funeral, which sermon was printed.

There is in existence an interesting letter written by a pupil of the school to her parents in December 1862. This is the oldest document relating to the school that has been found. It ‘reads ‘like an exercise set in school; it tells us that that the schoolmaster’s name was Mr. Lunn. “I am desired by Mr. Lunu to write what is usually called a holiday letter, that I may pre- sent you with a specimen of my handwriting, and express my dutiful thanks for your kindness in affording me the means of education” she writes, and continues “the principal subjects which we have the privilege of learning at Helme School are the Bible, Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Geography, Dictation, History, etc., etc. I need scarcely tell you which of the above


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subjects our dear Teacher makes the prominent, as you are aware he thinks none equal to The Holy Scriptures which are able to make us wise unto Salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus”. — I I

Hughes’ “History of Meltham” gives the number attending the Day School as 78 in 1864, and the schoolmaster was still Mr. Lunn. There is a strong oral tradition that this school was held in what is now a house in The Heys, in an upper room which was reached by an outside staircase, of which traces can be seen. This is borne out by entries in the log book which show that the school was in an upstairs room with a house under- neath; for example “the children were kept very silent this p-m. owing to a funeral taking place in a house under the school” a very unpleasant situation for both mourners and children, we might think!

We are on firmer ground with the opening of the first school log book on April 3rd, 1866. David Bamforth from Sowerby Bridge had been appointed Headmaster. The Rev. C. S. Green, who was then Vicar, opened the school. The Rev. James Brook had resigned, owing to ill-health, though he still lived at Helme Edge and took an interest in church and school. Forty pupils were present, and the headmaster reports that the children were noisy and disorderly, as evidently they had been without a proper teacher since Christmas. An early visit from Miss Frances Brook is recorded; she assisted with sewing, and taught a class for half an hour. The Vicar also visited regularly, and taught the children their scripture lessons.

After 1866, the school applied for an annual grant from the Government. One condition of receiving this grant was to keep a log book recording daily events. As the log book started in 1866, we may assume that this was the first time the school had applied for the grant. Perhaps David Bamforth was the first qualified teacher.

The move to the new school building was made on July 7th, 1873; strangely enough the master does not seem particularly pleased by the new school, nor does there seem to have been any special ceremony. He writes, “Commenced teaching in the new school; lessons were interrupted owing to new arrangements consequent on entering the new school and partly by workmen.” It appears that workmen were still working inside, putting up a gallery for the infants. This does not mean a balcony, but a series of rising tiers, with fixed desks. It was usual in those days to teach infants like this. The idea was for the teacher to be able to see all the children but it made movement almost im- possible, and would seem even less suited to infants than to


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older children. (There is no record of when this gallery was removed). It seems that even in those days building work was not completed to time! Another cause for complaint is that there were no fireplaces so the school was very cold, and fire- places were installed in November. Mr. Bamforth does finally admit “The new buildings are excellent”.


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Ill. TEACHERS David Bamforth stayed till 1878. He was succeeded by

Thomas Bateson, assisted by his son who was working for his Teaching Certificate. He qualified in 1879 and immediately took over from his father as headteacher, and in the same year left to go to another school. Evidently, he had used Helme School as a means of qualifying and a stepping-stone to a better job. We do not know what happened to the father; perhaps he retired. After this curious incident, Mr. S. Mellor was appoin- ted. He stayed for only fifteen months before moving to another school. Next came Mr. T. W. Morton, who stayed for two years. During these years, the annual grant was not applied for and so no log book was kept. Perhaps the school was in such a poor state after so many changes, that it was hopeless to try to reach the standard necessary to gain the grant, and probably he was not qualified. In October 1881, for the first time, a school- mistress was appointed, a Miss Sarah Hirst. The Vicar wrote in the Parish Magazine that she was a certificated mistress and the school would be placed under Government inspection. He hoped (in vain, as it turned out) that parents would encourage and assist the mistress by sending their children to school regu- larly and in good time.

It would be cheaper for the managers to employ a woman, for, low as schoolmasters’ salaries were, those of mistresses were even lower. There is no information about the salaries paid at Helme. In the 1850’s and 60’s, the average pay of a schoolmaster in Yorkshire was £66 a year; it would be less in a small country school. A country scholmistress might be paid as little as £30 a year, plus a free house. By 1895, salaries had risen to £122 for a man, £81 for a woman on average. Miss Hirst worked hard to improve the school, and the grant was earned again, but it is clear that the position was very difficult for a woman, single- handed, and she had many causes for complaint. During all this time, the only assistance the teacher had was that of monit- resses, who were older girls, pupils of the school, paid a small sum to help the teacher, usually with the infants. They had absolutely no training. Some at Helme worked for only a few months, and supervising them must have made even more work for the teacher. Different Vicars gave varying amounts of help with Scripture teaching, from none at all to two or three les- sons a week. Miss Frances Brook of Healey House visited fre- quently; she sometimes taught sewing, and some times gave dictation, but these irregular and unexpected visits may at times have been an embarrassment rather than a real help. In the 1890’s Miss Hirst was in great need of help, and some of the six daughters of the Rev. James Brook of Helme Edge came


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several afternoons a week and taught singing, drawing, sewing and geography. Even so, the task was a heavy one for Miss Hirst. Numbers were not great, but the difficulty was in teach- ing children of all ages, from three to about twelve. After being without even a monitress to help her for eight months, Miss Hirst resigned in 1892.

The Managers then decided to have a schoolmaster again, whose wife could teach the infants and also sewing, and accord- ingly Mr. Joel Baxter was appointed. Again the vicar urged regular attendance, remarking that numbers had dropped very much during the last year. Mr. Baxter worked hard, with his wife, to improve the school and numbers rose. He is said to have been a strict disciplinarian who used a leather strap in- stead of a cane—on the fingers of the girls and elsewhere on the boys! He left in 1898 and was succeeded by Mr. Simpkin, who left under a cloud after a very short time. After this, the Managers went back to appointing women teachers, until the present headmaster came in 1956. Mrs. Johnson started in 1899 and stayed till 1906. She was assisted by her daughter. They were the last schoolteachers to live in the School House. She, too, is remembered as being strict, and using the cane a great deal. Her daughter was much liked, and kept in touch with friends in the village until her death. She was succeeded by Miss Wilkie, and from this time on, an assistant teacher was always employed. Many of these stayed only a short time, so they are too many to name. Miss Wilkie was very much liked by her pupils, and is still remembered. The Managers too, thought very well of her and record appreciation of her work year by year. Inspectors’ reports became quite enthusiastic at this time. She was a gentle, ladylike person. An Inspector wrote in 1913. “This is a good type of small rural school. One is struck by the unusually quiet and dignified style of the instruction and this manner is reflected in the refined speech, orderly behaviour and steady industry of the children”. Miss Wilkie lived in the small cottage in the fields near Helme Edge, which now belongs to Miss Mabel Mellor, and the schoolhouse was let. No reason is given for this change. The managers gained some income from rent of the schoolhouse; they agreed to pay an allowance to the teacher instead of providing a house but there was some difficulty and disagreement about this recorded in the manag- ers’ minutes.

Jn 1914, Miss Wilkie was appointed to another school and writes of her move with some regret, “after nearly eight years’ pleasant work and experience here”, notably the only one so to write in the whole log book. Miss Barrett was appointed in 1914 and stayed till Miss Jennie Grainger came in March 1927. She stayed for nearly thirty years, introduced many changes and


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improvements in the school and is well remembered by many former pupils. She introduced new methods and new subjects, raised the standard so that, for the first time, county minor scholarships were gained (1928), and year after year tributes to her from both mangger and inspector appear in the log book. to her from both managers and inspectors appear in the log

book. She reired in 1956.

It is rather striking and unusual that there is no mention of pupil teachers at Helme school. A pupil teacher had to enter upon a regular apprenticeship for five (later three) years, and was paid a small wage, and it was the most usual way for a clever child to better himself and move out of the labouring class to become a certificated teacher. Evidently, no-one at Helme was able or willing to stay on at school long enough.


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School attendance did not become compulsory until 1891; be- fore that time, and indeed for some years afterwards, one of the main difficulties was to get the children to attend regularly. It is clear from the records that education was not highly valued in Helme, and the early years were times of struggle between schoolmasters and parents. On the other hand, the school was not free until 1892; a small fee had to be paid and there are occasional references in the log book to children having to be sent away for being weeks im arrears. For poor parents, it would be a real struggle to find the ‘school pence’ and it is re- markable that there are so few references to non-payment of fees. For example—1888 “A — H — put in an appearance but in accordance with the managers’ decision, I was obliged -to send him home for school fees. If it was a real case of honest poverty, the managers would willingly provide the fees, but the father is a drunken, dissolute character and seems to care nothing for the wants of his family.” Also, the work of the older children was really needed elsewhere—at home, to help the mother with a large family, to work on the farm, or to add to the family income by work in the mill. It is very noticeable that children went to school at a much younger age in those days; it was common to start at three years of age, and in Helme very few indeed stayed on to the higher standards. It would not be unfair to suggest that education was thought of as a way of keeping small children out of mischief and giving them a very little basic knowledge, and as not at all appropriate or useful for older children. But this made enormous difficulties for the teachers; children might attend for one week and stay away for three, or come half way through the morning and not at all in the afternoon. And the annual grant, and to some extent the teacher’s salary, depended upon success in the annual inspect- ion. Numbers fluctuated wildly; for example, one week 67 scholars were present one morning, and 75 in the afternoon; the next week, there were 12 in the morning and none in the afternoon. In 1878, there were 21 boys and 18 girls on the register; in 1883 20 boys and 12 girls; in 1897, the were 50 on the register but the average attendance was only 25.

The reasons for irregular attendance were many and varied —some real, some frivolous. Real reasons were ill health, and the frequency of epidemics, and the severity of the weather. For instance, in 1886, there were epidemics of diphtheria, scarlet fever, measles and mumps. In 1896, the school had to be closed because of whooping cough and measles; diphtheria was bad again in 1920 (one child died) ; in 1924, the school had

to be closed because of measles. Conditions were insanitary.


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The earliest surviving photograph — Mr. Baxter about 1895

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“Nature’s provision for the cleaning of slates” (spit and coat sleeve) helped to spread infection. Lack of proper feeding made children more susceptible to these infections, and the common illnesses of childhood were more dangerous than they are now. All the children walked to school in those days, some from quite long distances from outlying farms, and in winter, bad weather had a very noticeable effect on attendance. Probably. the children had no waterproof or even warm clothing, (mac- kintoshes and gumboots did not exist then) and even if they struggled to school, the school was often very cold and there was nowhere to dry wet clothes (and no school dinners). There was a very severe winter in 1888, when Miss Hirst explains that as “the roads are exposed to all the weather and there is no shelter at all from the North and East winds” only the few children who lived close at hand attended; there were often only 7 children, the infants’ class almost disappeared, and very little progress was made with the work. The needs of farm-work also affected attendance. Boys were kept away to help with the tlay Harvest in particular when it was necessary to get the hay in quickly while good weather lasted.

But added to this, year after year, there are complaints from teachers about poor attendance with all sorts of excuses. “Many ‘children are kept away to get new clothes for Whitsun”. Run- ning errands was a frequent excuse. The older girls in particular were very irregular, being kept at home several days a week for “baking day”, “washing day”, “cleaning day”, and in between times, minding the baby! Some would be present afternoons for sewing or geography and the more interesting lessons, but mis- sing in the mornings for reading and arithmetic. The mistress tried to trap them by changing the lessons round. It is not re- corded what they said or did when they arrived in the after- noon to find it was arithmetic after all! Added to this, there were the annual feasts. A holiday was given for Meltham feast but scholars took leave of absence too for Honley feast, Slaith- waite feast, and any other feast within walking distance. In the early days, scholars stayed away on “Collop Monday” morning (the day before Shrove Tuesday) to go to the shops to ask for sweets, but by the early years of this century, this was stopped and “colloping” had to be done in the dinner hour. (There was at this time a small greengrocer’s and fruit shop in Helme in what is now No. 14 Helme, and the shopkeeper, Mrs. Norcliffe, bought in sweets specially to give to the schoolchildren).

In 1892, the vicar, the Rev. George Coulton wrote on the sub- ject of attendance in the Parish Magazine as follows, “The pros- perity of the school will greatly depend on the parents of the children. If they send them regularly and in good time, they


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will make satisfactory progress, but if not, the teachers have not a fair chance, the children become disheartened. The attend- ance during the past year has been very unsatisfactory. I trust that the parents of children are not unmindful of the obvious fact that a good education is one of the most valuable gifts that they can bestow on their children. The neglect of this, now the school is free, is quite inexcusable”. I

Efforts were constantly made to improve attendance; the teachers visited the homes of the worst offenders, and in ex- treme cases, warning was given that if there was no improve- ment, the child would be expelled. Prizes and treats were given for regular attendance. In 1872, scholars who had been most regular were given a tea party by Miss Brook at Healey House. From the time records begin, until the outbreak of war in 1939, the children were given prizes and presents at Christmas, first by Miss Brook, later also by the Vicar and his wife, by other members of the Brook family, and by the Fishers of Helme Hall. There were always special prizes for regular attendance and for good work, in addition to a present for every child. There is mention of toys, books, Christmas cards, oranges, gin- ger cakes, apples, work baskets, writing cases and occasionally clothing such as scarves and handkerchiefs. The teachers seem to have had presents too! An old scholar recalls toys and books being spread out and children allowed to chose. She always chose a book.

Attendance did not really improve until education was made compulsory and attendance officers began to visit homes to try to enforce regular attendance, but it was still a struggle, and complaints continue to be made about the older girls, who were so useful at home. In 1904, a new attendance officer, who was very energetic and persistent, was appointed and from that time on, things began to improve.

_ Attitudes too, gradually changed as education was recognized as being more important. The school leaving age was gradually raised—from 10 to 11, from 11 to 12, and, in 1918, to 14. Child- ren who had fulfilled a required number of attendances and had reached a certain standard could get a labour certificate to leave earlier if they had a job, and difficulties are reported about this. In 1885, two boys who had left school, and had worked at a mill for seven months, were compelled to return to school as they had not gained a certificate. They would be most unwilling scholars, no doubt, and a real problem for the teacher, the unfortunate Miss Hirst. In 1900 a girl was not allowed to start work in the silk mill as she tried to start after the law raising the leaving age to twelve.


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Another feature of the early days of the school was the “Half- time System”. This system was started by the Factory Act of 1833, modified in 1844, which allowed children to work in tex- tile mills from the age of nine and over, provided that they spent 34 hours a day in school. This could be arranged as alter- nate days, but in nearly every case meant that children worked in the mill from 6 in the morning to midday, and attended school in the afternoon; or that they attended school in the morning and went to the mill from 1 o’clock to 5 or 6. Factory inspectors compelled mill owners to see that the children did attend school—otherwise they had to stop working in the mill. This was the first time that compulsion to attend school was introduced and it was a curious situation that a child who wor- ked in a mill had to attend school, but a child who did not could stay at home all day and never go to school. There was some attempt to allow “domestic half-timers”, that is children, usually girls, who attended school half-time, and this is men- tioned at Helme school; but it was difficult to enforce, was not encouraged and never became widespread. The early Factory Acts did not apply to silk mills, but is clear that, at Helme, children did attend school and work half-time in the mill. It seems that Charles Brook applied the law, although he was not bound to do so. The large numbers of children, 60 or 70, mentioned as attending school in the early days, included many half-timers working at Bentley Mill (in 1869 there were 35). Gradually, the numbers dropped, till in 1899 there were only 2 half-timers. In 1906, the numbers suddenly increased as there was a rumour that the system was to be abolished and the par- ents wanted their children to start as half-timers before it was too late. In fact, the system was not ended till the 1918 Education Act and lingered on for a few more years until all the half- timers had left school. The last mention of it at Helme is in


It may have been better for children to have half-time education than none; old people who worked under this system do not usually complain about it; one old lady expressed the opinion that she found it less boring than being either at school or at the mill all day; it made a change. But teachers disliked the system; it made their work complicated, especially when some children attended in the morning and others in the after- ‘noon, so that lessons had to be taught twice. Mr. Bamforth noted, “half-timers in the morning do not work their sums as accurately as those in the afternoon”. This seems very strange. One would have thought that after six hours work in the mill, children would have little energy left for sums. There are con- stant complaints that half-timers came late in the afternoon— and no wonder! “‘Half-timers have no fixed time for attendance,


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and drop in any time—one or two each session. This greatly in- creases the work, for the same lesson has to be gone over again and again”, says Miss Hirst 1886, and some years later Mrs. Johnson remarks that “half-timers take little interest in school work”, It seems that practically all the elder children at Helme become half-timers, and an inspector remarks that this being so, the school did very well to have some children reach Stan- dard Seven. Half-timers even had to be employed as monitresses for the infants, and Miss Hirst complains, with some justifi- cation, how unsatisfactory this was.

Another drawback to the system was that millowners com- pelled all the half-timers at the mill to attend the same school; this was to make enforcement of the law about school attend- ance easier—but it meant that if children changed jobs. they had to change schools. Bent Ley Mill children attended Helme school but workers in the Meltham Cotton Mill attended Mel- tham Mills school and, on several occasions, Helme School lost a number of children to Meltham Mills school. This was not only bad educationally, but financially, for it would result in a decrease in the grant for that year.


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The school was very solidly built of stone, in the “Gothic” style so fashionable at the time. Externally, the appearance of the older part of the building has altered very little. Some re- pairs and improvements were made in 1926, and the old school bell removed with its lantern, as it was unsafe. Originally, the playgrounds were at the back and side of the school; the child- ren were forbidden to play in the “Park” except on the day of the Diocesan Inspector’s visit, when a half holiday was always given, either morning or afternoon. The girls played in the narrow strip between what is now the back of the school and the wall, the boys round the side where the new extension stands. The playgrounds were separated by a wall, and the boys and girls were strictly forbidden to mix. When this was changed is not recorded, but old scholars can clearly remember this arrangement. The lavatories were outside, across the play- grounds; they were earth closets, of course, in the early days and until the 1930’s, and there are many references to their un- pleasant condition, dark and cobwebby being the kindest terms used to describe them! There were no proper facilities for wash- ing hands; there was apparently one tap somewhere outside and one of the most curious episodes recorded in the log book is that in 1892, the schoolmistress (Miss Hirst again, who had so many troubles!) complains that the Managers had boxed up this tap, locked up the box and given the key to the school cleaner, who was not there in the day time, so that neither teacher, nor children, had access to it. Children with dirty hands had to be sent home to wash them! Was there perhaps a water shortage and the children had left the tap running, to account for such drastic action? But surely the teacher, not the cleaner could have been entrusted with the key. It was very shortly after this that Miss Hirst resigned; perhaps this episode was the last straw for this sadly plagued teacher!

Inside, there was one large schoolroom and a smaller room leading out of it for the Infants. The original height of these rooms can be seen in the small room, now the library. This great height was very common in those days; it was chiefly to give more air in an age when there was great distrust of fresh air coming directly in from outside through open windows. It is likely that originally the windows did not open. The amount of window is generous, and particularly with the large West win- dow, the school must have been quite light, much better than the average school at the time. But the windows are high up so that the children should not be distracted by seeing what was going on outside.


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The great height of the rooms would undoubtedly make the school very difficult to heat, and complaints about the cold are like a recurring chorus through the old log book. On several occasions, teachers kept a record of daily temperatures to con- vince the managers of their plight; for example, in 1886, tem- peratures of 35°F—40°F are recorded, so that the first half- hour of each session had to be spent in marching and exercises to keep the children warm. In 1890, the temperatures are again recorded and for a whole week never rose above 45°F, and the temperatures at the beginning of each morning were 34°F, 32°F, 36°F, 35°F and 37°F. (The teacher, was, of course, Miss Hirst). In 1892, Mr. Baxter, perhaps more willing to please, records that the temperatures are “quite comfortable” when morning classes begin; they had risen to 50°F! But soon he is complaining, too, of temperatures in the 30°’s. It appears that this unsatisfactory heating system was by hot pipes heated (or not heated!) by a boiler. This must have been installed very early, to take the place of Mr. Bamforth’s fireplaces; Helme must have been one of the first schools to have a form of cen- tral heating! Most schools of the times had open fires or iron stoves which gave out unhealthy fumes; this, at least, Helme escaped. The system was replaced by another in 1900, but there are still complaints about cold in the schoolroom, right through the 1920’s. In the winter of 1920, for instance, the teacher found at the beginning of the morning the temperature was 30°F. She went and fetched the Vicar, who stoked up the boiler and by midday, got the temperature up to 38°F! No doubt this intense cold was another reason for poor attendance. Old scholars re- member that the Infants’ room had an open fire with an oven and boiler and that this was still there and used to keep the dinners hot when dinners were first served in 1943 (when the cost was 5d.!).

It is also recalled that there was a fixed platform at the West end of the schoolroom where the teacher’s desk stood. An old scholar remembers standing on this platform during prav- ers, playing with her bead necklace and breaking it, presumably in sight of the whole school, and being removed by Miss John- son to the Infants’ room and smacked—since when she has not played with her beads! The platform was also used for concerts. The first desks were long ones, fixed to the floor. In 1888, it was stated that these were too large for Standards I and II; the children were compelled to adopt various devices such as draw- ing up their feet and sitting on their heels, or kneeling on the seat, to write. Six years later, it is recorded that new, small desks had arrived. There is no further mention of furniture till 1931, when Miss Grainger asks for new furniture. There were then


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65 scholars, and there were seats only for 58; there were 18 double desks and the rest had to use the old long desks for four without back rests. New furniture was provided. The managers decided to sell the old desks and several are to be seen around the village still in use as garden seats; there are two in the Vicarage garden.

The schoolroom was divided into two classrooms by a move- able partition in 1926. Further renovations and redecoration took place in the 1930’s. Electric light was installed in 1938 and a new boiler was put in. The question of installing water-borne sanitation was raised in 1936, but it was decided to wait until there was a sewer in the village.

In the early days, the cleaning of the school was a constant problem; a cleaner was employed but cleaned the school only once a week. Miss F. Brook sometimes complained that the school was dirty when she visited it, and the teachers always replied that the school ought to be cleaned every day. The situation was aggravated when the church had used the school, as for the annual Parochial Teas in January, and the furniture was disarranged and crumbs left on the floor. After 1902, the caretaker was paid by the West Riding County Council and the managers struggled for a long time to get the payment in- creased so that a Caretaker could work more hours to keep the school really clean. This is one of the few things that has not really changed over the years; there is still difficulty in getting a caretaker as the job is not a full-time one.

We know very little about the equipment in the school in the early days. Slates were used for writing, and are still in evidence in a school photograph in 1925. Scholars were often required to provide their own slate pencils and sometimes their own copy books and pens. In one of the first entries in the log book, Mr. Bamforth asks the Rev. James Brook for new reading books. These may well have been a series of reading books published by the Irish Commissioners for Education and known as the Irish Readers. They were the cheapest available and so very popular with school managers, but much criticized by Inspect- ors for their unsuitability, dullness, and difficulty. For example, Book I contains the following, “Stop the thief. Let me help you to a bit of pie. Hie thee home from school. All men must die”. Later books were full of long words and either flowery poetic language, such as, “who is this that cometh from the South thinly clad in light transparent garments? Her breath is hot and sultry,” or complicated scientific phrases such as “graminivor- ous quadrupeds” and “monocotyledonous plants,” none which would be very meaningful to the unfortunate pupils. But even the cheapest reading books cost about 1/6d. each, whereas


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Bibles and Testaments could be obtained very cheaply by Managers of Church schools through the S.P.C.K. A copy of the New Testament could be obtained for 6d. so children learned mainly from the Bible; and though this may be excellent in some ways, it means that many children learned to read words _ without understanding what they meant, or could read only in the sense that they could “read” a page they had been over again and again but could not read anything else. The Bible was even used as a source of Arithmetical problems:—“When Moses dedicated the Tabernacle, each of the twelve tribes made an offering of 2 oxen, 5 rams, 5 goats, and 5 lambs. How many of each did they offer and how many animals in all?”

By 1920, it is reported that there was a library of seventy books that the children could borrow, and in this, the school was in advance of its time.


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aus ols

Oe, wR

Interior of School ahout 1910 Miss Wilkie (centre) and assistant teacher Note the long desks

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In the nineteenth century, the basic need of the children was simply to learn to read and write and do simple sums and this, together with Religious Instruction, which was very important, formed the bulk of the instruction. Children who attended ir- regularly and for a short time only would merely learn to read in the limited sense described already and their writing would be similar; that is, they could copy, often in the most beautiful handwriting, but would be incapable of writing even a simple letter of their own composition. Some, of course, became really fluent at both reading and writing, and those that could write down their own ideas, in their own words, seemed to be able to spell and punctuate with more accuracy than many today. The good scholars, too, could work out long and complicated sums accurately and neatly. But, in making comparisons with today, it should be remembered that we are comparing the few really able scholars of the past with all of the children today. In the past, many children—the majority—were barely literate.

Besides the three R’s., all girls were supposed to learn sewing and the log books imply that, in the early days, the school- masters at Helme taught this, with Miss Brook’s help. Other subjects would be taught according to the interests of the teacher. Mr. Bamforth was particularly keen on Geography; every December, he set a written examination, and Miss Brook gave prizes of various grades for those who passed. He gives the examination papers in full in the log book and the’ questions seem very difficult—e.g. “Name the counties in North Wales and the capital of each”. “What rivers flow into the Bristol channel and where do they rise?” The top pupil got 53 marks out of 60. One year, Miss Brook gave prizes to the twelve best boys in the examination and all the girls, which seems unfair discrimination. This Geography would be largely a matter of memorizing lists of towns, rivers, etc. of the kind that many older people can still remember today. There was a complete absence of maps, pictures, etc., to make the subject more real and interesting and children were usually quite ignorant of simple facts about their own locality. There is no mention of History or Nature Study; physical exercise was limited by lack of space, but Mr. Bateson had an original idea; he taught the children a tune to the multiplication table—one they could sing and march to! In 1900, Miss Johnson was urged by the Inspector to start “Object Lessons” and supplied with a list of suitable objects. This meant bringing an object, like an orange or a shoe, or a picture of one, like a camel, into the room; by question and answer getting the children to observe it closely, and then giving them information about its origin and use. This


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was really the beginning of science teaching in elementary schools.

Unoubtedly, the subject that was taught most conscientiously and thoroughly was Scripture and the Catechism, and the re- ports of Diocesan Inspectors are always complimentary; for example, “The Religious Instruction in Helme School is given most thoughtfully and thoroughly and the children show by their interest how greatly they love these lessons from the Bible and Prayer Book. The tone of the school is excellent” (1909).

It is most striking that over a very long period in the history of the school the. reports on Religious instruction are uniformly good, and similar phrases are used over and over again, refer- ring to careful teaching, the interest of the children, their thoughtful answers showing real understanding, and the tone of the school. Whatever the difficulties and defects in secular in- struction in the early days the school seems always to have given excellent teaching to the children in the fundamentals of the Christian faith, a great tradition that has lasted through the years until today.

Payment by Results

The Newcastle Report of 1861 summed up what was then thought to be the purpose of elementary schools like Helme; it was “to prepare the children of the poor for their future life by appropriate religious and moral discipline, by teaching them to read and write their own language with interest, and to pet- form common arithmetical operations.” It was this Report which led to the introduction of the system of Payment by Results which rigidly directed the day-to-day work of the teach- er for over thirty years. By this system, the children, after leaving the Infants’ Department, were classified into “Stan- dards”. A minutely detailed schedule of work in the three “R’s” was laid down for each Standard by the Education Department; the children were drilled in this throughout the year, and ex- amined by a visiting inspector on a previously determined day. Pupils who passed in all three subjects were promoted to the next Standard; those who failed had to repeat the work. In Helme School log book, there is reference year after year to he Inspector’s visit and the reorganization of the children after it.

The amount of the annual grant to the school from the Edu- cational Department depended on the number of children with 200 attendances during the year (morning and afternoon atten- dances counting as one each). This is why marking the Register accurately was so important and why Registers had to be regu- larly checked by the Managers. From the sum thus calculated,


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deductions were made for a failure in any of the three subjects in each Standard. Further, the Inspector had to issue a written report which had to be copied into the Log Book. It is fair to say that over the years these reports steadily improve. Un- fortunately, the record of the actual figures of passes and fail- ures and grant earned have not survived; there is one reference in 1873 to there being only one failure in Arithmetic and two in Reading; an excellent result, especially in the year of the move to new premises. The System was gradually relaxed, other subjects such as geography, singing and drawing being allowed as grant-earning subjects. After 1895, the Inspectors visited without notice in place of the annual examination and pay- ments by results came to an end, but the practice of dividing the school into Standards lingered on at most schools, and Helme was no exception. The Standards system was particu- larly difficult to organize in a small school and the annual inspection at Helme, with all the difficulties about attendance, must have been an ordeal for the teachers. Nevertheless, even after 1895, the Standards were kept, and as late as 1920 an in- spector is commenting on this. He noted that there were no more than seven children in any Standard and advised a less rigid division. This advice was acted on; by 1923 we read that children were treated according to their individual pace of learning, and in 1933 they were doing individual work from sheets of instructions prepared by the Headmistress. The diffi- culties of teaching all ages from 7—14 single-handed, in one room, were great, but were lessened by not trying to follow seven set schemes of work at the same time.

The annual inspections by the Diocesan Director of Religious Education continued, of course, until quite recent times, and were always the occasion of a half holiday.

Widening the Curriculum

From about 1900 onwards, and especially after the appoint- ment of Miss Grainger, new subjects and interesting activities were introduced. There was more singing and drama work and there are many references to performances, school concerts etc., and especially to the breaking up concert in December. For many years there was a Day School Festival week-end in Nov- ember, usually with a concert on Saturday and special services in church on Sunday. Often the headteacher preached the sermon, even when the head was a woman. Some of the per- formances were quite ambitious, such as one called “The Stranger”, which incorporated some of Schubert’s songs. The Day School sometimes joined with the Sunday School to give a concert at the prize giving in February. Indeed, Sunday School and Day School were really the same; all, or nearly all the Day


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School scholars attended the Sunday School. A special concert was given in 1929, when there were violin and piano solos as well as songs, recitations and playlets, and the proceeds went to buy a wireless set for use in the school. This must have helped to bring new ideas and a wider experience into the curriculum. From 1944, plays were given each year to build up a fund to buy a radiogram. These sound very interesting, with titles like “The Charcoal Burner’s Song”, “The Enchanted Forest” etc. The radiogram was at last obtained in 1950.

Miss Grainger herself was not particularly musical, but an assistant teacher, Miss Moorhouse, who worked with her for a number of years, was very keen on various kinds of musical activities, chief of which was a percussion band. To teach the children in the early stages she had charts with each kind of instrument marked on it in a different colour, so the children followed their own colour to know when to bang, tap or tinkle. Miss Moorhouse supplied the melody on the piano. As they be- came more expert, each child had his own music and they played to gramophone records. This activity took place on Friday afternoons and was much enjoyed.

School trips and outings were also introduced, probably first of all by Mrs. Johnson. In the early days these may not have been more than a Nature Walk to Orange Wood or a half day spent on the banks of the Reservoir, but they gradually be- came more ambitious, day trips to York and Chester being mentioned. Interest in Nature study and wild flowers brought the school great success at the Huddersfield Flower Show in 1909 when, in competition with 46 other schools, Helme won five prizes in all, including Ist and 2nd prizes for a collection of pressed wild flowers. One of the prize winners was Miss Lillie Watson, who, though too infirm to attend church, still sends gifts of flowers at all festivals.

Miss Grainger was very keen on Nature walks to collect specimens. Pupils remember being made to walk a long way. One trip, never forgotten, was a walk along the canal bank from Slaithwaite to Marsden when Miss Grainger fell into a stream and had to board the bus at Marsden in a rather bedraggled condition. Another tiring expedition which is remembered was a long walk to the Catchment Drain up Red Lane. The children had to carry spades and other garden tools, and a number of fir trees were planted on the banks of the drain. The reason for this is not remembered. Are the trees still there?

The school garden has for long been a great feature of the school work at Helme, and several heads claim to have started this, but the credit must go to a Vicar, the Rev. J. Dunbar, who


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dug up a plot in the Park and instructed the children in the growing of vegetables as part of the war effort in the first world war. Potatoes were grown and sold, partly for gifts to the men in the Forces, partly to start a school library fund. But it was Miss Grainger who made gardening an important part of the curriculum. She also started beekeeping and from these activities introduced biology and botany lessons into the time- table. This tradition of the importance of Rural Studies (if not beekeeping) has been continued and developed by the present Headmaster and Mrs. Coupland.

Miss Grainger also introduced woodwork for the boys, which she herself taught. Another great interest was Country Dancing; although Inspectors remark that the school lacked floor space for games, P.E. and dancing (and unfortunately this is still so today), yet somehow Miss Grainger managed both P.E. and Country Dancing. This was very often done out of doors to the music of an old wind-up gramophone with a large horn, which often ran down in the middle of a dance, so that Miss Grainger had to dash across and wind it up again. A Country Dancing display was given as a novelty at one of the Parish Garden Parties, and also at an Open Day in 1936, when there was a sreat display of Dancing and P.E., and parents inspected the garden and beehives.

But it must not be thought that Miss Grainger neglected the basic subjects for these extras, as the successes in the County Minor Scholarships show. Every year from 1928 at least one and sometimes as many as eight children passed; and this was a very good proportion from such a small school. The first two winners were girls, Bessie Longbottom and Irene Hellawell., who went to Greenhead Grammar School. It was Miss Grainger’s custom to present half-crowns to each successful scholar—with some little ceremony—and the year that eight children passed, there was a little disappointment that she had not managed to get the right number of half-crowns when the results were first announced and the pupils had to wait. In 1937, an Honours Board was obtained and hung in the classroom. It was unveiled with some ceremony and a display and entertainment given by the children. (The board may still be seen in the passage near the parish kitchen). Old scholars recall that Miss Grainger’s enthusiasm was for Arithmetic and any pupil taught by Miss Grainger is said to be quick and accurate at adding up, to this day. I


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There is no mention in the Log Book in the earlier years of any National events, and unfortunately, the Parish magazines, which often give details of Day School celebrations, give no information for the periods of Queen Victoria’s Jubilees and death. Nor are there educational developments to report. So it is not until the twentieth century that we have any information about the effect on the school of outside events. Of the Boer War, nothing is mentioned except that the children were taken across the Park to see General Redvers Buller leave Helme Hall after a visit.

The Education Act of 1902, which made a considerable dif- ference to the status of the school, has a brief but significant mention in the log book. By this Act government control of church schools was given to the Local Education Authorities which the Act had established (in this case the Education Com- mittee of the West Riding County County) and Headteacher and Managers no longer corresponded directly with the Board of Education. This may have meant a slight diminution of freedom, but on the other hand church schools were given grants from local rates and were financially a little better off. It was the aiding of Church schools from rates that in many places caused violent opposition—but there is no record of this in Helme. In return for this financial help, a certain improve- ment both in buildings and academic standards was required, and the Managers had some rather anxious dealings with the W.R.C.C. over this. But the only remark about these changes made by the Headmistress is “the filling up of forms and other circulars makes a great demand on Teacher’s time”. In this respect, there has not been much change since 1902! Later on there is a complaint that the W.R.C.C. has delayed for a month in sending stock required, pens, chalk, needles and paper. Evidently, the new system was much slower than when the Managers had been responsible, but the provision was probably more generous.

The Coronation of George V in 1911, was marked by great celebrations; scholars assembled in the Market Place in Mel- tham and processed up to the Recreation Ground. Each school was preceded by a decorated wagon on which the smallest pupils sat. The Vicar wrote “We naturally thought the Helme wagon was the prettiest. Certainly a good deal of loving labour was bestowed on it the night before. Our good friend Mr. Fen- wick Richardson kindly lent the wagon and supplied two fine looking horses”. Tea was given to all scholars, followed by sports on the Recreation Ground—and in the evening, a magni- ficient bonfire was lit on the Cop, by Mrs. Archie Brook. A souvenir mug was given to all scholars.


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The 1914 war is not mentioned very much, except for the death of Lieut. A. C. (Archie) Brook, who had been a Manager as well as a churchwarden. He was killed at Gallipoli in 1915 and was much missed, for he had been a very popular young man. He was a nephew of the Rev. James Brook; his widow continued to live at Helme Edge for some years and always took an interest in the school.

In 1914, eight Belgian refugee children were admitted to the school but left after a short time. Several others came later on. but none stayed long and seem to have made little difference to the school. I

The end of the war was marked by celebrations in Meltham, in which the school took part. After the war, the shadow of the economic depression hung over the school and the Managers had to agree to cuts in the teachers’ salaries and limit their expenditure according to the regulations of the Geddes Com- mittee on National Expenditure, known popularly as the “Geddes Axe”. Apparently, teachers accepted these salary cuts without protest; certainly there was no question of striking for more pay! In 1931, a 10% cut was agreed to; in 1935 5% of this was restored. When full salaries were restored is not recorded.

The Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935 was marked by gifts to the children. The W.R.C.C. gave pens and pencils and a Bank Book with one shilling in it. There are instances in other places of these books being kept and the original shilling added to by regular savings up to the present day. It would be inter- esting to know whether any old scholars of Helme School have their Bank Books. An anonymous donor gave each child a New Testament, and Mr. and Mrs. Fisher of Helme Hall gave a mug. The school planted three trees in the Park to commemorate the event. The Coronation in 1937 of King George VI was similarly marked by gifts to the children. The W.R.C.C. gave each child a book about the Royal family, many of which are no doubt still kept by former scholars, and there were other gifts including mugs. There was a procession from Meltham and a bonfire on the Cop.

The outbreak of war in 1939 had considerable effect upon the school. Air Raid precautions were enforced, sandbags were brought and sticky tape put on the windows. Children were is- sued with gas masks which had to be brought to school every day. Many will remember those rectangular cardboard boxes, with string handles, which gradually got more and more bat- tered. The cellar under the School House was used as an Air Raid shelter (though no raids occurred in the day time). It is recalled by an old scholar that lessons were much interrupted


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by practice in going quickly down to the cellar and sitting there in an orderly fashion, wearing gas masks. Afterwards, some of the girls had to clean the cellar steps so as not to cause extra work for the tenant of the School House.

Since before the war, the Managers had been involved in con- sultations and meetings about the proposals to re-organize edu- cation in the Meltham area into Primary schools, up to the age of eleven, and Secondary schools for all senior pupils, as had been recommended by the Hadow Report of 1926. Different schemes were put forward and there was considerable anxiety and disagreement. The issue was shelved during the war, but a scheme was eventually agreed by which Helme became a Prim- ary school, and all pupils over eleven who did not gain scholar- ships should go to Marsden Secondary Modern school. The Managers agreed reluctantly, expressing the wish that a Senior school should be built much nearer. The older scholars were transferred in October 1945, and apparently without difficulty, as there is no comment in the records. Just before this, perhaps to mark the end of the school as an all-age school, a Speech Day was held. A large number attended. The Chairman was Mr. G. Berry, who recalled happy reminiscences of his school days. There was a full programme of displays, elocution, the Percus- sion Band and an exhibition of work.

The Education Act of 1944 meant that the Managers had to decide whether or not to retain the school as an Aided School, so that it would still be a church school in the fullest sense, with the Managers appointed by the church in a majority over the L.E.A.. Managers. Managers would have the power to ap- point head and teachers. The Vicar would continue to have the right to visit the school and give Religious Instruction, and services in church could be arranged for the scholars. The church would continue to have the right to use the school build- ing when not required by the school. But the financial com- mitments would be increased. The Managers, after much prayer and thought, decided in January 1953 on Aided Status and a special meeting was held in March of that year for all parish- ioners, and they ratified the decision of the Managers. The Vicar, the Rev. A. Walls, was delighted. He wrote, “the Church school is one of the greatest treasures of the church .... I make no secret of the fact that I am proud to be a leader of a people ready to step out in faith at God’s bidding”. £5,000 had to be raised but already £1,200 had been promised, including an anonymous gift of £1,000. This money was to be the Parish share towards the extensions to the building which had been

agreed to be necessary. The school was recognised by the Minis- try of Education as an Aided School in November 1953. The


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May 1949 Miss Grainger (left) and Miss Moorhouse

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by practice in going quickly down to the cellar and sitting there in an orderly fashion, wearing gas masks. Afterwards, some of the girls had to clean the cellar steps so as not to cause extra work for the tenant of the School House.

Since before the war, the Managers had been involved in con- sultations and meetings about the proposals to re-organize edu- cation in the Meltham area into Primary schools, up to the age of eleven, and Secondary schools for all senior pupils, as had been recommended by the Hadow Report of 1926. Different schemes were put forward and there was considerable anxiety and disagreement. The issue was shelved during the war, but a scheme was eventually agreed by which Helme became a Prim- ary school, and all pupils over eleven who did not gain scholar- ships should go to Marsden Secondary Modern school. The Managers agreed reluctantly, expressing the wish that a Senior school should be built much nearer. The older scholars were transferred in October 1945, and apparently without difficulty, as there is no comment in the records. Just before this, perhaps to mark the end of the school as an all-age school, a Speech Day was held. A large number attended. The Chairman was Mr. G. Berry, who recalled happy reminiscences of his school days. There was a full programme of displays, elocution, the Percus- sion Band and an exhibition of work.

The Education Act of 1944 meant that the Managers had to decide whether or not to retain the school as an Aided School, so that it would still be a church school in the fullest sense, with the Managers appointed by the church in a majority over the L.E.A.. Managers. Managers would have the power to ap- point head and teachers. The Vicar would continue to have the right to visit the school and give Religious Instruction, and services in church could be arranged for the scholars. The church would continue to have the right to use the school build- ing when not required by the school. But the financial com- mitments would be increased. The Managers, after much prayer and thought, decided in January 1953 on Aided Status and a special meeting was held in March of that year for all parish- ioners, and they ratified the decision of the Managers. The Vicar, the Rev. A. Walls, was delighted. He wrote, “the Church school is one of the greatest treasures of the church . . . . I make no secret of the fact that I am proud to be a leader of a people ready to step out in faith at God’s bidding”. £5,000 had to be raised but already £1,200 had been promised, including an anonymous gift of £1,000. This money was to be the Parish share towards the extensions to the building which had been agreed to be necessary. The school was recognised by the Minis- try of Education as an Aided School in November 1953. The


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May 1949 Miss Grainger (left) and Miss Moorhouse

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numbers in the school were growing rapidly, with the building of the new estates and more people moving into the district. The old building was very overcrowded and also lacked many facilities necessary for modern educational ideas and the devel- opment of more varied activities. Plans for a new extension were drawn up, and were eventually approved by all the neces- sary committees, so that the first sod was cut, ceremonially, in May 1957, by Mr. Beardsall, the Education Officer. Meanwhile parishioners, parents, and teachers were working hard to raise the necessary funds. Miss Grainger had the satisfaction of seeing these plans for the future well on the way before she retired

in April, 1956.

Miss Grainger marked her retirement by giving a tea party to scholars and managers on her last day at school. At this she was presented with a teaset and bouquet by the scholars—with a parcel for Mickie, her dog! The children appealed to her to take them on one more outing, and so there was a very happy trip up the Dales to Hardraw Falls and Clapham caves. In June another party was held when old scholars, friends and managers presented Miss Grainger with a cheque. The new Headmaster. Mr. Coupland, arrived to see the new buildings go up, and to start off a new stage in the school’s history, in the enlarged building which very soon, alas, proved too small for the ever- increasing number of children.

The foundation stone was laid in June 1957 by Mr. Walls; this was very appropriate as he was such an enthusiastic ad- vocate for keeping the school as a church school, and worked tirelessly (and persuaded others to join him) to raise the neces- sary money. The building was put up quite quickly, as the official opening was held on April 19th, 1958. The new hall was filled to overflowing with visitors, to see the opening cere- mony performed by Mr. E. Greenhalgh, formerly of Helme Hall, with Mr. J. Haigh, the present owner of the Hall, in the chair. A month later a special service of thanksgiving was held in church, when the preacher was the Bishop of Pontefract.


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When Mr. K. E. Coupland came in May 1956 there were about sixty children, and one assistant teacher. The new buildings should have provided enough accommodation for that number. There was a spacious hall, with stage, a new entrance hall and cloakrooms, and a kitchen where school dinners could be cooked. Before this, dinners were brought from Meltham Mills and handed over the wall from Helme Hall drive. The new buildings covered some of Miss Grainger’s garden, so this had to be remade and the space beyond the new building was made into a turning space for cars; Mr. A. L. Garside worked very hard, single-handed, in setting bricks for the foundation of this. The number of children rose very quickly, until today there are 140 and the number of teachers has increased to five (Mrs. Coupland was appointed as Infants’ Teacher in 1958). This means that the hall has to be used all the time as two class- rooms, and there is little space for many desirable activities. Nevertheless, exciting and original Art and Craft work is carried on. A pottery kiln was installed about ten years ago, crammed into the Headmaster’s room (built originally as a care- taker’s store). The Rural Studies side of the work has de- veloped; animals have been introduced into the school, the first ones coming from Woolley Hall; the numbers of gerbils and guinea pigs cannot be given, as it changes rapidly, but more space would be welcome for them, too!

Soon after 1956 the school joined the West Riding Environ- mental Studies Association, and Mr. Coupland is Chairman this year (1973). Also this year the school has taken part in an En- vironmental Competition organized by I.T.V. and local news- papers. The Huddersfield Examiner gave Helme their first prize in the Primary section, and the school was also in the first three in the whole competition and appeared on York- shire Television on May 18th.

County scholarships are a thing of the past, and for some time now children have been selected for different types of secondary education according to the Thorne Scheme. This, tov, is coming to an end, and in September 1973 children will move on to comprehensive secondary schools without selection.

No account of the school would be complete without a mention of the really excellent dinners produced in the new kitchen, at present by Mrs. Sinclair and her Staff. If it seems an exaggeration to say that no school has better dinners, some evidence is offered by the fact that all but two of the children stay to dinner; and this, too, presents a problem of over- crowding.


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Since the foundation of Helme School there have been many changes. The early years were a time of struggle, to establish the school, to get equipment, to find good and qualified teach- ers, and above all to induce the pupils to attend regularly and to learn their lessons. We must not judge the parents and child- ren too harshly, for social conditions were very different; there was much poverty, and education was a luxury that few could afford for very long.

The middle period, from the beginning of this century to the outbreak of the second world war, was a time of comparative peace and stability in the history of the school. Teachers stayed much longer, numbers remained static at about fifty children, attendance was more regular, and so the educational task was not so difficult. With an assistant teacher always employed, the headmistress was not so harassed, and it was possible to estab- lish an informal, family atmosphere (while maintaining good discipline). Inspectors’ reports frequently mention this; for example in 1920 the atmosphere is described as one of “home- like freedom”, and many old scholars speak of the same kind of thing. They remember being caned, but they also remember the school as a happy place and they enjoyed their years there and have not forgotten what they owe to the school. Another aspect of this family feeling is that a number of old scholars continued to help the school in various ways. At least two old scholars, Miss M. Mellor and Mr. G. Berry, served for many years as Managers. The community was stable and close-knit and the school was an essential part of it; the building was the focal point of the village and every social event and gathering took place there. The teachers took their place as members of the community and joined in all activities, and, in the case of Miss Grainger, provided for the needs of adults by running evening classes.

Since the war changes have come; numbers have risen, new estates have been built, and there is a more rapid change of population. The school has grown, too, and is again too large for the building, and extensions are necessary. With three times as many children and teachers some of the small, family atmosphere has necessarily gone, though there is still great care taken to know and provide for the needs of each child. There are more varied activities and a broadening of the curriculum. Parents now value the education provided at Helme school and are keen to send their children here. The school now has a far bigger job than that of providing the basic essentials of elemen- tary education that was its task in the nineteenth century. It has


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to lay a good foundation for varied types of secondary edu- cation and to try to give the children the flexibility of outlook. the powers of initiative and understanding necessary for them to take their place in our complex and ever-changing society.

As we look back over the years another change is apparent; the school owed its foundation and support for many years largely to the generosity of one family. Times have changed; there is not such a sharp contrast between great wealth and poverty, and the school now looks for the support and interest of a much larger body of people, all the parents and friends.

Though many things have changed, one of the most impor- tant aspects is the same. From the beginning Helme has been a Church School, and the connection between school and church has been close. This is seen in many ways; succeeding teachers have worked for the church; succeeding vicars have worked for the school, some of them spending many hours a week actually teaching, and all of them taking responsibility for administer- ing and advising. Children have attended church, not only on week-days at school services, but as members of the Sunday School and congregation. The school has always worked, not just to prepare the children to meet the differing social needs of the time, but much more to take their part in the Kingdom of God. It has been concerned to develop not only their bodies and minds, but also their spirits. It has tried to introduce them to worship in the fellowship of the church and to maintain the traditions of the Church of England, in the context of the Christian faith and heritage common to all the churches, es- pecially in our present era of ecumenical understanding and co-operation. Our Centenary marks a hundred years of Christ- ian education in the present school building. Mr. Walls was fond of saying “The Church School is the church’s nursery for the church’s children”, and through the years Helme school has tried to fill this role. In 1945 an Inspector wrote “This is an out- standing example of the value of a small school closely attached to the village church”. Material conditions may be different today; the climate of opinion may make the job more difficult; new ideas in education may make the methods different, but the task is the same; may the school continue to carry it out for many years to come.

Printed by S. H. Cliffe Ltd., Dukinfield, Cheshire

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Canon Hulbert:— “Annals of Almondbury” (1882)

The Rev. J. Hughes:— “History of Meltham” (1866)

Pupils of Holmfirth Secondary School:— ‘“Meltham—a local geography” (1968)

A. H. “Place Names of the West Riding” (1961)

D. F. E. Sykes :— “History of Huddersfield and Vicinity” (1898)

Helme School Log Books Helme Church Parish Magazines Helme School Managers’ Minute Book

Help and information are gratefully acknowledged from:—

Miss E. Fisher for facts about the Brook and Fisher


Mr. Pratt of Nichol and Pratt for information about Bent

Ley Mill;

The Manager of the Midland Bank, Huddersfield,

for allowing access to documents and genealogies

of the Brook family;

Mrs. Leighton of Meltham for the letter written in 1862 by

her grandmother;

and many former scholars who have recounted memories

and lent photographs.

Grateful thanks also to Mrs. Woodhead for help with typing, and Mr. Watson for help with photography; and to my husband, the Rev. M. W. Bishop (the present Vicar of

Helme), for help with publication and in other ways.

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