Frozen ink, child labour and heroism; early days at Valley End School.


In March 1902, toddler Harold Nix fell down a well. He was in mortal danger, as it was 24 feet deep, with 4 feet of water at the bottom. But his 15 year old sister, Mabel, bravely climbed down and held him up until they were rescued.

Mabel was awarded the bronze medal and certificate of the Royal Humane Society for her courageous act.

This was noted with pride in the logbooks of Valley End School. She had been one of their pupils.

The school must have been proud of her resourcefulness and courage. But possibly they would have required resilience from all their children.


School parade in 1911. (Photo courtesy of J. End.)

Valley End School was founded by Julia Bathurst of Hyams in 1859, “to the end that thereon should be built a School Building for the education of Children, or adults, of the labouring, Manufacturing, and the poorer classes of Chobham.”

To modern eyes the conditions were Spartan.

It opened in September 1859, with 62 children, and one teacher. The school was intended for ages 5 to 13, and was divided into 2 main groups, “Infants” and “Standards.”

(Overcrowding was still an issue in 1905, when one teacher taught 74 pupils in one room.)

The first teacher, Martha Robertshaw, luckily had some help. The Vicar called in at least once a week, and she was assisted by Mary Bathurst.

Mary was the daughter of Julia, who founded the school. She visited to help on most days, and sometimes brought her friends with her. Mary paid some of the older children to become Monitors to support the younger ones.

The facilities were very simple. There was a pump for water, and the toilets were basically a row of buckets. These were emptied into a trench in the schoolhouse garden. (The master was frequently complimented on his vegetables.)


Valley End School. (Photo courtesy of D. Hizzey.)

There was no artificial light until 1945. The rooms must have been very dark in winter. It could also be cold. In 1895 the ink froze in the inkwells.

Valley End suffered epidemics of serious illnesses, such as smallpox, mumps and measles. The school simply closed.

Absenteeism was always a difficulty. Some children lived over 100 yards from a road, and were kept at home in bad weather.

Child labour was a constant problem. Pupils were away because they were working at home, or on the farms, or in the brickyard.

Sometimes there were more interesting places to be than in school. The children were watching the soldiers on the Common, or the crowds passing on their way to Ascot races.

The school sounds a bit austere. But it was successful. The Government Inspectors found it excellent, and “A very valuable School.”

The children received a useful, basic education. The school got good results. After all, Valley End School could produce students as brave and resourceful as Mabel Nix.


The Schools, Valley End, Chobham.

(From the Oliver Collection held in the University of London’s Library Depository at Egham, courtesy of the trustees of the S. A. Oliver Charitable Settlement.)



A brief history of Valley End Church of England School 1859 – 1977: researched and written by Ann Thompson. A. Thompson 1978.

Globe, 12th June 1902.

National Archives Ed 49/7364. VALLEY END SCHOOL transfer to new ecclesiastical district. 1880

TAKEN FROM THE ANNUAL REPORT 1902.Compiled by Peter Helmore.


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