One man had already responded …. before being asked !!
Earlier in 1875 the town’s ‘Anti-School Board Organisation’ enlisted impressive reinforcements in the shape of the Rev. Albert Eubule Evans – formerly curate of Slough and Windsor — who in February was appointed Vicar of Kirk Hallam Church.
“Of all the clerics I have met in the course of a long and varied career, I have not come in contact with one whom I regard as his equal in intellect and culture. He was a parson of the very best type, a student of ripe scholarship and wide linguistic accomplishments, and a preacher of singular power. His sermons were always short but they were models of lucidity and effectiveness, transparently earnest, and quite free from the monotonous sing-song drawl and affected delivery which one hears so often from the pulpits of the Anglican Church. He was a member of the Junior Athenaeum Club in London, the author of several books, and a profound student of German metaphysics and physical phenomena, in which latter department he was much addicted to making physical experiments. Apart from organising a debating society in connection with the Church or Mechanics’ Institute — I forget which – he took little part in the activities of the town, living his own bachelor life, and content with his books and investigations into the phenomena of spiritualism”. (RBH)
In December 1875 the Rev. Albert tried appealing to the parsimony of Ilkeston ratepayers when he calculated that Board Schools would cost at least three times more to accommodate and educate a child than a voluntary school. Thus he was sure that such facts “would be quite sufficient, in combination with the harsh procedure of school board officials, to extinguish all desire for school boards in districts where they do not already exist”.
Three month later and the Derby Mercury echoed these sentiments.
“Although Ilkeston is a town of 10,000 inhabitants, the measures taken to provide sufficient school accommodation have so far proved successful as to leave no doubt that the necessity of a School Board will be avoided”. It thanked the Church Party for raising funds and the Duke of Rutland, Lord of the Manor, for providing land for new schools at a cost of £4000, a portion of which had still to be raised but which had thankfully saved the ratepayers of Ilkeston from ‘the expensive burden of a School Board’.
But for how much longer ?
On Monday, September 18th 1876, the Trinity Infants School was opened. It catered for children aged 3 to 7 years, its first mistress was Miss Edwards, and 200 were initially on roll.
With the completion of the Holy Trinity School on land again supplied by the Duke of Rutland, many wishful opponents of a School Board were now certain that Ilkeston would offer sufficient school places to satisfy the Education Department. The building itself presented “by no means a handsome structure, the idea having evidently been to make it commodious rather than ornamental”.
In its first year Richard Evans of Ilkeston Potteries made several generous contributions to the school including a gift of two dozen cane-bottomed chairs.
In 1878 Miss Edwards was replaced by Miss Baker.
School Inspection Report September 30th 1878.
“The order of this large school is most satisfactory. Teachers and children are interested in their work – bright, obedient and intelligent.
“The standard preparation was very successful (except in the third class) and the rudiments are fairly taught. Grammar and Geography were unusually good. Recitations were said with taste and accuracy. Marching and exercises were satisfactory”.
Now, although there were about a dozen nonconformist chapels in Ilkeston, the British School in Bath Street was the only one school supported by them. Thus the Church of England was “educating seven or eight times as many children as their Dissenting brethren”. (figures supplied by a correspondent to the Nottinghamshire Guardian!!)
Once more the Nottinghamshire Guardian was confidently whistling in the wind.
“The inhabitants (of Ilkeston) have just cause to congratulate each other that sufficient voluntary effort has been put forth to render the advent of a School Board impossible for some time to come, and that a sound, practical, and religious education is now open for all who are desirous of becoming possessed of it”.
But how long is ‘for some time to come’ ?!
In May 1877 via large placards around town the Local Board reminded parents and employers of the requirements of the Sandon Education Act of 1876. The board would enforce school attendance and there were sufficient school places to meet the Act’s requirements.
Thankfully — and yet again !! — there was no need for a School Board !!
But for how much longer ?
One man who certainly wasn’t going to concede without a stern fight was the Rev. John Francis Nash Eyre and he enlisted the sympathetic organ of the Ilkeston Pioneer to help once more in the fight.
In December 1877 he shot off a lengthy letter to the paper in which appeared …..
dire omens … a School Board will bring strife and illwill ….. it will lead to bickerings and inflictions upon honest men.
severe warnings … agitators will make the Churchmen and others pay the piper while they will take all ‘the spoils’ ….. rates will rise and be born by the few.
reminders of generosity … in recent years the Church has erected schools for 1518 children … and not forgetting that the Rev gentleman has himself made significant financial contribution.
Then the Vicar turned into an acrobatic accountant…… by a series of complicated but convenient statistics he proved that there were 1591 children needing places while the total school accommodation was 1920 !!
Ergo ?? No need for more school places …. or a School Board !!
But all in vain. The Rev. gentleman’s figures were at odds with the official ones, and the new National schools were still not sufficient to provide enough education for the growing town.
The Duke and the vicar had to admit defeat. The town’s School Attendance Committee reported that the school accommodation of the parish did not meet the requirements of the Education Act and the Local Board was thus required to set up a School Board.
A few months later and the Board now had its own seal, depicting a figure of learning, with a child on either side, headstocks of a colliery in the background and the words ‘Ilkeston School Board ‘ encircling the scene. (The headstocks replaced the factories of the original design).