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. 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 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.