Irene Cranwell, caught doubtless in the full flow of another story.

Irene Cranwell, caught doubtless in the full flow of another story.

In the 1980’s Irene Cranwell wrote a series of articles for the Village Magazine under the ‘disguise’ of one of the village pumps.  These articles told elements of the village history and were often written to reflect the broad Essex dialect that used to be heard locally and that Mrs Cranwell loved.

Here the Crawley End pump holds forth on ‘his’ rememberings of the creation and first years of the old village school.  (His first comment relates to the fact that the nettles and weeds which regularly grow up round the pumps had probably just been cleared away.)


 

“Cussel College”

Cor! What a relief – I’m at last able to breathe again – an’ I can hev an eye on things parochial once more.

Did I ever tell ye about the School? – The owd one I mean. Didn’t I? Well- it was early in 1862 that several public-spirited churchmen got together to discuss the possibility of erectin’ a school in Chrishall – we’ve even got their names writ down. There was the Rev. Ware – ‘e was the Vicar of Chrishall at that time – the Rev. Neville, the Rector of Heydon, ‘e was the Chairman – the Rev. W.I. Packe (I aren’t real sure oo ‘e was) – the Rev. Wilkes – e’ came from Elmdon – Mr Jonas from Chrishall Grange, an’ Mr Brand and Mr Edwin Brand from Bilden End.

Arter a lot o’ discussion they decided there was “a very fair prospect” of raising £300 – which was a goodly sum in they days. For this money they planned to build a school for 80 children, an’ on February 7, 1862 Rev. Wilkes declared, “I have much pleasure in giving the site, a quarter of an acre”, an’ he also give the oak timber for the floor joists an’ door frames, an’ on top o’that ‘e throwed in £30 as a starter – on condition that a ‘house was to be included as well.

Well – atween ‘em they raised £350, an’ there was some hustle, I can tell ye – no hummin’ an’ har-in’ or arguing about oo should do this or oo should do that. School and ‘house were built an’ opened that year. There is an entry in the records, terse an’ to the point, “Jan. 23 1863 School in good working order”. (Contrast £350 for the school an’ a ‘house with today’s prices – can’t get a decent dog kennel for that now’.)

Course, the furst bit o’ the school was on’y one room. Must have bin a bit of a squeeze gettin’ 80 children in there. In January 1891 the Trustees of the Lofts Hall Estate were asked for “a further grant of land upon which to enlarge the schoolroom”. Well – what became known as the Infants room was added, an’ the two rooms was divided by a heavy partition – made ‘o pine, I believe, but mighty orkerd to shift. They was two gret doors that could be opened back, one each side to make one nice big room. Folks allus done that when there were concerts or plays put on. Twas the social centre of the village, n’ many a happy evenin’ hes bin spent there, I can tell ye.

Y’know, for a long time children gooin’ to school had to pay a “nominal fee”. The late Mr Lewis Brand towd me that when e went to school – ‘undred year agoo, it’d be now – “The teacher’s name was Miss Martin, an’ I ‘ad to find me own copy books.” – and he paid two pence a week. The late Mr Tom Harvey said that when he went to school there the eldest child in a family paid two pence, an’ the others a penny each, an’ his Master’s name was Mr Clark. Dunno why they called it a “nominal fee” – with a father’s wage on’y eight to ten shillin’s a week, even pennies and twopences wanted some findin’ – not much “nominal” about that.

But it was truly a village school then, and could on’y have received minimal help from outside. There is also written evidence that the Church was at one time allowed to levy rates for certain purposes, including help for the school. As far back as October 1879 there is recorded in the minutes of a Vestry meeting held on the 21st, that, “to meet the School expenses a Rate of 3d. in the £ was proposed by Robert Brand and seconded by Mr C Smith”.

Again in Feb. 1891 the Vestry met “to take into consideration the finances of the National School and to resolve thereon” – I wonder how the munificent sum of £33.3.11½d. had been squandered the previous year? – for a rate of 4d in the £ was to be “collected at once to pay the outstanding debits of the School” an’ to defray the balance overdrawn.

The late Mr H.T. Drage – one o’ the Managers o’ the school used to tell how he had heard that the reason why the bedroom winders in the school ‘house are so far from the floor was ‘cos the Mistress should not look out over the Green to the knot o’ gallants oo congregated there! Strikes me – if she ‘ad any inclination – or sense – she’d ha’ look out of the downstair winder if she be so minded!

I bet you’ve wondered why I’ve called this “Cussel College”? Well now- I can remember the time when a number of ex-pupils referred, with some nostalgia, to their old school as “Cussel College” – not really such a misnomer for a village school that has, in the past, produced quite a number of worthy scholars.

The Crawley End Pump.

(written for the Chrishall Parish Magazine: copyright Mrs I.E. Cranwell).