Hertford Schools Between the Wars

Geoff Cordingley

Education Act 1918

The Education Act of 1918, known as the Fisher Act after Mr H.A.L. Fisher MP, President of the Board of Education removed the exemptions by which children could leave school before the age of 14.  From the implementation of the Act every children was required to stay at school until (s)he reached the age of 14.  Further Local Education Authorities were obliged to create “Continuation Schools” for those children under 16 who were working, so that they could continue their education.

The idea was that the children would be released from their work for three mornings a week, two to attend school and one as holiday.  Mr. Fisher in his speech to the House spoke of ” … education should be the education of the whole man, spiritually, intellectually, and physically …” The more wealthy parents were able to afford schooling up to the age of 16 and a variety of schemes should be available to allow child of those parents who could not afford to pay, the benefit of an education past the age of 14.  Eric Geddes had been tasked by Lloyd George, Prime Minister, with reducing Government spending and unfortunately the funding for continuation schools was axed except in Rugby where they did go ahead!

Christ Church Infants’ School

On 31st August 1923 Christ Church Infants School behind Christ Church in Port Vale was officially closed although, of course, the children had left at the end of the summer term in July that year.  After  an official inquiry on 27th March held at the school it was decided to close it through a shortage of pupils and the large number of available places at nearby schools.

It was a shame in a way because the teaching was still of a high standard as is obvious from the report of  Basil J.M. Reay, Diocesan Inspector, on the teaching of Religious Education.

After the school was closed the building became the church hall until the church was pulled down in the 1950s.
The building still exists and having been extended is now occupied by The Company of Players.

Churchfields 2019 originally Abel Smith Memorial School for Girls

All Saints Schools

On 1st August 1925 Cowper Memorial, Abel Smith & All Saints Infants’ Schools were handed over to County Education Authority from Parish responsibility mainly because of building repair costs.   “The County Council decided to accept an absolute conveyance of the All Saints Schools  and a survey made recommendations for improvements to the buildings which will afford all the accommodation required for some time.”1

Hertford School Re-organisation, 1931

The Report of the Consultative Committee of the Board of Education on “The Education of the Adolescent” known as the Hadow report after the commitee’s chairman (William Henry Hadow) produced two principle recommendations.  These were the raising of the minimum school leaving age to 15 and the institution of secondary education for all children to follow consecutively on six years of primary education.  Thus there were to be no more all-through schools1.  Reduction in public spending plus the Second World War meant that the leaving age was not changed until 1947.

HGS new building in 1930

Hertford Grammar School moving to its new building in 1930 freed up the old building and this allowed, in 1931, the implementation of this primary & secondary school system.  There were now the buildings available to allow parents a choice of secondary education with one mixed school (Longmore) at the old Hertford Grammar School building and separate boys’ (Cowper) and girls’ (Port Vale) schools.

The staff of All Saints Girls transferred on block to Port Vale building and became Port Vale Senior Girls School with Miss Davis2 as head teacher.


Cyril Stalley is on the left with his son infront of him. Alfred Bradbeer brother of Edith Bradbeer (Mistress of Cowbridge School) is on the right.

Cowper Testimonial School became a Senior Boys’ School continuing under the direction of Cyril Stalley3.  The refitted Green Coat School just down the road from Cowper was used for woodwork with Oliver Sharp as the instructor.

The mixed school was based at the old Hertford Grammar School buildings4 and was called Longmore Senior Mixed School with Thomas Hunnyball5 as Master.

All Saints became a Junior Mixed School with Mr. EA Upton6 as Head Master.

Cowbridge became a JMI with Miss Bradbeer continuing as Head.

Waterford School

Waterford School closed in the summer of 1932.  Mrs Mabel Howell had been the mistress since September 1918.

Cowper School at the bottom of London Road

Re-organising Secondary Schools

On 30th November 1936 the managers of the Hertford schools7 held a private meeting (without the local Head Teachers) to discuss the accommodation of the senior children in the town.  Among other things Cowper School had become very dilapidated.

Mr Graveson (Chairman) stated that the question for the Managers to decide was whether they should ask the County Council to provide a new senior school, and if so, should this be a mixed school or was it desirable to have a separate school for boys and a separate school for girls. It was also recorded that the education committee was interested in building a technical school, possibly using a Government grant and on land from where the Post Office Sorting Office is located in 2019 all the way across to London Road.

Since the cost of a new school was likely to be £30,0008 and there is sufficient room in the existing secondary schools, he continued, a more appropriate solution might be to re-arrange the children so that the boys occupied Longmore and the girls were all situated at Port Vale.  Although some of the managers considered that the county town deserved a modern school fit for the future, the re-arrangement mentioned above was the one that the managers agreed to propose to the county council.

By December 1937 it was suggested that the most convenient date for closing the Cowper School, would be at the end of the Summer Term 1938 and that Mr. Stalley should be Head of the reorganised Longmore School.  The County Council should use their (its) influence in obtaining another post for Mr. Hunneyball6.  If he should obtain another post before the end of the Summer Term 1938 then the reorganisation should take place immediately.

Mr. Honneyball5 who had been headmaster of Longmore Mixed School since 1931 was to be offered another teaching post within the county and at the minutes of a Meeting of Managers,  “It was pointed out that the County Council had given a definite assurance to continue Mr. Hunneyball’s salary as a supply teacher until the end of the year.”  It sounds like Mr. Hunneyball not unsurprisingly was not too happy with the situation as there is also a comment in the minute “….so far as the Managers and Mr. Hunneyball were concerned the matter had been left as satisfactorily as possible.”

In February 1939, Mr. Hunneyball5 notified the managers of his appointment as Head Master of Summerleaze Park Senior School, Yeovil as from 20th February 1939. “The Managers desired to congratulate Mr. Hunneyball on his appointment and express the hope that it would prove a very happy one.”

The Cowper School opened in the Longmore buildings on September 4th 1938 with 205 boys.  Within three weeks the Munich Crisis caused the nation to hold its breath and caused some interruption to the work of the school.  According to Len Green1: while Cyril Stalley and Arthur Budgen took charge of the whole school for a day or so, the rest of the staff were out acting as billeting officers finding accommodation for children who were to be evacuated from London in the event of war. “With the return of Neville Chamberlain with his piece of paper, we returned to a degree of normality, based on the hope that war would be avoided.”9

Trenches or No Trenches

Information Leaflet issued by Herford Town Clerk, dated 27th September, 1938

In September 1938 as tension in Europe increased trenches were to be dug in the land opposite the All Saints Schools (by St John’s Hall) for pupils to use for protection in air raids; details are recorded in the Cowper School log book – 6 feet deep, 3 feet wide and a length allowance of 2 feet per child plus 20%(20). (At the beginning of the new school year, Cowper School (205 boys) opened in the Longmore building because the Cowper building was considered unsuitable for a 1930s education.  The girls (175 of which 52 came from Longmore) were now all housed at Port Vale.)

Trench digging had also begun at Port Vale School.  All work was stopped on 30th September on the County Council’s instructions.  Presumably the work was stopped because 30th September was the day on which the Munich Agreement was signed between Adolf Hitler, German Chancellor, and Nevile Chamberlain, British P.M.  This was followed by PM Chamberlain returning to England to say that the agreement meant “peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time.”

The cost of digging trenches at Port Vale and Longmore Schools in connection with Air Raid Precautions amounted to £27/5/4d10.  Although the education authority advised schools not to do so, these trenches were then infilled, at Longmore by the boys supported by a labourer when needed.  This was acceptable as no expense was incurred and it was probably done for safety reasons.

Even though the ARP Committee was previously concerned about Cowbridge School in case of air-raids,  County Surveyor did not recommend any further action at Cowbridge School in connection with Air Raid Precautions.

By 5th June 1939 the trenches were back on the agenda.  The managers received instructions from the County Council to obtain three estimates for the construction of trenches at Port Vale, Longmore and All Saints J.M.I Schools.  The work would only be carried out in the event of a national emergency, and that the cost of work might vary according to the cost of materials and labour at the time of actual construction.

The trenches were finally completed by end of 1939 and HCC did not consider it necessary to cover the windows of these schools with wire netting.   HCC did give permission for Cowbridge to have its windows covered with wire netting.

It was left to Head Teachers to make their own arrangements as to the action to be taken during air raid warnings.

Dr. K.V. Pankhurst, a pupil at Hertford Grammar School reflected, “A few days after War was declared we came back to start the Autumn term. As we walked up the drive we saw that the lawns to the East side of it had been dug up to make an Air Raid Shelter. Trenches about 5 ft wide and about 5 ft deep were covered by arches of corrugated steel, over which there were layers of sand-bags. They would have provided no protection against high explosive, but were sufficient against flying debris.”

No shelters were ever built at St. Andrews.  Eddie Roche remembers that the children were told to hide under desks when the air-raid alert sounded!  There was a shortage of room to build them which was also the case at Cowbridge.

Potential New School

In 1939 15 acres of land on the Brickendonbury Estate was purchased as a site for a senior and a junior school.  This is presumably where Morgans Walk School was built in 1950.

School Leaving Age

On 6th March 1939  Chief Education Officer stated that the Education Act, 1936, compelling children’s attendance at school until 15 years of age would not come into operation until 1st September, 1939.  Presumably because of the war this did not happen until 1947!


  1. A History of the Abel Smith Memorial School now know as Abel Smith JMI, Hertford by Dorothy Abel Smith.
  2. Miss Kate Davis who came from Bristol was appointed in 1914 as mistress of Abel Smith Memorial School for Girls. Miss Davis was selected from 94 applicants. When Hertford Schools were re-organised in 1931 Miss Davis moved with the girls to Port Vale Girls’ School. She retired on 19th December 1940.   After retiring Miss Davis moved to Weston-Super-Mare so a sum of £3-10s-0d which had been subscribed for a presentation was forwarded to her.
  3. Cyril Guy Stalley (6th June 1982 – 1978) was born in Ware, the son of George, a barge builder and Ellen.  The family lived in High Oak Road.  He attended St. Mary’s School and by 1911 he was a teacher.  In 1924 he became master of Cowper Memorial School succeeding John Richard Strubell, living in the school house on the north side of the school.  He remained head of Cowper in its two locations (Cowper Building and Longmore) until June 1957 when, after the opening of Simon Balle School, the schools were closed .  On his reitrement Mr. Len Green presented him with an electric fire and standard lamp on behalf of the staff, some old staff & Canon Bradney, Chairman of the Governors.  Jacqueline Clay-Smith and Norton Bardell, Head Girl and Head Boy presented Mr. Stalley with an electric  plate warmer and coffee table and Formica kitchen table.  The staff had tea afterwards in the domestic science room. (Tea in the domestic science room often happened after notable events r visits.)
  4. In the early part of the 20th Century, the building had been extended and later two huts were added.
  5. Thomas William Hunneyball (5th March 1894 – 1971)  Thomas was born in Stockwell in Surrey the eldest son of Thomas William and Emma.  Thomas senior was an LCC Tram Inspector.  Thomas junior served in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in two spells during WW1 so perhaps he was injured at some point.  After the war he was an assistant master at three schools in South London, registering as a teacher on 1st November 1920.  In 1921 he married Bertha G Allum.  Ten years later they came to Hertford where Thomas took up the headship of Longmore Senior Mixed School.  After Longmore became a boys’ school in 1938, Thomas was on the HCC emergency staff until he obtained the headship of Sommerlease Park Senior School in Yeovil, Somerset.  He died in 1972 at the age of 76 in Surrey.
  6. Edward Archer Upton (13.06.1878 – 1961) was born in Long Eaton, Derbyshire.  In 1901 he was teaching in Willesdon, North London and by 1911 he was headteacher of Camp House Elementary School in St. Albans, where he married Evelyn Ada Smith in 1905. Evelyn died in 1912.  He served in WW1 and in 1921 is referred to as Major Upton taking the girls for Stoolball and baseball in the Cowbridge School logbook.  In January 1923 he succeeded Walter Turpin as head of Port Vale Boys’ School until the 1931re-organisation when he became Master of All Saints’ Junior Mixed School.  In 1939 he was living in Birch Green with his daughter Lily (aged 33) as his house-keeper.
  7. Meetings of Managers 3rd February 1936 onwards, HALS ref. HEd 2/56
  8. Approximately £550, 000 in 2019
  9. The Cowper Testimonial School Hertford, A History of the School by Len Green, Hertford & Ware Local History Society Occasional Paper No. 3 1992.
  10. Approximately £1819 in 2019.  In total £6,541.3.5d (≈ £147,000 in 2019) was spent throughout Hertfordshire on digging trenches during this emergency.
  11. The total cost of digging trenches during the 1938 emergency was recorded as £31.12.4d (£2,048 approx in 2019), for Hertford Urban District Council; £24.8.1d (£1,560) for Hertford Rural District and £6,541.3.5d (£424,000) for schools county-wide.  A large proportion of the county-wide expenditure was for the purchase of timber and other materials much of which the County Surveyor was able to exchange for other timber which was taken into county stock.  The actual total expenditure was thus eventually much less than the figures stated.
This page was added on 18/04/2019.

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