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Education

By December 1872, the Reverend Gordon was spelling out the consequences of not having a lease. If they did not have a lease, they could not comply with the Education Act ‘and the school may become rate funded. Mr Herbert Parsons and the farmers do not want this.’ By the 7th December the vicar was replying to Colonel North that a 21 year lease would solve all their problems and they would accept on any terms. The churchwardens, who would be signatories to the lease, were Mr Herbert Parsons, who had been a churchwarden since he moved to Elsfield, and Mr John Greaves, farmer, who had been a churchwarden even longer. The lease was finally granted on 24th March 1873. It ran from 25th May 1873 for 21 years and there would be a yearly rent of £11 in two equal half yearly payments. Colonel North wrote to the Reverend Gordon on 5th December 1873 to reassure him that although the school would have to pay rent, as long as Colonel North ‘has anything to do with the estate, you will not have to pay it.’ One can assume therefore that Colonel North, who administered the estate on behalf of the family, would ensure that, whatever the legal agreement, the school did not have to pay rent for its building.

In a letter to the solicitor who was dealing with the matter, Mr Innes, in April 1873 the Reverend Gordon informed him that there was spare capacity at the school. ‘24 out of 41 houses in the parish have no children in them.’ However it was still worthwhile making the schoolroom bigger as the number of children might well increase. The only way to do this was to annexe the adjoining blacksmith’s shop, ‘the noisy work of which interrupts the work of the school. Mr Herbert Parsons and the farmers think it would be an improvement.’

And no doubt Miss Hardwick would agree with them. As an uncertificated teacher she and the Reverend Gordon were trying to improve her qualifications. On 29 Sept 1871 Reverend Gordon wrote from Elsfield Vicarage to the Secretary of the Education Department in London stating that Miss Fanny Hardwick, mistress of this small mixed school for the last 13 months would like to attend the next Christmas examination for a certificate of merit at Fish Ponds near Bristol. He describes her as 22 years of age, trained for two years 1864-66 at Oseney, has been employed in different schools and is now in sole charge at Elsfield school.

She was turned down presumably because the school was a Voluntary, not a Board school. The vicar wrote again, pointing out that Fanny Hardwick was applying for the exam in her own name and it had nothing to do with Elsfield school. She wanted to become qualified to take charge of a public elementary school ‘be it here or elsewhere’.

On 21 October 1871 he received a brusque communication stating that ‘As the managers decline to give an express undertaking that the school will be conducted as a public elementary school within the meaning of the Public Elementary School Act 1870 (Section 7), my Lords cannot sanction the admission of your teacher to examination under Article 471.’ It seems likely that the reason for the refusal was the fact that there was no governing body, the sole manager of the school being the Reverend Gordon.

Not only did Miss Hardwick have to put up with the noise and dirt of the blacksmith’s shop as she tried to teach and the impossibility of improving her qualifications, her living quarters left much to be desired. The Reverend Gordon wrote to Colonel North on the 4th April 1871 ’With regard to the Teacher’s House it is only half of a by no means large cottage far from equal when undivided to three or four cottages in the village, those for instance of Ann Gammon, Thos. Gardner and Joseph Locke. The division leaves only one room upstairs and one down so it is only suitable for single tenants or married couple without family.’


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