This ‘history’ has been put together, hastily, from a multitude of sources, not all in agreement, some attributable and some not. I have necessarily interpreted some of the information, putting together the anecdotal with the best fact I could find and so it is not a strict historical account. Some dates in particular are vague or speculative. Much of the detail available concerns the early history and opening of the school. After that, information on the day to day life of the school becomes increasingly sketchy until very little is recorded about the period 1970 – 2000; the war years are also sparsly reported. There is much more information, not reported here, about the staff who worked at King Edward, as well as the day to day minutii recorded in the school logs, but no pictures or stories of real life at the school or living in the area. I would welcome any further information of any sort; I can be contacted throught the school. However, I believe this account to be a fair reflection of what is known from easily accessible public, and some private, sources. I offer it as a ‘straw man’ to be challenged or added to.
P J Burrows, 2008
King Edward Schools were opened on 15th April 1903, by Lady FitzHerbert, to serve the growing industrialised suburbs south of Mansfield town centre.
The schools were named after Edward VII, who acceded to the throne following the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 and at the time when the school was being planned.
King Edward Schools 1903, photographed just before they were opened by the Sherwood Photographic Company, Mansfield.
The builders are pictured posing in what was to become St Catherine Street. Housing was built in the adjacent streets over the next two or three years. Some of the existing terraces on Littleworth can just be seen in the background to the left.
Origins of the School
King Edward is the oldest remaining of the 7 schools originally planned by the Mansfield School Board between 1899 and 1915 – when the First World War halted the building programme: Rosemary Street (1899), the first to be built, was pulled down to make way for the bus station and Rosemary Centre; Pleasley Hill (1902) was closed in 19xx, although the building can still be seen and is currently being used as a workshop for the manufacture of garden sheds.
The School Boards were set up by the 1870 Education Act, to provide compulsory education for 5 to 13 year olds. For the next 30 or so years, the School Boards simply oversaw provision through the existing day schools, some of them voluntary and many run by various church authorities or supported by local benefactors. However, a rapidly growing population meant that there were a much greater number of children needing to go to school than there were places for them and that many schools already had more pupils than they should really accommodate. Consequently, the School Board in Mansfield planned a number of new schools around the town to satisfy the demand. The elementary school population more than doubled in the period 1899 to 1925.
The Education Act of 1902 made County Councils - themselves newly set up under the Local Government Act of 1888 - the local education authority. However, Mansfield Borough Council retained control of its own educational affairs and in 1902-03 an Education Committee was formed to take over responsibility for education from the local School Board. They took responsibility for running the two schools already built by the Board (Rosemary Street 1899, and Pleasley Hill 1902), and for finishing the building of the next school, King Edward, in 1903. Between 1904 and 1915, when the First World War put a stop to development, Mansfield completed a further 4 schools; Broomhill ( 1904), Newgate Lane (1905), Carter Lane (1912) and Moor Lane (1914). High Oakham was opened after the war, in 1919.
King Edward Schools replaced the Wesleyan BridgeStreet School, part of which can still be seen behind the Wesleyan Chapel in Bridge Street. The whole staff and scholars were transferred as soon as the King Edward schools were opened. Mr Pickering, the headmaster at Bridge Street, became the first head at King Edward and remained there for 23 years until he retired in 1926. The first headmistress of the infant school was a Miss Townrow, who remained there until she retired in 1924.
As well as continuing to be a prominent member of the Wesleyan church, Mr Pickering was the first headmaster of a Mansfield elementary school to be made a magistrate when he became a Justice of the Peace.
One of the staff transferring from Bridge Street was an 18 or 19 year old Miss Abraham, who had joined the staff of the old Wesleyan School in Stanhope Street at the age of 12 before the mixed (junior) department moved to Bridge Street in 1887. She remained at King Edward until 1933. At her retirement she said that “The money I have earned since … has never given me so much pleasure as the 15s I received for [my first] three months work [15 shillings (75p) is approximately £45 now]. I am not the only one who has started at [the age of] 12, but they do not do that sort of thing nowadays. What I lacked in knowledge I made up in enthusiasm.”
Incidentally, the origins of Mansfield Town football club can also be traced to the Wesleyan Chapel in Bridge Street. In around 1897 Frederick Abraham and Thomas Cripwell formed an amateur team called the Mansfield Wesleyans, which became Mansfield Town FC around 1910.
King Edward Schools were built by Mr J Greenwood, at a contracted price of £11,200 (approximately £950,000 today), from designs by architects Messrs Vallance and Westwick. A contemporary newspaper article comments on the design; “Without bordering on extravagance there is enough of architectural design to make the exterior pleasing, and within all is light, bright and cheerful.” Another article in the same paper said that the buildings were, “of substantial character, without any unnecessary expense being incurred, and the brick facing was only relieved by local stone dressing.” Open fire grates were provided in each room for heating, but the buildings were also heated by “low pressure hot water apparatus”. Similar designs were used for a number of schools built in Mansfield between 1899 and 1915.
[Ref: Mansfield & North Notts Advertiser 17/04/03 p6c1/p8c5-6]
Many original features can still be seen around the schools: for example, the ‘lantern’s admitting daylight to the internal corridors and the vaulted hall with original parquet flooring in the upper building, the cast-iron radiators and other heating fittings in both buildings, and the finials and decorative ridge tiles on the roof of the upper building. The decorative balls flanking the gable ends, seen in the 1903 photograph above and the photo to the left, were removed and the chimneys lowered sometime in the 1970’s or 1980’s, for safety reasons.
The schools were intended to accommodate nearly 900 children. The junior school had an assembly hall (52ft by 32ft) and seven classrooms (25ft by 24ft) for 540 boys and girls. The infants’ school had five classrooms (25ft by 24ft) and a baby’s room (21ft by 20ft) for 350 children. The entrance hall in the lower building, described as a ‘marching corridor’, took the place of an assembly hall.
The Mansfield and North Notts Advertiser also reported a statement by Councillor Marriott that, “even now, there are 177 more children attending the Board Schools than there is recognised accommodation for, but any one who notices the erection of more houses in all directions will realise that the demand is still for more schools.”
[Ref: Mansfield & North Notts Advertiser 17/04/03 p8c5-6]
Even allowing for the assembly hall always being in use, this would have meant class sizes of between 60 and 70 pupils. The classrooms are considered by some to be crowded with just half that number now!
The Education Act (Fisher) 1918 raised the school leaving age to 14, which would have exacerbated the overcrowding problem but for the additional schools being built (e.g. High Oakham was opened in 1919) - junior schools at the time were expected to accommodate pupils from 11 through to the leaving age who couldn’t get into ‘secondary’ schools. The Children and Young Persons Act 1933 reduced class sizes from 60 to 50 in infants and junior schools. The Education Act 1944 (Butler) further reduced primary school classes to a maximum of 40 pupils, although Nottingham, always progressive in education terms, were determined to reduce this to 30 even then.
In common with many schools built in the first decades of the 20th Century, King Edward did not have playing fields when it was first opened. The 1944 Education Act made provision for playing fields and all new schools built after that time were provided with them. Existing schools were also allocated land, but for many this was some way away. King Edward was lucky, as there were allotments adjacent to the school grounds and these were given over as playing fields some time after the end of the Second World War.
The allotments probably had been established some time between 1908, when the Small Holdings and Allotments Act imposed responsibilities on borough councils to provide allotments for people in houses that had little or no gardens, as many of the new terraces around Littleworth did not, and 1914-1918, when Germany’s blockade caused food shortages that increased the demand for allotments. Typically, land suitable for allotments but not large enough for general agricultural use was owned by the railway companies. This is the case with the allotments that ran either side of the Midland Railway line at the top of Littleworth; the lower allotments eventually became the school playing fields (c.1945), but the upper allotments are still in use and accessible from Forest Road.
Nottinghamshire was a forerunner in the provision of Nursery facilities (for under 5-year olds), usually in a class attached to an Infants School, increasingly so from 1944, and usually purpose built since 1980’s.
At King Edward, a baby room, almost as large as the classrooms, was included within the Infants’ school in the original 1903 design; there was presumably other provision for toddlers.
In 1982, a proper separate nursery was provided within the school.
An article in the Chad (16/02/94) featured a photograph showing fathers renovating the disused toilet block [in the Infants’ playground] to turn into a Mothers & Toddler Room; parents had raised more than £700 towards costs. Clearly the demand for nursery facilities was greater than the school had room for.
The remaining outbuildings in the Infants’ playground, together with the Mothers & Toddler Room, were replaced by a purpose built Nursery building in 2004, providing room for some 80 children split across morning and afternoon sessions.
King Edward was inaugurated as King Edward Schools because there were two school buildings, one for infants and one for juniors, each with their own head teacher and staff. They were usually referred to as King Edward Infants School or King Edward Junior School, although the term ‘Mixed’ was sometimes used for the Junior School. This continued to be the case right up to 1984, when the schools were amalgamated under one head teacher.
In 1974 Mansfield relinquished its role as the local education authority to Nottinghamshire County Council; although in 1989 this was divided into 8 Areas, one of which was Mansfield and so control effectively returned to the area!
In September 1984 the school became King Edward First School under one head teacher, Mrs Maureen Speer.
Between about 1976 and amalgamation in 1984 the infants’ school seems to have been renamed Titchfield Park Infants School or Titchfield Park First School; the lower building is still referred to as the Park Building.
In 2002, all the schools in Mansfield were re-organised into ‘families’, each feeding into one of the comprehensive secondary schools in the area. King Edward became part of the Brunts Family, along with its surviving sister pre-WWI Board School Newgate Lane, and the post-WWI High Oakham.
The school was partially refurbished and re-opened as King Edward Primary School for the occasion, with a dedication plaque being unveiled in the school hall.
Outwardly, it still looks much the same today as it did then.
When the new nursery building was opened in 2004, the school became known as King Edward Primary School and Nursery.
Titchfield Park, situated between Baums Lane and Nottingham Road, was gifted to the town in 1914-15 by the Duke of Portland (Marquis of Titchfield), as a celebration of the Duke and Duchess's silver wedding and of the coming of age of his heir the Marques. The original park was that part between the River Maun and Nottingham Road, towards the town centre. The land south of the River Maun was incorporated following the removal of the Mansfield Railway sidings, probably in the 1970’s or 1980’s, and now forms the ‘meadow’ section with its avenue of mature Plane/Lime trees alongside the old revetment wall between the lower and upper sidings.Titchfield Park has always been an important local amenity for the school, visited as a treat or for ‘nature walks’ in the early days of the school and for sponsored walks and ‘fun’ runs more recently. When the Park furniture was replaced in 2002, King Edward children provided the designs for all the cast plaques that decorate the gates and the ends of benches.
The area around King Edward was characterised by rapidly increasing industrialisation from the 1880’s onwards, with an attendant need for housing for the growing workforce – and schooling for their children.
At the turn of the 20th Century, within a half mile or so of King Edward, particularly between the schools and the town centre, there were already; a malt house and a rapidly expanding brewery (Mansfield Brewery was, apparently, once one of the largest independent breweries in the UK, employing some 4,000 workers at its height), a hosiery works, several mills, a gas works, several foundries, lime kilns, a boiler works, extensive railway sidings and a cattle market. A large graveyard and the widespread house-building works in the area would also have demanded a great deal of local labour. The schools would have served the families of this growing workforce for the next half century, and provided early training in craft skills for many of those who followed their fathers and mothers into the factories.
At the top of Littleworth, south of what was called Bottleneck Lane and is now called Forest Road, there were several quarries, mostly supplying sand for making moulds in the various foundries in the immediate area. The course of the Midland Railway line that supported these quarries, and transported coal from Mansfield, Rufford and Blidworth Collieries to the sidings at Baums Lane, can still be seen at the top of Littleworth and bounding what is now the school grounds.
The whole areas would have been a bustling hive of, possibly noisy, probably dirty, activity. Steam and noise from the railways on either side of the schools, and smells from the brewery, the foundries, the steam trains and the cattle market would have been much in evidence, especially through the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s.
Of course, much of this has now changed. The agricultural land has long been built upon and the factories were all closed and the sites mostly cleared by the 80’s. Very little sign remains of the railway sidings and factory sites along Great Central Road and Baums Lane, except the shape of parcels of land and remnants of stone boundary walls. The Midland Railway line at the top of Littleworth was lifted in the 1980’s, and the bridge over Littleworth removed in the 1990’s; the old track bed remains in parts of the cycleway to Clipstone, and there are various cuttings and embankments still in evidence along its length.
The vacant lots have since been largely used for business and retail park development or housing. For example: Mansfield Brewery acquired railway land along Great Central Road in 1971 in order to expand their distribution facilities, although this site is itself in the process of demolition following the breweries eventual closure in 2002; the new police Divisional HQ on Great Central Road was built on the site of the Mansfield Central railway station in the early 1980’s; B&Q and Halfords were built at the Nottingham Road end of Baums Lane in the 1990’s and, since 2000, Pizza Hut, Fitness First and Topps Tiles - the last building in Baums Lane probably associated with the railway was demolished in late 2007/early 2008; Sherwood Iron Foundry (James Maude Ltd) on Forest Road closed in 2004 and the site was redeveloped for housing in 2006-07; the quarries south of Forest Road have also been redeveloped for housing, Mansfield (Delamere) in the 1970’s and Berry Hill (King’s Stand) since 2000.
Sherwood Foundry was the last remaining foundry in Mansfield and was of particular historic significance. Records suggest that there had been a foundry on Forest Road since the early 18th Century, and that it had some claim to fame for providing the decorative cast-iron lamp-standards used for the first electric street lighting in the UK on the Embankment in London.
The growth in industry is reflected in the increase in the population of Mansfield, which rose by just a third from c.16,000 to c.22,000 in the hundred years from 1801 to 1901, but then by nearly five times that number in the next hundred years, to 98,000 in 2001.
This is further echoed in the provision of housing. When the schools were built, in 1903, there were no houses on St Margaret Street, St Andrew Street or St Catherine Street, on which King Edward actually stands (see the 1903 photograph, above). However, evidence suggests these roads were fully developed within 2 to 3 years of the schools being opened. There were a number of isolated terraces already on Littleworth itself, but maps show that much of the surrounding land, especially to the south and to east of the schools, between Littleworth, Rock Hill/Ratcliffe Gate and Forest Road/Windsor Road, was largely agricultural land and orchards. This had been mostly built upon by the 1920’s, and the children of the inhabitants would have to have attended King Edward, or Newgate Lane from 1905, until High Oakham opened in 1919.
Railway sidings near King Edward Schools, from a diagram by Mr P Anderson.
This complex of sidings, associated with Mansfield Railway’s Central Station, was developed between c.1910 and 1970. They would have been extremely busy and noisy. The sidings along Baum’s Lane would have occupied what is now the ‘meadow’ part of Titchfield Park, south of the River Maun, and the area now occupied by retail park developments.