Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: July 12, 2017
Webpage updated: March 27, 2021




The school system of the Holy Trinity Parish owed its origins to an establishment for boys and girls that was opened in store-like rooms in the Old Mariners' Church, Commercial Road, in 1844.  This was much appreciated by the local inhabitants and before long more extensive premises were being sought.

In 1850 a site was purchased on the south side of the parish church and in 1854 the new premises for boys and girls were opened.  The entrance to the girls' school was from Citadel Road while the boys entered from Bell's Lane.  It is as yet unconfirmed that the building was designed by Mr James Hine, of Plymouth, in the 13th century Gothic style of architecture.

The attendance soon outgrew even these premises and in 1859 a large and handsome infants' school was opened in Southside Street.  Along with a smaller infants' school opened in 1865 in Bell's Lane, the these buildings formed a detached group surrounding the parish church.

Five hundred and ten children could be accommodated and as the schools were always full, it was taken that this was the number in regular attendance.

Voluntary subscriptions paid for the buildings, along with a Government grant and one from the National Society.

The boys and girls each had a school-room measuring 60 feet by 20 feet, which were only 'tolerably well lit and ventilated'.  In winter it was very difficult to keep such large rooms well heated.  The room occupied by the larger of the infants schools was by far the better and was well lit by a "lantern" light.   The room was lofty and so was well ventilated.  The smaller infants school-room was also of a good standard.  The whole of the buildings were designed by Mr J Hine, a local architect.

In consequence of the high price of land in the parish, the infants' school was the only one to have a playground but the boys' and girls' schools abutted on government ground on the Hoe, and the children relaxed there instead.  The infants took some of the classes in the playground during the summer months and so relieved the congestion in the main school-room.

The charges for attendance were 1d in the lower classes of the boys' and girls' schools and 2d in the higher classes.  The infants paid a penny.  Unfortunately the school pence did not meet even a third of the expenditure, especially as many parents were so poor that they were unable to pay anything.  This was particularly so in the winter because many of the parents were dependent for their income on the sea and consequently the weather.   The incumbent usually made enquiries to verify this situation and then allowed the child to stay at school until his or her parents could afford to pay again.

Reading, writing and arithmetic were taught with occasional lessons on geography and grammar.  Lessons also included the scriptures and the Church Catechism.  In the girls' school a portion of each afternoon was devoted to needle-work.  In the larger infants school education was aimed at giving the children a thirst for knowledge rather than giving them knowledge itself.  This was done by giving object lessons and lessons in natural history through picture boards, etc.   The children also learned small pieces of poetry and easy hymns and the older children among the infants were expected to pass the Standard One level, whereby they could read a story in monosyllables, write capital and small letters of the alphabet upon dictation, to write and add up figures up to 20 and subtract figures up to 10.

Children of from 2 to 4 years of age had slates and pencils served out to them for the purpose of making copies of "pot-hooks and hangers" set on the blackboard.  It seems that the reason for this was not so much educational but to keep the children quiet by giving them something to do.  They also acted out stories like the Fox and Grapes.

The children who attended the smaller infants school were aged between 16 months and 2 years and some could 'scarcely toddle'.  They were sent to school more to be taken care of than taught anything.  They were, however, taught the letters of the alphabet, to sing short hymns and to amuse themselves with their slates and pencils.

Holy Trinity Schools were highest in the Town for the amount of money granted to them by the Government, per child.  The grant amounted to 154 8s 6d for an average attendance of 327 children, or 9s 5d per head.  The lowest was Christ Church National Schools which received only 6s 1d per head.

There was a master and two pupil teachers in the boys' school, a mistress and two pupil teachers in the girls', a mistress and three pupil teachers for the large infants' school and a mistress in charge of the "babies" department (i.e. the smaller infants' school).

It can be mentioned that in addition to the Holy Trinity Schools there was a dame school of 60 children in Lambhay Hill, which was supported entirely by the incumbent, the Reverend F Barnes.  It was intended that this should form the start of a National school in conjunction with the new Church of Saint Saviour, which was to be erected there shortly.

When the Education Act 1902 transferred the responsibility for education to the Plymouth Local Education Authority, Holy Trinity National School became the Holy Trinity Church of England Elementary School.