Crisis at the British School

Leaving the National Schools for a short time ….

Closed for business 1873

At the end of October 1873 the British School in Bath Street was shut for a short time after the resignation of the head teacher Wright Lissett.
At a meeting of the managers, subscribers and friends of the school called in late October, secretary Charles Woolliscroft reported that it was ‘absolutely necessary’ to clean, paint and repair the school in order to satisfy the Government Inspector, actions which would mean an outlay of £20. However the school was then in the state of ‘chronic indebtedness’ to the sum of £40 and he put this down to ‘desultory attendance’. There were about 300 pupils on its books but only about half of them attended regularly enough for the school to earn its grant.
Perhaps too many of them were like  Henry Cooper?

In 1872 eight-year old Henry Cooper was one of dressmaker Mary Cooper’s three illegitimate children — there were more to follow! — ostensibly living in Nottingham Road but found wandering around Stanton by Dale, squatting in an outhouse there. He attended the Baptist Sunday School but no day-school, worked half-days at a Gallows Inn brickyard when the inclination took him, and his ‘widowed’ mother was unable to provide for him. That is the background heard at Ilkeston Petty Sessions by Colonel Newdigate who thought that parents were now obliged to send their children to school. When told that Ilkeston had no School Board he declared that it jolly well ought to have, as the present case demonstrated.
Mary promised to send Henry to school and so he was discharged.

At the time of this October meeting the government Education Department had assessed that Ilkeston required an additional 750 school places to meet its growing population needs. Charles Woolliscroft was convinced that the establishment of a School Board with compulsory powers was the only sure way to meet the town’s educational requirements and he hoped that this was coming soon. The  meeting reluctantly therefore decided that the best course of action was to shut the British School and await future developments.

The ‘Church Party’ responsible for the National Schools was vehemently opposed to the formation of a School Board (which would have the power to set up non-denominational Board Schools) and had set in train actions to fill any deficit in school places. (See the New National Schools on the Cricket Ground).

The British School’s October closure lasted less than two months.
Charles Woolliscroft and two colleagues went to London where they met with William Forster, Vice-President of the Committee on Education, and officials at the Education Department but they were told that there was very little hope of a School Board being established at Ilkeston in the immediate future.
Consequently, at another meeting in early December 1873, to avoid the whole parish being occupied by Church Schools, the British School’s managers, subscribers and supporters resolved that –

  1. The British School be re-opened at once.
  2. Subscriptions be solicited, to pay off the debt, and put the building in proper repair, the sum of £60 being required. Joseph Carnill, Richard Daykin of Little Hallam, William Tatham and Thomas Ball volunteered their services as collectors, and upwards of £32 was promised immediately, £5 of that being conditional.
  3. The Vicar’s proposals to establish new Church schools were totally unsatisfactory and only a new School Board could meet the town’s educational requirements.
  4. A Nonconformist Association should be formed, for the purpose of watching over Nonconformity in Ilkeston


Adeline recalled the reopening of the British School and the change of staff which came as a result.
 “Mr. Lissett’s successor to the headship of the British School was Mr. Fred Daykin, second son of Mr. Richard Daykin, who was for many years one of the superintendents of the Old Cricket Ground Chapel Sunday School, Mr. Samuel Carrier being his Colleague”.



THE COMMITTEE are thoroughly Repairing, Cleaning, and Painting the above Schools, and the Public are informed that they will be Reopened ON MONDAY JANUARY 5th, 1874.
Mr. H. F. Daykin has been appointed Master, and it is hoped all the old scholars will be in attendance on that day.
W N CROCKETT,  Secretary.

Adapted from the Ilkeston Telegraph January 3rd 1874


Open again 1874

And so on Monday, January 5th 1874 the British School was reopened, but not before it had been thoroughly cleaned and re-coloured by Henry Clemerson, painter and decorator of South Street  — one door below the Post Office!!
Youngest child of Little Hallam joiner Richard Daykin and Ann (nee Clemerson), Henry Frederick Daykin had been appointed as its headmaster and upwards of 150 scholars attended.
And at the end of that year the report on the school by Her Majesty’s Inspector showed it to be in an excellent state of efficiency’, reflecting well on the hard work of its master.

The corresponding report in 1875 offered similar encouragement to the school:
“The Infant classes are very well taught, and a large amount of very good standard preparation was observed, especially in the lower classes. The order is very good, the children being quiet at their work, and smart in their movements”.

 One thing that may have contributed to their ‘smartness’?
“I remember a boy being kept in school after hours for inattention to his lessons. Geography had been the subject, the particular portion of which was related to the rivers.
“Now tell me” said Mr. Daykin to the boy, “the name of a river running through Ilkeston”.
“Potter’s Cut”, promptly replied the boy, and he as promptly received a cut from the cane for his answer”. (Sheddie Kyme)

In January 1876 Henry Frederick received his ‘certificate for the first division of the first class’ from the Education Department together with a testimony that he “maintains good discipline, and both by his manner and intelligence, is fitted for his post”.
He was then aged 23.

Sheddie Kyme recalls that the principal teachers under headmaster Henry Frederick were …

  • Arthur William Higgett, born in 1859, the son of Bath Street tailor Elijah and his first wife Elizabeth (nee Daykin).
    At the end of 1875, as a pupil teacher, he gained ‘a first class honours in the late examination’.
    He made a career in education and later became headmaster at Chaucer Street Board school (mixed), erected in 1889, and then Gladstone Street school (mixed), erected in 1897.
    His home by then was at ‘Chistlehurst’ in Nottingham Road.
  • Martin Webster Columbine, born in 1861, youngest surviving son of John and Elizabeth (nee Wells) and brother of Elizabeth Adeline.
  • Arthur Henry Moon, born in 1862 at Mapperley, only son of grocer and chemist George and Eliza Eleanor (nee Daykin). We shall meet him later when visiting Richard Daykin in South Street.


British vs National

There appears to have been some rivalry and animosity between the pupils of the British and National schools.
In winter, snowball ‘encounters’ between these ‘Britishers’ and ‘Nationalists’ occurred up and down Bath Street, with workmen joining in; in summer, sticks replaced snowballs resulting in contests so fierce that on one occasion the police were called to intervene.
A former pupil of the National School at the Butter Market recalled the rivalry.
“The snow-balling contests (were) carried on with a vigour which those who took part in them will never forget. The fortunes of war were not always on one side. At one time the British (School) would carry all before them, and drive their opponents to the very doors of their citadel. At another time the Church lads (of the National School) swept the ‘Junction’ (as the Market-place was then generally called), and rushed down Bath-street only to receive a sudden check when the retiring forces were reinforced by the youths working at Carriers’ factory, who always threw in their lot with the British’. (in IP 1900)


and now the contest for educational supremacy in Ilkeston between the Church and the Non-conformist communities was to enter a more intense phase, culminating in the establishment of the new National Schools at the Cricket Ground