The Early Days of Port Vale School

By Geoffrey Cordingley

Port Vale School in the early 50s

The Opening

Port Vale Boys’ School opened its doors on Tuesday 13th April, 1915 after the Easter holiday with the boys attending all day. At 3.30 in the afternoon the school was officially opened by Alex Purkiss Ginn Esqr: the Mayor of Hertford, supported by the members of the Hertford Corporation, the management committee of the school and the clergy and ministers of the various churches of the town.

This was reported in the Hertfordshire Mercury on the following Saturday.

For a long time Cowbridge School had been overcrowded with other schools in the town more than comfortably filled.  The reporter argued that the school managers had made a mistake in not sending the girls as well as the boys to Port Vale, as there was ample accommodation in the new buildings.

Cowbridge School could then be utilised as an infants’ school entirely and so relieving the pressure on some of the other infants’ schools in the town.  As it was Cowbridge became a Girls’ and Infants’ School.

The First Term

The school was opened with four teachers who were all transferred from Cowbridge County Council School:

Walter Turpin    Head Master Certificated No: 7393

William Coleman Edwards1 Assistant Certificated No; 03/1342

Lily May Allen2  Assistant Uncertificated Teacher

Jane E Hendry3  Assistant Uncertificated Teacher.

107 boys were enrolled on the opening morning and during the week 10 more names were added to the roll.  By the end of the second week the roll had increased to 122 and to 124 by the end of the third week.

The logbook reports “The teachers had settled to their work under the new conditions with zeal and interest.”

On 30th April the new building was inspected by Mr Marvin H.M.I. And Mr Marsh H.M. Sub Insp. with four other gentlemen, not named.  During the first term other people also visited the new school including two other H.M.I.s, Mr Marsh Sub. I. And Mr Reed Inspector of Handwork.

In the first two weeks in May attendance was reduced ” … owing to so many soldiers passing through the town.”

By contrast the attendance in the first two weeks of June was much improved with 120 out of the 126 boys attending in the first week and 122 in the second.  This high level of attendance must have continued as on 9th July the boys were given a half-day holiday for good attendance during June. This holiday giving was used in all schools at the time as an enducement to attend school.

On 14th June it was recorded that “The nurses Miss Ward and Miss Cummings examined the state of cleanliness of all the boys in the school.  A very few cases needed attention.”

At that time the school year ended on 30th June although the school did not break up!  Most children would move up to the next Standard on 1st July. However those considered not to have made enough progress could be held back for a year! There is no mention of this happening here.

In early July attendance was disrupted by “Treats.”  Sunday schools as well as council schools held treat days during the summer term.  In Hertford these took place at local estates, e.g Goldings, Woodhall Park, Balls Park.

On 14th July [Bastille Day], “French Flag Day a collection was made in the school for the French Relief Fund and a sum of one pound one shilling and 6d was sent up.”

The school closed on Friday, 28th July for the Summer holiday.  Mr. Turpin recorded

“Miss Hendry who has been a teacher in the school for 10 years is leaving the school this term, it will be practically impossible to find another assistant so valuable to the school staff, her loss will be keenly felt.”

Jane, Elizabeth Hendry was 28 and lived with her parents, John (an engine fitter) and Jane, and two other sisters at 46, Raynham Street, Hertford. Presumably the reason she left the school was her impending marriage to Richard J. Hayden which happened later in the year.

As Mrs. Hayden, Jane returned on occasions to provide cover for absent teachers.  This cuminated on 23rd June 1916 in her taking Mr Edwards place as a “War appointed teacher” when Mr. Edwards was called up.  She continued to teacher at the school until Friday, 28th February, 1919 with Mr. Edwards, having been demobilized returning to teaching on the following Monday, 3rd March.


  1. William Coleman Edwards was born on 22nd August 1877.  He was appointed to Cowbridge school on 12th November 1906.  On 28th March 1910 he married Elizabeth May Hood in Corton, Norwich.  By 1939 he had retired and was a widower living in Cheshunt with a daughter and three sons.
  2. Lily May Allen was born on 17th February 1888.  She left the school at the end of 1916.  Walter Turpin considered Lily was “a most valuable teacher” and recorded in the logbook that she was leaving the profession.  Whatever she did in the meantime, in 1939 Lily was an elementary teacher in the village of Tiffiled near Towcester in Northamptonshire.
  3. Jane Elizabeth Hayden was born on 29th September 1886.  She began work as a teacher at Cowbridge School in 1905.  In 1939 she was living with John, her husband in Southampton.  She died there in 1971 aged 84.
This page was added on 03/11/2016.

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  • What year did this all take place?

    By Nick Gough (14/04/2017)