THE NATIONAL SCHOOLS
Returns made by Snodland’s churchwardens in the first half of the eighteenth century occasionally state categorically that there was no school in the village. On 25 May 1716, for instance, John Goffe wrote ‘Our Minister does not reside [in Snodland ] but Mr White his Curat does and p[ er]forms his Duty. Concerning Schools, Schoolmasters, Physitians , Surgeons and Midwifes: None in the parish.’ That situation changed with the arrival of William Lewis following his marriage on 1 June 1762: ‘William Lewis of Cuxton , singleman , and Sarah Wingate of Snodland ,singlewoman ‘. William was the son of William and Mary Lewis of Cuxton , and was baptised there on 26 February 1739. Whoever taught him did a fine job, for Lewis acted as parish clerk in Snodland and his books are the most beautifully written and organised of all the parish records. He lived in Brook Street, using his house as a school, so there cannot have been many pupils. When Jasper Crothall made his will in 1780 he made provision for his young nephew George:
I will and desire that … George Crothall be put to School to William Lewis, Schoolmaster, of the Parish of Snodland aforeasaid , to Board with him, at Sixteen Pounds per Year until he be put Apprentice or otherwise provided for.
Jasper actually owned the house occupied by Lewis and after his death ownership passed to George! The Land Tax assessments hint at a change in 1793 when the former valuation of £7 is divided into two parts: £3 for the house, with one for £4 assigned to the ‘free school’. It seems likely that some kind of benefaction had been agreed to supply free schooling for at least some pupils. Lewis died in April 1797 and his place was taken by Samuel Maurice Hitchcock (1755-1811). In 1799 the ownership heading in the tax list, which is ‘Free School’ between 1793 and 1798, changes to ‘John May’. May evidently intended to set the school up on a proper footing and took steps to make provision for its future. On 10 October 1800, he drew up a scheme for two charities, one of which concerned the school. He sold to those who were to be trustees for the scheme the house then used as a school and four acres of land belonging to it, with twenty acres of salt marsh. From the rents of the marshland the schoolmaster was to receive £20 a year, on condition that he taught reading, writing and arithmetic to twenty poor children from Snodland and ten each from Birling andHalling . (This did not restrict him from taking other scholars whose parents paid for them.). The schoolmaster also had free use of the house and four acres. Future appointments were to be made by the clergy of Snodland , Halling and Birling , or by Magistrates in case of their neglect or disagreement.
Following Hitchcock’s death in 1811, the new schoolmaster was William Higgins. He had married Mary Butler at All Saints on 13 May 1809. Eleven children were born to them (although three died in infancy), no doubt helping to sustain the school numbers at this time. In the 1831 will of John Goodhugh , grandfather of Thomas Fletcher Waghorn , Higgins was described as his nephew and was bequeathed £25. When Mr Woolmer compiled his Historical Jottings of the Parish of Snodland in 1894, he seems to have drawn upon memories of elderly parishioners for some reminiscences of village life earlier in the century. He writes that the school was originally
a long and narrow red brick building with tiled roof, being well lighted with three or four large square windows on either side. It contained two large rooms, porch, and a house for the master, and stood nearer the street than the present fabric – on the site now devoted to the boy’s playground. In the front were well-kept palings, painted white, and at the back was an extensive playground for both boys and girls. In the very large wash-house, at the back of the master’s house, could be seen some fine old beams of timber, and from one of these Mr. Higgins, a former master, hung himself, and strange to say, his nephew who came to the funeral, shot himself in Church Fields, near the railway arch.
Higgins was buried at All Saints on 5 March 1836, aged 48. A report by the Charity Commissioners in 1839 notes:
The property devised for the support of the School consists of a good dwelling-house, with two schoolrooms, a barn, oast -house, and four acres of land, and a right of common for two cows, which premises have been occupied rent free, by the schoolmaster for the time being.
The late schoolmaster died in February, 1836, and it has been thought advisable to take this opportunity of putting the school-house in complete repair, the expense of which is estimated at £54, by pulling down some of the out-buildings, which seem to be of little or no use, and selling the materials… .
A schoolmaster has been appointed by the Rector of Snodland and the Vicar of Halling , on an understanding that he is to receive no emoluments other than the occupation of the school premises and what he may obtain by admitting pay scholars, in addition to those who are to be taught free on the foundation, until the expenses of the repairs were defrayed.
John Cogger was the replacement for Higgins and held the post until 1842. The 1841 census gives his age as about 60, with his daughter Eliza, aged about 30, as the schoolmistress. Edward Jupp , son of William and Eliza of Birling , took over, his wife Susanna (born in Rochester) becoming schoolmistress. Next was William Thomas Wood and his wife Emma (1854-56), then Walter Rumble (1856-66). Both Wood and Rumble had a second job as the village postmaster. Rumble and his wife both came from Wiltshire and in later years he received great acclaim as a story teller at some of the village entertainments. In February 1873, for instance, at one of the series of ‘Penny Readings’, the newspaper reported that ‘”Jonas Grubb’s Courtship,” a Wiltshire tale, in the hands of Mr. Rumble left nothing to be desired; the lingo he introduced being given with great humour . In this style of piece Mr. Rumble is unrivalled, nor does he ever fail to raise a hearty laugh from all’. Unfortunately within a few years he had blotted his copybook. He had become assistant Overseer in 1862, responsible for collecting land tax, income tax and rates. Early in 1880, having played his part in the Easter entertainments as usual, he absconded with the money, leaving a deficit in the parish accounts of £270. 15s. 11d. Yet his wife and son continued to run the Post Office for many years after.
Woolmer gives another story of the early school – clearly a policy of carrots as well as sticks was the order of the day:
Some years ago, even as late as 1865, there used to be a curious custom in vogue at the National Schools. The then schoolmaster, in order to promote the good behaviour of his scholars – some of whom, at that time, might almost have been called young men – took note of his scholars’ conduct during the whole of the week, and those who stood highest on the merit sheet for that period were alowed to indulge in a little recreation on the Friday afternoon. Tickets to the number of the competitors were shook up in a hat, and each lad drew his ticket, which was numbered. The schoolmaster then produced from his desk a small parcel, containing half-a-crown, also with a number on it, and the lad who drew the number corresponding to that on the parcel, won the much-coveted prize. With a change in the management of the school, this custom disappeared; but no doubt this plan had proved to be a great boon in keeping up the tone and good conduct of the school in those days.
Tom Hilder , aged 21 and born at Tonbridge , was appointed at Easter 1866. The next month he married Ellen Seers of Mid Comp at All Saints church. There are several photographs of the school staff and children taken during Mr. Hilder’s headmastership. This he resigned in 1882, having replaced Walter Rumble as Assistant Overseer. In view of his precessor’s actions, Mr Hilder was required to put up £300 security, later reduced to £200. He continued to serve the parish in various capacities, as organist at All Saints (until 1897), as postmaster and as clerk to the Parish Council. He died in June 1927. His successors at the school were Arthur Verriour (1882-87), followed by Charles Godfrey (1887-1925). Godfrey also took over as organist.
In 1853 the school was enlarged; repairs in 1859 were funded from Godden’s charity. But further expansion was needed and in 1867 the School Trustees sold the land which had hitherto provided the rents to pay the schoolmaster. The rector gives the details:
One portion, viz. that in front of the Queen’s Head Hotels, hitherto let for £13. 10s. per ann., was divided into 25 lots, and sold for £2402. The extent was 2¾ (about). The other portion, hitherto let for grazing purposes, situate next the river, and fetching £20 per annum, was sold for £500. Its extent was 16 acres (about). Thus the whole realised £2902. Of this sum the Charity Commissioners permitted £800 to be set apart for the erection of the new buildings – the same to be repaid (without interest) by yearly instalments of £27 each in 30 years. The remainder, after legal and other expenses had been paid, was invested in the 3 p. cent consols , and ordered to be paid half-yearly to the local trustees of the school. In addition to this sum of £800, the Committee of Council gave £277. 8s. 9d., and the remainder necessary, amounting to £516. 8s. 6d., was raised by private subscription. Total cost £1593. 17s. 3d. The new school, designed by Edward Stephens Esq. of Maidstone , and built by Mr. T. Clements of Rochester, were begun August 14, 1867, when a solemn service was performed and the stone under the great West window in the Infants schoolroom laid in the presence of many people; and they were finished Tuesday February 11, 1868, one which day they were formally opened after service in Church, by the right Rev. Thomas Legh , Lord Bishop of Rochester. … The schools consosts of two large rooms – one for boys and girls, the other for infants. Adjoining the first is a classroom capable of holding 30 children. The house contains on the ground floor two sitting rooms and a kitchen, and on the first floor three bedrooms. A new well was dug at the time of the building, but the old well was left untouched, in the boys’ playground.
Further extensions were made in 1871, 1877 and 1895, by which time they had come under the Free Education Act of 1892 and could accommodate 420 children. Rev. Wall notes that the School’s income in 1909 was 18s. 7d. a quarter, out of which the building had to be kept in repair! (By this time teachers were appointed and paid by the Local Education Authority.) Investments by the Charity Commissioners eventually put matters to rights and assured an income of £70 a year. Following the opening of the Central (now Holmsdale ) School in 1931, further improvements were made to the Brook Street buildings. On 9 July 1948 the former National Schools became ‘ Snodland Church of England (Controlled) Primary School’, with the Kent Education Committee having responsibility for maintenance, the School House excepted. The latter was transferred to them in 1967, when it provided additional space for staff rooms and storage. Plans for an entirely new building at Roberts Road were made and temporary huts had to be employed for a time due to the expansion of population. With the impending construction of the Snodland-Halling bypass the new school was built and the Brook Street school closed on 26 November 1979. It was demolished shortly afterwards, although the Foundation Stone, laid by Mrs. Anne Roberts on 14 August 1867, has been preserved.
THE BRITISH SCHOOLS
A strong streak of non-conformity runs through the history of the village: for instance 40 of this persuasion were noted earlier in the 1676 Compton census. In the nineteenth century the papermaker managers in particular were leading Non-conformists and supported their cause through many generous contributions to improve village life. A family called Bateman appear to have come to Snodland with William Joynson from Wooburn , Bucks. John, perhaps the father, Thomas, Joseph and Jabez are all listed in the 1841 census, of whom Thomas and Jabez were papermakers and Joseph a grocer. Thomas at least went briefly to St Mary Cray (which is where William Joynson was) around 1842, for his son William was born there, but he was back in Snodland soon after, becoming a grocer at what had previously been ‘The Old Bull’ on the High Street/ HolboroughRoad corner. In the words of Woolmer :
A few members of the Congregational Chapel wished for a school of their own to which their children might go, and thus be free from that class of religious instruction usually taught in Church Schools. Their desire was soon carried into effect, for in the vestry of the Congregation Chapel the Nonconformists started a small school, under the charge of Miss George. Afterwards it was fortunate when there was a great increase in the child population of Snodland , and a corresponding necessity for another school beside the National, that the late Mr. Thomas Bateman was able to prevail upon his friend, the late Mr. Joynson , of St. Mary Cray, to build these schools (in 1857). At a meeting, the latter gentleman presented them to the people of Snodland , but unfortunately did not place them in the hands of a legal trust, or form a committee of management. The inhabitants, as a recognition of the gift, presented Mr. Joynson with a Bible, as a token of their thankfulness for his benevolence.
For a lengthened period the working of the Schools appears to have been unsatisfactory, and ultimately a disagreement arose with some of the persons concerned, which led Mr. Joynson to have the school materials put up for sale in one lot, to be cleared away in a short time; and the house and ground in another lot. The school materials were bought by the late Mr. Charles Townsend Hook, who asked several of the leading Nonconformists what was best to be done about the school-house and ground, which had been bought by Mr. Collier ofGreenhithe . In the end, the two gentlemen arranged matters, Mr. Hook purchasing the house and ground from Mr. Collier, who gave a donation for the benefit of the Schools.
No doubt the fact that William Joynson lived some distance away hindered his appreciation of the difficulties the school had faced. But certainly under the direction of the Hook family it soon prospered and received high praise from visiting Inspectors. Following the death of C. T. Hook, his sisters took over the school and promptly gave it the tower by which Snodland is so well-known today. It incorporates a stone on the south side, inscribed:
This Clock Tower is erected in Loving Memory of
CHARLES TOWNSEND HOOK,
Of ” Veles “, and the Paper Works, Snodland ,
by his sorrowing mother and sisters.
Died 11th February 1877.
Deeply loved and mourned.
Numbers increased to such an extent that it outstripped the National School and expansion was called for. The Misses Hook offered 1000 guineas for the adjacent Providence Chapel, which the congregation accepted, and which subsequently became the infant department of the British Schools. Accommodation was thus increased from the former 430 places to 320 boys and girls and 190 infants. It remained busy until the opening of the Central School on 19 May 1930, to which the children were then transferred.
The Hooks were not only very much alive to the needs of the village, but had vision (and money) to keep abreast of new developments. As an offshoot of the British Schools they built and funded a technical workshop. Woolmer describes it:
The British Schools Manual Training Class Room, situate in [the] High Street, is one of the first of its kind in Kent – there being but one other in the county – and was erected by the Misses Hook in the year 1893, as a means of supplying the need of technical education for the advanced scholars of the British Schools. The building is constructed of stock bricks, being well lighted, and thoroughly fitted with benches and tools for the training of boys in woodwork. An able instructor is provided by these benevolent ladies to teach the scholars. Although no charge whatsoever is made for instruction, skill in drawing, the passing of the fourth standard, and regularity of attendance in the Schools, are the only qualifications for entering this Manual Training Instruction.