Webpage created: July 17, 2017.
Webpage updated: March 24, 2021
MOUNT STREET BOARD SCHOOLS
Mount Street Board Schools in Mount Street, Plymouth, were officially opened on the evening of Monday October 30th 1876 by the Mayor of Plymouth, Mr W F Moore.
It had been built by Messrs Bishop & Sons and was designed by Messrs Norman & Hine, also of Plymouth. Accommodation was for 200 girls and 250 infants only and each section consisted of a school-room measuring 44 feet by 24 feet and two class-rooms measuring 24 feet by 20 feet. There was a bell turret some 70 feet in height and a large playground. An apartment of the Mistress was also included. The total cost of the buildings amounted to £3,200, the site having cost £717 15s 2d.
The infants' department was opened on Monday January 8th 1877, with Miss Caroline Full in charge. Born at Ugborough, south Devon, she had previously been the Mistress of the British School at Bradninch in mid Devon. There were 64 children. This was more than Miss Full could handle so she enlisted the help of a girl from the upper school. However, there were no books for the children to use and no locks on the doors of the building, either, which became a magnet for mischief makers after school.
This situated continued and in February 1877 there were 109 children but no tables or books and two girls from the upper school had now been enlisted to help with the teaching. By the end of the month a pupil teacher had been appointed along with two pupil teachers. In spite of Miss Full's best efforts to get equipment and the premises themselves sorted out, this situation remained for some years.
By December 1879 there were 177 girls and 301 infants on the registers with an average annual attendance of 143 and 259 respectively. The teaching staff in 1879 consisted of a Head Teacher for both the girls and the infants, plus one assistant teacher, 3 pupil teachers and one monitor in the girls' school and 2 assistant teachers, 3 pupil teachers and 3 monitors in the infants.
Sickness was taking its toll, much of it blamed on the poor conditions in the building. Draughts were a constant problem and were blamed for colds and chills. Whooping cough, measles and scarlet fever raged and three children died in 1881.
Following a census of the population during which it was established that there was still a deficiency in the number of places available for children in the area, it was decided to enlarge the Schools. A scheme of improvement was thus put in motion, to the designs of Messrs Hine & Odgers, and upon which the contractor was Mr A R Debman of Plymouth. Gas fittings and plumbing were carried out by Mr David Sale of Devonport and the painting and glazing by Mr William May of Stoke.
On October 4th 1886 the Western Daily Mercury reported that the work was almost finished and the premises were due to be brought into use in a month's time. The old buildings had been completely re-arranged, the large roomy passages and staircases having been altered so as to increase the space available for school-rooms and class-rooms. A new block of buildings had been erected on the west of the site, overlooking the Sherwell Estate. To do this, the entire western side of the old School was demolished, the building extended and the gable ends rebuilt. Two large demonstration or lecture rooms had been built between the old and the new portions. At the north-eastern angle was a four-room house for the caretaker. The frontage on Mount Street was also improved.
There were to be four Departments, infants (300 children), junior mixed (260), girls (252) and a higher grade boys (260).
All the new buildings, like the old, were built of limestone with Wellington brick and Portland stone dressings. Welsh slates covered the roof. Internally, the fittings were of pitch pine, as was the floor of the demonstration rooms. The rest of the flooring was of American red pine. The walls were rough and stuccoed and coloured in quiet tints. The upper demonstration room was much more spacious because of its partially open roof. It looked very smart thanks to its polished red pine. Both the demonstration rooms were of the same size, 40 feet by 24 feet, and their large Gothic windows overlooked Mount Street. Heating in the new rooms was provided by Messrs Hartley & Sugden's glow-worm stoves while the older rooms retained their open fires.
In the matter of play-grounds the Schools were not as well off as might have been wished. There was a large covered space underneath the demonstration rooms within the entrance to the mixed school. At the rear there was an open, asphalt play-ground for both boys and girls, with sheds for shelter, but it was felt that as the cost of building the Schools had been the lowest per head in the Borough, some better facilities could have been provided.
The cost of the site for the new buildings was £912 while the cost of erection was a little over £7,000.
There were apparently 400 infants under Miss E Angier; 140 senior girls in the charge of Mrs Elizabeth Myers; and 240 children in the mixed school under Miss P Wickham in 1888. Miss Mary Ann Leno ran the School of Cookery.
It will be recalled that Miss Full opened the Infant school in January 1877. From accounts in the log books, she had a very hard time, thanks to the state of the premises (draughts and smoke from the fires, which often obliterated her class apparently), lack of equipment, general behaviour of the pupils and other children in the neighbourhood, and even a struggle with a boy which resulted in her being taken very ill and 'scarcely expected to live'. That was in July 1879 but live on she did and continued her tasks often from 7 in the morning until 10 in the evening, all for an annual salary of £50.
On November 24th 1882 Miss Full was declared to be unfit to attend the School by the Doctors and at 5.15am on June 28th 1883 she died. She was 32 years of age and had been living with her step-mother, a lodging-house keeper, at 2 Durham Place, Plymouth.
The headmaster of the 113-strong Higher Grade School was Mr William Lamerton Cocks, BA, who was appointed in September 1886, well ahead of the opening. Mrs Myers was in charge of the girls' school, Miss Wickham, the mixed school and Miss Angier, the infants'.
It was on the evening of Friday March 18th 1887 that Mount Street Higher Grade Board School was officially opened by the Reverend Professor F E Anthony. Access to the Higher Grade School for boys was by successfully passing the 4th Standard. Although there were to be fees of between 6d and one shilling, it was felt that 'respectable artisans and small shopkeepers' would rush to apply for places for their children. Subjects taught in the School included mathematics, science, art and languages, the demonstration rooms being suitably fitted out for these subjects. Each demonstration room could hold 202 pupils.
On April 26th 1897, 146 boys in the Mount Street Higher Grade Board School transferred to a new building that formed the Regent Street Higher Grade Board School.
In 1901 the average attendances for Miss Angier's infant school was 343; 293 children for the mixed school under Miss M G Cook; and 233 at the senior girls' school, where Miss Louisa Schutt was in charge. Miss L Reed was the teacher at the cookery centre and Mr A J Shepheard was head master of the Higher Grade School for Boys.
After the Plymouth Local Education Authority came in to being in 1903, the School was reorganised as a Mount Street Elementary School, taking both infants and juniors in mixed classes, and Mount Street Secondary School. Thus pupils could spend the whole of their school life in one, familiar building.