Continual coughing

Throughout the Victorian period an increasing number of children gained access to basic education. The difficulty for an area like Alwoodley was that it only had a small population, not really enough to sustain a full time teacher and premises. It is no coincidence then that the first Alwoodley School was located at the far end of  Wigton Lane near the junction with Harrogate Road, on the border of two large rural areas. Quite when it started is difficult to ascertain but on 15 June 1877 there were just four children present and the following day only two! The teacher even then complained that ‘…one boy is particularly dull in his Arithmetic, seems to have no idea whatever about it.’ Numbers rose steadily to nearly twenty pupils but in the following year almost half the children were absent at the end of March because of a whooping cough outbreak. 

Those who struggled to attend were ‘continually coughing.’ On 1 August 1878 attendance was again poor with many children absent because of hay-making. Matters were made worse when the teacher received a note from an irate mother complaining that certain pupils were fighting and quarrelling with ‘her two’ on the way home. Punishment was swift, decisive and painful!89 On 3 January 1879 Mr Middleham, H.M.I., made a surprise visit and was impressed by what he saw recording ‘….This little school which has been closed for a long time but has made a good beginning under Miss Jowett…more books are wanted also a small globe and some ink wells.’ 90 On 21 May 1881 she noted ‘… the children have been very tiresome this week, so I made them remain on Thursday and sit still for ten minutes…they have been much better today. 91

By 1883 the school had grown to almost thirty students. The log-book entries for that year give some idea of the kind of curriculum being taught.  In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic, pupils were given special lessons on such varied topics as the walrus, tin, the caterpillar, sealing wax, a mushroom and the cocoa nut! On 20 June Mr. Middleham re-inspected the school noting it ‘…continues in a very creditable state of efficiency, though the Attendance has been very considerably reduced lately by the removal from the district of Navvies employed in the neighbouring Waterworks.92 After praising the quality of the pupils’ abilities in reading, spelling, arithmetic and grammar he comments ‘…the third Standards Children are very backward in Geography and the infants should add and subtract small numbers with greater readiness.’ Perhaps his most bizarre comment is saved for the female pupils where he judges the needlework to be satisfactory but argues that ‘…the girls should be prepared in future to work Exercises on the day of inspection according to the code.’ 93


89. WYAS 64/2 Alwoodley Parish: School Log Book 1 August 1878.
90. WYAS 64/2 Alwoodley Parish: School Log Book 3 January 1879.
91. WYAS 64/2 Alwoodley Parish: School Log Book 21 May 1881.
92. WYAS 64/2 Alwoodley Parish: School Log Book 20 June 1883.
93. WYAS 64/2 Alwoodley Parish: School Log Book 20 June 1883.

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