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News Archive > Sport > Vanished school of vanishing pupils

Vanished school of vanishing pupils

By Rebecca Green 4th August 2004

THIS IS the story of a school that many Newquay residents remember well, but which others may not realise existed. It is the story of a school plagued with problems, one that gives an insight into life in Newquay over a hundred years ago. It is the story of Crantock Street School.

The Newquay Board School, in Crantock Street, opened its doors on October 4, 1875 to 125 girls and 123 boys.

A year later in 1876 and the school was already proving to be very popular and had to refuse admission due to overcrowding, an issue that became a problem for many years.

Records show that the overcrowding was taking its toll on standards within the school, with many children repeatedly missing lessons and those who did attend under achieving.

In 1877, still overcrowded, the school was forced to transfer boys over nine years old to the Fair Park School in St Columb Minor. They were not allowed to return, despite parents’ wishes as the move did little to ease the overcrowding.

On January 4 1878 the new Girls’ and Infants’ schools were opened. Initially the school was under the same headmistress, but unruly and disorderly behaviour from the infants forced change.

The school was under threat of not receiving a grant if the situation did not improve. So in September the infants were separated under a new mistress, Miss Walker.

However the school continued to struggle with overcrowding and frequent complaints were made about the difficulty of getting suitable needlework for the girls. Equipment and resources were scarce and in 1881 building work disrupted the school even further.

The catalyst of change came with the arrival of a new headmistress, Miss Winter, who, finding the standard of work and attendance very poor, set about making improvements.

By 1989, with new equipment and two qualified teachers assisting the head, the school received its first favourable H.M. Inspectors report.

In 1884 a more varied timetable was introduced giving the girls lessons in domestic economy, drawing, drill (using fans and wands) and games.

Then in 1901 the school was enlarged, followed shortly by the arrival of new headmistress Miss Clemens. There was yet more change in 1903 with the opening of the new infant’s school, followed by a cookery centre in 1901, which was established in the original school.

Disruption came in 1914 with the start of the First World War. Classes were discontinued in the school and temporarily held in the Claremont Sunday School from 1919 before they resumed in the old schoolroom in 1922.

Diary entries show that by 1912 the timetable was more varied allowing for nature walks, gardening and dancing. At this time the girls also took part in the county music festivals and a library and museum were started.

Continuing in the cycle of change, in 1933 the Girl’s school moved over to the Infant’s School.

The school was further disrupted with the outbreak of war in 1939, which caused an increase in numbers to 279 and the school had to be reorganised constantly to accommodate evacuees. At various times the Congregational and Sydney Road Sunday Schools, the Women’s Institute and Carnanon Hotel annexe were used to accommodate the extra children.

By June 30 1941 there were 335 children on the registers, forcing the cookery department to move to a shop in Bank Street to free up the room for classes. Issuing clothing coupons, dinner tickets for meals at the British Restaurant in Tower Road and testing gas masks were a few of the many extra tasks undertaken during the war.

When Tretherras Secondary Modern School opened in 1954 104 senior girls left Crantock Street School to make way for 44 juniors from St Eval, who left in 1956. The school then became known as Newquay County Primary Girl’s School.

Attendance was one of the biggest problems facing the school in its early days. Entries in the school logbooks point to a number of reasons for poor attendance, including fine weather, girls being kept at home to help their mothers look after lodgers, fetes and circuses.

One logbook entry in 1880 states that four people went before the magistrates for failing to send their children to school and in 1889 two parents were prosecuted for the same offence.

The school was frequently closed for half days and for longer periods during epidemics of infectious diseases.

Diary entries for December 1875 suggest that the town suffered a very harsh winter with frost and snow, causing the absence of many children suffering with chilblains on their hands and feet.

In 1879 an epidemic of whooping cough closed the school for nearly two months and when it opened again on January 12, 1880, only 30 children were present.

Other instances of closure included a two month spell in 1892 due to scarlatina and a terrible snow storm in March 1891, when the school was closed for a day as the snow was so deep the children couldn’t leave their houses.

When the girls left to form a separate school on January 4, 1878, the boys remained in the original building, creating Newquay Boys School, which ran until 1959 when the two merged once again.

On Jan 71878 Henry Tolley took charge of the new Boys Board School. 31 boys were admitted and, according to logbook entries, were found to be very backward, especially in arithmetic, reading and spelling. This was because many boys had been absent from school since they had to leave the original school for Fair park School at St Columb Minor.

Problems for the school continued and in 1878 the need for an extra classroom was so bad that boys were having lessons outside.

The school’s second new headmaster joined in 1879. During his one year at the school he had constant trouble with one of the pupil teachers, who repeatedly arrived with lessons unprepared and always asked for time off. The headmaster left in1880 and the pupil teacher left three months later.

In 1881 the boys moved form the original school to the girls and infants school and the girls moved into a new building.

Just as the girls’ school had constant trouble with poor attendance, so too did the boys’. Male pupils were kept away from school to till potatoes, pick out stones and harvest hay as well as to fish for pilchards and herring.

The state of attendance was reflected in May 3 1902 when the H.M school inspector wrote: "A more deplorable state of attendance is scarcely possible. Only 73 present out of 125. The boys seem to come to school when they like, leave at all ages and with out qualification and this goes unchecked.

On December 19, 1972 Crantock Street School was used for the very last time as a school. A special day out was arranged for the children to mark the occasion involving a trip to the cinema.

The logbook for that day is crammed with letters from pupils detailing their excitement at the pending move and glee at being able to watch Tom and Jerry at the cinema.

Following the Christmas break the pupils moved to their new school in Edgecumbe Avenue on January 9 1973.

Pupils wrote of their anticipation on the new, and often longer, walk to school, and of finding their new coat pegs. All but one of the teaching staff on the first day of school transferred from the Crantock Street prmises.

Today no trace of the old school buildings remains. In their place stands a day care centre for the elderly, and its grounds, which stretch to the road. But the memory of the school and its troubled past lives on with all those who attended and their relatives.

By Rebecca Green 4th August 2004

Trevor Lee Morris 22nd April 2014 08:16
Went to Crantock St school about 1957 to 1960, I remember the teachers, Mr Moss, Mr Chapmon and Mr Buscombe, they were good days
Phil George 25th May 2014 22:36
Went to Crantock Street school from 1961 to 1965 when Miss Roberts, Mrs McKay, Mr Moss, Mr Curtis, Mr Buscombe, Mr Chapman and Miss Rowland taught there. The two caretakers were Mr Williams and Mr Willy. Loved every minute at that school, was sad to leave to go on to Tretherras.
michael Appoh 29th November 2016 10:08
went to crantock school 1958/59.had lovely memories of the school.especially thier christmas pantomine.
Jennifer Abraham (fromerly Turpin) 27th January 2017 22:39
Was a pupil at Tretheras Secondary Modern School, when it opened in the 50´s. Formerly attended Crantock Street school.
My first job when I left school at 15 was in Timothy Whites. Shortly after, I was offered the job of Cashier in the Victoria Cinema, by Mr Vage, The then Manager of the cinema. Remained there until our family moved away.
Barry Clark 28th July 2017 18:05
I went to Crantock St school 1957-60.Mr Curtis was my uncle.I´d love to receive news of teachers and pupils of the school from that period.
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