Village Archive

14th Jun 2016 Last updated at 14:25

247 Years of Education in Chipstead - Part 1


 In July 1993 Surrey County Council closed Chipstead First School and brought to an end 247 years of formal schooling in Chipstead. So ended a chapter in the life of the Village which had its beginnings in local charity and finally became a state primary school. From its first location in Outwood Lane the school moved up the hill to Shabden cottages and subsequently to the purpose built premises on High Road near Markedge Lane, which date from 1874. This spans a period of 247 years.

 The closing of the school is a sad loss of identity to Chipstead, particularly when compounded with other amenities which no longer play a role in the life of the Village. The present school was built in 1874 and at the turn of the century it was known as The Chipstead Parochial School, regulated by a scheme under the Endowed Schools Act of 1874.

 On 23rd May 1906 the Mary Stephens governors entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with Surrey County Council. In effect, Surrey County Council became the freeholders in all but name, provision being made that should the school cease to be used as such, then the property would revert to the Mary Stephens Foundation.

Right: Portrait of Mary Stephens (1666 - 1755). This is a betrothal portrait of Miss Mary Rolt on her marriage to Anthony Stephens in 1694, painted by John Vanderbank.

 A proposal by the County Council in 1978 to close the school on grounds of financial and educational viability was successfully opposed by the then School Governors.

 In 1991, as part of the re-appraisal of education within the County, Surrey concluded that the school should close. Vigorous objections were made to the County and subsequently to central Government by the School Governors, actively led by Cllr. Angela Fraser, Chairman of the Governors and our local County Councillor. Strong objections also came from the Parent Teachers Association, parents and various local organisations, including Chipstead Residents’ Association, Chipstead Village Preservation Society and The Mary Stephens Foundation. But pupil numbers had declined even from 1978 and it was upon this basis, coupled with financial and educational viability that the Minister finally supported the County Council.

 To mark the end of the school, the Mary Stephens Governors attended a small ceremony at the close of the Summer term 1993 and each pupil was presented with a pen with their individual name inscribed upon it as a momento of their time in school. The Mary Stephens Governors formally took possession of the buildings on 31st October 1993.

These articles are based upon original research carried out by Joyce Pringle and adapted for the Chipstead website by Rupert Courtenay-Evans and Barry Pepper.

 Origins of Elementary Schools

 The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge began their existence in 1167/8 and 1209 respectively at a time when all education was in the hands of the Church, and was intended for the higher instruction of clergy and ordinands. During the 14th and 15th centuries it became an act of charity for wealthy clerics, merchants and noble ladies to found colleges and schools for the benefit of boys from their estate, parish or borough.

 The best known surviving establishments of these origins are William of Wykeham’s Winchester College, King Henry VI’s Eton College and King’s College, Cambridge.

However, few farmers’ sons from isolated Downland villages like Chipstead, would, in those days, have come under the influence of such establishments. But it was the non-conformist sects who valued education if only because it would enable all and sundry to read Holy Scripture.

 In 1699 the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge was founded under the influence of a Dr  Thomas Bray (1656-1730) Rector of Sheldon, Warwickshire. He promoted the formation of parish libraries and certainly encouraged the foundation of schools, particularly Sunday schools. The Society had one primary aim ‘to further and promote that good design of erecting catechetical schools in each parish in and about London’ and by 1741 was said to have created 2,000 schools maintained by public subscriptions.

 It is not surprising therefore that Mrs Mary Stephens of Epsom was moved to found her school for 3 boys and 3 girls in 1746.

 Mary Stephens’ Charity School in Outwood Lane – 1746 to 1871

 In 1694 a 28 year old lady called Miss Mary Rolt was married to Anthony Stephens, a prosperous widower aged 61, who lived in Epsom. In 1695 Anthony Stephens died after only two years of married life and was buried in the chancel of St Margaret’s Church, and his Tabard hangs above his tomb. He left his widow over £16,000.

 Mary was widowed but lived on to the fine old age of 89 in 1755, never marrying again. It is not clear what was the connection of the Stephens family with Chipstead; Anthony is described as ‘of Epsom’ but he and his two wives are buried in St Margaret ‘s Church.

 Mary bought ‘a little farm of about 70 acres’ from Elizabeth Baldwin and others, members of the Dallender family. This comprised a house, barns and various fields and woodlands in

Outwood Lane and lying along the valley bottom near the present railway viaduct. The farmlands were let to a local farmer which would provide a rental income for the school. The house was used to accommodate the schoolmaster and where he taught the children. The house is now known as ‘The Old School House’ but was then divided into two residences.

Outwood Lane Schoolhouse

The rear garden of the first schoolhouse at Chipstead Bottom in Outwood Lane

In 1746 Mary arranged her school Foundation which specified that ‘The Trustees should employ the rents as should be necessary for the repairs of the premises and in the teaching of six poor children, boys or girls, of the Parish of Chipstead, whose parents were of a sober and religious life, to read in some convenient school in the parish, and for the providing each of them as soon as they could read, with a bible.’ Mary Stephens died in 1755.

Mary Stephens Grave

Memorial tombstones of Mary Stephens and her husband Anthony in the chancel of St. Margaret's Church. 

The first recorded schoolmaster was George Dawes who was paid £9 per year from which £3 was deducted for rent. By 1799 he had become very infirm and a new master, James Moore, was appointed at the princely salary of £18 per annum, out of which he had to buy pens, inks and bibles. After 15 years of service James Moore asked for and was granted an increase in salary to £21 and was no longer required to provide prayer books which were provided by the Rector, Peter Aubertin.

 By 1828 a further cottage had been added to the schoolhouse and this was rented by James Moore at £6 per annum. He seems to have made himself useful to the Trustees by drafting apprenticeship indentures and by supervising certain farming operations on the Trust’s property, such as tree planting.

Schools James Moore

James Moore, headmaster at the original school in Outwood Lane for 54 years (1800 - 1854)

By 1846 much of the teaching appears to have been done by Moore’s son and daughter, for Moore was getting on in years, but the Trustees seem to have been disturbed by aspects of the son’s and daughter’s behaviour. The Rector referred to the fact that they were ‘Dissenters of various persuasions’. Moore died in 1854. Three rather unsuccessful masters followed and finally in 1865 Jesse Richbell, a young man of 23, unmarried, was appointed, it being understood that his mother would keep house.

 The first ‘poor children’ recorded to have received the benefit of Mary Stephen’s Trust are Hannah Matthew and Elizabeth Scrivens, daughters of day labourers of How Green. At the close of their schooling children were apprenticed to such local trades as the Trustees thought fit. They were extremely careful as to the character of the employer to whom they were entrusting their children.

 In 1786 the Rector, Mr Griffiths, reported that ‘Martha Walter, daughter of a day labourer at the Well House’ (now the Well House Inn) was qualified to be put apprentice, but the only offer or receiving her was from a mantua maker in Reigate, who demanded a fee of 12 guineas for only two years, which appeared to the Trustees to be ‘so exorbitant and so far to exceed the sum resolved on by the last meeting that they do not judge it to be expedient to close with that offer’.

 There seems to have been a number of other children attending lessons in the Old School House, besides the six charity children, for when in 1870  the Rev.Peter Aubertin gave his consent to the six Mary Stephen’s scholars being admitted to the National School in the High Road (see below), the numbers of the latter jumped from 85 in 1870 to 130 in 1872.

 In 1870 Mary Stephen’s Governors must have realised that they would find better use for their funds by sending their six pupils to the National School and disposing of their small estate which was already being farmed as part of the Shabden estate. So the Old School House and land was sold to Mr Cattley and the Mary Stephens Charity became possessed of the financial proceeds of the transaction. This later enabled the Trustees to provide £1000 towards the acquisition of a new school site at the Ruffetts in High Road.

 In 1891 free education was introduced and the funds of Mary Stephens Charity were used to provide prizes, grants and scholarships for those pupils who progressed to Grammar school or places in other Secondary schools.

 Mary Stephens would, we think, have been happy to think that her gifts had multiplied to provide for the schooling of many more Chipstead children than the original 3 boys and 3 girls.

 The National School at No.1 Shabden Cottages – 1870 to 1874

 In 1902 Parliament passed what is known as Balfour’s Education Act which made public education the business of County Councils and all payment by parents for elementary education in Council Schools were abolished. Not until 1918 was education made compulsory for all children between the ages of 5 and 14 years and no child under the age of 12 was to be in full time employment.

 So far as Chipstead was concerned it seems likely that the Rector, Peter Aubertin (1808-1860)) the gentry and the major farmers of the parish must have taken advantage of the earliest governmental initiatives to provide some education for the young beyond the limited advantages of the Mary Stephens School, and create a National School.

 By the year 1850 the National School had 80 pupils attending. Research to date has revealed little about the early history of our National School. It appears to have been located at what is now No 1 Shabden Cottages and an early postcard shows a timber hut with a tiled roof and two chimney stacks abutting onto the front garden fence along the High Road. This was the schoolroom although exactly when it was erected is not known.

Shabden School

The second school building and subsequently the Chipstead post office, standing in front of No.1 Shabden Cottages at the crossroads next to Elmore pond. The Post mistress was Miss Bray. The Post Office services were moved to No.1 Shabden Cottages a few years before WW1, and the building demolished

This was the old school. It stood on the High Road, next to Elmore Pond, in front of the building line of Shabden Cottages.

 In the Autumn of 1870 David Gibson was in his first year as Headmaster, keeping a daily Log Book. An Inspector’s report of July 1870 reads

 ”The School is in excellent order and promises very well. The children have passed a very creditable examination in Holy Scripture in the different Standards but they have been placed too low in several instances The area of the room would be too small if the children were not well handled. A classroom for the infants is needed.”

 The headmaster lived in the cottage on the corner of Elmore Road from which vantage point he could observe his charges not only in school but equally when they were on their way to and from school. Thus on the 14th November he punished two boys for playing on the road and coming to school late, while two weeks later he punished two boys for playing round and getting into the pond!

 The agricultural background to Chipstead life frequently interfered with school routine. The observation ‘school very thin’ recurs with varying qualifications such as ‘gathering acorns after the late high winds’ or ‘some gathering potatoes for the farmers’.

 Religion was very much part of life, both in school and out. ‘Spoke to all attending the Sunday School’ and ‘Spoke to the whole school about the neglect of Sunday School’.

 Childrens schooling could be very brief, a few year’s interlude between the nursery stage of life and the world of work which would be their lot until their dying day. Their last day of school might occur at any time when their parents saw an opening for their gainful employment. In September 1872 Mr Gibson noted ‘one boy nearly 14 years old (N Garland) left school for work in the Shabden garden’, and two years later in April 1874 another note says ‘Walter Sams 1st class boy left for work in Mr Cattley’s stables Age 12. Not very bright boy and not very forward with learning’

 The New School at the Ruffetts, High Road - 1874 to 1993

 The improving financial situation meant that all concerned with Chipstead’s communal life were able to undertake building a new school on a new site at Ruffetts on the High Road. In 1874 Lord Hylton spoke to all present of the great pleasure it gave him to see the splendid buildings and to declare them open for use. David Gibson continued as headmaster, maintaining the daily Log Book.

School Building 1920

The third school building at the Ruffets in High Road, built circa 1874. This picture was taken in 1920

The school’s routine continued much as before, only interrupted by the incidence of bad weather or illness and sometimes death. In the early months of 1875 heavy snowstorms occurred reducing attendances to 48, 60 and 71; those who had to come two miles or more to school were excused. On Wednesday 19th January 1881, Many children arrived at school cold, shivering and wet with snow. Roads blocked so that Inspector could not come.’ On Thursday ‘Tried again to open the school. Only 61 present. Sent children home. Many have over two miles to come across fields and through lanes. These were so filled with snow that children could not get there. School only opened 4 times in the week.’

 In December 1880 Mr Cattley died on a Sunday morning and his funeral on a Thursday afternoon was the occasion for the schoolnot to open. Two years later Mrs Aubertin died, and in February1891 the later Rector (Peter Aubertin, the younger) died and the children attended his funeral.

 School children 1885

 A Victorian photograph of Chipstead school children circa 1885. On the right is Mr Gibson, headmaster from circa 1870 to 1900.

In October 1893 a little boy, Charles Woods, in the infants class, five years old, was taken ill on a Tuesday and died on the Wednesday in the following week. On 1st June 1895 an 11 year old, Ellen Beadle was taken ill on Saturday and died on Sunday 9th June; the doctor attributed her death to concussion following a fall.

 In 1896 the Assistant Master, Mr Johnston, was absent on 18th and 19th of September and died on Sunday 20th. Wrote Mr Gibson: ‘I record this with deepest grief. He had only been with us exactly 5 months, but during that time by his manly, upright and straight forward conduct, combined with great kindness of heart, he had endeared himself to all, teachers and children alike. He was firm but kind in his treatment of the children and the elder scholars, among whom he laboured, feel that they have lost a true friend. For myself, I must say that I have never met with a more agreeable and conscientious colleague.His death at the age of 27 has cast a gloom over the school during the whole week’.

 The monotony of schoolwork was relieved from time to time: In September 1890 ‘Children were photographed in groups on Friday during Dinner hour’ ; in May 1882 twenty of the older children had a trip to Brighton, and in October on Friday 6th, the school did not open in consequence of a Sunday School trip to Crystal Palace. On July 4th 1904 Mrs Goad, one of the Governors, took the children to Box Hill for a drive. And. of course, there were the national holidays for Royal weddings, Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, Coronations and the Relief of Ladysmith.


Chipstead schoolchildren in 1901. The headmaster from circa 1900 to 1920, Mr. Underwood, is on the right

Free education was not introduced until 1891; until that year all scholars attending school were expected to pay School Pence or one penny per week towards their tuition From time to time the Head would have demanded payment and threaten to reduce admission in case of non-compliance.

 The County Education Committee became responsible for the management of the school on the 1st April 1903. The school was not a Church school but was regulated by a scheme under the Endowed Schools Acts and, in a formal letter of 30th June 1904, the Governors intimated their wish to transfer the school to the County’s control. Six months later, the Governors of the Mary Stephens Charity were empowered to hand over site and buildings to the Surrey County Council so long as the school continued as a Public Elementary School. Finally, on 1st April 1906 the School was deemed to be a Council School. The Board of Management comprised the Rev’d J A Hervey (the Rector) and his wife, Mrs M A Hervey, Mrs A H Goad of Chipstead Lodge and A J Norris of Longshaw as four Foundation Managers.

 The County refused to allow £6/annum for renting the playground and they would only allow £5/annum for school prizes!! The Governors therefore applied to the Mary Stephens Charity for assistance in renting the playground, but they protested to the Education Committee that they considered £12/annum for Prizes to be essential as a ‘carrot’ to induce parents to send their children regularly to school. They felt that as a rural parish where children often had to walk considerable distances to school there was a great temptation to keep children at home when weather was inclement or cases of mild indisposition. Even if a child was not sent to casual employment its presence at home might release some other member of the family for gainful employment. Nevertheless by 1909 the headmaster noted that he had 181 on the roll, the highest ever.

 Major building work did not occur until 1938 when the school was enlarged to provide four classrooms, including a new Infant’s Room and a school canteen. In 1953 a detached classroom unit was built but, even so, two years later an HM Inspector was commenting that the absence of sufficient free space inside the building meant that all organised physical activity had to take place outside and that staff cloakroom and sanitary facilities were inadequate.

 The Teaching

 In 1894 the infants were being taught about the animal kingdom, the vegetable kingdom, the mineral kingdom, trades and about form and colour. Standards I to VII were given passages to learn for recitations; extracts from Marmion and the Lady of the Lake, from the Burial of Sir John Moore and from The Village Blacksmith, and more suitable light verses for the younger ones. Prizes were given for writing and for needlework.

 In 1909 the girls began a cookery course and the following year it is noted that this took place at Merstham while the boys commenced gardening operations. In 1922 the boys attended woodwork classes at Smitham Bottom, bus fares being paid by the Mary Stephens Foundation, and in 1924 boys and girls went to Reigate baths for swimming lessons.

 The Mary Stephens Foundation also provided scholarships for those children who gained entry to grammar and other secondary schools. In 1904 it was noted that Leonard Martin had left to go to Reigate Grammar School, and in 1907 William Harman went to Whitgift Middle School (now Trinity School of John Whitgift) and Bessie Beadle went to Redhill Technical School. In 1924 it was recorded that Cecil R Stepney had been awarded a County Junior Scholarship, Class A, the first ‘open’ scholarship won from Chipstead School. Three years later Ralph Riches was awarded a free place at Reigate Grammar School.

 It is strange to think of Chipstead as being inaccessible considering the location of the three railway stations of Chipstead, Coulsdon South and Merstham, and of the Brighton Road (A23) along which public transport has been regularly available at least since World War I. But certainly bad weather does interfere with movements along the downland lanes; in January 1945 the log book records that ‘roads to this isolated quarter are still unfit for vehicle traffic’ and on 29th January 1940 the Headmaster wrote ‘owing to the depth of snow, no method of transport, I was obliged to walk from Ewell arriving at 11.15’.

 Discipline, as we have seen, was strictly enforced but even so the shool records show that there were one or two delinquents a century ago. One such was Harry Thatcher expelled on 3rd October 1882 for gross disobedience. In the following January the Head received a note from the Governors: ‘Mr Thatcher to take his boy to the school and before all the children to ask Mr Gibson to take him back, and tell Mr Gibson that he will leave the boy in his hands to punish him for any fresh fault as he may think proper’. Mr Thatcher came at 9.10 and “did exactly what the above specified. He told the boy in the presence of the whole school that when he deserved punishment, Mr Gibson was to cane him severely and he would support the Master. The father behaved like a sensible man. The boy conducted himself well during the week:’

 World Events and Chipstead School

 Pupils came originally from a mainly farming community, but by the end of the 1914/18 war half the population consisted of families whose breadwinner commuted daily to London and a considerable number worked in the houses of the wealthier residents.

 In 1897 the Head recorded that ‘children living in the Railway Huts in Chipstead Bottom attend very irregularly’; these must have been offspring of the workers building the Tattenham Corner Railway. But six months earlier he had recorded that ‘scarlet fever had broken out in “Star Huts” and at the end of April that year children living in railway huts near the “Star” ( a former pub on the Brighton Road near Star lane) were still absent on account of scarlet fever. These latter families must have been those working on the new Brighton Railway and driving the upper tunnel through the Downs.

 Surprisingly World War I seems to have affected the school only incidentally; some children had to leave because their fathers were away on military service and their mothers had to move nearer their other relatives. More often members of staff were absent in order that they might see a brother or other relative home on short leave. On the 11th November 1918 ‘The school flag was hoisted today. “God Save the King” was sung and cheers were given for our soldiers. Patriotic songs were sung in the school.’

 World War II affected the school as it did the entire civilian population far more than any previous conflict. On September 4th 1939 ‘school ought to have opened today but this did not take place owing to the state of war’. For reasons no doubt connected with the state of war, the supply of school milk was interrupted for two weeks. The first winter 1939/40 was severe and all the school pipes burst or were frozen.

 On the 15th August 1940 a distant air raid warning was heard in the afternoon. The next day at 12.25 aeroplanes were heard overhead and the local siren was sounded. All the children were under cover in 42 seconds! On the 6th September there were ten warnings during the day covering approximately seven hours of school time. On September 11th the children were over an hour late in leaving for home.

 When warnings occurred during school time it was arranged that half the children should go to South Lodge (now South Manor) Mrs Rudolf’s house, where there were cellars which could provide shelter. On 19th September two parachute mines dropped on the parish during the night and homes of children living in Hooley and Outwood Lane were damaged and few children from those areas came to school.

 The invasion of Normandy called for no comment in school records but the incidence of flying bombs and V2 rockets must have had some impact because on the 14th July 1944 a large number of the children on the registers left with official evacuation parties, party No.1 going to Yorkshire. On 16th November 1942 the school railings were taken away for scrap metal; and eventually on May 8th and 9th 1945 the school closed for VE Day National holiday. On 7th March 1946 the blast walls which had been erected as part of air raid precautions were removed.

 The presence of large numbers of Canadian troops in the village and around, let alone other military personnel, seems to have made no impact on the routine of Chipstead school. Besides the impact of the railway at the turn of the century other modern wonders rate little mention. On 12th July 1948 it was noted that ‘wireless lessons commenced’ no doubt the BBC’s Schools Programme.

 On the 1st July 1969 the children gathered in the playground whilst the Union Jack was raised and a TV set was switched on from 1,15pm onwards for the children to see the ceremony of the investiture of H.R.H. Prince Charles as Prince of Wales. On 4th July a half holiday was given to celebrate the success of an ex-pupil, Derek Hirst, who had gained a “Double First” at Cambridge University.

 In the last thirty years of its existence the facilities of the school were greatly improved. In 1964 goalposts were provided for the football field and formal team matches played with neighbouring schools. At the same time in 1964 a Reference Library was opened in a former cloakroom. In 1963 a transistor radio had been provided for use of Class 4 and a new film projector. In 1965 a TV set was installed, while in December 1979 the Mary Stephens Foundation provided a cassette .recorder.

 There is no doubt that Chipstead School provided an excellent foundation for later life for all children who were fortunate enough to attend it. They and the teachers and other staff formed a very friendly part of Chipstead’s community for some two centuries, and more especially for the last century of its existence.

Continued in part 2