Charity schools/ Ashburton Board School / Elementary School / County School

'Q. What are the places of note in Devonshire?
A. Exeter, Plymouth, Dartmouth, Barnstaple, Totness, Okehampton, Honiton, Tavistock, Ashburton, Plympton, Axminster, Biddeford, and Tiverton.'

Geography for Children...Designed Principally for the Use of Schools, Shrewsbury, 1800, p29

Above and below: Ashburton Board School Honours Board, 'Containing names of scholars of the above who have won scholarships tenable at the Ashburton Grammar School and other distinctions'.
With thanks to the Guild of St Lawrence

1677 John Ford founded a charity school endowed with £8 per annum, with funding provided by the Yarn Market. The market ceased trading in due course, and the endowment was lost.

1754 Lord Middleton and John Harris, MPs*, re-endowed a school with £640, the income coming from land investment (usually called the Bourne School, after the name of the estate which provided the income, or the Free School) .

*Ashburton at one time was represented in parliament by 2 MPs.

Ashburton and its neighbourhood Charles Worthy publ L. B. Varder, Ashburton 1875 p9

c 1764. William Gifford attended the Free School at about 8 years old 'Making most wretched progress.'

Quoted in Biography of self-taught men: with an introductory essay, B B Edwards and S g Bulfinch, Boston, J E Tilton and Company, 1859, pp 110 ff 

1805 Miss Dunning gave £6 per annum to teach poor girls reading and sewing. The gift was made on condition that she, her nephew Richard and any descendants were buried in the 'Dunning vault' at the eastern end of the south aisle of the parish church, 'whilst there was room'.

Ashburton and its neighbourhood Charles Worthy publ L. B. Varder, Ashburton 1875, p x appendix 

In 1830 the Western Times noted that the Bourne Estate was being let for £125 per annum. From two masters each employed at £40 per annum there had been a reduction to one master at £60. What, questioned the newspaper, had become of the surplus funds? Rather than just teach reading, writing and arithmetic, why not employ a Master and Mistress to provide an extended curriculum?

Western Times 1 May 1830 p2 col1

1850 'Out of the rent about £70 per annum is paid to the master and mistress for teaching about 50 free scholars on Dr. Bell's system*.....the school was rebuilt about 14 years ago at the cost of £640, and is commonly called Bourne School.'
History, gazetteer and directory of Devonshire, William White, 1850 p465. Freely available on - Accessed 25-9-2014

* Dr. Bell, born in 1753, advocated using the older puils to teach younger ones. This became known as the Monitorial System.

1850 Mr Wm Ferris Honeywill died, aged 55. He had been master at Lord Middleton's and Mr Harris' s Free School for 33 years.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 6 April 1850 p5 col6 

Bournes' Free School, Bowling Green, George Jamieson Dick, master

Slater's Directory of Berks, Cornwall, Devonshire, 1852-53, p5 

In 1851 22 year old George P. Dick is shown as a schoolmaster at Bowling Green, with his wife Elizabeth a schoolmistress.
1851 census HO107, Piece 1871, Folio 278, p39.

In February 1852 a vacancy occurred for the mastership of the Bourne's School. The Western Times described it as 'A noble charity, left by the donors for the instruction of the children of the poor inhabitants'.

Later that month Mr Samuel Husson, of the Newton Abbot Union School, was appointed to the post.

Western Times 14 February 1852, p7 col 4

Western Times 28 February 1852 p7 col5

The 1861 census shows 43 year old Samuel Husson as Schoolmaster and Mary Baker, his 27 year old step-daughter, as Schoolmistress.In the same household at Bowling Green is another step-daughter, 20 year old Elizabeth Baker, who is an Infant Schoolmistress.

1861 census RG9/1405, folio 79, p29, schedule 169

A sum of money was by this time granted annually by Parliament for public education. The following extracts are from the Revised code of minutes and regulations of the Committee of the Privy Council on education 1862:

The grant is withheld altogether....(c) If the girls in the school be not taught plain needlework as part of the ordinary course of instruction.

55. In every school receiving annual grants is to be kept, besides the ordinary registers of attendance - (a) A diary or log-book....

56. The diary or log-book must be stoutly bound and contain not less than 500 ruled pages.

57. The principal teacher must daily make in the log-book the briefest entry which will suffice to specify either ordinary progress, or whatever other fact concerning the school or its teachers, such as the dates of withdrawals, commencements of duty, cautions, illness, etc.

64. The recognised classes of teachers are -

(a) Certified teachers

(b) Pupil-teachers

(c) Assistant teachers.

81. Pupil-teachers are boys or girls employed to serve to a school under inspection

(b) That the pupil-teachers be not less than thirteen years (completed) of age at the date of their engagement.

(c) Be of the same sex as the principal teacher of the school, or department of a school, in which they are employed; but in mixed schools, or departments of schools, under a master and mistress, female pupil-teachers may receive instruction out of school hours from the master, on condition that the mistress be invariably present during the whole time that the lessons are being given by the master, who must be husband, father, son, or brother of the mistress, and not both young and unmarried.

(5) The said pupil-teacher shall be liable to dismissal without notice for idleness, disobedience, or immoral conduct, of a gross kind respectively
Reports on Elementary Schools, 1852 - 1882, Matthew Arnold, Eyre and Spottiswoode, London 1901, appendix K pp 331 following


1868 'There was also in the town an endowed school where a National school education was given, called the Free School, consisting of 100 boys and 80 girls, where many tradesmen and farmers sent their children at a payment of 1d a week. There was no other school in the town. I was informed that these two schools* actually exhausted all the children of capable age and position in the town, some boys from the Free School going to the Grammar school to be finished. '
Schools Inquiry Commission, vol 14, South Western Division, Special Reports of Assistant Commissioners, London 1868
* ie the Free School and the Grammar School

From Morris and Co's Commercial Directory and Gazetteer 1870

 Lord Middleton and Mrs Harris's Charity, Bowling Green - Samuel Husson, Master, Miss Mary Baker, Mistress


A public meeting was called in 1878 to explain the provisions of the 1870 Education Act, and to see if the current schools fulfilled the requirements of the Education Department, or whether a School Board would be 'enforced upon them'. The Endowed Schools Commissioners wanted to reduce or abolish the grant from the Bourne School, having recently taken away the Bourne Estate, giving the endowments to the Grammar School. £70 was paid to the Bourne School on condition that it remained a public elementary school. The Bourne School at the time accommodated 230 children, but this number would have to be increased to 480.
Mr. H. Eddy had drawn up plans to expand the school, with extra land being purchased at £300, and alterations costing £835. A School Board would have to be formed if the money could not be raised voluntarily.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 4 January 1878 p8 cols4,5

In the same year a return had to be made to the House of Lords detailing endowments to schools. Amongst the schemes approved by the Endowed Schools Acts 1869,1873 and 1874 was one for Lord Middleton's School at Ashburton, with an income of £120.
Western Times 29 May 1878 p4 col1


The school day seems to have normally lasted until half past four, as the Headmaster noted when the school closed early because of the dark evenings (28 November 1879)

In March 1877 the fees were 1d (one penny) per child per week, but at the end of the month the governors passed a resolution to increase this to 2d per child per week (31 March 1877)

In the 1870's classes were mixed, but in 1879 the girls were separated into a department of their own (28 June 1879)

Log book 6020C/EFL1, held in the Devon Heritage Centre (formerly the Record Office)


 Getting children to attend the school was not easy. Here are some reasons for irregular attendance, from the school log book:

Whortleberry picking (28 Jul 1876)

Gleaning (28 Jul 1876)

Apple picking (27 Oct 1876)

Planting potatoes (24 March 1877)

Harvesting (8 September 1877)

Assisting parents in their gardens (9 March 1878)

Sometimes health issues reduced the numbers:

For example, Measles (12 April 1879)

Many of the children suffering from bad feet (20 December 1879)

And sometimes there were more pleasant reasons:

A holiday on Thursday because it was fair day (3 March 1877)

The annual treat of the independent Sunday School (23 June 1877)

A large menagerie arriving in the town - the school was almost deserted on this occasion (1 September 1877)

A company of the Royal Horse Artillery coming to the town (2 March 1878)

Boys watching the Grammar School athletics (13 April 1878)

Mr Pindar's Circus visiting the town - the school closed (27 March 1880)

Log book 6020C/EFL1, held in the Devon Heritage Centre                               

1887 James Barnett and Joshua Leaman were fined 2s 6d each for not sending their children to school.

Western Times 24 October 1887 p4 col4

An Inspector Calls

The school was inspected in March 1878. The report stated that the results were as good as could be expected 'under the circumstances'. Whilst praising the master's enthusiasm and energy, and saying that the writing was good (as was the older children's arithmetic), the inspector noted that discipline and organization did not exist at all. The method of conducting the school was, he said, 'most unsatisfactory'. (30 March 1878)

Log book 6020C/EFL1, held in the Devon Heritage Centre


 By the 1870s the Endowed Schools Commissioners had taken away the Bourne Estate - which provided income - and also wanted to take away a grant, or reduce the school to a 'third-grade school'.

At the same time, under the provisions of the 1870 Education Act, Ashburton had received notice from the Education Department that the town would have to provide accommodation for 480 pupils, including 15 from Woodland.

The Bourne School could only accommodate 250 children, so there were proposals to alter the school to meet with the requirements - the governors met to consider plans to enlarge the school in the first week of December 1877.

There was a public meeting about raising the necessary money - if this could not be done voluntarily, a School Board would have to be formed and 'enforced upon them'.

(Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 4 January 1878, p8 col 5

Governors' meeting from Log book 6020C/EFL1, held in the Devon Heritage Centre (formerly the Record Office)


Sufficient money cannot have been forthcoming, because in June 1878 the Education Department in Whitehall issued orders for a School Board to be formed

London Gazette Issue 24594 18 June 1878, p 3661


In August the first meeting of the School Board was held at the Bourne School Room.

Watts, Whidborne and Co. (bank) were elected treasurers.

Members of the Board were:

Chairman - R Tucker

Vice-chairman - P F S Amery

J Tozer, H Steele,.W R Whiteway, E J Sawdye, Rev J W Lay

(Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 2 August 1878, p7 col 2)


By 1879 tenders were being sought for the construction of additional buildings at the school.
Western Times 9 May p6 col2

In December of the same year a certificated mistress was wanted for the infants' school. Applicants were invited to send details of their age, experience and salary required to Mr H M Firth, Clerk to the Board.
Western Times 9 December 1879, p4 col1



Some staff in the late 1870's:

Mrs Harding - replaced Miss Baker as sewing mistress (9 October 1876)

John Addems had a holiday (21 July 1877)

J Adams' name removed from the register of Pupil Teachers in the school

Mr. Husson shortly to receive certificate. (13 April 1878)

William John Port signed his indenture as a Pupil Teacher (4 September 1879)*

John Mann appointed as candidate for Pupil Teacher (6 March 1880)

Log book 6020C/EFL1, held in the Devon Heritage Centre

* This may well have been the William John Port born March quarter 1864, Newton Abbot district ( - he would therefore have been 15 years old.



Mr. F. Amery, Chairman of the School Board, said that Samuel Husson, the Headmaster, should receive an extra £5 in recognition of his work at the school. The second mistress, Miss Jenkin, was to have her salary increased by £10 per annum.
Western Times 3 February 1885 p8 col6

In 1891 the School Board arranged evening classes for those who had left school - apparently only for boys. Reading, writing and arithmetic was on the curriculum, but so was music, history and geography. The pupils were also to study science, with practical experiments.
Western Times 6 October 1891 p8 col6


According to Kelly's Directory of Devonshire 1902, The Board School, Bowling Green, was erected in 1879 on 'the site of the old Bourne School'. The cost, including the site, was £1050: the school had the capacity to hold 170 boys, 150 girls and 150 infants (average attendance quoted was 150 boys, 120 girls and 136 infants). There were 4 scholarships of £8 a year at the Grammar School for boys who had been educated at the Board School for at least one year. 

Staff: William T Butchers, master

Miss Elizabeth Mary Channon, mistress

Mrs Amy Butchers, infants' mistress

Kelly's Directory of Devonshire, 1902, p31 


 'After leaving Miss Hext's school I went to the Board School, later to be known as the Council School. Mr W T Butchers for many years was the headmaster, and his wife was the headmistress of the infants' school.'
From the reminiscences of Reg Andrews, born 1893. Many thanks to Dave Hodge-Brooks and Ernie Smerdon for these.


Left: Ashburton School Perfect Attendance 1900 - 1901

2nd left back row Dick Arscott
5th from left front row Reg Andrews

The 1901 census shows Richard Arscott living with his mother, grandmother and 5 siblings at Crockaton. He is 8 years old.
1901 census RG13, Piece 2053, Folio 29, p 23

In 1901 Reginald Stanley Andrews was 7 years old and living in North Street. His father was George Henry Andrews, a baker and confectioner.
1901 census RG13, Piece 2053, Folio 41, p 13

Teacher - Mr. Butchers.

In 1901 William J Butchers* was a certificated Board School master, and his wife, Amy J(ane), is a certificated Board School mistress. By 1911 William Joy Butchers was headmaster of the Council School. He was living with his wife and children at Banks-Y-Brim, East Street.
1901 census RG13, Piece 2053, Folio 57, p14
1911 census RG14, Piece 12728, Schedule number 86

* William Tozer Butchers. He married Amy Jane Hext in the September quarter of 1896.

Amy Butchers died in 1919, at which point William was both Portreeve and headmaster of the Council schools. Amy had been headmistress of the Infants' School for 25 years.
Western Times 18 September 1919 p3 col3
Information and photograph courtesy  Wendy Major

Right: Ashburton School 1902-03

The girl with a large white collar in the centre of the second row is Minnie Keat.The 1901 census has Minnie (transcribed as Winnie on Ancestry) as the 7 year old daughter of Francis Keat, living in Cousin's Court.
1901 census RG13, Piece 2053, Folio 57, p14
The girl identified in the photograph looks older than 8 or 9, so there may be identification or dating issues here.
She married Dick Arscott Sep Q 1915, Newton Abbot registration district (FreeBMD)
Information and photograph courtesy Wendy Major

Above: Ashburton School, early 1900s
Many thanks to Nancy Frey for this photograph

Above and below: Class plays, top left early 1900s, the others possibly later.
Many thanks to Nancy Frey for these photographs
In 1911 30 year old Henry Ewart Russell Mallett was an assistant elementary teacher. He was living with his wife, Emily Elizabeth, at Roscoe, North Street.
1911 census RG14, Piece 12726, Schedule number 50

Left: Ashburton School Perfect Attendance 1912 -1913

Second from left back row Dick Northway

The Northway family were living at Great Bridge in 1911. Alfred and Susanna were the parents, and 10 year old Richard was one of 7 children. The census gives the information that the couple had 11 children altogether, of whom 10 survived.
1911 census RG14, Piece 12726, Schedule number 121

Richard became a blacksmith and worked for Mr French and Mr. Bill Tucker in St Lawrence Lane.

Ist right back row  ? Aplin

2nd right front row Tommy Guest.
He became a tailor
Information and photograph courtesy Wendy Major

In 1913 the funeral took place of Miss Mary Pearce, who had been a teacher in the infants' department of the Council School. Children from the school, carrying flowers, were amongst those at the funeral. W T Butchers, the headmaster, was in the congregational, together with masters H E R Mallett and S G Shepheard, and mistresses N Satterly, Jackman, Port, Hall, Potter and Soper.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 8 July 1913, p3 col5

Mary (Pearse) was 38 when she died. She was buried on 4th July 1913
Parish records


                                              School in the 1920s
'As a nine year old child I learned by heart Longfellow's poem, The Village Blacksmith. I had the distinction of being told I was the smartest girl in the class, but that I wrote with confident large letters, so that my note book contained just one poem! If I continued with my bold script, I would bankrupt the Education Authority. On hearing this my father brought me a large exercise book.
Children walked to school from the country farms and villages, bringing their dinner, which they ate in a small empty classroom.
"Drill" was the second lesson of the day after scripture: summer and winter exercises were performed, the white pinched faces and blue knees evidence of poor or inadequate nutrition.
There were no school dinners and school milk was not introduced until 1930. The school dentist made an annual visit and children would emerge after his ministrations with a square of blood-stained gauze held to the mouth and returned to the classroom to resume lessons. The tortoise stove later to be immortalised in John Betjeman's poem "Summoned by Bells" provided welcome warmth to the afflicted.
The girls' playground in school was the scene of various games, usually accompanied by a rhyme, chanted or sung, and not under the supervision of a teacher. Two girls held up arms to form an arch, the others held hands and danced under the arch while everyone sang: "The good ship sailed through the alley alley oo, the alley alley oo, the alley alley oo, the good ship sailed through the alley alley oo on the first day of September." Then another pair formed the arch and the ritual was repeated. Another day it would be "Ring a Ring of Roses", then "Stand and Choose your Partner" all accompanied by the appropriate song.
Most children left school at fourteen, the more fortunate being apprenticed to a craftsman and so learning a trade. Others went into dead-end jobs and all worked long hours, often doing the work of an adult. Girls, if not apprenticed to a dressmaker or shopkeeper went into service - childhood for them ended at fourteen and they assumed the mantle of responsibility, prematurely ageing, accepting their fate without rancour or bitterness.'
Many thanks to Hazel Bray for the above account.

Above: Ashburton Council School class play 1924. Elsie Edith May Rodgman is third from the left in the second row.
Many thanks to Nancy Frey for the photograph and information

Above: County School 1926
Left to right back row: unknown, Miss Luxton, unknown, unknown
Left to right front row: unknown, Mr Butcher? Mrs Simpson
Many thanks to Nancy Frey for the photograph and the information

Right: Ashburton Council School 1926-7

Children believed to be:

Back row: Frank Lewis, Fred Gilbert, Not known, Michael Hobbs, Thomas Eales, Alexander Leaman, Edward Hare, Arthur Thorn, Not known, Leslie Vicary, not known, Mrs Simpson.

Middle row: Not known, Sid Foot, Grace Horrocks, Beryl Tall, Not known, Eva Sarjeant, Not known, Winifred Campion, Pearl Yolland, John Davy, Ernest Adams, William Hanmett ?
Front row: Violet Ryall, .....Pedrick, Mary Gilbert, Mary Bishop, Margaret Wotton, Not known, Florrie Hunt

Thanks to Linda Phillips for the above item. Original information from Thomas Eales, Manaton, 1998


When Mr H E R Mallett died in 1942, he was described as a former teacher at the Council School, although he had retired 20 years before due to ill-health. He lived at Clitheroe, St Lawrence Lane.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 10 July 1942 p8 col2
Above: Group from Ashburton School, late 1940s. 
With many thanks to Julian Wright, both for the photo and the information below
The boy circled is Ryan Hooper, born in 1936. His parents were Ernest John Barnes Hooper and Constance Mary (Dot) Wright. 
For more on the Hooper family, see Bakers, under Banks and Businesses

Above: Class in 1949
Back row: ????, Jill Lovell, Pamela Endicott, Daphne Steer, Roberta Webber, Margaret Cox, Mr Percy Scragg.
2nd back row: David (Pongo) Denholm, Roland Pedrick, John Endicott, Ruth Leek, Jill Pike, ????, Hilary Webber, Maureen Morgan, Pat Brooks, Heather Collins, Vivienne Roberts, Evelyn Potter, Martini Whitlock, Colin Scully.
2nd front row: Seth (Jock) Miller, Michael Roberts, Richard Avery, Ruth Rogers, Maureen Jones, Beryl Teague, Elizabeth Naylor, Defiance Saunders, Peter Wootton, ????, Roger Martin.
Front row: Gerald Arscott, Brian Widdecombe, Roger Parker, Robert Boyd, Winston Eggbeare, ????, Derek Steer, Billy Leek, Eddy Tubby, Norman Underhill.
With many thanks to Hilary Ball

Above: Ashburton Primary School, 1950s.
Back row: Yvonne Hewart, Joyce Wills, Susan Smith, Anne Short, Shirley Russell, Susan Tulley, Caroline Beer, Jean Bowden, Iris Collins, Veronica Boyd.
2nd row: ???, Frank Wills (behind), Christine Willis, Anne Gregg, Wendy Gill, Shirley Webber, Sheila Leek, Margaret Waldron, Pauline Rowe, Elizabeth Swann, Cherry Neate, Hilary Saterley, Marilyn Richardson, David Pedrick (behind), Morva Hyslop.
3rd row: ???, Leonard Boyce, Brian Casely, Peter Crimp, Leonard Coombes, Stewart Codd, Brian Roberts, Brian French, Edward Mason, Adrian Daw, Jimmy Lawler.
Front Row: ??? David Brooks, Derek Roberts, Leonard Ellis, Michael Woollacott, ???, Clive Barr, Bernard Barnett, Derek Hext, John Irish.
Classmates missing: Jennifer Underhill, Faith Shorland, David Thorne, Peter Owen, Patricia Godding, John Cole, Christine Hawkins, Micky Bennett.
Photograph from Morva Townsend, to whom many thanks.

'From the first of next month every child in this country is to stay at school until he has reached the age of fifteen...'
The Spectator, 7 March 1947, p16

In Ashburton this meant staying at the elementary school until school leaving age -  it was not until 1958 that children went to a separate secondary school, unless they moved to a grammar school. See Ashburton Secondary School

Above and below: Ashburton County School, unknown date. Many must be approaching school leaving age (in spite of the short trousers). Do you know who any of them are?
Many thanks to Jean Pedrick, and to Marianne Weymouth for her help.