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

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.)

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Sources;

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

ROYAL HUMANE SOCIETY BRONZE MEDALS CITATIONS
TAKEN FROM THE ANNUAL REPORT 1902.Compiled by Peter Helmore. http://www.lsars.org.uk/bronz02s.htm

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“That family has meant very much to this place” – Joan Weymouth and Valley End Church.

In the 1890s, a wealthy family called the Christies moved to Ribsden House in Windlesham.

Harry Carnell, their groom and coachman, left his native Derbyshire and came with them.

He spent the rest of his life in this area. His descendants still live in Valley End today.

Joan Weymouth, née Millard,remembers Harry Carnell well. She used to cycle to church with him on Sunday. He was her granddad.

“My grandfather, he never bowed and scraped. But you know, he left school at 13, and he just was so educated. He taught himself. He was treasurer of Valley End for all those years.”

Harry Carnell married Mary Grace Foster, who was also from, Ribsden, in 1898 in St. Saviour’s. They had two children, Ellen Mary and Lilian Annie.

Ellen married Francis Gear in 1925. This was Colonel Gear, Joan’s uncle, who was treasurer of Chobham and Valley End churches for 25 years. I’ve heard him praised as a formidable fundraiser, but as Joan says, “He gave a lot of money of his own” too.

Lilian Carnell went to Valley End School, and joined the church choir. That was where she learned to smoke at 10 years old! Her path would have crossed with that of Reg Millard.

Reg was the nephew of George Vass, who was Parish Clerk for 43 years. When he retired 118 parishioners and friends had a collection and presentation to thank him. An illuminated scroll with all their names is hanging in the church.

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Illuminated document in St. Saviour’s Church.

Reg Millard had been brought up by his uncle and his aunt Georgina. “But my Dad was so lucky to go to them, because they thought the world of him. He used to take my Dad to church, and Winn Smithers could remember Mr Vass coming down to the front, ‘cause there was the choir, and fetching my Dad because they weren’t behaving.”

Lilian Carnell married Reg Millard in 1926, and they remained involved with the church.

They were both in the choir. “My Dad was a tenor, and he used to sing in the crucifixion at Chobham on Good Friday from Valley End, with Mr Rolph and Percy Mumford.”

He used to collect subscriptions for healthcare. “My Dad did the Slate Club. You used to pay that at the Vicarage every Monday. And that is because you didn’t pay for a Doctor if you paid into it.”

Lilian was busy at St. Saviour’s as well. “My mother was on the PCC, she was the last churchwarden. She was the first woman churchwarden too.”

She was a very thoughtful person. “Mum was a Girl Guide and she was Brown Owl of the Brownies, and she had this little girl from Dr Barnardo’s, who wasn’t treated very well, and Mum, well if you’d known my Mum, she was special. She used to take this little girl to Valley End Church. When she grew up this girl left £30,000 to Valley End Church, that was just through Mum being so kind to her.”

This legacy went towards the heating in St. Saviour’s. If you are warm during the services at Valley End, this is solely due to Lilian Millard’s caring nature.

Lilian and Reg’s daughter, Joan, followed in their footsteps.

She went to Sunday School in St. Saviour’s. “Mr Rolph used to play the carillon, the bells, at Westcroft Park at the time we were in Sunday School at half past 3.”

Joan sang too. “I was in the choir. The choir stalls were up behind the organ, so the choirmaster could see you.”

She remembers all the vicars, right back to Mr. Edmonds. “Mr Edmonds was vicar but he had a wig. He went and saw Mrs Blackett, and she’d got a flypaper, where flies get stuck to it. I didn’t see it, but evidently his wig got stuck to the flypaper.”

Later, “I was on the PCC for years. When my uncle died Timothy Thornton came up here to get me to go on the PCC, and I said no.

He said, “Joan, you’d really be good there.”

“No,” I said, “Honestly, I’m not a clever person, I’m not like my mother.”

He said, “Joan, we don’t want too many clever people on the PCC.”

I thought well, that lets me in then.”

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Joan Weymouth In St. Saviour’s Church, Valley End.

In his sermon for the 100th anniversary of St Saviour’s in 1967 the Rev. Roney Ackworth mentioned the Vass family, and Reg Millard, of that family, who had just read the second lesson.

Then Ackworth spoke of “Harry Carnell, who perhaps did more for this church than any other single person. He was treasurer for 50 years, and his daughter and son-in-law are treasurers to this day. He was a sidesman for 12 years and churchwarden for 38 years. And when he had been churchwarden his daughter carried on as the succeeding churchwarden. His great grandchildren are still in our Church School.

“So that family has meant very much to this place.”

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Sources.

With thanks to Joan Weymouth. All quotes by Joan Weymouth.

“Time will tell,” sermon by Rev. Ackworth on the 100th anniversary of St. Saviour’s Church, Valley End. In Chobham Parish Magazine, July 12th. 1967.

“ A pleasant occasion.” (The presentation to George Vass.)  In the Parish Magazine for Long Cross, Botleys and Lyne, and Valley End. September 1930.

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St. Saviour’s Church

In April 1866, Chobham Church opened again after being closed for restoration.

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Charles Cracklow. St Lawrence, Chobham, before the restoration of 1866.

Julia Bathurst was present and may well have compared the newly spacious ancient building, now unencumbered by galleries, and opened to the north by a new aisle, with the church she was planning at Valley End.

The differences in style must have been striking.

Julia had chosen a well-established architect, George Frederick Bodley, for her church.

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Photo of George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907), English architect and poet.

Bodley is known as one of Victorian England’s Gothic Revival architects.

One of the features of this style is the use of colour. For example, when Pugin designed the Drummond Chapel at St. Peter and Paul, Albury, he covered the walls with painting. And when St. Peter, Hascombe, was rebuilt in 1866 – a year before Valley End – the interior was richly decorated.

St. Saviour’s opened in 1867. At first sight it seems to lack the colour of other Victorian Gothic buildings. The stained glass over the altar sheds light into the chancel, and the organ pipes are strikingly ornamented.  The texture and colour of the building comes mainly from the warm hues of the brick.

But a careful search shows remnants of lost paint and decoration.

The pews were trimmed with red and green along the top. The sides still show bright red detail.

The sconces for the lamps were coloured red and green, although this has faded. So are the iron tie-rods.

But it is old photographs that give some concept of the dazzling display that was once in St. Saviour’s. They show the back wall, covered with a design of fleurs de lys, a pattern repeated behind the pulpit, and inside the ceiling arches. The stone behind the pulpit on the left is outlined. There is no clue to the colour, but I would imagine they repeated the theme of red and green.

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St. Saviour’s Valley End, showing the old decoration. date unknown; possibly about 1900.

The furnishings in the chancel were beautiful. The graceful globes of the lamps shine on the gleaming cross, and two ornate candelabras stand beside the altar.

The few photographs we have of the old interior were taken on special occasions, such as Easter, when the church was overflowing with lilies, and greenery framed the chancel arch. The gardeners from the local big houses decorated the church for special occasions, and maybe there was  an element of competition to their work.

When the air was heavy with the scent of flowers, the church glowed with bright colour from the pews and the metalwork, and the east walls shone with fleurs de lys, it must have been stunning.

St. Saviour’s opened in 1867. Julia Bathurst, sitting there in her pew, may well have compared it to St. Lawrence. She may have privately thought that Chobham had the Norman arches; but that Valley End would have the colour.

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St. Saviour’s Valley End as it is today.The painting on the walls has been lost.

 

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Sources.

Coventry Standard. 18th May 1866.

With thanks to Chobham Church for the old photograph of St. Saviour’s Valley End. The illustration of St. Lawrence is by Charles Cracklow, and from  ‘Views of the Churches and Chapels of Ease in the County of Surrey, 1827.’

Photo of George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907), English architect and poet – from http://www.stdavidscathedralhobart.org/history/

For more information and illustrations of St. Lawrence see Chobham, Architecture

 

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