There is little record of early educational provision in Crich. However, a prospectus does exist for "Crich School" for the year 1805 under the direction of J. Walker and "able assistants" but this was a boarding establishment for the boys of comparatively rich families. As well as a general education, "Young Gentlemen of proper age and abilities" could be instructed in "the Law and practical conveyancing" for an extra £ 2-2-0d. per annum.
The educational provision for poorer children was investigated by a select committee on Education for the Poor in 1818. They found that within the Parish of Crich there were three day schools for boys and the same number for girls, containing together from 140 to 160 children, and four dame schools consisting of 20 to 30 children each. This was inadequate for the number of children of school age, "The poor have not sufficient means but appear desirous of education."
Bagshaw's History (1846) recorded four academies in Crich, conducted by Mr. W. Walker B.A., Sarah Wrigley, William Jessop and Joseph Daykin at Fritchley.
While there was a growing feeling throughout this time of the desirability of an elementary education for the children of the poor, the Government was unwilling either to take the initiative or to produce the finance to provide this single-handed, instead sums of money were made available to be used by the Religious Educational Charities.
A Parochial School was erected in Crich in 1848. The cost was met by £ 600 raised by public subscription and a grant of £ 250 from the Government. This church school was enlarged by the addition of an infant classroom in 1855.
In 1862 the system of payment by results was instituted so that the full grant to a school was dependent on a satisfactory report by the H.M.I (Her Majesty's Inspectors) following their annual inspection. Unfortunately the Parochial Academy was sometimes found wanting; in 1864 the H.M.I. found the children "deficient in arithmetic and the lower classes have not been adequately taught," consequently they lost two tenths of the grant. It cannot have been easy for the schoolmaster and his assistants, education was not compulsory at this time; absenteeism and unpunctuality were very common.
There were many absences throughout the winter months due to the bad weather and sickness. Then the annual pattern of absences developed as many children stayed at home to help prepare for Christmas and then Easter, later came haymaking, gleaning and the blackberry season, culminating in preparation for Crich Fair in October.
There was competition for the sometimes unwilling pupils. In August 1868, the Parochial Schoolmaster recorded that "a great number, mostly infants, have left to go to one lately opened by the Reformers." In January 1870 some left to go to the new National School at Fritchley. This school built in 1869 was extended in 1875 and again in 1894. the fees when it opened were 4d per week. At Crich National School there was a more flexible scheme of charges in 1883. These were:
Infants – 2d per week
Standards 1 and II – 3d per week
Standards III and above – 4d per week
The fourth child in every family free and 1d off for the third child if three are coming regularly.
Sometimes a local benefactor would undertake to pay the 'school pence' for one or more children in a poor family.
The National School gained pupils when a 'venture' school closed down in 1873, but the battle for pupils was not over. The Education Act of 1870 had provided for the establishment of local school boards to make good a shortage of school places in their area..
In 1876 South Wingfield Board School opened and advertised its presence. The Crich schoolmaster recorded "they liberally posted the place with bills gratuitously offering to take children for about half our prices. Even one close to the school walls" and thirty pupils left for the new school.
In 1883 the schoolmaster of Crich Parochial School found himself short staffed and the vicar and other managers seem to have been rather unsympathetic in remedying the situation. The rift widened and in April 1883 Mr. Scott left, taking many pupils with him to the British School which opened in the Mount Tabor Chapel with 240 scholars. A campaign of bill-posting and abuse followed.
Mr. Sumner, the new National Schoolmaster, reported that some boys from "Scott's School" entered the National School and fired a volley of stones and shouted "Opprobrious epithets" at the vicar. Mr. Scott claimed that the fees would be lower at the British School, while the opposition claimed that the Chapel premises were wholly unsuitable for a school and consequently the children would not be examined by the H.M.I.
The wrangling between the two schools was fired of course by religious differences, the Parochial or National School being supported by the Church of England, while the British School was the protégé of the Non-conformists.
By January 1885 the new British School building opened with accommodation for 260 children, it had cost £ 1,500 to erect. the previous year a new National School had been built at Crich Carr on land given by the Duke of Devonshire. Previously there had been a Dame School in a nearby property and the headmistress was Miss. Hawkes.
Denominational differences were overlooked in 1889 when it was proposed that the ratepayers of Crich Parish should contribute towards the provision of school places at Lea and Dethick. (By now Crich fell within the jurisdiction of the Dethick, Lea and Holloway School Board). The managers of the four schools, Crich National, Crich British, Crich Carr National and Fritchley joined with the ratepayers to protest against this suggestion.
In 1890 the British school found numbers dropping as education at the National School was then free. In September 1891 free education started at the British School and in 1903 the County Education Committee took charge of the school.
Note: Sylvia Taylor, the author of this article, moved to Crich from Yorkshire in the early 1970's. She was very much involved in education in Crich, having been a primary school teacher at the County Junior School. (Alan Flint)
The Top and Bottom Schools were independent until 1950. The headmaster of the 'Bottom School', Mr Day, retired in this year and it marked the change in the system. The headteacher at the 'Top School', Mr Willis, was appointed head of the 'Bottom School' and Mrs Else, a teacher at the 'Top School', was appointed head there. Staff at the 'Bottom School' were Miss Fawcett, Miss Jackson, (formerly from the Bottom School), Mr Flory and Mr Willis.
Strutt's Grammar School at Belper opened in 1909 allowing pupils from the town and surrounding villages to compete for scholarships and free places. I do not know when the first pupil from the parish of Crich went to Strutts but there were a number of pupils from the village I knew who went there in the 1920/1930's. Until 1946, children not gaining a place at a grammar school or receiving private education remained at the 'Crich' Schools to complete their secondary education. In September 1946 all children of eleven and over were transferred to the Mortimer Wilson Secondary School in Alfreton. The school was segregated until 1954 when mixed classes were introduced.
In 1958 secondary ages pupils were transferred to Frederick Gent at South Normanton to fill up the spare places at this new school. After a few years Mortimer Wilson again was the Secondary Modern School for Crich area pupils.
Free education was introduced by legislation in 1891 when it was compulsory for children up to the age of ten. The age of compulsory education was increased to eleven in 1893, twelve in 1899, fourteen in 1921, fifteen in 1948 and the current age of sixteen was introduced in 1972. Children who transferred to Mortimer Wilson at the age of thirteen in 1946 suffered another blow because they were the first batch of pupils to remain at school for a further year until they reached fifteen years of age.
Stan SmithHome | History Index