Stoke Mandeville Board School


Stoke Mandeville Board School

The first twenty-five years (1895-1919)

by Alan Dell


 This essay was submitted as an entry to the Cicely Baker Prize for Historical Research in 1986.  The earliest record of a school at Stoke Mandeville is 1819, for in that year the vicar and curate of Bierton, together with six village folk, asked that it should be united in the National Society,[1] but its size and venue is unknown. Stoke Mandeville was a Chapelry of Bierton until 1858 with the curate there in charge at Stoke.

Nearly 25 years later, however, between fifty and sixty children were "collected" in a barn. Curate William Brooke Stevens, writing to the Society, made it clear that "with the arrival of the harvest" they were forced to vacate their temporary home and, not being able to obtain another room, "it was proposed ... to build a schoolroom.[2]


 So it was, with the aid of various grants, the National School was completed at a cost of £175 on a site near the recently erected vicarage, "the free gift of Mr Thos. Gurney of Stoke ... for the purpose of educating the Children of the Poor in the Principles of the Church of England." The Master's salary was £13 per annum and each child paid 1d a week.[3]

 As a church school its activities were closely monitored by the vicar who was joint trustee as well as chairman of the board of management[4] and this fact no doubt led to friction with the dissenters of the parish.[5]

 There can be no doubt that one of the aims of the far reaching Education Act of 1870 was to diminish the influence of the Established Church over its non-conforming parishioners, but, where the existing accommodation and teaching standards met statutory requirements, the status quo was invariably maintained.

 Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools (H.M.I.) first spoke of the need for room for 88 pupils. This was based on a one for five children per population, but the authorities had included the 75 or so souls in the detached part of the parish at Prestwood in the calculation and, as the vicar pointed out, "The Prest Wood (is) situated quite six miles from the church".[6] After this initial confusion over the number of places required, the vicar, the Revd E K Hanson, reported in January 1876 "... opened under Emily Taylor ... newly white washed ... painted inside ... classroom attended to and new desks ordered."[7]

 In 1880 a new vicar arrived. He was the third in eight years to come to this desperately poor rural parish[8] and the Revd Meyer Mensor could hardly be said to be an idea incumbent for such a place. Born of Jewish parents about 1821, he attended the Royal Frederick Willheim University and Rabbinical College at Berlin (which was then in Prussia). He obtained his D.L. and D.Theo. in 1846 and was said to have been Chief Rabbi at Chicago in America before arriving in Sheffield in January 1859. He was baptised as a Christian at that place in March 1861[9] and was ordained the same year.[10]

 The battle of wills between the incumbent on the one hand and the various masters on the other, with H.M.I. endeavouring to maintain their impartial but statutory position somewhere in the middle, is well documented but can form but a small part of this essay. Needless to say, however, money seemed to be at the root of most of the trouble. The poor salary offered attracted the less qualified men and, when installed, with their wives or older daughters acting as sewing mistress, the master often fell short of the standard required of him. The classroom was crowded, the lighting poor and the equipment inadequate.[11]

 One of the problems associated with retaining a schoolmaster was the lack of suitable accommodation. Plans were afoot in 1881 to build a house for the master financed partly from a grant from the National Society and partly by subscription.[12] Mensor appealed to Whitehall to expedite matters as "there is but one cottage available ... a mile or so from the school and the road to and from it is extremely bad and during the rainy season or when a fall of snow happens in winter literally almost impossible."[13]


The proposed site for the building was the old Parish House that stood opposite the vicarage and the school, which was "dilapidated and can be inhabited no more nor repaired and is standing empty going into ruins."[14]

There followed protracted three way correspondence between the Parish, the Local Government Board in Whitehall and the High Wycombe Union in an effort to establish ownership of the old property. A whole year was spent in these negotiations and considerable delay was caused when the relative notice calling a meeting of owners and ratepayers was only displayed at Stoke Mandeville Church. At last, legal niceties being observed, the meeting was advertised in both parts of the parish including the Prestwood chapel. This led the Local Government Board to comment acidly in an internal memorandum "... there must be a fatality about this case ... the parish seems to be in careless hands.[15]

The paper work was being dealt with by the Parish Overseer, Emmanuel Edwards, who was a 70 year old farmer and former landlord of The Bull Public House in the village. No doubt Local Government forms A, B and C, applications for grants and definitions of a Certified Efficient school were probably well over his head.

But even with the schoolmaster safely installed in his new house, matters did not go smoothly. The vicar was forced to "go to law" in order to evict a Mr Pengelly, whom he wanted to get rid of. The next Master, William Marsh, resigned when Dr Mensor informed him that he could no longer be responsible for paying his salary.[16] Then came an Alfred E Cox who became a thorn in the flesh of not only the vicar but also of the school inspector Mr Edward Kenney-Herbert in Aylesbury, who was provoked to comment in a memo, "More trouble in this wretched place. I really do not know what is to be done."[17]

 In an effort to regularise matters, a finance committee was formed in 1889 and £50 paid to Dr Mensor for the monies he had been forced to pay out of his own pocket. They also engaged Mr Cox, a 3rd certificated teacher at a salary of £40 per annum plus half a share in the government grant. Thus Cox considered himself as the servant of the committee and not of Dr Mensor.[18]

 So when the vicar presented himself at the school as a manager, Cox would have nothing to do with him and "in the presence of all the class said, 'I shall do what I like. You have nothing to do with the school. Begone! Begone![19] This, and the fact that Cox admitted to him that no religious instruction had taken place during the past year, provoked Mensor to appeal to the Archdeacon and the Bishop of Oxford. Their ruling, based on the 1844 deed where the power to appoint or dismiss the master or mistress vested in the minister and churchwardens and no other person or persons whatsoever, was in Mensor's favour. But still Cox stood his ground and, when summoned by the Bishop, sent back the answer "I will not come. I acknowledge no one."[20]


It was not only Dr Mensor who had his troubles with Mr Cox. The school inspector, Kenney-Herbert, also had a bitter argument with him at the school. He had arrived unannounced at about 3.30 in the afternoon just as the master was closing the class. Kenney-Herbert immediately opened the windows for "the atmosphere of the room was positively awful ... I could hardly breathe in it."[21] Cox objected strongly to what he saw as high-handedness and said in any case the school was closed and an inspection could only be entertained during school hours. Kenney-Herbert told him his (Cox's) watch was a quarter of an hour wrong to which Cox replied "I am not forced to keep Greenwich Time."[22]

Indeed it was not the only occasion that timekeeping caused a problem. Almost a quarter of a century later, in 1915, there was trouble when the correspondent took away the clock. As the school log notes "... it has not been possible to keep (to) the timetable correctly as the clock has been stopped all the week and the teachers have no watches."

 But back to 1891. Things were obviously becoming out of hand and Mr Tapping, a respected local farmer who was to become the chairman of the Board School over many decades[23] called for a truce and Mensor "consented for the sake of peace to overlook what has been done in the past".[24]

 A public Elementary School within the meaning of the Act was one which had been certified efficient[25] and, to qualify for any government grant the school, amongst other things, had to open for 400 meetings a year - a morning and afternoon marking of the register counting as two sessions[26]. Without adequate funding to employ a schoolmaster and buy equipment, the school opened irregularly[27], which in turn meant it did not reach the required target of 400 and no grant was forthcoming. This "chicken and egg" situation had been overcome in other places with the help of wealthy patrons, but Stoke Mandeville was poor and without a lord of the Manor who might be expected to help.[28]

But once a school board was established, the financing was eased and mysterious bodies, such as the Public Works Loan Board, came to the rescue. Dr Mensor, however, was quite adamant in his opposition to the setting up of a school board[29] and he did his best to muddle on with a series of masters who came and went with increasing regularity.[30] But between masters, however, the school was closed and this did not escape the notice of the school inspectors and the Wycombe Union officials. The long suffering Kenney-Herbert reported "... nothing has been done and I do not think there is the slightest chance of anything being done except under compulsion ... the school is certainly under Dr Mensor's control and he shows no intention of re-opening it.”[31] and five months earlier a Union official noted "... again closed and there is no other school accommodation in the parish.[32]


The first meeting of the newly convened school board was held in the house of Mr Alfred Rae, the landlord of The Bell public house in the village, on Thursday 9th February 1893.[33] At a subsequent meeting, four days later, the clerk was instructed to seek guidance from the local authorities as to the duties of the school board.[34] At the meeting in May tenders were out for the drawing up of plans for the proposed new school, although at that time no site had been agreed upon. After a vote, Mr W F Taylor's bid of ten shillings was accepted. One month later, not only had Mr Taylor prepared the plan, but it had been submitted to, and approved by, Whitehall.[35]

On 19th May 1893 Dr Mensor was ready to counter attack and announced that the school "... will re-open on Monday next under a most efficient master." In the same letter he describes the Chairman of the Board as a man "... with a criminal record convicted of perjury."[36] His motion "... that consideration of the purchase of a site of new school be deferred until the necessity for the same arises" was agreed to.[37]

But the reverent gentleman still had the redoubtable Herbert-Kenney to deal with. He sent his assistant, Harry Martin, to look into the current state of things and his report, which is worth quoting in full, was damning in the extreme.

found eleven children present two boys and nine girls in the main room. In the small classroom there were 25 infants making a pretty good row. I went in and could see no teacher. On asking the master who taught them, he pointed to a small boy no bigger than several of his charges. I asked the boy his age and he answered 'eight and in my ninth'. I enquired whether this assistant was also responsible for the sewing ... the master said 'No! Sewing was not being taught at present'. I asked for a pen and ink and was told there was no ink in the school nor had there been since the present teacher had been in charge although the Rector had several times promised to get some. His school was grouped round his chair on the floor of the schoolroom ... the children had reading books in their hands.[38]

Kenney-Herbert's recommendations were equally scathing.

The re-opening in no way affects the case for a new School. ... The vicar ... has long been a scandal ... not to allow the Board to let it fall back into his hands ... unless the school building is made a really efficient suitable one, it will not be re-admitted on the list of schools providing efficient accommodation, it is infamously lighted, ... badly ventilated ... the Board have got a site for a new school and everything is entrain ... when this man crops up again and tries to foist his miserable little barn on us.”[39]


Their Lordships at the Department of Education approved the recommendation and the National Society, in turn, recognised that the battle was lost "... nothing more to be done ... I hope you will be in position to return the £15 grant ... made under the impression that the Education Department had sanctioned the re-opening of the school and I did wrong in paying it so soon.[40]

Probably the first and last time a question was asked in the House of Commons about Stoke Mandeville happened at this time.  Sir Francis S Powell, Member of Parliament for Wigan, put down a question on the last day of July 1893 to the Vice President of the Committee of Council on Education asking for the grounds on which he refused to allow the Managers of the National School at Stoke Mandeville to be re-opened as a school upon the annual grant.  The Minister, in his reply, stated that, once the School Board was formed for the purpose of supplying the deficiency, the duty of so doing developed upon the Board by Statute and the Department had no power to accept any provision other than that made by the Board.  To show the nature of the supply that the Department was asked to accept, he quoted from Mr Martin's report at some length.[41]

The work of the school board was gathering momentum.  Various sites in the village were looked at and an offer by Mr Whitchurch of Sandown on the Isle of Wight to sell 60 poles of land for £60 was accepted after a vote.  A petition by villagers, that a portion of a field known as The Green should be obtained, was put to the meeting but lost on the chairman's casing vote.  Subsequently, however, the vendor of the land refused to sign the Contact of Sale, as the site selected by the board was not the one that he had intended to sell.  Finally it was agreed that 60 poles of land belonging to Lord Rothschild at the junction with Marsh Lane should be purchased at £60.

In the meantime the Local Government Board had agreed to the suggestion that the National School should be rented until the new school was built and Dr Mensor's figure of £12 per annum was agreed to as was his offer to rent the school house for the master's use to the board at £15 per annum.[42]


The following advertisement appeared in the September 2nd 1893 issue of The School Guardian.

Wanted, early in September, a certified MASTER for Stoke Mandeville School Board [school mixed] Number of Scholars about 50.  Apply, stating qualifications and salary required, with testimonials, to be sent in or before September, to me.
AYLESBURY.  GEORGE FELL.  Clerk to the Board

The successful applicant was Mr Christopher Edward ARNOLD, the master of Yardley Hastings National School (Boys), a village in Northamptonshire three times the size of Stoke Mandeville about three miles from Olney.  His appointment was duly confirmed at a salary of £80 per annum plus the house, with his wife Eliza as sewing mistress.  Miss Edith Mason became an assistant at a salary of £6 per annum and classes opened on 3rd October 1893 in the old school.

In the meantime tenders were out for the new building and that of Mr George Gibson for £898.10s.0d was accepted.  The work was completed and the move made in January 1895, albeit somewhat late.[44]

Mr Arnold soon established himself as an outstanding teacher, although he found the village children backward to start with.

 “found the older children generally in a very backward condition and am unable to class any at present above Standard 3. The children under seven years of age are not equal to the lower class of any ordinary Infant School, the majority of them hardly knowing their letters.”[45]

The Revd Dr Mensor's years of indifference were being felt and, even before the school had moved to its new site, he was complaining about the closets at his National School and orders were given "for the same to be emptied and cleansed." Incidentally, the first cleaning lady, Mrs Jane Eames, received a shilling (5p) per week for the 46 weeks of the school year. When she asked for an increase in salary to take into account the need to empty the cesspools, the Board offered her husband £1 per annum for this service.[46] A complaint was made by the Sanitary Inspector, only two years after the school was opened, concerning the washhouses which, in the absence of other drainage, emptied into an open ditch and an order was made to "disconnect" them from the ditch. It is not clear how the problem was otherwise overcome.



The full complement of pupils was 35 mixed and 32 infants and children could be enrolled from adjoining parishes when accommodation allowed, but overcrowding often put stop to this arrangement; then "outsiders" had to make room for local children.

 In 1905 the School Log records "... a girl from Bishopstone applied for admission to this school this morning but, as the upper room is already over full, I was obliged to refuse admission." And again, eight weeks later, "... instructions from the Bucks County Education Committee ordering the removal of children under five years of age and also the exclusion of two children from Weston Turville parish."

It was often easier for children living in outlying areas of one parish to go to school in an adjoining one. The Education Act laid down the definition concerning attendance, in that a child should have no more than two miles to travel by road from home and, if it meant going into another parish, this was the practical answer; but the School Boards often disagreed. In fact, children from the outlying cottages at Marsh on the edge of the parish were more likely to be absent in bad weather than for any other reason and indeed snow and rain often-affected numbers.

"Heavy rains. Much water out. Small attendance." 

"Small attendance today, all scholars not living in the parish being away on account of heavy storm of snow (which) fell on Friday night and Saturday."

 "A very wet and stormy morning. Two children were sent home being too wet to remain in school."[47]

 As Mr Arnold was the only certified teacher on the premises his absence for any reason meant, in the early days, the school had to be closed.

"The school kept only a short time this afternoon to enable me to catch the 4.15 train at Aylesbury on urgent business."

"Closed the school for the day at 11 o'clock to attend at Saunderton Union for the annual audit of the Parish Council accounts. Notice to H.M.I. given."[48]



But the head teacher frequently closed the school for other reasons rather than see the attendance percentage drop when he anticipated pupils were going to be absent; the annual grant partly depended upon good regular attendance.

      "Opened afternoon school at 1.30 today and dismissed two hours after close of registers on account of the village feast."
      "Dismissed at 11.30 this morning (closing registers at 9.30) as several of the scholars asked to see a parade of Sanger's Circus at Aylesbury."
      "A meet of foxhounds in the village today. Closed at 11.30 and re-opened at 2 to enable the children to see the meet, etc. Several of the boys followed the hunt too far and were absent this afternoon, called up the boys who were absent yesterday afternoon and punished them all.”[49]


Mr Arnold's success was such that within ten years the school was bursting at the seams and, as an inspector reported in 1905, the resources and buildings were stretched to the utmost.


      “Mr Arnold is attempting the impossible. To try and teach effectively the whole of the Upper School single handed and at the same time exercise sufficient supervision of the work of the infant class teacher is a task beyond the power of any man ... the main room is getting too small for the number of children in regular attendance and the desk accommodation is quite insufficient.”[50]



There followed a public enquiry by the Bucks County Council concerning the alleged insufficient accommodation in the room for the older scholars, but it was not until 1908 that the promised improvement was implemented.

      "Closed the school at noon today for the Whitsuntide holiday specially extended to three weeks for building purposes."[51]  



Local activities also disrupted the day.

      "Small attendance today. Church Sunday School treat. Closed twenty minutes early."
      "Attendance rather poor this afternoon some of the scholar having gone to Aylesbury to see a circus."
      "Opened afternoon school at 1.30 today and dismissed two hours after close of registers on account of the village feast." 
"Closed school a quarter of an hour early this afternoon for distribution of charity bread (Ligo's)."
"Closed afternoon school half an hour earlier for distribution of Jackson's charity bread."
      "Small attendance this afternoon. Church Sunday School treat. Closed twenty minutes early." 
      "Several of the boys absent this afternoon for the Aylesbury Steeplechases."[52]  

  From time to time local outbreaks of contagious illness made their mark on the school.

      "Average attendance for week fallen unusually low, on account of outbreak of diphtheria in village." 
      "The second death of a scholar from diphtheria took place this morning, that of Emma Smith aged 10, Standard 4, her sister Elizabeth Smith Upper infants having died on 28th July." 
      "Another death of a scholar from illness of a diptheric nature took place today. That of Kate Bates a Standard 2 scholar who was at school on Monday."
      "The school closed this morning until the end of the month under authority of the Medical Officer of Health on account of epidemic of diphtheria."
      "Outbreak of measles increased. A large number of scholars excluded on advice of Medical Officer of Health."
      "School closed this morning - on account of the epidemic of measles - under authority of the Board to re-open If possible on 30th inst." 
      "The majority of children have very bad cold and coughs. Coughing is incessant throughout the school. Reported suspected whooping cough to Medical Officer and excluded the worse cases."
      "Assembled at 9am this morning and then dismissed the children. The school has been closed until 9th December owing to the outbreak of influenza and sickness."[53]



An outbreak of ringworm was also a regular occurrence and this again prevented the children from attending school and general cleanliness was also a problem.

      "Visited the parents of George and Edith --- re wearing of caps for ringworm. The nurse visited and said that --- has ringworm in her head."
      "Advised parents of --- to keep her away from school for a little time for the thorough cleansing of her head."[54]

The school closed in June for the hay harvest and again in August for the main harvest. Most of the children of all ages were in the fields helping their parents gather in the crops.

      "Re-opened the school this morning, the Board having found it necessary to extend the holidays to five weeks on account of delay of harvest. Very fair attendance 52, three or four of the girls being still at work in the harvest fields."
      "Re-opened the school this morning, the holidays having been extended to six weeks on account of the protracted harvest. The attendance fell off considerably after the early part of the week, several of the Upper children being engaged in the harvest fields. Allowed some of the scholars to have school two hours after registers closed in the afternoons this week to carry tea to hayfields."[55]

Discipline and general behaviour seems to have been good but, as in all small communities, there were complaints from the locals and action was taken accordingly.

      "Some of the boys late and others absent without proper permission yesterday afternoon going after the foxhunt. Punished them with cane and writing imposition. Received a circular letter from the education department re stone throwing at telegraph wires, etc. Read substance of it to school and carefully warned the scholars."[56]


Sometimes after school hours behaviour was less than could be desired and complaints led to the managers asking the then Headteacher to punish a child for 'unseemly language' as well as sending a report to the parents.

The school leaving age was 14 or upon achieving Standard 5 (duly certified by H.M.I.). This often meant a potentially gifted child, who was bright enough to reach the fifth grade before 14, but who was unlikely to be unable to go on to further education due to the family requiring another bread winner, could, and often did, leave at 13.

      “One scholar, Florence S Standard 5 left during this week to go into service; qualified by labour certificate." Received the duplicate labour examination schedule today. Of the two candidates (Boys) Standard 5, one Albeit S passed and the other Arthur S failed in arithmetic."[57]

The older children were, however, being prepared for adult life in other ways. There was a girl's laundry class held at the local 'big house', of which Stoke Mandeville was notably short (big houses as well as laundries), and one wonders whether it was not only intended to be instructive for the girls, but also a way of getting the laundry undertaken quite economically. The boys were otherwise engaged in handicraft lessons. These were held in Aylesbury and a note in the Manager's Minute Book records the fact that "the classes would be once a fortnight for the whole day instead of half a day once a week. The Managers considered that the Stoke Mandeville boys would be well able to walk both ways."


National and local events of the day featured in the School Log.

      "Queen's birthday and Relief of Mafeking. We celebrated these events by parading the village during the afternoon about 3.30 with flags, singing the National Anthem and other patriotic songs. Returned to school about 4 o'clock. Counted as an object lesson in loyalty."
      "Received news of the death of our good Queen which occurred at half-past six last night. Addressed the scholars in the Upper Department on the greatness and beauty of her life and reign." 
      "Proclamation of peace made known here today. Celebrated the good news with games of prizes, etc., in the school yard latter part of the morning and half holiday in the afternoon" 
      "Gave half holiday in the afternoon to enable the children to witness the unveiling of the obelisk (War Memorial) on Combe Hill."
      "Empire Day. I gave an address to the school this afternoon on the greatness of our Empire, and on the duties and responsibilities of its people, encouraging the children to do all they could to improve themselves and to be ready to take up their duties when the time came. Patriotic songs were afterwards sung and play time slightly extended."
      "Received a circular this morning asking teachers to make reference to the loss the country has sustained in the deaths of Captain Scott and four of his comrades in the Antarctic Expedition. I addressed the children on the noble example set by these men and told them about the memorial service being held at St Paul's Cathedral."
      "Last part of the morning spent in playground, the children watching with interest the military aeroplanes, etc., connected with the manoeuvres. Bell rang as usual for afternoon school at 2 o'clock but so small a number of children attended that I thought it best to close for the day, the greater part of the village having gone to see the marching past of troops at the Wendover turn."
      "Armistice Day. There was great excitement in the school when the sirens in Aylesbury announcing that the armistice had been signed by the Germans. Work of the ordinary kind was suspended."[58]


Indeed the Great War seems to have affected the school greatly. Not only did Mr Arnold, whose driving force was clearly evident at the time, retire in 1914, with his successor, Miss J A Starck, remaining only one year, but numbers dropped. The remaining children's energies were directed into other channels, such as collecting eggs for the sick soldiers and chestnut and blackberry collections; indeed the latter activity seems to have taken up a great deal of the school day in the autumn of 1917. Many hundreds of pounds of berries were sent off.[59]

The scheme originated from the Ministry of Food which advised the Secretary for Education "...failure of the country's fruit crop had made extreme difficulty to provide enough jam. Jam is an important article of food. Systematic collection throughout the whole (is) a paramount importance." There was opposition to the granting of half day holidays for this purpose and, in a letter, the Worthing and District Trades and Labour Council conveyed the following resolution of its members to the Minister. "That this meeting of delegates representing 800 Trade Unionists strongly protests against the Board of Education in sanctioning the use of school children for gathering blackberries during school hours." The gentleman who signed the letter on behalf of the Trades Council was a Mr Crabtree.[60]

The collection of horse chestnuts had equally official backing. It was the brain child of the Ministry of Munitions that claimed in 1917 that their collection would conserve the food supply. For every ton collected there would be a saving of half a ton of barley that was being used in the manufacture of T.N.T.; a spirit obtained from the nuts was used as a substitute. The schools were urged to collect them 'as they fall' and it would seem that children all over the country, where the horse chestnut grew, went to work with a will.

Buckinghamshire contributed 115 tons out of a countrywide total of 2200, but unfortunately many children were disappointed when collection difficulties left piles of rotting nuts on railway sidings where they had been dumped. Stoke Mandeville played its part.[61]


The shortage of fuel during and immediately after the 1914-18 World War was very severe. In a ministry circular just eleven days before the Armistice was signed, economy of fuel and light in schools was sought and "extravagance (was) to be checked", but Stoke Mandeville had long suffered from the shortages and the instruction must have been received with less than enthusiasm by the headteacher.[62]

      "The supply of coal has run out and coal ordered has not come. For three days we have kept going with only two small fires of slack and cinders."
      "I kept the children until 11 o'clock doing physical exercise - dancing and games, the coal still not having arrived."
      "Half a ton of coal received today: this was emptied into the road and the boys had to get it into the coalhouse."[63]

It has been seen how, in the early days, the school relied on the headteacher absolutely and his absence meant the school had to close. Any assistant available supervised the infants but seemed to have a limited roll and certainly had to provide their own accommodation.

The exception to this was of course Mr Arnold's own daughters, two of whom acted in this capacity over a period of many years. Miss M F Arnold was appointed as a probationer in 1899 at a salary of £5 per annum and it is interesting to note from the Manger's Minute Book that when quarterly cheques were written out for her own and her father's salary, the whole sum was made payable to him! She left the school upon her marriage in 1909 to Mr Samuel S Johnson but re-joined for a while on a temporary basis. Her younger sister, Miss Edith was also taken on in 1916 after their father had retired.

By the first decade of the century there seemed to be supply teachers available in case of absence, but how this was actually organised is not clear. What is obvious, however, is that it was fraught with difficulties.

      "Mrs A. Turner, certified trainee mistress commenced work this morning at 10.30 as a supply teacher to assist for the present."
      "Mrs Turner, the supply teacher, unable to reach the school before 12 o'clock owing to a connection taken from Oxford being late at Princes Risborough."
      "Miss May Tuckett arrived at school today midday to assist as a supplementary teacher in the upper room."
      "Miss Tuckett seized with illness this morning quite unable to attend school." 
      "Miss Tuckett left for home today - Bampton Aston, Oxon. - being unable to continue her work."


The timetable had to be arranged accordingly, as even the doughty Mr Arnold was not able or willing to teach the girls their sewing.

      "Drawing substituted for needlework with the girls this afternoon in absence of teacher for needlework.”[64]

 The position of a female monitor was also a paid one, but her duties were again restricted to the infants and even the older children were sometimes co-opted to help in this area.


“The elder scholars take the five younger infants in turn."

Christopher Arnold retired from duty in 1914 after 43 years in the teaching profession, twenty of them in Stoke Mandeville. The visiting inspector commented upon his "straightforward devotion to duty in this little village community", adding that "his presence and kindly influence will be greatly missed."[65]

These words proved to be prophetic for inevitably he proved an impossible teacher to follow, especially as he continued to live in the village with his family at New Moat Farm. Whilst there is no suggestion, or indeed evidence, that he in any way interfered with, or influenced, the work of his successor, it is a fact that Miss Jane Alice Starck from Ashendon lasted a mere twelve months. For a short while Mr Arnold was called back, pending the appointment of Miss F M P Taylor of Sileby near Loughborough. She, in fact, was at the school during the worst part of the Great World War which, with all the trauma and carnage involved together with her resignation in 1919, brought the school's first twenty five years to a close.

What had been achieved in these two and a half decades of the Board School? Thanks to the work and professional dedication of all concerned, an isolated and relativity quite back backward village community had been brought, through the education of its children, quietly and steadily into the 20th century.

The school has survived, at all odds and after many subsequent changes and re-organisations, to form the basis of what we know today as the Stoke Mandeville County Combined School.




1. The National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church (N.S) Stoke Mandeville file at Church House Westminster. 1819.

2. N.S. Letter 1843 Brooke Stevens to Society.

3. Buckinghamshire Local Studies (B.L.S). A memorandum 4.7.1844 written on the flyleaf of Stoke Mandeville's Baptismal Register.

4. N.S. Original Deed of National School 1844.

5. There was a strong non-conformist element in the village and a Wesleyan Methodist Church was built as early as 1819, the very year the National School took a hand in the organising of the school in the village.

6. National Archives (N.A.) ED22/2 1873 Pentreath to Local Government Board (L.G.B).

7. N.l. ibid. 1876 Hanson to L.G.B.

8. Crockford's Clerical Directory (C. CD) 1880. Frederick Richard Pentreath (1872-74), Edward Kingston Hanson (1874-79) and Meyer Mensor (1879-1907) Gross Income £180 per annum.

9. Kraus A. Sheffield Jewry. Commentary on a Community - 1980. 379. Borthwick Institute of Historical Research. Ordination Papers 1861.

10. CCD. 1891.

11. N.A. ED2/22. Letter 1893 Herbert-Kenney to L.G.B.

12. N.A. MH12/545. Letter 1882 Mensor to L.G.B.

13. ibid Letter 1882 Mensor to L.G.B.

14. N.A. MH12/544. Letter 1882 Edwards to L.G.B.

15. N.A. MH12/545. Memo 1882 L.G.B.

16. N.A. ED2/22. Letter 1890 Mensor to L.G.B.

17. N.A. ED2/22. Letter 1890 Herbert-Kenney to L.G.B.

18. N.A. ibid.

19. N.A. ibid. Letter 1890 Mensor to L.G.B.

20. N.A. ibid. Letter 1891 Mensor to L.G.B.

21. N.A. ibid. Report 1891 Herbert-Kenney to L.G.B.

22. Railway Time, later to become Greenwich Mean Time, was introduced in 1851, but was still not always popular in rural parts.

23. Stoke Mandeville Board School Minute Book (SMBSMB) 1891.

24. NA. ED2/22. Letter 1891 Mensor to L.G.B.

25. N.A. ED6/1281 Definition.

26. Education Act 1870.

27. N.A. ED2/22. Letter 1892 Reynolds to L.G.B.

28. N.S. Letter 1843 Brooke Stevens to N.S.

29. ibid. Letter 1880 Mensor to N.S.

30. NA. ED2/22. General comments.

31. ibid. Report 1892 Herbert-Kenney to L.G.B.

32. ibid. Letter 1892 Reynolds to L.G.B.

33. SMB.MB 1893.

34. ibid. 1893.

35. ibid. 1893.

36. N.S. Letter 1893 Mensor to N.S., Bucks Herald 1872-74. Mensor's reference to perjury is explained by the fact that in 1871 Tapping, then a 19 year old, together with his friend Thomas Edwards, step-son of Emmanuel Edwards were witnesses in the unsuccessful petition for divorce by the then vicar, Charles Edward Partington (1858-1872). Emmanuel married his deceased brother's wife Sarah in 1852 well away from the village in West London. Hence his nephew was also his step-son and bore the name of Edwards. The lads were subsequently convicted of perjury at the Old Bailey after their testimony was disproved and they were imprisoned for 24 and 18 months respectively. Tapping returned to Stoke Mandeville in June 1874 amid great rejoicing by the villagers and became a highly respected and leading member of the community. Mensor left the parish in 1906 under a cloud following a Commission of Enquiry under the Pluralities Act investigated his neglect of parish duties. He died in his nineties at the Hostel of God, Clapham Common, in 1913.

37. S.M.S.B.M.B. 1893.

38. N.A. ED2/22. Report 1893 Martin to L.G.B.

39. ibid. Report 1893 Herbert-Kenney to L.G.B.

40. M.S. Letter 1893 N.S. to Mensor.

41. Hansard 1893. Question No.28.

42. S.M.S.B.M.B. 1894 various dates.

43. The School Guardian 2.9.1893.

44. S M.S.B.M.B. 1894/5.

45. Stoke Mandeville Board School Log (S.M.B.S.L.) 1893.

46. S.M.S.B.M.B. 1894.

47. S.M.B.S.L. 1894: 1897: 1917.

48. ibid. 1893: 1897.

49. ibid. 1894:1898: 1908.

50. ibid. 1905.

51. ibid. 1908.

52. ibid. 1894: 1898: 1899: 1901.

53. ibid. 1895: 1899: 1918.

54. ibid. 1912: 1914.

55. ibid. 1894: 1902.

56. ibid.

57. ibid. 1896: 1899.

58. ibid 1900: 1901: 1902: 1904: 1905: 1913: 1918.

59. ibid. 1917.

60. N.I. ED 10/73. Fruit Collection.

61. ibid. ED 10/74. Horse Chestnut Collection.

62. ibid. ED10/72. Economy on Fuel and Light.

63. S.M.S.B.S.L. 1918: 1919.

64. ibid. 1907.

65. ibid 1913.