History of The School
A BRIEF HISTORY OF NEWTON POPPLEFORD BEFORE 1900
The following extract is taken from “YESTERDAY IN NEWTON POPPLEFORD” a book compiled by Ray Wilson with farming input by Bill Lightfoot. It was published and copyrighted in 1999 by Mrs Ray Wilson and printed by Westprint.
It is difficult to find the full history of Newton Poppleford, Mr G Tenney in 1988 in his booklet ‘Peep into the Past’ writes; “It is possible that Newton Poppleford is a very old settlement. In 1252 Henry II thought Newton Poppleford important enough to be a Borough and to hold a three-day Fair for the Festival of St. Luke (l8 th October) and also a Market every Tuesday. The night before the Fair young people would go around the village and outlying hamlets blowing Cow Horns - it was described as a “Hideous Noise”. It was last heard in 1881. A Mr Ham was said to have had one, which made a very distinctive and deep sound. In later years there was a Holy Thursday Fair, which seems to have been transferred from Aylesbeare. It was called “White Pot Revel”; the pot was made from milk or cream, boiled, with eggs, flour and spices.”
The Roman road from Axmouth to Exeter came down Four Elms Hill and forded the Otter almost 100 yards north of the present bridge. There are several suggestions as to where it went through the village, it is probable it went near the Brook, and joined up with today’s road near Woodley’s Joinery and I believe the boundary between the two Parishes (Newton Poppleford and Harpford) followed the road.
Until the coming of Coach and Wagons in the 1750’s people either walked or travelled on horseback, and goods were carried on pack animals, so the roads must have been narrow tracks. With the coming of Coaches and the roads being unsuitable Turn Pikes were set up. We belonged to the Lyme Regis Turn Pike Co who had 36 miles of road.
There were three Toll Houses in this parish-
- At the bottom of Four Elms Hill.
- At the bottom of School Lane.
- At the top of the village, near Exmouth Road.
The latter one still remains and until a short while ago it had been an Antique and Gift Shop. At one time it was lived in by a woman, who kept a donkey in the little shed at the end. The Toll Keeper was a person of some standing in the community. Tolls were valued for a day and covered a distance of 4-6 miles, except for coaches and timber wagons who paid for each journey.
The first mention of a bridge was in 1259 and again in 1492, little is known of these. In 1809 there was a bridge with five arches, it had massive outwalls, a 10ft carriageway and was said, “to be difficult and dangerous to cross". When the river was low the coaches preferred to use the ford, which suggests that the river was wider and shallower than today. In 1960 the remains of the “Nyton Bridge" were seen when a drainpipe was laid across the river, and 17th and 18th century coins were found. The present bridge was built in 1840 at a cost of £2,500 and local people were employed to build it. The Great Grandfather of Bill Lightfoot hauled stones from the Newton Abbot area. It took one man, one horse and one cart to bring one stone a day. Mr Green, who was the First Bridge Superintendent for Devon County Council, designed the bridge. He designed four bridges over the River Otter, and all remained intact after the great flood of 1968, when many others were destroyed. Also the weight and volume of traffic that passes over them could not have been foreseen.
Until 1811 the Otter was navigable when due to the enclosing of the estuary land the mouth became blocked at ‘Salterton’ as late as 1854. A condition in a Lease stated “When any ship or vessel shall be stranded or wrecked on the said coast of Harpford (the Lessee) must use his utmost endeavours to preserve the same and the lives of the persons belonging thereto."
Up until the 16th century wool was very important, until the demand for the coarse serge material lost favour. Sometime after 1258 Lord Dynham, realising the good prospects for cloth, set up the earliest known Fulling Mills in Devon, there was two at Hartland and one at Harpford. The Mill was under the ‘cliff’ in Lower Way, you can still see where it was as the cliff was cut away to accommodate it. It is about 100 yards in from the main road. Water was brought across Higher Way to a mill pond and then down through the Mill and out into the River Harp (that muddy ditch that can become a raging torrent after a storm). The cloth must have been woven elsewhere, because ‘Fulling’ is the process of cleaning and thickening cloth by beating and washing.” (G Tenney 1988)
“During the 19th century there was a factory in Newton Poppleford. Described in 1808 in the ‘Exeter Flying Post’ as “a newly erected extensive, and compleate worsted and yarn mill and manufactury” and in 1852 as “Silk and Crepe Mills”. Employment in the factory brought migrants to the village, and by the 1871 census 31% of the working population was employed there. By 1891 the factory had closed and the census shows a 34% drop in population.
The prosperity of the village silk mill appears to be due to the efforts of Thomas Wood, who is said to have moved to Devon to start the mill, hoping that labour would be cheaper and easier to obtain than in the Macclesfield area. He died in January, 1874, and his tombstone states that he had been connected with “the adjoining silk mills” for the last 18 years of his life, leading to a deduction that he arrived in the village in about 1855. Thomas`s brother William appears to have carried on the mill after Thomas died. It is clear, however, that the silk industry generally was in decline after 1860 because of the free importation of higher quality, cheaper, silks from France.
In 1851 the working population of the village was 235 of which 92 were lace makers and 39 labourers. In 1871 the working population increased to 399 of which 125 were factory workers. In 1891 it came down to 166, only 8 lace makers were listed, 35 labourers and no factory workers.” (Extract taken from Audrey Callis, 1996: (Newton Poppleford, Devon,1851-1891: Population fluctuation and employment)
Ray Wilson has an old newspaper cutting, date and paper unknown, it reads:
“Mr Gorman was bom at Newton Poppleford, near Exeter, Devon in 1850. At six years of age he began to contribute to his own maintenance by becoming a worker in a silk factory at Newton, owned by a London firm named Webb. The work in the factory commenced at six o’clock a.m. and Mr Gorman remembers distinctly going to and from the factory scantily clothed and poorly fed. The work was very arduous and trying. The hours were seventy-two per week, and the wages 1s 6d per week, unless the corporal punishment administered by the over-looker frequently could be counted as wages. When young Gorman was about seven and a half years of age, his father, who was haulier, gardener and general factotum, in the place had the temerity to question the right of the parson to unmercifully thrash a four-year-old son with a walking stick, for the serious crime of throwing pebbles in a water wheel. During the argument the parson lay flat on the ground. His dignity, if nothing else, was hurt and Gorman, senior, had to "scoot”. The family was bundled out of the village, and after some hardships reached Bristol.”
"From the 16th century Lace Making was a very important cottage industry throughout East Devon. Newton Poppleford and Harpford, like many other villages, contributed to this very fine lace. In 1698 it was valued at £6 per yard, compared with Buckingham lace at 30/-. It is on record that a child’s cap was presented from the village to Queen Victoria for one of her children and she was said to have been much pleased. Honiton lace is made up of motifs (sprigs) and either sewn on to net or joined by needle bars. The sprigs would be taken to a lace dealer and then given to a “Joiner” to make a piece of lace. Miss Ash who had a shop on the Bank was one of these dealers, the prices of the sprigs varied from 1s/4d or Varden Dot (which is a very local name) to 1d. Very often these were exchanged for the weeks groceries. At one time they were sent to Mr and Mrs Weeks of Ottery St. Mary to be joined. The census return for 1881 shows Sarah Weaton as a Joiner. Sadly with the coming of machine made lace the quality dropped and the price. It is still made today, but only as a hobby.
At the beginning of the l8th century Lace Schools were set-up and there was one in the village, run by a Mr Halse. Boys and girls would attend for 12 hours a day. During spring and autumn they were allowed to spend part of the day in the fields. Starting at 5-7 years old they were apprenticed to the Lace Maker for 1d per week. Later they kept the lace and paid 6d per week, this became 3d when they required less tuition. The children were also taught to read and write.” (G Tenney 1988)
Further on in "YESTERDAY IN NEWTON POPPLEFORD" the writer recounts schoolday memories:-
Norman Roberts recalls Mr Veirror as headmaster. "He lived on the left side of School Lane. Marion and Kitty remember the next Headmaster Mr Warwick Cox living in the schoolhouse. Both he and his wife taught. Mr Cox came from Morchard Bishop and lived at Goosemoor before moving to the school house. Then he moved down to ‘Haymens’ where he had greenhouses in which he grew orchids. Apart from teaching, Mrs Cox made wedding bouquets. If a child went to school with say, a sore on the leg, Mrs Cox would warm some sealing wax until soft and put this over the sore so that it healed. In school Mr Cox kept a cane on his desk as a reminder to children to behave, occasionally pupils were in fact caned on the hand. Norman Roberts remembers this well although he cannot remember or will not tell why he received the cane. Norman started school in 1918. The children then all wore hob-nailed boots to school. One teacher taught every subject. Children started school at the age of 5 and left when they were 14, some I believe a little before. Norman remembers the eclipse in 1927. They let the smoke from candles darken a piece of glass, with which they shielded their eyes to see the eclipse. Apart from normal school subjects the children learnt to garden and the school had its own allotment. The girls were taught cookery and also to sew – such skills as how to turn a shirt collar. These classes took place in the village hall. The children also learnt country or folk dancing and took part in competitions."
Because this was a church school, the vicar would come on Monday mornings for assembly and then the children would go to their classrooms. There were 4 classrooms, from infants to standard VI. In winter time pupils would take a halfpenny each day for a mug of Horlicks, plain or chocolate flavour, to drink during morning playtime. The drink was heated on the tortoise stove in the infant`s room. Children who lived too far away to go home for dinner would bring potatoes, which were baked in the oven attached to the stove.
Marion and Kitty remembers - "Most children dreaded the spring term, as we knew at the end of March there would be a visit from the dentist, Mothers would arrive to be with the smaller pupils and some of the older ones would he in charge of the medical records. This lasted for two days and no one was ‘let off’. The school doctor and a nurse would come sometime during, the year; everyone was examined weighed and measured. The nurse would look in your hair and was commonly referred to as ‘the nit nurse`. Scales were hung from a hook at the top of the doorway into the headmaster`s room and we sat on a seat - just like a swing. The oculist also visited the school at least once a year."
There were always about a hundred children in school from the village and surrounding areas. We had our share of measles, mumps and chicken pox etc. Our worst experience of illness was when we had an epidemic of diphtheria; several children caught it. A boy of about I2 called Ivan Morrish and Frances Ellen Curtis aged about 5 died. Ivan lived next door to Phyllis Adderly in Oaktree Villas and because her mother had been helping Mrs Morrish, Phyllis and her brothers had to have swabs taken. This was very frightening. The fumigator, a black engine with a large barrel and chimney was a very sinister looking vehicle. It went to the homes of children who were infected with the disease, to disinfect the houses and the mattresses on which the children slept. The children were taken to the Whipton Isolation Hospital in Exeter.
Ray Wilson and Bill Lightfoot remember the infant teacher being Mrs Hawkins; she lived in the schoolhouse then. Other teachers, Miss Scoffharn and Miss Ivy Burrows (Nicky). Archie Bastyan was the caretaker, he used to come twice a day to stoke the fires. We used to have milk at playtime. Crates full of small bottles would arrive every morning. When the author’s children went to school in 1960 the headmaster was Mr H. O. Beavan and teachers Miss Nicholls and Mrs Eglestaff. There were no toddlers or playgroup classes. Children started school at the age of 5, and before 1944 stayed at the same village school until they were 14.
At Colaton Raleigh, a village just over a mile away, where Ken Wilson went to school, Gilbert Harding, a farmer, would go to the school and ask for 6 boys to help with picking spuds (potatoes). They would be given bread and cheese for lunch! This was all part of school education.
Ray Wilson writes:- “In the 1930s, , when I went to school you did not have to wear a uniform at primary school. Two children sat together on the straight wooden seat, which in tum was joined onto the desk. The desk had a lift up lid and space for books beneath. The inkwell was filled from a stone jar, you were not allowed to use pen and nib until you were about 7 and then you made lots of blots. Blotting paper was much in use! No ball point pens then. At the age of 11, I went on to grammar school, which was then fee paying unless you won a scholarship. We had to wear a uniform at grammar school; it was a navy blue tunic, pleated from a square neck and a sash around the waist. Blazers or navy gabardine coats and pudding basin felt hats with turned up brims. White shirts for boys and blouses for girls and school tie. Boys wore short grey trousers until they were about 11, some until 14.”
About 1944 school leaving age was raised to 15, it was always 16 at grammar school. At this age you sat exams to gain your School Certificate, 6 passes gave you the certificate Higher School at 18. Only a few pupils stayed on in the sixth form until they were 18, a few went on to university. In the last quarter of this century many more went on to university and became highly qualified, there was an explosion of knowledge after the war and also television brought a lot of knowledge into the home. It was inevitable that the more qualified moved away from the village - first to university towns and then on to larger cities and industrial areas and even overseas to further their careers. Devon has very few opportunities and is fast becoming a retirement area. It will be interesting to see, as has been forecast, whether people can work from home using computers etc. and will have no need to go to offices.
Technical Colleges were built to provide further education in every direction. Enrolling at age 16 they gave full time tuition for the academic subjects, professional, office and workplace skills. Employers could also send their apprentices, either one or two days a week or for blocks of study, whether it be hairdressing or bricklaying etc. The Education Authority also provided part time classes, either in the evening or during the day in centres, usually the local school or public halls. Educationally these were ideal for a woman going back to work after raising her family or someone wishing to change direction in their choice of work and to learn new skills. However, there were many recreational classes as well, providing entertainment and social life. Handicraft classes such as dressmaking, cookery, upholstery, woodworking and art. It was an ideal way to learn; it was also a way of preventing some of the older skills like lace making, of dying away.
“The School was built in 1877. It was built by Mr Pratt of Clyst St. Mary for £1,499. It was designed for 150 pupils and had a Masters house attached. The first Head Master was W M Parson who received £80 per annum. One of his problems, apart from teaching, was to get the children to school, absenteeism was rife. Many parents were reluctant to send their children and as many as 30 girls were on half time (half the time working and half at school). An Attendance Officer was appointed and many parents were summonsed and fined 5/- many more than once. Apart from Harvest holidays several parents were granted a months leave for their children to pick peas.” ( G Tenney)
Note from John Hagger: "When this memorial was first “unveiled” and blessed, probably in 1919 it was surrounded by mothers, fathers, wives, brothers, sisters, children and school-friends of those named on the plaque. They knew all the details of the lives of these men and boys; many would have been in tears. Today however, almost 100 years later, those of us who pass by the memorial and who benefited from the sacrifice they made, do not know anything about them except their names. It was with this thought that I decided to investigate the life details of each one of them.
It is appropriate that I should give full credit to Terry Gregory from Capper Close, for his big contribution to facts that we can reveal regarding these men. Terry researched much of the National Census record information that we refer to, and I am indebted to him for his considerable help."