“Hand in hand with God,we live love and learn together.”
“By God’s grace, we learn to loveand love to learn.”
Walking down the cobbles of School Lane in Great Budworth, past the church and the black and white cottages, you would be forgiven for thinking that nothing much had changed since Great Budworth School was built in 1857. And in some ways that is true. The school is still housed in the original building on land donated by the Egerton-Warburton family of Arley Hall in the 1850s. It is still a church school, with strong links then and now with St Mary’s and All Saints in the centre of the village.
Having received a 50% grant from the Government, the remaining money required to build the school was raised by local contributions. But the school had to prove its worth both with the Diocesan Inspectors and Her Majesty’s Inspectors, who produced the equivalent of today’s Ofsted reports. In 1870 Her Majesty’s Inspector report said “The infants must not be neglected – if this should not be moved forward at the next inspection I shall not be able to recommend the full grant be made”. Compared to today’s dedicated teaching for the infant and pre-school children, highlighted in a recent report as demonstrating “exemplary practice”, it is clear that actually rather a lot has changed since the Victorian era.
Stepping inside the school you can feel a strong sense of the history of the building but this is soon forgotten amongst the displays of pupils’ work, the beautiful artwork reflecting the school’s Christian ethos and the general hubbub of children happily enjoying their lessons. Gone are the days recalled by Margaret Nixon, the granddaughter of John Nixon, (Headmaster from 1871 to 1908) who described him as “a much feared headmaster, a pompous old buffer and hated by the children for his liberal use of the cane”. His exacting standards required children “to come to School five minutes before the appointed time for opening; with their hands and faces clean, and their hair brushed and combed”. Once a year he arranged a School Treat, to which pupils and families were invited, but only if they had attended school for a minimum number of 250 days in the proceeding school year.
The arrival in 1912 of a later Headteacher, Harry Smith, was recalled by pupil Harry Walton “On his first day as headmaster this Harry Smith accused me of talking whilst lining up to go inside. Picking me up by the collar and the seat of my pants, he threw me down the step into school”. Whilst today’s Headteacher Mrs Sandra Finney runs things very differently, she still recognises the importance of regular attendance and certificates are awarded annually for those pupils who have missed the least number of days of school.
Since joining the school as Head in January 2010, Sandra Finney has made many improvements to the physical facilities in the school, something that previous Heads have also had to deal with. Around 1910, HM Inspectors “complained of defective lighting and ventilation and heating and also of the crowded nature of the school”. To raise the funds a large bazaar was held in the grounds of Marbury Hall. £386 was raised, which in today’s money is equivalent to a remarkable £120,000! The school today still benefits from the additional rooms and extra large windows that were installed as a result of this, which together with the vaulted ceilings, give the classrooms a light, bright and spacious feel. But it wasn’t until 1989 that indoor toilets were built!
Many things considered important in a child’s education then are still incorporated into the school’s life now, albeit with a greater emphasis on learning through fun. Ernest Southern, (Headmaster from 1921 until 1947) was a particularly keen gardener and insisted on the boys having gardening lessons up to three times a week. In 1925, it was felt that the girls would benefit from cookery lessons and so were sent to Stockton Heath Council School for instruction there. Now, gardening and cookery are just a few of the many options available through a scheme of regular afterschool clubs. The maypole set up in the playground during Ernest Southern’s time as Head could well be the starting point for the tradition that the school still has for performing maypole dances every year at its summer fayre.
In September 1946 free school milk was introduced, something which continues to this day. In earlier times, children were expected to go home for lunch, but according to one former pupil, Len Martin, “in the winter we had Horlicks made in a big urn with a plunger”. He also recalls “There was a big coal fire which the teacher always stood in front of. The nit nurse used to come on a regular basis to inspect us for head lice and also the dentist with his treadle, drill and pliers”.
The changing nature of rural life has meant that the school is smaller than it used to be (at one time with nearly 300 pupils) and no longer serves just the village of Great Budworth, with pupils coming from as far afield as Knutsford, Northwich, Davenham and the local villages of Pickmere, Wincham, Lostock and Marston. But what draws many parents to the school is still the sense that it offers something special. It is the combination of the beautiful setting, steeped in history, together with the strong sense of family (many children at the school come from generations of previous pupils), the small and friendly size of the school, the focus on the Christian ethos and the dedication of the teaching staff that means the new Head here can truly say that “Every Child Matters”.
Extracts and photographs taken from The Budworth Chronicle, with kind permission of the Great Budworth Local History Group.