is only in comparatively recent times that schools and education have
become the concern of government. In the eighteenth century, schools
were founded and paid for by the church or by generous individuals.
Bromley Charity School was no exception. In 1716, a group of local
people signed a subscription list, committing themselves to
donating so much a year to set up and run a school “for the teaching
(of) poor children to read and write…”
first person to sign the list was the Bishop of Rochester who promised
to give £10 per year. Enough people promised to help so, the following
year, they were able to open the school in the area which is now part of Bromley South Station but was
then known as ‘The Gravel Pits”.
Free education and
clothing was provided for 10 boys and 10 girls, the children of
necessitous parents, selected from time to time by the subscribers in
general meetings. The provision of free clothing was to be an important
element in the expenditure of the school: the boys’ uniform cost
15/10d (79p) while the girls’ uniform cost 16/1d, (80p). The
boys’ uniform was a blue cloth cap with peak, blue coat and waistcoat,
full-length corduroy trousers made by Mr Cooper-Tailor and nailed boots
by Mr R Ayling. The
girls’ uniform was a white coal scuttle bonnet with blue ribbon, blue
frock with white shawl, white stockings and leather boots
A condition of entry to the school was
attendance at the church on Sundays.
The children were
taught by a master and a mistress (presumed to be married to each other)
who were paid £20 per year and £3 worth of coal. The school role rose and fell
over the following years but never
exceeded 30 as numbers were dependant on
the prevailing finances of the subscribers. Perhaps less than 500 pupils
attended the school in nearly 100 years.
From 1739, Charity
Sermons were preached to raise more money. These became quite regular
events and continued, with a few breaks, until 1857. The offertory after
the first sermon was £14. 0s. 6d, a large sum of money at that time.
In 1814 there was a new wave of enthusiasm for
education in Bromley. There was to be a new school built on the site of
the old charity school.
It was to be a National school
monitorial system developed by Andrew Bell. This was a
means of teaching large numbers of children very cheaply whereby the
teachers taught older and more able children who then taught the younger
children. Andrew Bell helped set up “The National Society for
Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the
Established Church throughout England and Wales” in 1811. In the course of
time, the society was to be involved in the founding of 12,000 National
The new school
could accommodate 250 children but there were still only two teachers. It had a
large playground and cottage for the schoolmaster. Thanks to the monitorial system, it was relatively
cheap to run. It has been estimated that
the cost of educating one child for a year at the National school was
16/-d (60p) whereas the charity school had spent 79/11d (£3.99) per
child in the 1760s.
fortunate to have an account of the school in the
early 1840s when the boys were taught by Thomas CAMPLING, the girls by Fanny
The boys’ classroom was about 10 metres by 9 metres and
accommodated 100 pupils. It was very crowded. What made matters worse was the way in which
the school had been built using second-hand timber. Within 40 years, the
condition of the building was such that there seemed to be no point in
repairing it. It was decided at a Parish meeting in 1854 to build a new
and larger school.
A public appeal
for funds raised over £1,100 and the Bishop of Rochester gave an acre
of land in a field to the east of Bromley College. A tender of £1,883
by Mr. Harris of Croydon was accepted and building went ahead. The final
cost, including equipment was about £2,700. £1,100 came from the
Council of Education, in other words, the government. The rest came from
the sale of the old site and buildings (£450) and the public. The
school opened on July 6th 1855. Three years later, in July 1858, the
railway reached Bromley South and all traces of the old site were lost.
An early photograph
of the school shows that the external appearance of the school has
changed very little but the setting has changed a lot. All round the
school there were fields. In front of the school was a footpath, not a
busy road. College Road, North Street, Tweedy Road and most of the other
roads near the school were built 1ater. The early address of the school
was College Slip.
of the frontage was the bell turret, which is still there with its bell,
but how much the bell was used I don’t know. An entry in the log book
of 1869 says, “The bell has long been useless by means of a weak
turret that suspends it. As punctuality and the sound of the school bell
are both important features in school life, a subscription is wanted
amongst the boys to restore it”
Also at the front of
the building were three cottages for the head teachers. It is only
comparatively recently that the school has become one school with one
head teacher. Originally there was an infants’ school, a boys’
school and a girls’ school, each with its own head teacher. One of the
cottages was occupied well into the 1960s, but not by the head teacher.
That cottage and its neighbour are now staff-rooms and storerooms, while
the third cottage is occupied by a church charity unrelated to the
When the school was
built, the electric light, which we now take for granted, was not
invented. Gas lights were still rather new and mostly used for street
lighting as they were not very reliable. Despite this, gas was laid on
for the room used by the boys as it was planned to hold evening classes
there. Many boys, but not girls, continued their education at the
National School after they started work.
The first headmaster of
the Boys’ School was Mr Wm Baker who moved with the school from the
Bromley South site. He was paid £60 per year. Miss Husband and Miss
Prigg took charge of the Girls’ and Infants’ Schools and were paid
£40 per year, at that time a fairly good salary.
Baker left under a cloud nine years later. In December 1864, the
inspector's report was far from satisfactory, 22 out of 38 boys failed
in dictation and 27 failed in arithmetic. The new head teacher of the Boys
School was Mr John Jennings. He seems to have been very effective; the
inspector's reports from his time in charge were extremely good.
a very short time of opening, the school was full. This was in spite of
the fact that education was neither compulsory nor free. The children
had to pay 3d per week, the “school pence”. In cases of real
need the vicar would sometimes pay. In 1865, supplementary schools were
established at Farwig and at Plaistow and still there was a need for
more accommodation. In 1872, costs were rising and the school pence rose
to 4d per week: “…children of tradesmen and others
not rightly designated as poor persons” had to pay 6d.
In the Elementary Education
Act of 1891, the government agreed to pay 10/- (50p) per year per pupil so the
Boys’ and. Girls’ Schools were able to reduce their fees to l/- (5p)
per quarter while the Infant School became free.
Most schools became free at this time so the fact that Bromley National Schools
were able the continue to demand a fee is probably a sign that they were very
Below are links to
some resources I found in the course of my research into the history of Bromley
National School (Boys).