Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: June 27, 2017
Webpage updated: April 08, 2021




The Household of Faith in Vennel Street, Plymouth.
  Western Morning News Company Limited.

On the morning of Sunday January 21st 1787 the vicar of Charles' Church, Plymouth, the Reverend Doctor Robert Hawker, gathered a number of children off the local streets and led them to his newly established Sunday School in rooms at Friary Court.  Teachers had already been engaged and books acquired.  The school opened with prayers and then the children sat down to their learning.

When the bells of Charles Church rang out later that morning, the children were led in procession to the Church for divine worship.

The school was supported by voluntary contributions and in the first year received 32 4s 6d.  At the end of that first year they had made a profit of 1 11s 2d after paying for the books, school rent, teachers' wages and cloaks, shoes and bonnets for some of the more needy children.  During that year 114 boys and 99 girls were admitted to the school and attendance increased steadily.

In 1790 the finances were such that it enabled the commencement of a school of industry for girls, which was run during the week, and a move to larger premises in the Old Mitre Inn in Woolster Street.  This was more spacious and more centrally situated.  During that year 104 boys and 131 girls attended the school.

It was of special note that 24 boys went on to apprenticeships and other employment and 21 of the girls were placed in service with respectable families.   The finances allowed the school to provide children with suitable clothing to help them get started in their new life.

Around this time it was discovered that 6 of the girls at the school were orphans.  This was considered to be a fairly low number considering the fact that most of the families in the area depended on the sea for their support.  These six children were taken into the house of the mistress where they were clothed and fed.  Thus began the newest development in the story of the School.

On March 7th 1796 the foundation stone was laid of a building at the corner of Vennel Street and Norley Place that was to become the permanent home of the school.  It was felt that as the school had such slender origins, and had been established with the help of God, the most appropriate name was "The Household of Faith".  It was not completed until 1798.

At some unidentified point, the school became girls only.

Its two main legacies were 100 left by Mr James Bruce in 1814 and 500 gifted by Mr Thomas Hodson in 1819.

The book "Devonshire Charities", published in 1826, reveals that from 1796 until 1803 six orphan girls were maintained and educated at the School by means of subscription and collections made after the Sunday evening service at Charles Church.  Unfortunately the lack of such funds brought that practice to a halt.

By 1868, after a low point in the history of the school when only a dozen children were in attendance, the register numbered 90 girls, of which about 60 to 70 attended daily.  Until about 1860 many of the children were clothed at the expense of the school but once again the poor financial situation made this impossible by 1868.

The children attended from age 6 and they were required to attend the Sunday School as well.  They paid 2d a week if they wrote in copy books or 1d a week if they used slates.

There was a certified mistress and an assistant mistress, both of whom lived on the premises.

Reading, writing, arithmetic, needle-work and knitting formed the basis of the education.

In February 1907 the Plymouth Education Authority asked the managers of the school to consider its future in the light of the fact that the 97 children then attending could easily be accommodated in other schools in the district.

According to the Plymouth Education Authority's Annual Return to the Board of Education in November 1913, there were just one certified and one uncertified assistant teachers in addition to the head master, for an average attendance of 94 pupils.  Miss B Vosper was the head mistress at this time.


As the building had long been considered unsuitable, it was closed as an elementary school on July 31st 1931.

Thereafter it was used as the Plymouth Education Committee's Domestic Science Centre for the girls and for woodwork and metalwork classes for the boys.  The building survived the Second World War and was included in the collection of architecturally interesting buildings.   However, that meant little in a City that was intent on rebuilding in dogged pursuance of the "Plan for Plymouth".  It was closed in January 1956 and demolished shortly afterwards, at a cost of 942.   The building's Certified After Damage Value was 2,500.

Apparently the figure of the little girl reading the Bible that was on the front of the building together with the boards carrying the list of benefactors are now housed in the Saint Matthias Church Hall.

It is believed that this was the first building erected specifically as a Sunday School and was worthy of being preserved.