Monday, 20 August 2012

Mina Road HIgher Grade School, 1903

We’ve just had the following from an Australian, Stephen James, who found this blog -- quoted with his permission:

Today my mother (in her eighties) gave me a prize book won by my maternal grandfather (now deceased) in 1903. I thought it might interest you. My grandfather, Charles Arthur Welch, was born on 24 February 1894 at 14 Kempstead Road, Camberwell, London. His father was a young fish porter/labourer and his young mother a seamstress, both aged 21.

As far as I can gather, Charles' father died when he was very young, at which point Charles left school for work, later joining the Sussex Regiment in the British Army which served in India. He had wanted to study chemistry at university but this was not possible. He later married a woman from Bath and emigrated to Melbourne, Australia, in the 1920s. Later, my mother excelled in science and I ended up doing a PhD (albeit in Politics) at Princeton. It is interesting to see the scholarly links through the history.

I know you are much more interested in the postwar period of the school, but I thought you, or a colleague, might find the details of the prize book interesting:

French-English English French Dictionary by A. Mendel (edited by G. F. Barwick of the British Museum) (Eyre & Spottiswoode, London, n.d.) Pocket edition

Presented July 1903 for Conduct, Progress, Attendce. at East Lambeth Division, Mina Road Higher Grade School to Charles Welsh [sic] by

Edward P. Paul, Head Teacher.

If you have any information on the history of the school, particularly during its early days until the end of the First World War I, would be much obliged. I'd also be interested in whether there might be any archives or information relating to students and their work. Also, did Edward P. Paul move on to another school or did he end his teaching there?

In a second email Stephen writes:

Charles' father was Thomas Henry Welch (fish porter/labourer who married at 21 and lived at 28 Longcroft Rd, Camberwell--now in Burgess Park). Nearby was Kempshead (not Kempstead, my mistake) Rd. Neither was far from Mina Road. Both Longcroft Road and Kempshead Road, Camberwell, were bombed during The Blitz and then subject to, I suspect, slum clearance later.

I recently read some of the original notebooks of Charles Booth (LSE collection) who said Longcroft Rd was a notorious (crime, alcoholism, etc.) and very poor area. Given that Thomas Henry Welch was a fish porter/labourer (working at the Borough Market) and his wife Sarah was a laundress I was wondering how Charles, his son, might have gone to a reasonable school like Mina Road--but as you say the fees were low (and/or there was competitive entry?).

We can answer some of the queries. Mr Paul was still headmaster during the First World War -- what happened to him afterwards I don’t know. (See my earlier post). Entry to higher grade schools -- where pupils could stay from 12 to 16 -- was by examination; there were fees but we believe they were affordable for working-class families. Unlike the ordinary elementary schools (including Mina Road Elementary School on the same site, taking children from infants upwards) the HGS had science facilities and taught French. The LCC wanted them to become a sort of working-class grammar school; the government preferred to keep the brightest members of the working class in their place -- in the trades and non-professional clerical and commercial roles. The school’s name changed to Mina Road Central School in 1911.

How it took 2 or 3 generations or more for the first family member to get to university is a story that continued into our period.

It would be good to have more on this: can anyone help?

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