School Days by Antoinette Wailes-Wilson

Henshaw Scool 1933
Henshaw School 1933 - Mr Simpson's Class ©Dorothy Ferguson

Children from Bardon Mill, Thorngrafton and those living south of the river, attended Beltingham school. This school had two teachers but this dropped to only one for many years. Children from other villages, including Carrsgate and outlying farms, attended Henshaw School, to the west of the church. This school is now a private house.
Opened in 1871, the school had two classrooms until 1920/21 when the third classroom was added. Children took their own lunch. In the very early years they would also take a tin bottle containing tea, milk or Van Houten's cocoa. The bottles were stood close to the fire, a coal fire, to keep the contents warm.
My early memories are of paying a halfpenny for a cup of cocoa (enamel cups and matching plates) and it was delicious! These dishes were washed in the cloakroom by the older girls; there was no running hot water. (Hygiene hadn't been invented!).
Without any extra classrooms to use, the older boys managed to do woodwork and the girls did sewing, using the single, treadle sewing machine which the school had. We had an excellent grounding in the three R's and many pupils went on to the grammar school. Believe me, it wasn't all hard slog, since our Headteacher was very interested in both drama and sport. We had both a boys and a girls cricket team, and the school performed plays in the Public Hall.
One thing which was generally hated by all the children was the Scripture Examination which had been held annually ever since the school opened. The questions were set and asked by a visiting vicar and woe betide anyone who gave a wrong answer.
Most children started school at the age of five and left at fourteen years of age. The school leaving age was raised to fifteen in 1948 and to sixteen in the early 1970's. The three subjects which I loved most were: mental arithmetic; essay writing, which we called 'Composition' , and learning and reciting poetry. My Auntie Meggie who started at Henshaw school in 1900/1901 also loved those same subjects, which goes to show that Henshaw school had much to recommend it long before my schooling in the late 1920's and early 1930's.
After the World War II, a private school was opened at Ridley Hall by the Rev. Evans and Some local children attended it and there were many boarders from other parts of the country and from abroad.


Extracts From The School Manager's Minute Book


January: "Sir, I am to inform you that the Managers are cognizant of and have already dealt with the charges made against Mr.A. They extremely regret that the charges are not unfounded, but in consideration of his good qualities as a teacher and the fact that he has signed the total abstinence pledge, they have unanimously decided to give the young fellow a chance to retrieve his character.

The Bardon Mill Temperance Band have asked for the use of the school room for practice outside of school hours.

June: Mr.A has again fallen under the influence of drink on Whitmonday last. A letter was received from Mr.A resigning his post as Assistant Master.


After receiving a deputation under Mr.I.W.Dixon and hearing their account of cases of distress, the Managers have written to the Education authority for the usual papers issued to schools….to parents of children not receiving adequate meals. Two offers of coluntary help have been received from Mr.T.W.Sharp of Barcombe for Henshaw children and Mrs. Waugh at the Vicarage, Beltingham, who offered to provide breakfast to any child at Beltingham school


A meeting was held to investigate a complaint from Mrs. B regarding the thrashing of her son more than was necessary. The complaint was dismissed "if every boy enlists the sympathy of his parents against his teachers, it will be more diffcult than it is now to maintain discipline and make the boys attend to their work.


June: It was not thought necessary to take action regarding the feeding of necessitous children, a soup kitchen has been set up in the district.

Henshaw School 1927
Henshaw School 1927. Mr J S Wilson was the headteacher.
photo © Dorothy Ferguson


A letter has been received from the Sanitory Inspector suggesting the use of pails instead of the proposed cess pool for the school - there are practical difficulties - a cess pool would be a more permanent solution. School Funds are low. It is suggested that a Gift and Jumble Sale be held to raise funds for the proposed improvements.



There are now only 53 children in the school. (During the 1930's, a time of profound economic slump, the birth rate slumped to its lowest level of the C20th).

Back Row: Joe Dixon, Anne Harding, Peggy Bell, Mary Benson, Ella Hepple, Ellen Harding, Jean Hepple, Joan Coates, Eric Coates
Middle Row: Margaret Hill, Norah Ridley, Betty Bell, Dorothy Little, Margery Peel, Eileen Benson, Norah Benson, Ruth ?, Hilda Benson
Front Row: Clive Dixon, Clifford Hill, Tommy Bell, Clarence Benson, George Little, Allen Peel, Unknown, Maurice Ridley

Henshaw School 1937 © Dorothy Ferguson


November: The schoolroom stove is beyond repair; there are difficulties in obtaining a new stove in wartime; the Managers authorize the purchase of a Valor 'Perfection' portable stove. The Headmaster reports that lavatory facilities are inadequate owing to the large increase in the number of children. (There are now 120 evacuees in the school, mainly from Wallsend and Newcastle).


June: The Headmaster reports that safeguards and precautions in the event of an air-raid are in place. There is no air raid warning system in the village. The Headmaster is instructed to give elementary first aid lessons.

November: A letter is read from the Northumberland Education Committee instructing the Head to resign from his official capacity in the Home Guard "in the interests of the school".


It was agreed to investigate the possibility of bringing electricity to the school.


March: A letter received from the Northumberland Education Committee with a proposal to establish a canteen for the provision of meals for children attending the school. The meals to be transported in special containers from a central kitchen in Haltwhistle. Crockery, cutlery, equipment, tables, benches and a small boiler to be provided by the Educ. Cttee. The cost will be 5d (5 old pence) per meal, 1/10d (1 Shilling and 10 pence) per week. It was hoped to overcome the difficulties of transporting containers by arrangement with the local bus service. The Managers also considered Education Pamphlet No.119, on the provision of Sex Education in Schools…they agreed that the responsibility for this lay firmly with the parents.


April: The County Education authority has sent a proposal to close Henshaw C.of E. School and build a new school on a two acre site. Improvements to the school will be postponed until its future is known.


It was agreed to purchase new buckets for the lavatory.


Mr.Gibson has resigned… the Managers complain that they have been left with "Hobson's Choice" in the appointment of a new headteacher since only female candidates were shortlisted, two of whom withdrew on the grounds that the school was too far from urban centres, the third considered the accommodation provided as unsuitable".

This has left them with Miss.H.L.Walton of Forest Hall, of whom they say, "Miss Walton was eager to live in the country and her qualifications and training were adequate to the duties of her new office." (Thus begins the long tenure of one of Henshaw School's most respected and regarded Headteachers).top