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.