Annals of Eyam Woodlands School

Compiled by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2002-2012

The Begininngs of Education in Eyam Woodlands

The earliest known mention of a school in the village is in the Will of William Marsden, 1762, which directs that his daughter Dorothy (wife of Robert BEELEY & Jonathan TURNER) was to pay to pay Jonathan OXLEY of Leam, and John MOOR [MOWER] of Grindleford Bridge £50 for “purchasing lands or other securities to establish a Free School in Grindleford Bridge”. MOOR and OXLEY were to appoint the schoolmaster.

The Home School, known later as Grindleford College was a fee paying school, day and boarding. In 1911 its Schoolmaster was William PLATT. He was aged 44, born in St Pancras, London, and described himself as “Head-master, own day & boarding school”. He was living at the school. Also resident were his wife Susan, aged 48, born Loughall, Armagh, two children, Gladys E. CLARKE, single, aged 23, Art Mistress, born Chatteris, Isle of Ely, Clara YOUNGMAN, Cook-Housekeeper, aged 38, single, born Aldeby, Norfolk, and a servant, Lucy Dane, aged 15, born Eyam.

As ‘Grindleford College’, it was still accepting pupils during WWII, but was closed probably very soon after. The building is sited to the north of St Helen's Church, and is now Pinegrove, a Residential Home for the elderly.

Eyam Woodlands (now Grindleford Primary) School first opened its doors on November 22nd 1876 - John MELLOR taking charge. Both my mother, and my grandmother were pupils. There follows some personal reflections on the school, as a third generation attendee.

Teachers and Pupils

Miss Elizabeth Patrick

One of its teachers, in the early 1900s was Miss Elizabeth PATRICK. I remember noticing on one of the occasions I visited the graveyard at Eyam that she is buried at Eyam with her parents.[1] A stereotypically strict ‘school marm’, she taught the pupils of the time with the end of a ruler - or so I imagine from how my mother described her! Nevertheless they learned the basic “three R's” - to add up, to write well, and to spell correctly, and to recite poetry. My mother could still recite the poems she'd learned into her old age, to the extent that she influenced me, and I feel I know them better than the ones I learned at school myself! I found out only recently that one of those she learned - “The Pobble Who Had No Toes” - was one of Edward Lear's ‘nonsense’ poems. I am uncertain of the author of the others - “The Little Cares that Fretted Me ...”[2] (sounds like Tennyson?) and “Peter Augustus Marmaduke Green ... the worsest boy that ever I've seen...” (how NOT to teach good grammar?). “The Wreck of the Good Ship Hesperus” was another one she learned, which is rather better known generally.

“We had the cane, and it never did us any harm...”

On reflection, I guess my mother remembered it as she enjoyed poetry. Possibly other pupils of her vintage would remember different things. For instance I don't recall my auntie (b.1902), 2 years older than my mum, ever mentioning poetry she learned, although she also remembered her schooldays with a similar “fondness”, encapsulated in her memory that: ‘We 'ad the cane, and it never did us any 'arm...’

“Come down from that tree this minute, Joe Reeves!”

Both my auntie and my mother left school at 14. My uncle Joe (their brother, b.1900) left aged 13 to go to work on a nearby farm. This may be because the compulsory leaving age changed, or perhaps he'd wanted to leave sooner. Whilst he attended school, he liked to play truant, and he used to amuse me with stories of how he led the teachers a merry dance. Miss Patrick went looking for him after he failed to return to school after lunch: he was hiding in an apple tree belonging to the nearby Commercial Inn (now the Sir William and whilst Miss Patrick couldn't get up there herself, she used a broomstail (broom handle), poking at him from below with a “Come down from that tree this minute, Joe Reeves!”

Truancy couldn't be allowed to continue, however, as there was the “school bobby” who would visit the parents of any child who stayed away for too long; a real ogre in these children's minds.

Another story my uncle Joe told related to meals at school, although I suspect this was a fabrication as I'd understood from my mother there were no meals served at school. His story was that they were served lettuce, whereupon one boy shrieked “teacher, teacher, there's a snail in my lettuce!” “Shurrup, else they'll all want one!” was the reply!

The first 100 pupils

My grandmother (their mother) was one of the first 100 pupils to attend the school. When the school celebrated its centenary, the School Records were deposited at the County Record Office in Matlock. These records contain reports of pupils attending, and other events of interest, such as the request to close the school on 31st August 1886 due to an outbreak of fever in the village.

Each entry lists an admission number, date of admission, name of child, date of birth, name and address of parent, previous school, and remarks. Sample extracts of previous schools are Stoney Middleton, Hathersage, “G.B” (Grindleford Bridge) and Mr. Kenyon's

Here are the details of my grandmother's entry:-

Admission No.Date of AdmissionNameD.O.B. Name + Address of ParentPrevious SchoolDate of leaving
94March 21 1881Ada Outram29 Sep 1871 Rbt. Outram, LeamG.B.Sep 1884

G.B. = Grindleford Bridge. There were no Remarks against my grandmother's entry. Remarks for other admissions included “Labour Certificate”, “Gone to Eyam”, “Left the Village” and “Too young - sent home”!

Holidays and Celebrations

In summer, school attendance was probably poor, as children from the farms nearby would stay at home to help with the harvest. Official school summer holidays were only 4 weeks. There were no school meals, and at “dinner time” (midday) my mother would have to walk home from school, and up to Magclough Farm to collect the family milk for the day. Then back to school after dinner - clothes and shoes were ‘hand-me-downs’, or second hand, so protection against the rain and elements may have been minimal in ill-fitting clothing. And sometimes the school building would be so cold that outdoor clothing would be worn in the classroom.

Generally speaking there were fewer public holidays than now, at a time also when the norm was to work six days a week. However, in my mum's day, the pupils had holidays for events we no longer celebrate - the (then) relatively new celebration of Empire Day[3] (24 May) a public holiday inaugurated in 1902, and also (if I remember correctly) there were celebrations in the village for Oak Apple Day[4] (31st May); and during summer as a whole, there would have been other village celebrations like Maypole dancing on the Village Green, and the ‘Wakes’. There would also have been Whitsuntide - ‘Whit’ was a time for wearing white (to accord with its original form of ‘White Sunday’)

Grindleford Flood[5]

Another older resident of Grindleford [see References, below] told the story of how in 1923, some children from ‘up by the station’ - on the other side of the river to the school - were stranded at school after the river burst its banks, and the bridge across it flooded. Walking across was impossible - back then there were no rubber boots and protective waterproof clothing! However fortunately a local woodcutter with a large carthorse called ‘Titch’ came to the rescue and ferried the children across the bridge on the horse's back. Miss Patrick was also mentioned in this tale as being the school's head teacher who was ‘firm but kind hearted’, not, I suspect how my mum would have described her!!! [uh, you'd call a dragon firm, but kind hearted?]

Ironically, also my mother recalled as a child being terrified of meeting large carthorses in the lane leading up to their home, so this horse may have been no saviour for her!


[1] Miss Patrick died in 1952, aged 87. See Eyam MIs, elsewhere online.
[2] I have since discovered it was Elizabeth Barrett-Browning:
The little cares that fretted me,
I lost them yesterday
Among the fields above the sea,
Among the winds at play;
Among the husking of the corn
Where drowsy poppies nod,
Where ill thoughts die and good are born,
Out in the fields with God.
[3] Empire Day was inaugurated in 1902 - to celebrate achievement of the British Empire, and coincided with the earlier Victoria Day, to celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday - see The Probert Encyclopaedia (“an independent reference encyclopaedia aimed at professionals and students alike, documenting all manner of subjects…”)
[4] Oak Apple Day celebrated on Charles II's birthday commemorated the restoration of the Monarchy in 1664 - see Useful dates in British history for the Local Historian or Genealogist, by courtesy of John Owen Smith, and contributors.
[5] Grindleford Flood. Article published in The Peak Advertiser 17th October 1994, p5.
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