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Educating Children at St John's, Stanmore for over 200 Years

1794 – 2023




The history of our school spans nine British Monarchs. The hustle and bustle of today's world makes it difficult for us to imagine life 200 years ago during the earliest days of our schools. In 1794 George III was king. For our whole nation it was a time of enormous change. The great industrial age had begun leading onwards to the steady growth of a vast British Empire.

Napoleon would soon become the hero of the French whilst here in Britain, Admiral Nelson's first naval victories would be celebrated.

In contrast to the turmoil in Europe, life in rural Stanmore must have been very much simpler and peaceful. For the inhabitants numbering fewer than a thousand, farming was the main occupation.

The church played a vital role within the Stanmore community, acting as a social and practical meeting place in addition to being the centre of worship. For most villagers, life was related to working on the land or in domestic service. Everyone, including children, worked long hours. There was little time for relaxation and fun for ordinary folk. What little free time there was would be centred around the fireplace for warmth and cooking. Children amused themselves by inventing rhyming games, playing marbles or skittles.

For those in the workhouse life was distinctly more grim. One of the duties of the church wardens was to care for the poor of the parish, and, as early as 1790 it was thought that a daily school would be greatly conducive to the institution and by 1794 this was instigated. Through the generosity of Mrs Elizabeth Martin a school was established within the workhouse to teach the rudiments of reading and writing.

In 1824, Samuel Martin, a surviving trustee of the above bequest, transferred to the then Rector and trustees the remaining sum of £923. 2s. 3d. to establish a National School. The first church school room was erected in the South West corner of the churchyard of the Brick Church.

In 1843, Miss Catherine Martin, daughter of Samuel Martin, leased two cottages on Stanmore Hill and had them converted into an Infant School. This she presented to the Rector in 1851, followed by an endowment in 1863. This Infants' School continued its separate existence until it was absorbed into the main school in 1898.

Meanwhile, soon after the presentation of the Infants' School to the Parish, a much more formal and ambitious scheme was initiated. With the aid of a grant from the National Society a site lower down on Stanmore Hill was purchased in 1859 and a building consisting of two classrooms erected upon it with an adjoining house for the teacher. Here the education of the children was continued until the age of 14 in two separate schools, one for boys and one for girls - known as Stanmore National schools. A board of managers was established. This board was composed of the Rector, the Curate, "such of the Churchwardens for the time being as shall be members of the Church of England" (a reminder that Church Wardens were then mainly civil officers) and three other named persons. Vacancies among these additional Managers were filled by election - contributors to the funds of the schools being entitled to one vote for every ten shillings subscribed with a maximum of six votes.

These three schools were maintained by voluntary contribution by "school pence"; ie. fees paid by pupils, originally two pence a week but later three pence, and by a government grant: This grant was assessed on a scheme known as "payment by results". H.M. inspectors examined the children annually and the amount of grant depended on the number of children who reached the required standard. Whatever the disadvantages of this method, it made the Managers very interested in the results obtained and they passed this interest on to the head teachers by expressing their salaries as a fixed sum plus one fifth of the government grant for their school.



In 1888 the lower school site was enlarged through the benefaction of Mr. John Robert Hollond, Esq. Later, a fourth classroom was added which became the Hall. A wooden classroom was erected in 1929 linked with the main building in 1936.

During the latter years of the nineteenth century church schools were in great financial difficulties. Following the Elementary Education Act of 1891, school fees at elementary schools had been abolished and voluntary contributions were falling at a time when costs were rising. Stanmore Schools were not exempt from these difficulties. The Managers feared that they would not be able to pay their way and that the schools would have to be handed over to a School Board thus severing connections with the Church. In the course of time there have been several occasions when this threat has hung over the schools.

Somehow the managers kept their heads above water and just survived, although the Infant School was now under the same management arrangements as the National Schools. The 1902 Education Act assisted Church Schools financially. The Local Elementary Education Authority became responsible for all expenses of such schools except the provision of the school building and costs of certain repairs.

At the beginning of the twentieth century the three schools were managed jointly but with three separate Headteachers. On the 31st March, 1913, the Boys' and Girls' Departments were amalgamated under the Headmaster, Mr. Avery.

A growing trend for visits to places of interest began for the children. In 1908, 140 boys and girls were taken to see the Franco-British exhibition at the White City. In those days there was no restriction on the number of pupils in relation to adults, as there is now.

There were signs also that the curriculum was broadening. The syllabus covered arithmetic, history, geography, science, English literature and scripture. A little music was taught, and gardening was a distinct feature!

On September 26th, 1934, the whole school assembled in one of the form rooms at 2.45 p.m. and heard the broadcast of the launch of the "Queen Mary" including the speech made by His Majesty the King and the christening of the ship by Her Majesty,Queen Mary.

Even in those days the children took part in the Harrow Sports Competition. Fitness was considered important and, in 1934 , moveable tables, replacing desks, were put into classrooms so that drill and physical exercise could continue uninterrupted in cold and wet weather. The new milk scheme was introduced; later to become a feature of Mrs. Thatcher's office as Education Minister.

French and Biology were considered for inclusion though did not proceed until some time later.

Miss Muir, Head of the Infants School was appointed Head of Pinner Park Infants, in March, 1935. This provided the opportunity for the Infant School to amalgamate with the Junior School under the Headmaster, Mr. Woodley.

Modern developments began to hit the school at this time. A telephone was installed in the Headmaster's Office with an extension to the Infant School.

During the Summer holidays of 1935 the school was to be provided with electricity. Sadly, all did not go according to plan. The Headmaster, Mr. Woodley, returned to find that the job was only half completed. The contractors, having been paid the full fee of £47, had only done £25 of work having disposed of the rest of the money by other means! The Rector was required to cover the outstanding cost and another contractor called in to complete the work!

A year later, in 1936, children over eleven years of age were moved to the Belmont Senior School. Two years later the infants transferred from Miss Martin's School to the main building.

Further disruption was to take place during the war years. The Headmaster left to join the RAF immediately war was declared and an Acting Head was brought in.

A number of children were evacuated to places such as Bedford, Derby and Yorkshire, but the school remained open throughout the war years demonstrating enormous - resolve, particularly during air raids when frequent, and often long, visits to the shelter were required.

Meanwhile, the Old School building had been requisitioned and used as an emergency mortuary.

Post war changes were rapid. School milk was now free and came in fairy bottles with straws. Growing numbers put pressure on the school so that it was bursting at the seams.

Eventually, the Infants transferred back up the hill to ease the strain.

The Harrow Development Plan of 1946 included not only the complete rebuilding of the school on a new site but also erection of a two form entry County Primary in North Stanmore. After work began on this latter school in Green Lane, it was decided to offer it for sale to the Church as an alternative to rebuilding their own. After protracted negotiations, the offer was accepted and the juniors moved into the brand new building in 1960. The infants transferred back down the hill to the building vacated by the juniors! In 1964 they joined the juniors in the new building and this then became a Junior Mixed Infants School (JMI).

In 1967 the Headmaster, Mr Edwards, sat with the whole school to watch the launch of the Queen Elizabeth II on television.

In 1973 the transfer age was raised from 11+ to 12+ in Harrow and St. John's became a First and Middle School. Numbers rose and in 1975 the First School was built and administration of both departments came under two Headteachers. In September 2005 the First and Middle Schools amalgamated to become St John's Church of England School, Stanmore under the leadership of one head teacher. The official opening ceremony was led by the Rt. Rev. Peter Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden in November 2005.

Over the last twenty years, enormous changes have taken place in Education as a result of Government Legislation. This has inevitably placed a huge burden on the staff and Governors of our school. The positive response, driven by the desire to provide what is best for the children in our care reflects the traditional virtues associated within the history of St John's.

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