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Bersham School - A history through school log books

Timeline:

1868 – Bersham National School built to attempt to give an education to the poorest           children

1870 – Formation of local elected School  Boards – Bersham Board School set up

1876 – Principle established that all children should have a free elementary education

1876 – Bersham School extended to house Infants, Junior Boys, Junior Girls sections

1880 – School leaving age 10

1893 – School leaving age 11

1899 – School leaving age 12

1900 – Infants left Bersham for the newly opened school in Rhostyllen

1904 – Junior Girls left Bersham for  second new school in Rhostyllen next to Infants           School

1904 – School Boards taken over by Local Education Committee of Rural District Council

1918 – School leaving age 14

1935 – Bersham School renovated ready for reorganisation

1936 – Rhostyllen Junior Girls enlarged ready for reorganisation into Senior School

1937 – Opening of Rhostyllen Senior School.  Junior Girls moved back to Bersham

1937 – Establishment of Bersham Junior Mixed School

1944 – Senior School in Rhostyllen became a Secondary Modern School  with leaving age           raised to 15

1960 – Opening of Bryn Offa School.  Rhostyllen Secondary Modern School  renovated as           Junior School

1961 – Bersham  closed and all Junior pupils moved to Rhostyllen.  Infants remained at           original school next door

1969 – School leaving age 16

1992 – Combined Infants/Junior  School remodelled on site of Junior School.  Infants            building to be demolished

The building of the main school and redevelopment of the ‘Top School’

The National School premises at Bersham (‘Top School’) were handed over to the new Bersham School Board in 1871, provided that the bible would be in daily use and that rooms would be available for Sunday School.  By February 1872, the Board had submitted rough plans for a new school for boys and girls adjacent to the present building on land owned by Thomas Fitzhugh.  At the same time, the Top School would be redeveloped as the Infants department.  

In April 1874, two tenders were put out:

Six builders submitted estimates for the main school, the highest of which was £1537. The Board accepted the estimate of £1385 from Edward Williams.  Richard Bunn won the contract for the Infants @ £722.10.0.  Estimated total costs for all aspects of the completed schools were £1896 and £803 respectively.  The money would be borrowed from the Public Works Loan Commission on security of mortgage of school fund and the Local Rates of the District, payable in 50 fixed annual sums.

By November, Edward Williams’s contract was cancelled, as he had failed to make progress on the building.  Mr Bunn offered to step in at his original price of £1437 but he then withdrew from this second contract.  New tenders were invited and the contract was eventually awarded to Phennah and Davies at the much higher cost of £2125 on condition that the building was completed by October 1875.   This firm also took on the contract for repairing the School House for £45.10.0.  The order for all school furniture was given to Mr S Lamont of Chester.

By June 1875, Mr Bunn gave notice that the Infants School was ready for occupation. Initially, this section would have to house all the children until the new Junior Boys and Girls School was ready in January 1876.  External hiring of the building could now take place: the vicar of Wrexham enquired when the Infants would be ready for Sunday services;  Mr Greville of Laurel Grove wanted to hire the rooms for an unspecified purpose connected with the Turkey Mill; Mr Blew asked for use of the premises on behalf of the Presbyterian Chapel which was being painted; Mr W Edwards, the local blacksmith, asked to hire a room one night per week for the Good Templars Lodge (this was eventually granted after lengthy discussions on the legality).

Advertisements for the three Head Teachers were placed in several newspapers: Mr George Bristow, assistant master at Penygelli, was appointed as Headmaster of the Boys (£70 per year, including a rent-free house with garden and free coal); Miss H A Griffiths from Halifax was appointed Headmistress of the Girls and Miss Mary Rogers also from Penygelli School as Head of the Infants.  A tender was accepted from Mrs Ann Jones to clean the schools and provide firewood @ 6/- per week.  The new school opened in January 1876.

School Log Books

The school log books for the Bersham Board School, filled in daily by the Head Teacher, are available to view at the Denbighshire Record Office situated in the old jail at Ruthin. To protect the privacy of past pupils still alive, there is a 75 year data protection block on the content and the last available pages to view are up to 1938.  The school had three sections, all housed initially at Bersham.

The first entries are:

There are three separate log books for the three departments each with its own Head Teacher.  After the Infants moved to Rhostyllen in 1900, the Boys’ and Girls’ departments remained under separate Head Teachers at Bersham.  In 1904, the girls moved to a new building in Rhostyllen next to the Infants School and now had access to domestic science facilities.  The following selection of snippets from the logs are taken randomly from the Boys’ and Girls’ sections.

An interesting feature of teacher training at this time was the appointment of older pupils, often from other schools, to be given the opportunity of testing their suitability. The log for 28 January noted that Lucy Hughes of Adwy aged 13 was received as a ‘monitress’, with a view to becoming a pupil teacher.  Later the Head Teacher wrote: “Lucy Hughes is an active girl and will, I think, make a good teacher in time.  She has authority over her class and is industrious”.  Mr Bristow wrote in 1892 that Louis Blew was qualified under Article 50 and that the three teachers were himself, Louis and James Baker, another pupil teacher who was sent home in disgrace on 26 August for deliberate disobedience in the matter of corporal punishment.  The future MP for Wrexham from 1955 to 1970, Mr James Idwal Jones, became an Uncertified Teacher at Bersham in 1918.

On Friday 10 February 1882, the school had a visit from Mrs Greville of Laurel Grove, who promised to send up some material for the girls to sew.  {The Grevilles owned the grand-looking Laurel Grove and just across the river “The Old Turkey Mill”, bought earlier in the century by Henry Methold Greville of Worcester.  A high-class paper mill with contracts for banknote paper, it was managed by his son, Charles Henry and his sister, Emily Agnes. In 1861, they employed 15 men and 43 women.   On the 1871 census, Ann Greville aged 58 was the head of the house, with her three children still in residence: Emily 31, Charles 29 and Herbert 22}.  It is not mentioned if Ann or Emily was going to help the girls at Bersham School.

The new Head teacher after Miss Griffiths was Miss H A Davies but by March 1887 she too had retired.  The new appointee Miss E A Plant expressed her anxiety about the school standards following a poor report by inspectors.  She noted in the log on 5 December 1889 that Ada Blew, a pupil teacher, should be informed that she was now qualified.  Her sister, Lillie Maud Blew, was to become a candidate for ‘teachership’.  Further information on this family will emerge on the boys’ school log.

The fourth Head teacher since the Girls’ School opened, Miss E M J Morgan, started work in 1894 and was in charge when the children moved to Rhostyllen.   Later there was a Mrs Bishop, followed in 1921 by Miss M A Griffiths.  On 31st August 1926 Miss C Mitchell entered upon her duties as Head teacher; she remained in post until the late 50s and is still fondly remembered by past pupils.  

On 2 January 1896 when the school re-opened after the Christmas holidays, it was charmingly noted that two School Board members presented each child with an orange as a reward for regularity.  The staff of the Boys’ School that year were: Mr Bristow, E H Steen, F J Pritchard and Herbert Wallace.  Mr Blew had gone to teach in Coedpoeth.

Some old-fashioned discipline was mentioned on 25 February 1897: “Yesterday a bag of marbles disappeared from the pocket of L J’s coat hung in the porch.  The offence was brought home and the ‘thief’ and ‘receivers’ received three strokes.  Two years later he noted that truancy and dare-devildom are on the increase.

19 May 1898 provides an historical perspective: “The Grand Old Man is gone.  The boys decided by a show of hands to abstain from play until after the funeral”.  {William Ewart Gladstone, former Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, died at the age of 88 at Hawarden Castle, his estate in Flintshire which previously belonged to the family of his wife.  In 1885 he bequeathed a fortune and his books to St. Deiniol’s Library, Hawarden. It is now known as Gladstone’s Library and has a statue of him in the front grounds}.

Death of Head Teacher, George Bristow:  For the next few months after January 1900 Mr Bristow made frequent reference to his poor state of health.  By 7 May the log noted: “For some weeks past the Headmaster has been suffering from throat trouble, perhaps not caused by, but most certainly aggravated by schoolwork.  His medical adviser recommends a week’s entire rest”.  He was reluctant to do this, as he felt unable to hand the school to somebody else.  On the evening of 25 May the Headmaster ‘passed to his rest’ after a short but painful illness – double pneumonia.

The new Headmaster, who started work on 27 August 1900, was Louis Blew who had been a pupil-teacher at Bersham and qualified in 1892.  His more legible handwriting now filled the pages of the log book.  One interesting entry on 1 November that year was: “Miss Morgan, having applied poison for the purpose of destroying the rats, a nasty smell has come and it was decided to close in the afternoon to see what could be done”.  

The Chairman of the Board gave the boys a holiday on 3 April 1901, as it was the Headmaster’s wedding day.  On 2 June 1902 the entry began with a heading: “Hurray Peace.  During the evening hooters were plainly heard and as one after another were sounded, only one opinion could be formed and that was peace.  With glad hearts we assembled in the morning expecting to have other news but none arrived until 1.30 pm. The Vice-Chairman kindly gave a half holiday and after singing the National Anthem and giving three cheers, we dispersed”. {Second Boer War 1899-1902 involved large numbers of troops from the British Empire; it ended with the Boer republics becoming British colonies.  These eventually formed part of the Union of South Africa}.

For the next two years Mr Blew’s entries in the log book were tinged with references to his poor health: “my cold still being troublesome”, “I decide to stay in bed”, “I have not yet succeeded in getting rid of my cough, which is very troublesome”, “I have not been feeling well for some time”, “my cough is troublesome and attacks me whenever I speak”, “according to the doctor’s orders, Mr Blew is not to attend school”.  On 18 December 1903 the deputy Headmaster wrote: “After having been confined to his bed for several weeks, Mr. Blew breathed his last peacefully and quite happy died about 10 pm on December 16th “. A condolence card was attached to the same page of the log book.  He was 31 years of age.  The teachers and boys from the school attended his funeral.




On 25 January 1904 Mr Edward Gordon Griffiths took charge of the school.  One of his log entries on 26 July 1906 concerned the ex-Headmaster: “Mr Fred Blew, the Post Office Bersham, father of the late Headmaster, presented the school with a framed photograph of his son and addressed the boys”.        

{The life of ‘Fred’ Blew – actually Francis Thomas Fincher Blew- gives some insight into the importance of Bersham as a paper-milling centre.  Born in 1837 he is listed on all eight censuses from 1841 to 1911.  In 1851 aged 14 he was a paper maker apprentice in Ivybridge, Devon, where his father Francis was a paper maker sizer at the Stowford Mill. In 1861 he was living in Kidderminster, another paper milling town, and married to Hannah.  By 1871 they had moved to Ddol, Bersham and had six of their nine children.  It is not known in which of Bersham’s three mills he was employed but was likely to be the important Turkey Mill opposite Laurel Grove.  The next census in 1881 listed them living at Pear Tree Cottage, Rhostyllen, just behind the Tabernacle Chapel.  All nine children were born, with the eldest Catherine having left home and Louis aged 8.  Ten years later they were back on Ddol Hill in Bersham with their five youngest children, including Ada aged 10 and Lillie Maud aged 5, already mentioned as pupil teachers in the Girls’ School. Thomas aged 14 was also listed as a Monitor at Bersham Board School.  In 1901 Fred and Hannah were staying with their oldest son, wife and child in Maidstone, Kent, where there was another well-known Turkey Mill; there were three named Francis in the house – father, son and grandson.  Fred’s father in Devon was also Francis; all became paper-makers.  On the final census in 1911 they were back in Bersham and Fred is listed as an ‘Assistant Overseer’ now aged 73. The form states that they had nine children and one had died.  The address is not given, so there is no confirmation that they lived in the Post Office.  Later Mr Blew will have more involvement with the school}.

Note: ‘Turkey Mill’ – Bersham wasn’t the only place in Britain to use this name for its paper mill but the origin of the word is not clear.  It has been suggested that it refers to Turkey Red dye used on the cloth/rags in the paper making process.

In January 1937 the Boys’ School log book was transferred to Rhostyllen Senior School and was filled in by the new headmaster, Mr R W Pugh.  The Headmistress of the Girls’ School, Miss C Mitchell, moved to Bersham and continued the Girls’ School log book as Bersham Junior Mixed School.  Her colleagues in the 1950s were Mr Cyril Hughes, Mr Clifford Giller and Mr Edward King.

School numbers:  in January 1900 Mr Bristow had written that the school opened with 126 boys present out of 140.  In September 1912 the Chairman of Managers signed off the attendance register with 199 boys present out of 205, the highest number present in the history of the school.  In 1937 26 children were transferred to the newly opened Rhostyllen Senior School and 41 children transferred from Rhostyllen Infants to Bersham. On April 21st 1937 the school was closed throughout the day for the purpose of celebrating the official opening of the Rhostyllen Senior School.  Bersham School was extended in 1935 by converting the veranda at the back into the Head Teacher’s office with a cloakroom on either side.  ‘Latrines’ remained in the playground and were often frozen in winter, causing children to be sent home (much to their annoyance!!).  A reference to the coldness of the school was made on 26th January 1917: “This has been one of the coldest weeks on record.  This morning the ink was frozen in the inkwells”.

A log entry from 7th May 1930 indicated that six new boys, who had come to live in the Council Houses in Rhostyllen, were admitted.  Henblas Road, Langdale Avenue, West Grove, Wynnstay Crescent, Celmar Grove and Rosemary Crescent were the first streets to be constructed to extend the village.  On occasions, treats were arranged for the children. On 9th December 1932 “School was closed on Wednesday afternoon owing to an international match at Wrexham” {7th December 1932 Wales 4 Ireland 1}.  Also on 17 July 1917 “Top classes attended a performance of ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ at the Glynn Picture House”.

Keeping the children in school could often be a problem.  On 6th March 1912 the head wrote: “Owing to the coal strike many of our scholars are engaged in picking coal on Bersham Bank.  Our attendance is as a consequence greatly reduced”.  Then on 3rd May 1918: “Several of the older boys are claiming ‘Exception Certificates’ in order to go to work.  There is quite a demand for boy labour at the moment”.  The First World War was drawing to a conclusion and there was a huge shortage of manpower before the troops returned home.  Surprisingly little mention was made of the war in the log books, except for references to the deaths of teachers’ relatives or a past teacher:  18th May 1917 “On Thursday morning Mrs Wynne heard that her brother had made the supreme sacrifice in France.  Two members of staff have now lost brothers” and 18 November 1918 “During school closure one of our old teachers, Llewelyn Penri Jones, died out on active service in the east”.

Four British monarchs died during the period of these log books:

Finally another reference to Mr Francis Blew, who moved to Bersham from Devon because of his work in paper making and whose children did so well as trainee teachers at the school.  In the early part of the 20th century he became Chairman of the School Managers and signed off the weekly attendance figures, often with a brief comment.  Mr Gordon Griffiths, the Headmaster, wrote on 11th December 1922: “On Friday evening Mr Francis Thomas Fincher Blew was presented with a large framed photograph of himself by his fellow managers in honour of his long connection with Bersham School.  The photograph is to be hung in the school.  Mr Blew has reached the ripe age of 85”.  It is sad to think that there already existed a photograph of his deceased son, ex-headmaster Louis Blew, who died aged 31.  Mr Blew will probably be found on the next census in 1921 and will have been on all nine.

An example of a Bersham Report from 1954 signed by Mr Edward King and Miss C Mitchell:



 

Bersham Colliery Bersham Village Buildings & Scenes Characters Erddig People & Events Rhostyllen School Shops & Businesses Sporting Teams Transport

Bersham School 1868 - 1961


Top school is the large stone building in the centre of the picture, the caretakers house is the smaller one attached this side of it with 5 windows, 1 door, Top school was not attached to the other part of the school now known as the heritage centre, the children had to walk outside to get from one to the other.

1953 - Mr King’s Choir and Band

1930’s

1905


This man would be looking roughly towards the Bridge House, Bersham, with Top School and the caretakers house in the background. To the right of the horses is the wood and beyond would be the 48 steps leading to Station Road. He's on the junction of Bersham Road and Plas Buckley Road. As you go down the hill into Bersham from Rhostyllen, he would be standing on the left as you go over the bridge,


The Children of Bersham School

1949


1951 Nativity play


1915 - Bersham School

1934/35 - Bersham Boys School Football Team

1906 - 1912  Bersham School Reports for Herbert Frank Owen

1949 Bersham Juniors (Form 3)

1931 - Bersham School

1932 - Bersham School

This photo of Bersham School taken around 1932 with William Herbert Jones third from the left second row. His brother (Iorwerth) is far left back row and sister Doris is third from right in the third row. His brother (Haydn) is second from right on the front row.


Christmas 1891 School Log Book

“It was a Christmas card I received. I presume it was written by the Headmaster and the figures are the temperatures in Fahrenheit” John Povah. Thanks John for all your help.

1931 Bersham School

1938 - Letters to ‘Reggie’ from fellow pupils after he broke his leg falling off a wall at Bersham School. (‘Reggie’ is pictured below on the left in 1938)

For more information on the schools of Rhostyllen and Bersham please click this link

URL: http://rhostyllen.info/rhostyllen%20school.html