NEWSLETTER - 28th. OCTOBER 1996
Next year your Society will be 10 years old and to celebrate this we are to have an exhibition which is to take place between Thursday 16th October and Saturday 18th October 1997 in the Meeting Room of Mexborough Branch Library where we will be able to show what has been achieved with regard to researching historical facts about the town and surrounding district. If you are able to help with the loan of exhibits, photographs, or help to man the exhibition please get in contact with me.
A few weeks ago we received a letter from the Elsecar Project thanking us for the 2-day exhibition we put on there earlier this year for their open weekend, and also asked us if we would like to put on another exhibition next year. The dates for this will be the 30th and 31st. August 1997.
This year our Christmas excursion will be to London, departing at 7 a.m.on the
7th December from the New Masons' Arms, with the cost estimated at £10 50. For further details could you please get in contact with Joyce Thompson on Mex. 582591 or Cliff Blaydes on Mex. 588123.
Evening visits in 1997 include Doncaster Archives on 27th. May but places are limited to 15 people per group, with a possibility of arranging further visits.
THE OPENING OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST'S CHURCH OF ENGLAND SCHOOL 1968
Last month I covered the happenings in our town in the year 1968 as taken from an edition of the Mexborough and Swinton Times which told us of the closure of Denaby Colliery in the Whitsuntide, the moving of Mexborough Outside Market to its temporary site at the side of the Montagu Arms Hotel as its old site was being built over by the new relief road, one of the last Nipsy Cup Finals ever held, and the demolition of many of our old Victorian houses in the wake of the new modernist ideas, but the item to dominate the whole of this edition was the opening of St. John the Baptist's Church of England School, Sedgefield Way, Mexborough.
A school in Mexborough, operating under the jurisdiction of the church, can be dated as far back as 1622 when its headmaster was Mr. Henry Heathfield. In 1764 we find it written of in a Church Terrier which tells us that it was situated close to the smaller of the two gates belonging to the church. In 1822 it was moved to the top of Bank Street where the Salvation Army Citadel now stands and in 1865 it was rebuilt by public subscription and put under the headship of Mr. Charles Tandy. This
school played a vital part in the life of the town, not just acting as a school but also as something akin to a civic hall, as the records of. the school tell us of teas, exhibitions, and early meetings of the Local Board.
By the 1950s the old building was looking very tired and the need for a new one was badly needed. The teaching was among the best to be found anywhere but the building itself was Dickensian and wholly inadequate for the number of children now attending the school. The toilets were outside and as the pipes frequently froze in winter this rendered them unusable. Access to the stalls used by small boys was through the girls toilets, and as very little had been done over the years to improve the sewage system, the smell in summer was overpowering. Access to the girls playground from the main body of the school was by a flight of unprotected steep
stone steps which I remember being the cause of a few accidents. There-were of course no facilities whatsoever for sport. So, early in the 1960s fund raising activities began in order to build a new school and I well remember doing a sponsored walk around High Melton and having to help carry one of the girls back home again!
St. John the Baptist's C of E School, Sedgefield Way, Mexborough, was officially opened on Saturday 22nd. June 1968 by the Bishop of Whitby the Rt. Rev. George D'Oyly Snow and dedicated by the Bishop of Sheffield the Rt. Rev. F. J.Taylor.
In his opening speech the Bishop of Whitby stated that "the Church was rightly proud of its school as it had been connected with education and school work for centuries. Even one hundred years ago schools were still run by the Church and since then only the rapid increase in population made it imperative for the State to start building its own schools. The day may come when the Church will consider itself fortunate to have 8,000 schools. It may come when the tide of opinion will go against Church Schools." Bishop Snow who was also the Chairman of the National Society for the Protection of Religious Education and gave £500 towards the construction of the new school then declared it open.
Even in 1968 it appears that there were cut backs in education - this was revealed very early in the proceedings of the opening in a speech given by the Chairman, Canon H. J. Burgess, as he states "this is a most fortunate school in that the building is now completed and has thus escaped the latest Government restrictions on school buildings". He then went on to say that even in the free thinking days of the '60s that there were excellent relations between the Church in Mexborough and this school, thanks mainly to the former Headmaster Mr. Popple and the clergy. At this time the vicar was Rev. J. Metcalf and he had maintained the clergy's interest in the school. Thanks were also to go to Mr. Peter Cook, the new Head, who had also fostered this link.
Next came a speech, which many had been waiting for, given by the former Headmaster, Mr. E. B. Popple, (a person I believe many of us will still remember who was a member of that well-known Mexborough family famed for its musical and dramatic prowess). He spoke of what the school was like when he first came to work there, how he had been Head there for 34 years. and how in 1930 when the school was "under the shadow of extinction" there were considerable difficulties which he was faced with, and how even then areas of the school were "deplorable and dangerous". He told the 300 guests how in 1930 it had been put on the "black list" of the Board of Education. He then went on to tell the guests of the reorganisation of schools in 1932 and how "Church Schools were then regarded as an anachronism in the education system, a sore thumb to be amputated at the earliest possibility". Mr. Popple spoke of the promise of a 75 per cent Government Grant which had first been proposed in 1944 and that not only was a completely new school thought to be a possibility but a bargain at the price. He then went on to state that although this fine new building was now complete it did not necessarily mean a good school - it was what happened inside that mattered. He then presented a lectern to the school made by Mr. Alan Mann, Head of the Handicraft Department of Mexborough County Secondary School.
Following the opening of the school, which was the second in a programme of four to be opened in the Diocese of Sheffield that year, the school choir sang an original version of "0 Jesus I have promised" followed by a musical variation of a light -hearted "Hoe Down".
The opening ceremony then concluded with a tea served in the dining recess by the school cook, Mrs. Marion Hill, directed by Mrs. R. Palmer.
The information for this account of the opening of the first Church School to be constructed in Mexborough for one hundred years is grossly inadequate in comparison with the coverage given to the opening of other schools years previously, where full transcripts are given of speeches. I would have liked for example to have known what Mr. Popple said concerning what it was like to teach at the National School in those early years of his Headship, what areas of the school he considered to be "deplorable and dangerous" and what the re-organisation of schools involved, but now we shall never know as sadly this fine gentleman died in Bridlington some years ago
J. R Ashby