The development of Elementary Education at Mold, c. 1834-1902.

Norma Piatt

Mold has been a chartered agricultural centre since 1734, although for centuries prior to then, the farmers of the surrounding countryside had brought their produce and animals to the town’s weekly markets. Other factors that contributed to it becoming a busy location and County Town include : its prominent position on a valuable valley route-way into the upland areas of north-east Wales, and from the end of the eighteenth century onwards, several heavy industries were established here. According to Pigot, six collieries and nine iron mining companies operating in Mold or its immediate surrounding district in 1835,[1] while the prospecting for lead took place at Halkyn and Mold Mountain. Thus, the 1831 population figure of 9,385 had reached 12,216 by 1861.[2] During this time a handful of basically literate individuals answered the need in educating the children of those who could afford it. Later, religious institutions brought learning to the masses, before finally, the government stepped in. This is a brief story of those early years.

The Early Years

By 1835, in addition to the long-established Church of England, there were several chapels in the town that included those of the Independents, Wesleyan Methodists and Calvinists, where a certain amount of religious instruction was imparted to the children who attended the various Sunday Schools. Various small academies and schools were already operating within the town, which Pigot lists,viz.

Samuel Evans, New Street.                         Harrison & Saunders, New Street.

Mary Jones, Maes y Dre.                              Elizabeth Jones (day & boarding), Church Street

Charles Leslie, High Street.                          Maria Leslie (day & boarding ), High Street.

Henry Smith, Griffiths Square.                   Alice Williams, Wrexham Street.

All were dame or private schools, sometimes run as the main source of income for the person in charge, but usually to provide a supplementary income. The other work some of these ‘teachers’ did is revealed in their listed occupations which included : carrier, dressmaker, linen-draper, milliner and shopkeeper. It may be assumed that most of these schools neither had the facilities nor skills to provide a sound education and were similar to such schools elsewhere. ‘The greater part of them were kept by females, but some by old men whose only qualification for this employment seems to have been their unfitness for every other. Many of these teachers are engaged at the same time in other employment such as shop-keeping, sewing, washing, etc.,… These schools are generally found in very dirty unwholesome rooms.'[3]

The only principal charity school in the town at this time was the National School which was well supported by voluntary contributions. Its beginnings go back beyond 1723 when a Mr. James Hughes of Mile End Green in Middlesex gave £100 to the ‘Blue Coat’ or Charity School. [4] This was supplemented in 1744 when the Revd. Hugh Lloyd,M.A., the vicar, having ‘at his sole charge,’ erected a school house for the charity in the churchyard, endowed it with a charge rent of £10, payable for certain lands in the parish, for the support of a master for the gratuitous instruction of poor children.[5] This endowment was subsequently augmented in 1780 by Mrs. Martha Dodd who bequeathed the sum of £100 for the support of the school. In 1819 a sum of £267 8s.0d. was collected by subscriptions. The National Society added £100 to this while a Dissenting Chapel and an old stable were bought, fitted up and furnished as a National School. The bequests mentioned above were transferred to it for its support. Sixty boys and fifty girls received gratuitous instruction and the old charity school was discontinued.[6] This school was not replaced until 1849.[7] As far as I am aware, there is no early evidence as to the beginnings of the British and Foreign School in Mold, but it was apparently opened to pupils in June 1846. [8]

The education provided by the private schools was sadly defective and there was obviously insufficient provision for the mass of children. According to the infamous 1847 Report on the State of Education in Wales : 191 children attended private schools in the town while 437 went to the the National and British schools. In addition, within the parish, twenty-nine attended a private school; two dame schools took in forty-eight; 178 were served by a ‘no sect’ establishment; while 436 found places in six church schools. A total of 1,313 out of a population of nearly eleven thousand. That is, before the building of the British School, and before the intense political activity and social reforms of the late 1830s and early 1840s, and prior to the establishing of an inspectorate, the situation must have been much worse. [9]

In many areas large numbers of poor people could not afford to pay the few pennies for schooling, or, more importantly, even where charities existed they could not afford to forego the work done by children on farms or small-holdings, or the money earned by them outside the home. Also, it is probable that the numbers enrolled give an exaggerated impression of those being educated, for at times attendance could be very poor.[10] The State of Education in Wales, 1847 [11] Although continually expanding, Mold was not necessarily a prosperous town as it was the influx of ex-farm hands, labourers and colliers that kept pushing the census figures upwards; workers at the bottom end of the wage scale. Therefore, it was largely as a result of lack of money that the standard of education was low. The British School at Mold, according to the Report, ‘was supported with considerable difficulty the funds are inadequate and it is impossible to maintain an efficient school in a place like Mold without assistance, and in addition to the voluntary contributions of the locality it will be necessary to apply for assistance from the Government.’ These same conditions applied to the National School and the Master’s wage at both institutions was £60 per annum although, in addition, the head of the latter received a house and garden rent free plus fuel supply. On the other hand the Mistress at the British School was paid yearly £40, in comparison with her counterpart at the National School who only received £26. The children’s fee at the National School was Id. per week, with forty scholars being taught free as their parents were unable to pay the required sum. Those attending the British School paid double the amount at 2d. weekly, reduced to Id. per week upon subscription of 2s.6d.per annum.

A lack of funds for education seemed to be general in north Wales. The buildings of the two schools mentioned appeared to be in a rather better condition than those of many which were visited. The National School had been in its premises for nearly thirty years [12] and it was intended to erect new buildings. The furniture and apparatus were very ordinary, insufficient and in bad repair, but rather ‘from want of means rather than indifference.’ When the British School was visited it had only been open eight months and already although the buildings were well-constructed – the outbuildings were inadequate for so large a school and the drainage was very bad. Whereas the furniture and apparatus were in good repair they were again insufficient. The ‘Blue Books’ also emphasises the deficiency of teaching aids, [13]. Bibles, geography books and better maps were needed at the British School where a committee was responsible for providing all apparatus. The same responsibility in the National School fell upon the Vicar. This need for more materials is further commented upon by the Revd. Robert Williams, incumbent of the newly formed Parish of Gwernaffield (1844). He considered that if the means of imparting education was to improve, it was necessary for such materials as blackboards, pictures, books, models, etc., to be readily available. This same cleric also deplored the use of the Bible as a text book in schools for the teaching of reading and spelling. Since the children in the area were predominantly Welsh speaking, and the Bible was written in seventeenth-century English, many unnecessary language problems arose. Furthermore, the general use of the Bible was deemed injurious since, in the child’s mind, it was becoming associated with unpleasant tasks and punishments. When we consider the Welsh language problem, we must remember that the Commissioners responsible for the Report were, for the most part, members of the Established Church with high social backgrounds and strong Anglo-Welsh leanings. Some of those who gave evidence considered the people of Wales to be ignorant and immoral because they spoke Welsh and attended chapel rather than church. It was considered a sin to speak Cymraeg in school and instruction was given in English only. The Commissioners themselves did not approve of this : ‘…. a further impediment is presented by the prejudice of Welsh parents against the employment of their own language even as a medium of education.'[14] The teacher at the National School in Mold appeared to be quite a progressive young man who understood the difficulties of those children who communicated in Welsh as a first language, viz., ‘He expresses a wish to be allowed to introduce more subjects of instruction, alleging that pupils lose interest when confined to reading, writing and arithmetic especially when ignorant (as many here are) of the language in which their lessons are conveyed.'[15] The same applied to the British School where the Master was an Englishman who obviously understood the difficulties of not being able to speak to his pupils in their mother tongue. He said that out of those present on the day of the visit ‘no more than six or seven could think in English.'[16] The majority could speak a little English but there were many who did not understand the teachers. The Mistress at the school also thought being a monoglot was a disadvantage but her strictness and care in correcting mistakes, in asking questions on the subjects of instruction and in general principles, gained for her the approval of the Commissioners.[17] These two schools seem to be fortunate in having teachers in charge who understood the difficulties of the children in their care who thought and spoke in Welsh, and yet, were taught in English. At the British School both the Master and the Mistress had received a certain amount of training at the famous Borough Road Normale School in London, as had the Master of the National School who had received eighteen months training at Battersea Training College. For those early days these three educators were relatively well qualified.[18] Many schools in the areas seemed to have acquired a schoolmaster who had turned to teaching because of injury or ill-health which had made it impossible for him to continue in his previous occupation.[19] Although teachers in both Mold’s large schools had received approved instruction they were obviously lacking in experience. The gentleman in charge of the National School was only twenty-one years old and his British School counterpart twenty-five, whist the Mistress at the latter was formerly a nurse had only two months experience in front of a class ! [20] All three were obviously quite over-burdened with the number of pupils they had to teach. At the British School the Master taught 164 boys and the Mistress 149 girls, with the assistance of eighteen monitors whose knowledge and intelligence varied considerably. One reproved a scholar who was reading correctly, telling him to read ‘scared’ for ‘sacred.'[21] Some questioned their pupils intelligently, others were careless. All the monitors received additional coaching for half hour before and after school. The Commissioners noted that the classification of the school was very unequal ‘especially among the lower classes.'[22] At the National School the Master taught eighty-five boys and the Mistress the same number, with the assistance of ten monitors.

On the day of the Commissioners’ inspection, in both schools, there were far more children’s names on the registers than were in attendance. The number present at the British School was only 129 out of the 313 on register. Likewise, at the National School those present numbered 107 out of a possible 170. [23] The subjects taught at the British School were : Scripture, English Grammar, Geography, History, Music and the basic three-Rs of Reading, [WjRiting and [A]Rithmetic. In comparison, those taught at the National School were the Bible, Catechism and the three-Rs; indicating a far greater emphasis on religious education than at British establishment. This made their curriculum that much narrower. The Commissioners commented on the high level of noise tolerated in both departments of the British School; the sound level coming from the boys section of the building being described as ‘deafening.’ The Master was said to have kept strictly to the British system and many of the parents who sent their children to this school were members of the Established Church, which their children frequented on Sundays. The Commissioners thought the curriculum to be well-balanced. In the boys’ department of the National School it was found that only six boys were able to read a verse of the Bible with ease and among twenty-five copy books, only twelve were legibly written. The figure was also twelve for those learning arithmetic while five could answer questions on New Testament history, none possessed a competent knowledge of the scriptures but nine scholars could repeat parts of the Catechism. [24] The Master had started to read The History of England to them but complained about the difficulty of words and expressions. [25]

In the girls’ department of the same school thirteen children were able to read a verse of the Bible and ten could answer many questions on Scripture and four of them were better informed than any of the boys, but they were less perfect in Catechism and their writing was inferior. Ten girls were learning the first rules of arithmetic from the Master while he supervised the first class of girls. The Mistress was superannuated and the girls were taught by her daughter who had never been trained. [26]

At the British School the standard seemed to be slightly better. In the boys’ department thirty-seven could read the higher lesson books of the British Society. Of the sixty-nine copy books belonging to the school there was not one which contained good writing. Among fifty-eight boys who were learning arithmetic, nine did not know the Rule of Proportion, twelve were learning compound rules and the remainder simple addition. Eleven had made noticeable progress in mental arithmetic, and of these, two were able to calculate well. Some knowledge of English grammar had been acquired by a dozen pupils, twenty-five answered Scripture questions while seventeen possessed a competent knowledge of the New Testament history. Concerning the twenty-eight boys who had been examined in the higher subjects, the Commissioners found that they had previously attended another school. [27]

In the girls’ department twenty-nine pupils could read with more or less ease and expression but there was not one good specimen of writing either on paper or slate. Fourteen answered questions in mental arithmetic, four had just been introduced to English grammar, six were studying Geography, seven were engaged in History – and among twenty- seven girls who answered Scripture questions – only three of them responded well. Indeed, only three or four had command of the English language : ‘their information appeared in some measure acquired by rote.'[28]

The only visitor to the National School appears to have been the Vicar, whilst the British School was visited by members of its governing committee or trustees.

The Commissioners’ reports on private adventure and Dame Schools in Mold said that the teachers appeared to be older than those of the British and National schools. Their ages ranged from forty-four to sixty-six years and were engaged in other professions as well. The funds and fees for running these schools came from the pence of the children and, of 191 children on the books 137 were present on the day of the visit. In all these schools bar one, the apparatus was insufficient and in bad repair. Mold Cotton Mill Company established a school in 1834 in a room adjoining the factory down at Rhydygolau. The room was only 13ft x 12ft and could only accommodate twenty-six pupils. Thirty names were on the register but when the Commissioners first arrived there were only two or three present. Eventually nineteen turned up. These children were taught the Holy Scriptures and reading but only a couple were found to be able to read a verse from the Bible. The remainder did not seem to understand any English. No other subjects were taught, the master being sixty-six years old and a former carrier who had no previous training and scarcely any education :

‘he appears to have received his present appointment rather out of charity in consequence of the loss of a leg, than from any other consideration.’

His salary was £20 per annum from subscriptions. The children appeared to be extremely dirty, their clothes were tattered and threadbare and their manners rough and uncouth while the room was ‘intensely hot and filthy in the extreme.'[29]

There was one night school in the town which was held at the Bailey Hill School. The building was considered insufficient and in need of repair as was the apparatus. The teacher was also a shopkeeper who taught his six scholars five nights a week. They were coached in reading, writing and arithmetic, all in the English language.[30]

There were several Sunday Schools operating within the town’s places of worship, foremost amongst them, that associated with St. Mary’s Church, and the chapels run by the Wesleyans, Calvinistic Methodists and Independents. All were served by sound buildings and good furniture. The former’s expenses were defrayed mainly by the Vicar, in the Church of England, with the help of subscriptions and collections. The boys and girls were taught separately in all the Sunday Schools and in both English and Welsh language. The Church could, in fact, boast 610 children on their register while all the other chapels together accounted for another 619.[31] This clearly indicates that at the time the Anglican Church still catered for half the child population of the town, even though this proportion was much lower than it had been in the days before the spread of nonconformity had made the establishment of new chapels and the British School worthwhile.

In spite of the defects and deficiencies in education, indicated by the ‘Blue Books’ of 1847, Mold was not as unfortunate, nor as severely criticised, as many other areas in Wales that were referred to in that Report. [32]

National School, Mold.,c.1860. ( Now site of King Street car park. )

Old British School, Glanrafon, Mold., 2003.

This ‘Board School’ later became a County Primary. Re-named Bryn Coch C P . When they moved to that location ( Present day Ysgol Glanrafon ), and thereafter, retained that name when they occupied the old Aiun Grammar School in Victoria Road. The Welsh medium school moved from the Bethesda Chapel vestry to the above site when English medium establishment was re-located at Bryn Coch.

The National and British schools had the advantage, at least, of possessing enthusiastic teachers who had received some training. Nevertheless, the inadequacies and limitations in education were serious and there was much room for improvement.

From ‘Blue Books’to School Board, 1847-74.

The population of Mold increased by 40% between 1851, when the figure was 10,893, to 14,838 in 1871.[33] Much of this expansion followed the completion of the railway link with Chester in 1849 which enabled the heavy products of the local coal and iron industries to find new and wider markets elsewhere. It also encouraged the establishment of smaller industries and services and raised the profile of Mold ‘s retail and livestock markets. The development of banking and other businesses followed, resulting in a general increase in the administrative activities and responsibilities of the local shire authority, thus enhancing the importance of Mold as the County Town of Flintshire. The first stone of a new Presbyterian Chapel was laid in 1863, a new Wesleyan Chapel in 1869 and a Roman Catholic church and school c.1867. The County Hall, where the assizes were held twice a year, had already been in existence since 1858; hosting both the Quarter and Petty Sessions. Also, a Police Station and Military Barracks were completed in the same year.[34] The town could also pride itself in a new Market Hall which had above it ‘fine assembly rooms,’ suitable for various entertainment. By 1874 four banks had been established. They were the National Provincial Bank; North and South Wales Bank; Savings Bank and the Post Office Savings Bank.[35] On the other hand, the new gaol, sited up Bryn Coch Lane (on the closure of the Old Gaol at Flint in 1870), could accommodate ninety-five prisoners in less pleasant, but secure, conditions. However, the crime rate was low and ‘it is seldom that more than 1/5 of the cells are occupied.'[36]

Tension and social disorder were not altogether absent for disputes occurred from time to time, in the coal industry in particular. In May 1869 a quarrel between miners and one of the underground agents in a colliery nearby led to serious rioting and four people were subsequently killed. Apart from poverty and unease amongst miners, and many others of the working class, hundreds of those employed at the Mold Cotton Factory were added to the list in 1866 when the factory caught fire and burnt down. It was eight years before industry reoccupied the site in the form of a tinplate works in 1874. In general, however, the period 1847 to the mid-1870s presents a picture of steadily increasing prosperity during which time many changes were made in education. In 1849 a new National School was built in King Street. It was ‘handsome and commodious’ and had separate departments for boys, girls and infants. It had cost £1,747 to erect.[38]

The Education Act (1870) attempted to remedy many of the deficiencies in education by setting up Board Schools – elected by rate-payers – to supplement the existing private and voluntary schools. Essentially, it encouraged the ‘payment by results’ scheme, with deep implications for managers,* teachers, children and even the inspectors. The onus of financial responsibility was placed squarely on the shoulders of local managers and * The private and denominational voluntary schools were run by a council of non-elected managers, as opposed to members of the School Boards. From 1902 the term was applied to controllers of all schools. During the third quarter of the 20th century all such positions became designated governors. their employees, the teachers. Capitation grants from State sources were rendered dependent on the attendance of pupils and the competency in teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. These were the grant-earning subjects and a satisfactory level of pupils’ attainment at annual examinations, conducted by government inspector in these restricted fields of learning, became the pre-occupation of managers and teachers in the schools. This tended to confirm Voluntaryist fears of increasing State interference both with the teaching profession and education in general. Of the two principal groups in the Parish of Mold it was the Anglicans who were most anxious to preserve their privileged position in education. They were less than keen to see other schools – which would be outside their control – established or assisted, nor were they prepared to lose control of their own school. In February 1874 the local Church Magazine refers to a concert given in aid of the National School as £100 was needed to put the school in order: ‘the roof ought to be painted and twenty-four new desks are wanted, the present desks being beyond repair.'[39] The same publication prints the Diocesan Inspector’s Report for 1873. From it we learn that the boys’ department, which was taught by one master and two pupil-teachers, gained ‘highly satisfactory’ results in the religious instruction examination.[40] The girls’ department comprised of one mistress and one pupil-teacher and the inspector’s comment was : ‘the school passed a creditable examination. Religious instruction is carefully imparted.'[41] Similarly, the children under the one mistress and single pupilteacher in the Infants department were described as being ‘carefully trained.'[42] The importance of Religious Education to the Anglican Church is emphasised in these reports. In June 1874 very strong feelings were expressed about the setting up of School Boards. The importance of religious instruction in schools was very greatly stressed and fears were expressed that ‘this religious instruction might be interfered with’ and it was hoped that the continued support of the parishioners of Mold could be relied upon so that the National School would still be run on a voluntary basis. The parish was well aware that a School Board would have to be established as accommodation was required for 2,258 children. The existing institutions had only room for 1,543 pupils, leaving a deficit of 715 places which could not be catered for by voluntary efforts. Therefore, in spite of misgivings, it was accepted that the ‘School Board must be formed, a rate levied and accommodation supplied, and new schools supported in this way.'[43] Mold School Board was finally inaugurated on 19 December 1784.[44] A new stage in the development of education in Mold was about to begin.

The expansion of Elementary Education, 1875-1902.

The new School Board had seven members, four nonconformists and three anglicans. From now on the British School was non-denominational and known as Mold Board School. As the result of the influence of the School Board, alterations to the fabric of both school and Master’s house were undertaken in 1875. The school now had three departments as had the National School, and it could boast much more space than the old British School of 1846. It had a sixty feet long hall, headroom was a spacious fifteen feet, while the Infants department alone could house 182 pupils. In fact, on opening on 1 January 1877 (after the Christmas holidays ), there were 113 on the register. This number had increased to 147 by the following week. Quite obviously, under the ‘payment by results’ scheme introduced by the Revised Code (1862), teachers were anxious that attendance should be good. Therefore, an incentive was needed to encourage the children to attend regularly. In the Board schools the giving of certificates for good attendance was soon introduced, [45] but punctuality was not always satisfactory, or registers were slackly or inaccurately kept. Government inspectors who visited the Mold Board School were concerned that the registers were not marked on time in the Infants department,[46] and after another unexpected visit in May 1882, it was reported that the children who were absent had not been marked “a” in the registers. There was quite obviously a keen check made on these books as in September 1883 Mr. H. Roberts, Clerk of the School Board, visited the school and scrutinised them, noting that they were now ‘better kept’ Again, in the following month, an inspector appeared on the scene to specifically carry out this task, and also, to check whether the pages contained any blanks or erasures since such anomalies were not permissible in State-supervised registers. The Inspector’s role was a very important in that he supervised the teachers for professionalism, the pupil-teachers for progress, the children for knowledge and attendance, together with the general conditions and the tone of the school. In the Infants department of the above school information gathered from the Log Book regarding educational standards is of great value. We can deduce that the teacher seemed keen on reading, writing, poetry and singing,[47] and persevered to attain sound responses, viz., ‘most of the time was spent this week on recapitulating in order to get a good start.’ [48] The younger children did not appear to be short of reading books, slates or sewing material, and in April 1879 the department acquired a few pictures. We can assume that marching in the playground by the infants was a forerunner of Physical Education. [49]

The boys department also received a fair amount of reading books, arithmetic cards, poetry cards and inkwells.[50] The Headmaster had successfully written to the P. & O. Line in Liverpool and two coloured pictures of ships were presented to the school.[51] A new piano was also acquired in the boys’ section. It cost £15.lOs.Od. and was used in physical exercises and marching.[52] No mention was made of musical accompaniment, which was probably an oversight. Drawing examinations seemed more popular with the boys than girls.[53] The latter were more concerned with sewing, appearance and general behaviour, and they were given lectures on such things as social behaviour, which was thought would help them when they started work [54]

Her Majesty’s Inspector’s report for the Infants department received in March 1886 stated that ‘the work was from good to excellent.’ This progress appears to have continued judging by the remarks of later inspectors. In July 1899 we learn from them that ‘this school, which is very genially conducted, is instructed by good and intelligent methods,’ after which, on 26 July, the Headmistress received a letter of congratulations from the Board, regarding the inspector’s report. In 1900-01 a similar report was very pleasing : ‘the school is well equipped and taught with zeal and devotion.'[55] Further indications of the Headmistress’ enthusiasm was that she applied for a piano or harmonium on 17 April 1891, although it was not delivered until 8 December 1893. She is also on record requesting permission from the Board to bring curiosities ( which belonged to her brother who was in the Navy ) for school use; on the understanding that if she left she would be permitted to take them with her. [56] The Board replied in a favourable manner. Favourable comments did not, however, accompany the infants when they moved on to the other departments. This was probably because the Mistress at the Infants adopted a somewhat liberal attitude to curriculum; her approach to the basic skills certainly did not coincide with the more business-like needs of her colleagues further up the school. From the girls section there was criticism of the new juniors being badly prepared, in particular, their reading ability was considered to be poor.[57] Likewise, on the moving up of twenty-seven infants on 18 January 1895, criticism was implied in the comment : ‘they are a much better lot than previous years.'[58] Again, 30 August 1901, when fourteen were admitted : ‘two of whom are Imbeciles.’ (underlined in red! )[59] The progress and good name of the girls department seemed to be reflected in the fact that the minister, Revd. W. Morgan, called at the school with the intention of sending his daughter there. She had previously been attending a private school.[60]

In June 1899 special attention was given to two girls who were sitting the entrance examination to the County School.[61] This school was formally opened in Mold by the Duchess of Westminster on 20 October 1899[62] and was known as the Alun County School. Previously it had been a private and boarding school Its Headmaster was Mr. W. Lloyd Parry and it was known locally as ‘The Alun School;’ with ‘through teaching given, cricket, football and tennis.'[63] As a County School it catered for the secondary education of children from the surrounding district as well as those from Mold itself; the railway sometimes bringing those who lived far afield.

Again, on 26 July 1899, an excellent report from the Government Inspector was received regarding the Board School’s department for girls. It stated that if the improvement continued, it would be recommended for the higher Principal Grant.[64] On 8 September 1900 one girl had passed the examination to go to the County School and had been awarded an additional scholarship of £3. She already had a scholarship of £6.[65] In the boys department fourteen scholarships had been gained between May 1895 and August 1898[66] and in September 1902, when two more boys passed the examination for the County School the comment was : ‘they were put in a higher form than the two boys from the Mold National School.'[67]

As we have previously seen there were two distinct education parties within Mold and the competition between them has already been revealed a comment previously cited. Further rivalry comes from the pages of a contemporary Mold Parish Magazine which announced the success of several children from the National School in the scholarship examination, which reflected ‘very great credit upon Mr. And Mrs. Trickett (master and mistress) and the children.’ [68] Elsewhere, the magazine stated that in 1899 three pupils had been awarded scholarships of £6 per annum while three others had distinguished themselves in the examination. It wanted every pupil to try to reach scholarship standard for the honour of child, teacher and school. It deplored the view that, because in a ‘certain examination,’ the Voluntary schools did badly and the Board candidates did extremely well.’ It was asserted that ‘the fault lay with the Voluntary system which sacrifices efficiency to cheapness.’ It further added that the voluntary body had no desire , in the hour of its success, to belittle the achievements or to emphasise the non-success of others, going on to say : ‘We think it is quite possible to feel gratified and to give expression to our satisfaction without hurting the feelings of anybody else. Honourable rivalry is healthy and we hope the day is far distant when it shall cease to exist in this Parish.'[69]

Like its counterpart, the National School was also gradually expanding and voluntary contributions were still needed. In 1898 the Managers received a handsome cheque for £52.4s.0d. (through Miss Davies-Cooke of Colomendy, whose family were noted gentry in the district), from the Ladies of the Amateur Theatre Committee. It was hoped that the remainder of the parishioners, who had previously given generously towards the upkeep of the school, would continue to do so in order to meet the requirements of the Education Department in building an extension on to the classroom in the girls part, while at the same time, erecting a new classroom and cloakroom for the Infants section. Before the year was out it was reported that a Jumble Sale and various other fund-raising events enabled the classroom addition to be completed; ‘…we have all reason to be proud of a room which for space and headroom cannot be surpassed in the Diocese.’ [70] An extended bazaar was held on the three days 18-20 October 1899 in aid of the Church Restoration and to provide additional accommodation at the school, i.e. in the Infants department. It was opened by the Duke and Duchess of Westminster and seemed to be quite a grand affair with the Duke concluding his speech by saying that he thought voluntary schools gave, on the whole, a very fair education at a very much cheaper rate. [71] One result of this effort was that the school received a very good Government Inspector’s Report in 1900. He stated that the Infants was now complete. Furthermore, the situation had made it possible to repair and extend the playground. A core of liberally laid ash had been laid, covered with an excellent blend of gravel. [72]

Similar repair and maintenance were carried out at the Board School In December 1890 four loads of cinders from the gasworks were spread on the playgrounds and once a week chloride of lime was put in the urinal. [73] In March 1891 the playground was surfaced with a coating of small stones and in October 1899 part of the boys’ playground was taken-up by an open-sided shed 25 yards long and 3 yards wide, as a protection against the sun and rain. [74] An inspector’s report of March 1892 showed concern that the infants were locked inside the school during dinner hour, with no one to look after them. He was afraid that one of them might catch fire and death ensue.[75] An accident did occur in the girls department in April 1898 when, after the school had been dismissed, a little girl held her pinafore over the fire-guard to dry and a spark set it alight. She was wrapped in a mantle and the Headmistress finally extinguished the flames but the child was badly burnt on the face and arm and a doctor was sent for immediately.[76]

Teachers usually received their training as pupil-teachers under the supervision of older colleagues. They had to sit quarterly examinations and their coaching could take up several years. [77] A comment in 1897 states that J.E. Griffiths had very good marks but was poor on teaching while the other pupil-teacher, J. Parry, did not have good marks but was excellent at educating the children.[78] In March 1891, Mr. Howe, one of the assistant teachers was loaned to the Buckley Board School for a month by special request of that Board, as they had no applications to their repeated advertisement in local and scholastic papers. [79] On the negative side, in May 1896 another assistant, Mr. F.C. Smith, received notice to leave at the end of July ‘on account of an economical rearrangement of the staff.’ [80] So the career of a teacher was not always necessarily secure. The fears of the Anglicans that religious instruction, which to them ought to form the core of a school’s curriculum, would deteriorate with the setting up of non-denominational School Boards, seemed to be justified as there is no mention of religious education in the Log Books of the Board School. The only sort of moral education appears to have been talks such as those given to the boys on ‘Alcohol and the Human Body’ [81] and on ‘the injurious effect of tobacco.'[82]

Discipline from 1877 to 1880 was not what it should have been according to the inspector’s reports. A letter was received from the School Board in June 1890 stating that the Headmaster was the only person allowed to administer corporal punishment, at the same time, asking the staff to make inquiries whenever new pupils entered the school to ensure that they did not owe schooling fees from a previous place of learning. When the school reopened in September of that year boys were caned for being late and in October two lads were demoted from Standard 6 to Standard 5 because of irregular attendance and consequent backwardness; ‘this had a capital effect on the attendance of the 6th Standard.'[83] On 1 December 1899 the school heard that William Dykins, ‘an incorrigible boy and a truant,’ had been sent to an Industrial School for five years.[84]

Other disciplinary methods were also used. For instance, children had slates tied to their backs and then made to stand on forms all day after being severely beaten, simply because they had spoken in Welsh in the classroom. [85] The speaking of Welsh was considered a serious offence in both schools in Mold and it was only in February 1898 that the native tongue was once again taught as a specific subject.[86]

Mold, according to the Postal Directory for 1886, gives the impression of being a less prosperous town than previously. Trade seemed to be exceptionally dull as most of the collieries and leadmines had closed down. [87]

On 10 December 1886 work at the Tinplate Works also ceased. As a result, many girls were recorded absent from the Board School.[88] From the late 1880s, and throughout the 1890s, much illness was recorded in the town. Comments recorded in the Board’s Infants’ Log Book indicate this : ‘illness appears rife in school,’ [89] ‘children absent with sore eyes,’ etc.[90] In December 1892 both this school and the National were directed to close for an indefinite period due to an outbreak of scarlet fever in Mold. The Liverpool Echo of the time issued a ‘Special Telegram’ regarding the seriousness of the situation, ‘the epidemic has assumed most alarming proportions and has attacked families with serious mortality.'[91] Things had improved by January following, with the Board School having its closets whitewashed and the lower part of the walls painted with boiling tar. The building was fumigated with sulphur and sprinkled with Hunt’s Solution of Chloride of Lime.[92]

The Government Inspector’s report in March 1893 stated that children should not attend if suffering from ringworm. Again, in November of that year, further outbreaks of scarlet feaver, measles, and even typhoid were prevalent, and continued up to April 1894 when the school was fumigated once more, this time after diphtheria broke out. These several outbreaks of the various serious diseases did not seem to be helped by the weather which appeared to be very severe during February 1895. Clothing was distributed to the poor children and free tickets were also given to the want and needy by Messrs. J.F. Pugh & Sons, a High Street butcher.[93] ‘Great distress prevails in the town;'[94] distress that obviously reflected itself in the state of the school, for when the Inspector made an unexpected visit ion 31 May 1895, he was obliged to draw the Headmaster’s attention to its dirty condition. [95] His comments, and the increasing references to illness and the effects of poverty in the Log Books during the last decade of the nineteenth century, reflect the difficult conditions through which Mold was passing , but they also indicate that the attitude of the teachers and society towards children was changing. The Board School’s Headmistress seemed concerned about the appearance of her girls as she sent one of them home to get herself and her clothes washed, with the instruction to her mother to mend the apparel.[96] At least one girl had to wear a cap on her head as her hair was extremely lousy with the result that her scalp became septic and the stench was abominable, [97] but with the advent of the school nurse and her frequent inspection of dirty heads, improvement was seen. [98] The older girls’ attendance appeared to be very irregular. Before attending in the morning many of them might have a variety of menial tasks to perform. These could include taking the father’s breakfast to his place of work, helping her mother with household chores and accompanying a smaller brother or sister to the Infants department.[99] Similar absenteeism happened with the boys due to such occasions as planting potatoes ![100] The whole school seemed to take the occasional day’s holiday for such events as : Sunday School Treats, Fair Day (the first Wednesday in the month),[101] May Day processions, the arrival of a circus in town, etc.[102] Nevertheless, by the opening years of the twentieth century the regular attendance of children had greatly improved. [103]

In 1899 primary, secondary and technical education was brought under the sole auspices of the newly established Board of Education. However, local control remained outside the system until the Education Act (1902) abolished the School Boards of England and Wales, replacing them, on a municipal basis, by borough and county councils that became known as Local Education Authorities. Mold’s ex-Board School now became the responsibility of Flintshire County Council. The National School remained in Church hands for a further seventy years, benefiting from the fact that its upkeep was placed upon the local rates. Conclusion

Despite the rapid expansion of elementary education, largely due to the extension of the state system of education between 1870 and 1898, some authorities are not very impressed by the results. It is admitted that literacy had increased and writing and arithmetic were now the basic elements of the curriculum, ‘But beyond that, education for the children of the labouring poor at the end of the nineteenth century was not so different from that at the beginning.'[104]

This seems hardly true of the situation in Mold where the number of school places was expanded greatly following the establishment of the voluntary schools, and later, State intervention. The introduction of ‘payments by results’ under the Revised Code (1862) laid emphasis of the teaching of the three Rs, but on the other side of the coin, it contributed significantly to the development of personal hygiene, the habits of punctuality and regular attendance. The awarding of prizes and certificates and the inspection of registers was supplemented by a series of Acts that culminated in making education free and the raising of the school leaving age to eleven. Concentration on the three Rs could be considered excessive but by comparison with the complete neglect of many children, and for the others, the tedious ineffective system of education revealed in the ‘Blue Books’ (1847), it was a considerable improvement. Moreover, these were efforts to expand the curriculum and include drawing, sewing and physical exercises, while some teachers made special efforts to make their work generally interesting. Also, the expansion of special subjects continued, amongst them, Welsh before the end of the century. Competition between the two major schools – while there were unpleasant side-effects – undoubtedly contributed to a raising of standards. It also assisted in the steady development of extensions and improvements to school buildings, playgrounds and other facilities.

At the close of the nineteenth century schools were much better off in other respects as well. They had more equipment and , in particular, the standard of teaching and discipline had improved beyond recognition. The monitorial system had disappeared completely with all its weaknesses and inefficiencies and had been replaced by a regular and regulated system of pupil-teachers. Certainly conditions were not ideal and much remained to be done but the growing concern in the general health and conditions of the children, as revealed in the Log Books, indicates a more sympathetic and dedicated attitude by all concerned. A growing interest in scholarships and further education shows that considerable foundations had been laid. From these foundations the next development, the steady expansion of secondary education, was created. Its success was a direct result of the progress that had already been made.


1. Pigot & Company’s National and Commercial Directory (1835), 711.

2. Census figures taken from The Comparative Account of the Population of Great Britain in the Years 1801, 1811, 1821 and 1831., and from printed enumeration abstracts for 1841, 1851 and 1861

3. From a 1834 report of the Manchester Statistical Society quoted in Gillian Sutherland, Elementary

Education in the Nineteenth Century ( Hist Soc 1971),12-13.

4. DR. Thomas, History of the Diocese of St. Asaph (1911), Vol.2,415.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. See below.

8. Reports of the Commissioners of Enquiry into the State of Education in Wales ( London 1847, 3 Vols.), hereafter referred to as the ‘Blue Books.’ It is recorded that the land for its building was a gift of Lord Mostyn (E.M. Lloyd Mostyn); the British & Foreign Bible Society gave £100 to defray building costs; the foundation-stone was laid by a Captain Pellow; the town’s poorer children ‘were worthy to receive religious education.’ Y Drysorfa ( Mehefin 1845 ), 176. 43

9. G. Sutherland, op.cit., 16,19-24.

10. Ibid, 18-19. See also below.

11. Based upon die Blue Books, Part III, ‘North Wales.’

12. See section on ‘Early Education.’

13. Blue Books, 102,

14. Ibid, 23.

15. Ibid, 102.

16. ‘ibid, 102.

17. Ibid, 103.

18. Only one master in the Rhosllannerchrugog schools had received similar training ( for six months). Blue Books, 76-7.

19. Ibid, 15.

20. Ibid, 102.

21. Ibid, 29.

22. Ibid,29.

23. Ibid, Appendix B,’ Tabular Reports,’ 214.

24. Catechism is a manual of religious instruction arranged in question and answer form; included in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer

25. Blue Books, 102.

26 Ibid, 102.

27 Ibid, 102.

28 Ibid, 102.

29 Ibid, Appendix A, 103. This teacher is likely to have the role-model for Daniel Owen’s ‘Robin y Soldiwr’ who appears in his Rhys Lewis (1882-5). The author would have been eleven years old in 1847.

30. Blue Books, Appendix D, 320.

31. Ibid, Appendix C, 299.

32. e.g. Ruabon in Denbighshire where the endowed grammar school had not functioned for six months and ‘ for a long time previously it was utterly useless as a means of instruction;’ and where the church school (Ruabon Free School) was likened to a secondrate private adventure school. The other two schools in that place were also very unsatisfactory. Ibid, 72-4.

33. The population of Mold in 1851 was 10,893. Census figures for 1871 have been taken from enumeration abstracts.

34. Worrall’s Directory (Oldham 1874), 52.

35. Ibid, 52.

36. Ibid, 52.

37. C.H. Leslie, Rambles Around Mold (Mold 1869), 84.

38. D.R. Thomas, History of the Diocese of St.Asaph, 603.

39. Mold Parish Magazine (February 1874), ed. J.E.Clarke,M. A

40. Ibid.

41. Ibid.

42. Ibid.

43. Ibid (June 1874).

44. Mold Board School Log Book (Boys) 1877 [Preliminary Remarks ]; hereafter referred to as B.S. Log Book, Boys or Girls or Infants, as the case may be. These sources were consulted prior to being deposited at the Flintshire Record Office at Hawarden.

45. B.S. Log Book (Infants)

46. Ibid, January 1880.

47. aid, February 1877.

48. Ibid, 3 September 1877.

49. Ibid, April 1879.

50. B.S. Log Book (Boys) 24 October 1890.

51. Ibid, 28 November 1890

52. Ibid, 19 June 1896.

53. Ibid, 8 December 1895.

54. B.S. Log Book (Girls), 28 August 1896.

55. B.S. Log Book (Infants), July 1901.

56. Ibid, January 1899.

57. B.S. Log Book (Girls), 30 June 1893.

58. B.S. Log Book (Boys), p. 113.

59. Ibid, p.243.

60. B.S. Log Book (Girls), 9 February 1894.

61. Ibid, p.231.

62. B.S.Log Book (Boys) p.216.

63. Postal Directory of Flintshire & Denbighshire (Liverpool 1886),

64. B.S.Log Book (Girls) p.234.

65. Ibid, p.256..

66. B.S. Log Book (Boys),p. 196.

67. Ibid, p.260.

68. Mold Parish Magazine (1898), from the library of the late Thomas Cropper F.S.A. (1869-1923), of Buckley. Now deposited at the Flintshire Record Office.

69. Ibid, (1899).

70. Ibid, (1898).

71. Ibid. (1899)

72. Ibid, (1900).

73. B.S. Log Book (Boys), pp. 8, 20.

74. Ibid, p. 216.

75. B.S. Log Book (Infants) 1892.76.

76. B.S. Log Book (Girls) p. 213.

77. One teacher had, for at least 2 years, been a pupil-teacher and was expected to serve for several more years in a part-time capacity in various other local schools to widen her experience, before being recognised as a fully-fledged educator. the late Miss A. Evans, Grosvenor Street, Mold; the teacher concerned.

78. B.S. Log Book (Boys), p. 167.

79. Ibid, p.27.

80. Ibid p. 147.

81. Ibid, p. 9.

82. Ibid. p. 266.

83. Ibid p. 16.

84-5. . Information from Miss A Evans, Grosvenor Street. This was the infamous ‘WELSH NOT.’ Ed.

86. B.S. Log Book (Boys) p. 185.

87. Postal Directory for Flintshire & Denbighshire. 67-80.

88. B.S. Log Book (Girls) p. 19.

89. B.S. Log Book (Infants), December 1891.

90. Ibid April 1892.

91. Quoted in B.S. Log Book (Boys) December 1892.

92. Ibid (Boys) January 1893.

93. Ibid February 1895.

94. B.S. Log Book (Infants) February 1895.

95. B.S. Log Book (Boys) p. 123.

96. B.S. Log Book (Girls) pp. 15-78.

97. Information by Miss A. Evans.

98. Ibid.

99. B.S. Log Book (Girls) 1893, pp.54-122.

100. B.S. Log Book (Boys) April 1890, p.7.

101. B.S. Log Book (Infants) 1896.

102. e.g. The school was given a holiday for the formal opening of the Alun County School. B.S. Log Book (Infants), October 1899.

103. Information by Miss A. Evans.

104. G. Sutherland, op.cit.A5. 9. G. Sutherland, op.cit., 16,19-24.

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