Yapton Village Schools

The earliest recorded organised schools in England were associated with the church, usually for the purpose of studying religious manuscripts. Edward VI introduced a system nationally of 'free grammar schools' open to everyone who could not afford to pay for their children's education. Unfortunately, the children of poor families were required to work and help with the family finances rather than study their 'three Rs'.

Schools were opened in various parishes, funded by voluntary contributions from wealthy inhabitants, to teach poor children to read and write. These schools were known as Charity Schools, sometimes called 'Blue Coat Schools', and were normally governed by religious organisations. Yapton had one such school funded by a local resident, Stephen Roe, who left Yapton to seek his fortune in London after completing an apprenticeship in Chichester as a Needlemaker. He was very successful and, following his death in 1767, he left instructions in his will for £1200 to be invested as 'Roe’s Charity'. This was to be administered by the 'minister, churchwardens and overseers of the poor' of Yapton with £20 of the annual interest to be used to educate some of the poor boys and girls of the village.

Prior to the Charity School, there were three licensed teachers recorded in the parish between 1579 and 1606. Other teachers appear to have practiced in the village during the 18th century but did so without a license. This wasn't the case with the Rev. Edward Burnard, who died in 1719, he taught in the church for the whole of his ministry which lasted for 50 years.

In the early part of the 19th century, the population of Yapton and Ford, being employed mainly on the land, was very stable at about 650. Several schools existed to care for those that wanted to be educated but it was not compulsory to attend a school until the Education Act of 1870. As well as the school funded by Stephen Roe, there were two other day schools and a boys Boarding School located in the village.

By 1833 the school funded by Stephen Roe had become a 'National School' with a complement of 14 paying pupils and 20 attending free. There was also a mixed school of 16 students as well as three infant schools catering for a total of 25 pupils. The responsibility for appointing the schoolmasters for these schools fell upon the vicar and parish officers. Another school that came into existence soon after was attached to the Congregational Chapel (now Yapton Free Church) and was very well attended according to surviving records. Also, in the archives there is evidence of Evening Classes being run with 20 students but the location and what was being studied is unknown.

Congregational Chapel and Manse c.1910

The start of the Victorian era saw a greater emphasis being placed on education for the working class. It was possibly that with this in mind that several wealthy villagers along with the vicar, Rev. Vogan, plus the addition of the annual income from Roe’s Charity, purchased a plot of land complete with a small cottage in North End Road. A purpose-built, one-roomed school was erected on the land, opening on 13th October 1864. By 1872, records show that it was being funded by Roe’s Charity, Government grants and voluntary subscriptions from parents with the vicar making up any shortfall.  Thomas Davis had been appointed as its first Headmaster and lived in the old two roomed thatched-cottage next to the schoolroom.

Old Schoolhouse and original Classroom c.1900

The new school was open to children from Yapton and the surrounding parishes with an average attendance of 50 out of 62 registered in 1867, rising to 150 out of 170 in 1895. The facilities and equipment continued to improve. The slates and chalk that the pupils used to write on had been replaced by exercise books in 1880. In the same year evening classes were occasionally held.  By this time overcrowding had become an issue which prompted the building of an extension making the classroom 'L' shaped, to accommodate an infant class. At the same time a four bedroomed school-house was built for the headmaster for the princely sum of £253.

Pupil numbers continued to rise and passed the 200 mark by the turn of the century for which an Assistant Mistress was employed and joined the staff. Unfortunately she resigned after one day giving her reason for leaving as 'it was too dull for her'.

A new infant's classroom was added in 1897 which may have been the small room in an annexe, which in 1910, was made available in the evenings to villagers as a reading room. Further modifications were carried out in 1933 along with the construction of two temporary wooden classrooms. These 'temporary' classrooms were eventually demolished 50 years later.

The emphasis on the National School did not mean that other educational establishments had disappeared. In 1884 there was still a thriving school attached to the Congregational Chapel, albeit that two thirds of the 100 or so pupils came from other parishes. There was also a private girls school in Yapton Lodge, Church Road around 1882, which was possibly the same building that a Boys and Girls Preparatory School was housed in 1938.

The Lodge c.1930

Allen Misselbrook
November 2018

(Originally published in Sussex Local Magazine, Arundel, January 2019)