St. George’s School was built in 1881 for the Newington School Board. The School Board were the people who had got together to organise setting up the school, it doesn’t mean that it was a boarding school. It opened on May 22nd 1882, the same day as Somerset Street School, which was also built by the Newington Board. Somerset Street School is now Scrapstore and if you visit there you will see just how similar the two schools are. The School Log Books are a very important source of evidence about the history of the school. They were used as a record of what happened in school, such as exam times, teachers going on courses or who were off school ill, and children who passed scholarships. There are quite a few of the old Log Books left, so we can find out about what happened in the school many years ago.
Like most Victorian schools, St. George’s was split into three departments, Boys’, Girls’ and Infants’ – even the playgrounds were separate. The Boys’ School was where the Key Stage One area is now, the Infants’ School was in the Hall and the Girls’ School was in the Key Stage Two area. Two extra classrooms were built in 1884 - the current Year 5 classroom, and the corridor and the first part of the current Year 1 classroom. In some parts of the school the children sat in galleries, which were raised platforms, like steps with desks, so all the children could see the teacher – and the teacher could see all the children.
How many children were in the school when it opened?
71 boys came to St. George’s on the day it opened and 11 more came during that week. We don’t know how many girls or infants came. Going to school was still a very new thing in this area; laws had only just been made about children attending school regularly. By October 1882 there were over 200 boys at the school. The Newington School Board record book shows that there were places for 607 children, and when the Hull School Board took over in 1884 they built the two new classrooms, which then made room for 667 children! Can you imagine how packed the school was? The KS2 playground wasn’t there; four houses were built on it at that time. There was no Nursery, that area was the boys’ yard.
Who was the original Head Teacher?
In the Victorian times, because the school was split into different departments, the school had three head teachers. The Master of the Boys’ school, the Mistress of the Girls’ school and the Mistress of the Infant school. We don’t know who the first Mistresses were, because the early Log Books for these departments have been lost, but the Master of the Boys’ school was Robert Fretwell and the Assistant Master was Edward Fenton. The surnames of the first three Masters of the Boys’ school were Fretwell, Moody and Cross.
This is the first entry Mr Fretwell made in the School Log:
The school was opened today for the admittance of scholars. Admitted 71 boys.
Beaumont Taylor commenced as a Candidate for the office of P.T.
Admitted 11 more scholars during the week.
Who was Beaumont Taylor and what did he do?
Beaumont Taylor was a ‘Pupil Teacher’; this meant that he was training to be a teacher at the school. He would have been fourteen or fifteen years old and would have been chosen because he had done well at school or had been recommended by another Master. He still had to do normal lessons as well as learn the lessons that he would then teach his class. He also took exams at the end of each year. The best Pupil Teachers went on to take the Queen’s Scholarship, if they passed it meant that they could go to college and become Head Masters or Mistresses. There were quite a few Pupil Teachers at St. George’s, they started their lessons between 6 and 7 o’clock in the morning and then had to teach the children when they arrived at school. Some Pupil Teachers (and children) had a lot of time off school, especially during Hull Fair week! There were many reasons for being absent from school: children played truant (see below), some children were kept at home to look after sick relatives or smaller children; some worked part-time (half-timers), although we don’t have any evidence to tell us that there were many at St. George’s; children also fell ill with diseases such as measles, mumps, diphtheria, scarlet fever and whooping cough, because there were no vaccinations available, some children died, we know because this was recorded in the Log Books.
Mr Moody records boys truanting in 1885:
The attendance this week is down, owing in a great measure to the boys truanting; six of them who were together stopped out in the streets the whole night, and did not go home until they were taken by the police this morning.
Did the children stay school dinners?
There were no school dinners at first, many people campaigned to get school dinner ‘tickets’ for the children who were poor, as it was realised that children who were hungry could not do their work as well as others, this took quite a long time to sort out. Children went home for their dinners and very often didn’t come back in the afternoon – especially if it was raining or snowing, as their clothes would be wet. Some children would also have had a long way to walk home as St. George’s Road was then on the edge of the countryside, although lots of houses were being built very quickly.
What was the main punishment used when the school opened?
When children were punished it which was probably for poor work, fighting, throwing stones and general anti-social behaviour; this was recorded in the ‘Punishment Book’. The early punishment books have been lost, but the main punishments used were probably the cane or the battledore, which was a bat shaped like an oar from a rowing boat. The Master or Mistress was in charge of all the punishments, and would have carried them out. Surprisingly at this time, the teachers were NOT allowed to hit children in class, if this happened, as it sometimes did, a teacher could be in very serious trouble. He or she would have to attend a meeting at the School Board office, where they would be told in no uncertain terms what the punishment regulations were. They were often put on report and could even lose their jobs.
A big thankyou to Mrs Bray who dug into the history of St George's, researched and compiled all the information on this page.