100 Years of Shuttington School An article originally written by Claire Holloway for The Dove magazine
In November 2012 I spent a fascinating day at the County Records Office in Warwick, with my father Pat, (who was born at the schoolhouse) gathering information on the life of Shuttington School, from its opening in 1870, until its much lamented closure in 1978. My personal interest concerned my own Grandfather ‘Bill’ Holloway who was headmaster at the village school from 1938 until his retirement in 1969, and that interest has been sparked by the obvious high esteem that my grandfather was held in by local people who remember him fondly. I plan to present the findings both factually from the County Records Office and locally from stories and memories shared with me, originally in the spring and summer issues of the Dove magazine. Shuttington was without a legitimate school until 1870 when land given by F.S.P Wolferstan esq., local landowner and benefactor, was used to build the school which would then proceed to serve the village for a further 118 years. The building works were completed by Mr C. Clarson, from designs by Mr F. Cockerell esq. My uncle John Holloway (also born at the schoolhouse) who is a keen archivist and researcher was able to find the Tamworth Herald newspaper article from October 1870, which details the opening of the school on Wednesday Oct 12th, and the concert and readings held at the opening event which, by all accounts, was a party to remember! ”These schools are particularly picturesque, and original, and stand upon a hill from which there is a noble view” the article describes. It continues, ”The site together with a generous subscription was given by F.S.P Wolferstan esq. to whom the inhabitants of Shuttington and the neighbouring villages are mainly indebted for the concert on Wednesday which was a real treat!” The article goes on to describe the inclemency of the weather that October night, but “The room was crowded to overflowing”, and “the audience seemed to fully appreciate the lovely harmony and clever readings which had been provided. It may safely be stated that such good and pure music can seldom be heard in a country village, and we trust that Shuttington may one day receive another visit from these talented ladies and gentlemen.”
The first recorded school inspector’s report for Shuttington school took place in January 1882, (although there must have been previous inspections, none were recorded). It begins “The infants are backward, with the exception of 3 examined and passed in the 1st standard”, (not exactly a glowing report!), it continues, “notwithstanding this, the school has unquestionably improved in general efficiency, and the order continues good”. However, twelve years after it first opened, and with a healthy school roll of approximately 100 children, the school seems to still have only one school mistress, as the report records, “ the Mistress should have the wish of a good monitor, capable of relieving her to some extent of the instruction of the infants”.
By the following year’s report in 1883 the infants seem a little less “backward!”, ”infants are better grounded than they were” it reads, “The children read with much more intelligence than is usually met with in village schools, but the spelling should be more accurate!. “Arithmetic is very weak above the second standard” it continues. “The mistress cannot do full justice to the children without some assistance in teaching” it concludes!
From its very first years, Shuttington school drew its pupils from rural farming, and mining backgrounds, and thus the school register reflects this with considerable absences recorded primarily at harvest when all ages were required to work in the fields and gather the harvest in safely and quickly. As the school log book records, even after the usual 4 week ‘Harvest Holiday’ commencing on Aug 12th 1882, “several children still absent” 5 weeks later “on the plea of the harvest not being finished”, and even on Oct 6Th of that year “some of the elder children still not returned to school”.
By 1901 the population of Shuttington parish had increased from 200 ( in 1881) to 600, with 125 children attending school at Shuttington, falling slightly to 113 by 1920, under the headship of Mr William Ferber, who retired after 33 years as master in January 1932. Four other members of staff at the school retired or left employment in 1932, including Mrs Ferber, and the school inspection report for that year states, “There surely are enough losses for a country school to sustain in one year alone”, and it seems the school endured a period of upheaval and immense change while a complete change of staff settled in. Mr Charles Grove became Head in 1932 when the number of children on the school roll peaked at 130, and the much loved Miss Sharley commenced work with the “Babies” as the log book records (or infants to be politically correct)! The copy of the timetable at Shuttington school for June 1932 reflects the predominant occupation in the region at that time, where on a Tuesday morning the boys would study ‘Coal Mining’ while the girls would study ‘Home Management’... very little sexual equality in those days!
In 1933 the school log book records events such as the dentist visiting the school to perform “gas dental extractions”, and attendance being low “on account of the prevalence of Measles and Flue”. The school roll would never rise above 100 in attendance again.
In the school log book for January 10th 1938, my grandfather wrote “School reopened after Christmas vacation, I William John Edward Holloway take up my duties as Head teacher”. He states in the same entry that, “due to depletion of staff (the numbers on the roll had fallen ) I have arranged that Miss Sharley be in charge of the infants, Miss Bettles of the juniors and myself, the seniors”. He was to remain as headmaster for 31 years until his retirement at age 60, in 1969. The school inspection report for April 20th 1939 recorded, “The young headmaster is concerned about the low standard of attainment in the senior class and has not yet adjusted himself to conditions which are very different to those he has been accustomed to in a large boys school previously. … He has scope for his energies, and has already done much in connection with general school activities … There is every reason to hope that this charming school is on the upward grade once more.”
One of these new school activities began on May 5th 1939; the log records that “lessons in swimming instruction began” for the first time at Tamworth Outdoor Lido. The weekly timetable for that day ran as follows: Leave school 11am walking to Amington to catch the 11.25 bus to Tamworth. Arrive at baths 11.45am, leave baths at 12.15pm, children to take own lunch. Catch 1.10pm bus to Shuttington.Boys-15, Girls 10. Able to swim? Boys 4, Girls 1
Common illnesses of the time continue to appear in the school log, “Mumps reported, Barbara and Percy Hinds”, and “Influenza prevalent, causing a drop in numbers”.
Staff remembered fondly in the 1940s and 1950s included Mrs Rottenbury, Miss Sharley, and Mrs Growcott (despite her penchant for disciplining the pupils with a sharp slap around the ears with a ruler!). Mr Holloway, it has been mentioned, was rather fond of the use of the cane as his method of discipline, and pupils felt the cane if they were late more than twice; his no nonsense approach was in need it is said, when the evacuee children arrived in his school! The late Gerald Warton of School Lane Shuttington remembers receiving 6 lashes, after being reported by Don Head for hanging off the lintel of the outside ‘privvy’! He also recalled another pupil going to the churchyard to cut Mr Holloway a new cane after he had broken his current one, only to be told on his return “Well done boy, now let me try it out !”
On the 3rd of September 1939, 9 months after my grandfather began as headmaster at Shuttington, he simply wrote in the school log book “War declared on Germany”, and then on Sep 4th, “School opened 9am, but closed 9.30am, owing to an emergency …trenches for protection of children begun”. I cannot find any recollection of these trenches, or where exactly they were dug however. During the war the air raid siren was positioned just outside the school, and drill was performed requiring children to line up in the playground and proceed to Alf Cox’s field just below the school. The enemy planes were “strafing” schools with machine gun fire, and although no daytime/schooltime air raids were reported over Shuttington, the school staff were obviously prepared. Evacuees were delivered to Shuttington school, and were lined up at the rear of the school before being registered with their local families. Other wartime memories, include the ARP road block at the Black Bridge over the river Anker, obviously a strategic crossing point, and the bombing of the searchlight generator in Alvecote which woke the villages in the dead of night, mercilessly missing its target, but causing much damage, and also the villagers of Shuttington gathering to watch the distant glow, and flashes in the sky from the schoolhouse hill, as Coventry was bombed.
At this time, and for many years previously, Alvecote children would walk to school along the ‘miners path’, crossing the river Anker over the iron bridge, and then crossing Shuttington Pools using the brick bridge, before heading up the hill to school. Both these crossings are sadly no more. A school lunch was by now provided on the premises, around this period by Mrs Parsons and Mrs Hanes, and much of the produce was grown by the schoolchildren where Milner Drive stands now, and was used in these meals: 1/3rd pint bottles of milk were delivered for every child, sometimes frozen solid during winter. “The school meal is attractively served to 25 pupils daily, and their behavour at this ‘family’ gathering is commendable” the inspection report of 1955 records. By the time of this report, new washbasins, improved heating, and Elsan containers were installed at the school, “It is proposed to replace the small brick playground with a larger asphalted one in the near future … This village school offers its pupils happy and profitable school lives, and they respond with eagerness and a keen desire to work hard” the report reads.
The school itself was also used as a Parish meeting place, in the absence of a village hall in Shuttington, the school hosted Womens Institute meetings, Young Farmers Club, and many social gatherings including the screening of the Queen’s Coronation in 1953, viewed in a packed classroom of villagers on a borrowed television - one of the very first in the village! The Young Farmers Club run by Mr Holloway (also known as the ‘Boys Club’) enjoyed a varied and interesting programme of meetings, and outings , most memorably for some, their first visit down the mine at Alvecote pit, and for my grandfather a sobering and moving experience to see the working conditions that awaited so many of ‘His boys’ he had had under his care from a very young age. By 1950 the school garden had been lost to the ‘Building site’ that is now Milner Drive, and the site then used to teach the gardening lesson was about to be ‘enveloped’ next spring by the opencast mining that has so changed the local landscape in that area of Shuttington. The pupils continued to tend the churchyard, and did an “excellent job” keeping it tidy and neat. The school roll had reduced to 64 in total by 1955, as the reorganisation of village schools in 1952 now meant that the senior pupils would move up to Polesworth School for the final years of their education. Webmaster’s Note: The school finally closed around 1978 and was sold at auction, becoming a private house. If you have any photos of the school that you would be willing to share on this page, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.