The Old School House

The Old School House

The Old School House

POTTED HISTORY OF THE OLD SCHOOL, 168 NORTH CRAY ROAD

In 1859 a small school was built on a triangular plot of land south of the Alms houses on a piece of land given for the purpose by Lord Vansittart. Although a new school was built a year later in 1860 the original building was in use intermittently as an Infant classroom until both were closed in 1959 and was demolished between 1967 – 1969 when the road was widened. The original school was used as an Infants and the National School at 168 North Cray Road was for children between the ages of 7 – 13. The new school was provided for the parish by Western Wood MP, owner of North Cray Place as shown in a conveyance dated 25th May 1860 when it was accepted for the parish by the Rector, Josiah Bateman and the two churchwardens Western Wood and Edward Marshall.

The school comprised of a single storey building with an attached two storey house for the school master or mistress and grounds both back and front.

By 1870 there are approximately 30 children registered in the school and seems to have peaked at 60 at the start of the Great War, but attendance is noted as being patchy due to the children being sick or needed for helping at the Harvest and other agricultural demands. As a church school the Rector seems to take great interest in the school and they hold two services for the school in the local church, St James, a year, one of them being Ash Wednesday and the children form the bulk of the church choir.

Log books date from 1873 throw some light on the upkeep of the school. In 1879 a new stove was required which meant the school had to close for three days and gas was laid on during the 1880’s, electricity in 1942. Water was laid on to the school house in 1898. [In Spring 2013 during building work for an extension a well that predates the building was discovered and a pipe to the school house from the well to the kitchen was found.] A school report in 1907 says that there is no tap in the school. A piano ‘in good condition’ was given to the school in 1931.

The School did not avoid bomb damage during the war suffering several instances of superficial damage but in 1944 the roof and chimney stack required serious repairs.  A bomb shelter was erected on the site for the use of the children and staff. A Mrs Lewis was the Head during the war and John Harrington, who lives next door, thinks she stayed until the school moved to what is now the North Cray Community Centre but a report from H.M.I. say that a new Head was appointed in 1948 but no name is given.  In October 1958 a Miss Dacey gave a Headmistresses report to the Education Committee but it is not clear if she is the Head or her representative.

By the 17th September 1947 the school had become a local authority controlled school but retained its links with the Church of England. 1949 shows that the front room of the school house is being used to cook a mid-day meal for the school. By 1953 the school inspectors report that the conditions are poor in the school and two mixed age classes are being taught in the one room with the infants in the older building 100 yards down the road notwithstanding the school is still providing a useful service to the community with 51 pupils on the roll. [It was noted that arithmetic was very poor in the children coming up from the infants and steps were put in place to rectify this.]

With the building of a new school on the site of the North Cray Community Centre in 1959 the school was officially closed on 31st December 1959 and the building was sold to create a private dwelling.

Gill Burgess

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