Chapter 12 – St Luke’s Boys Primary School

Christ gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.
Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 11

From the early 1820s there had been a national school with boys’ and girls’ departments on Liverpool Road where the churchyard was later made in front of the church.  There was a strong connection between the national school for girls and the old St Michael’s Church as the girls occupied the gallery pew free of charge in 1847, but by the time of the Revd Robert Love the schools had fallen into decay.  It is possible that this was connected with the revival of Merchant Taylors’ School by the Revd John Bernard in the 1850s.  However, in 1864 a new local education board for the district was appointed with Mr Mawdsley as returning officer and this, combined with Robert’s arrival and the generosity of Richard Houghton of Sandheys, Waterloo, led to the building of a new school.  The materials of the national school, together with those from the tower of St Michael’s, were used for the construction on the St Michael’s site with stained glass from the old church being incorporated into a large window.

The school was opened as ‘Great Crosby C.E. Boys School’ on 30 January 1871 with 21 pupils in an all age class.  Mr A B Holme was in charge but only stayed until 12 January 1872 when Mr J F Rowe took over.  From the start the Revd Robert Love took a keen and personal interest in the school, and in June 1871 was able to report that the school ‘appears to be working satisfactorily’.  He approved the purchase of books, made regular visits, one with a government cheque, examined the children before an inspection, distributed prizes, checked registers and copied the inspector’s report into the log book.

The curriculum concentrated very much on basics: reading, writing and arithmetic.  Dictation, grammar and composition played a large part and every so often a new song was taught.  ‘Home lessons’ (ie homework) were set, but appear to have caused difficulties.  Geography and, later on, science and history were introduced.

At first holidays were restricted to two blocks of about three weeks each: ‘Midsummer’ at the end of June and beginning of July, and another one over Christmas and the New Year.  To start with school was open on Easter Monday but there was no school on Good Friday.  There was however an abundance of occasional holidays for a variety of reasons, including a half holiday on account of the restoration of the Prince of Wales to health, ‘having workmen about’, ‘took children to the shore’, children going to a panorama at Liverpool (20 December 1873), Ascension Day, Shrove Tuesday, Whit Monday and Tuesday (because of low attendance), ‘obliged’ because of a circus visiting the village, to allow ladies to prepare decorations for the harvest thanksgiving service, 5 November, Robert Love’s funeral, a rummage sale and a temperance tea party.  Attendance often caused concern, being affected particularly by wet weather, but also by a menagerie visiting the town, Waterloo coursing, ‘festivities in the villages’ (19 July), Crosby Hall fetes and the annual school treat (in January!).  Prizes were offered as an incentive for good attendance, then came regular visits by an attendance officer.

St Luke’s Boy’s School buildings shortly before they closed.

St Luke’s Boy’s School buildings shortly before they closed.

On 2 November 1874 Samuel S James was appointed headmaster, a post which he was to hold for 37 years until his death.  Inspections were frequent, with only two weeks’ notice being given, or even without notice.  At first, reports were only of a general nature with trivial recommendations: the provision of a clock for example in 1872, which was done immediately.  However, the report of 1882 stated that ‘infants much in the way here and interfere with the instruction of the elder children, have nevertheless been carefully taught’.  As a result the school room was enlarged, proper classrooms built and offices removed from immediate proximity to the school room which was considered ‘objectionable’.  This was completed by March 1884, but even so infant teaching was pronounced unsatisfactory and the school was threatened with withdrawal of its grant unless a trained female teacher was appointed, and separate accommodation provided.  Ten years later there were 104 pupils in the school, with only a master and pupil teacher in attendance.  In 1899 came another grant warning, this time for being ‘inefficient’, but extra staff were appointed and by 1904 the roll had risen to 141.

Diocesan inspections arrived, bringing with them a very different, religious, complexion: ‘The Examination commenced with a very suitable opening service, consisting of a heartily sung hymn together with the Creed, General Confession, Lord’s Prayer and Collects which were said in a subdued and reverent manner’.  There followed scripture repetition consisting of three psalms, a catechism, tests on the prayer book and narratives on the Old and New Testament.

At this time the school consisted of the schoolroom, 54′ x 28′, and two classrooms 26′ 10″ by 20′ 10″ and 14′ 8″ by 20′ 10″, with recognised accommodation of 307!  Fortunately the average attendance in the early 1900s was about 150 and the recognized accommodation later reduced to 194.  The headmaster, still Samuel James, had two assistants and a supplementary teacher.  However, numbers fell when the new council school was built in Coronation Road in 1910.

A ticket giving admission to a concert in St Luke’s schoolroom on 6 April 1883.

A ticket giving admission to a concert in St Luke’s schoolroom on 6 April 1883.

When Samuel died in post in 1911, his place was taken by Leonard Chadwick who had been the assistant since 1907.  On the outbreak of the First World War, Leonard’s accommodation capacity must have been stretched to the very limit as the recently built council school was occupied by His Majesty’s troops, and its boys were housed in the two St Luke’s classrooms.  Fortunately, this was not for long, as St Luke’s itself was occupied by the military authorities and the schools had to be dismissed for an extra two weeks’ holiday.  Soon after, government circulars were distributed to staff on ‘Education and the War’ and ‘Why did we go to War?’  Later on the boys went to see an inspection of troops at Seaforth Barracks, were addressed by an old boy who had seen action at the Battle of Jutland and were lectured on ‘Trafalgar and the Navy’.  Towards the end of the war, the headmaster attended a meeting and was appointed ‘Local Organiser for the Gathering of Blackberries by School Children’.  There followed blackberry gathering afternoons and potato picking.  There were no celebrations for the end of the war as all the schools in the area were closed for five weeks because of an influenza outbreak, although over a year later the school tea party was given by the Peace Celebration Committee.  On 5 November 1919 the Revd Edward Hartley gave a lecture to the upper classes and a class from Halsall Girls’ School on ‘What is the use of a fleet?’

Between the wars attention was paid increasingly to health and safety.  Milk was provided and meals for ‘necessitous’ children.  The boys wrote essays on ‘Kindness to Animals’ for the RSPCA and on ‘Health’ for the Sanitary Institution Competition; they collected for Alexandra Rose Day in aid of sick children in Liverpool; the police came to give talks on ‘Safety First on Roads’ and the boys went to the Regent Picture House for a safety first film.  The fire brigade came to inspect and there were fire drills.  In 1922 the school closed after a visit from the sanitary inspector and medical officer.  The school doctor came in for a special case and then gave a general inspection.  The school nurse attended and then referred children to the clinic.  There were dental inspections.

An 1863 plan showing the old church schools between St Luke’s Church and Liverpool Road. The plan also shows the 1859 vicarage.

An 1863 plan showing the old church schools between St Luke’s Church and Liverpool Road. The plan also shows the 1859 vicarage.

Boys moved up the school by ‘standards’, from ‘O’ (ages 6-7) to ‘VII’ (ages 12-14).  Pride was taken in the successes of boys for entrance to Merchant Taylors’ School and for gaining county scholarships.  They often kept in touch with the school and came back to special events.  In the inspection of 1934 it was noted that throughout the school there was a natural happiness with good relations between scholars and staff, demonstrated by birthday greetings given to a boy during the opening service.  The school curriculum was enriched and extended, time off was given to observe solar eclipses and the school platform was broken up for a fence for a school garden.  The boys went to a railway exhibition at St George’s Hall and entered an exhibit for the Royal Lancashire Show, ‘Life on the Sea Shore’.  They went to inspect the demolition of a wattle and daub cottage in Thornton.  Swimming, woodwork, handicraft and football, enhanced by a school playing field, became part of the curriculum.

There were, buy propecia australia however, discomforts; the roof leaked and fuel ran out at times, with the temperature scarcely above freezing and the boys having to be sent home.  In 1924 there was a combined meeting of the governors of St Luke’s and Halsall with regard to a proposed amalgamation but no further steps were taken.  In 1932 the schoolroom was divided into three and a temporary wooden classroom provided.  The reorganisation resulted in the number on roll nearly doubling to 146 when boys were transferred from the neighbouring council school, but it drifted down again, largely because parents were choosing to send their boys to more distant schools in preference to the substandard accommodation.  However, the school was always oversubscribed in its later years and had a proud academic record.

The vicars continued to check the registers and come in regularly for consultation or special occasions such as the end of term.  Visits to church increased: on Armistice Day there was a service in the morning or a visit to the war memorial for two minutes silence, with a half-day holiday in the afternoon.  There were special services on Ascension Day, Ash Wednesday and, later, Harvest Festival.

A 1907 map

A 1907 map showing the location of Halsall School on its present site in Cooks Road, and St Luke’s Boys’ School in Church Road.

Royalty played an important part in the life of the school.  On 5 July 1921 the Prince of Wales visited Crosby, twelve years to the day since a royal visit to Liverpool, for which the boys were also granted a holiday.  They were given time off for royal weddings and royal visits to Aintree.  On Empire Day 1924, the Revd Edward Hartley addressed the school, then they went to Halsall School to hear the King’s address on the gramophone.  In 1925 the Revd Mr Vaughan gave an address on the League of Nations and this was repeated several times, with the flag being saluted as well.  In 1936 the boys heard a broadcast of the proclamation of Edward VIII, and then that of George VI at the Town Hall.  There was a special service in church to mark Queen Alexandra’s funeral.  The coronation of King George VI in 1937 was particularly memorable.  All schools in Crosby held a sports day on the field where Moorside Park is now and someone played the wrong music for the country dancing which caused great embarrassment and confusion.

The last school bazaar

The last school bazaar, held on 22 June 1973 in the school playground.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Leonard Chadwick was still in charge and the routine was again disrupted.  The boys had an extended summer holiday while three air-raid shelters were constructed, followed by daily practices of entering them quickly (just over a minute) with gas masks and air raid warnings.  Then a severe fall of snow and shortage of fuel caused other temporary closures.  Later on, the air-raid warnings were for real, guns were heard in action, and the school was regularly closed after heavy air-raids during the night between August 1940 and May 1941.  On 31 March 1941 Leonard Chadwick retired after 30 years as headmaster.

When Charles Walter Henry Smith took over as headmaster, he instituted special events at the end of the school year.  First was an open day, followed by a ‘miniature eisteddfod’ with competitions in song and recitation, and exhibitions of handicraft.  This helped to raise money for a school fund, to be devoted in the first instance to the purchase of a gramophone, and it continued as an annual event until his retirement 9 years later.  The boys had already raised money for the ‘Saving for Warship’ week and followed this up by a display of model warships in aid of the school fund.  Later on they were to double their target in a ‘Wings for Victory’ appeal, and were rewarded with a special holiday.  Charles also established a series of end of year outings: to North Wales, the Cheshire Salt Works and one which included a ‘romp on the common at Knutsford’, a visit to Poole’s Cavern at Buxton and a tour of Belle Vue Zoo in Manchester.  In an inspector’s report of 1950 (the first since 1933) it was noted that ‘lively teaching is handicapped by the gloomy and unattractive premises’.  A diocesan report commented on the happy atmosphere, the boys being responsive, natural and enthusiastic about their work.

Charles Smith was succeeded by Godfrey Martindale Doubleday in September 1950.  His contribution to the school is best summed up in the HMI report of 1958: ‘The Headmaster has done a great deal to raise its prestige in the neighbourhood and to create a self respecting community by insisting on good habits and a sense of social behaviour.  He has, moreover, sought to give the boys a sound education, insofar as it has been possible, in difficult premises.  He not only teaches each class in turn, but he occupies himself with small groups of boys needing help and encouragement’.  There was no hall and the classes numbered 50, 50, 43 and 38.

Brian Moore who attended the school in standards 1 to 4 from 1948 to 1952 has some vivid memories, including the open-air slate-back toilet and the wooden hut for storing coats and shoes.  The funeral of King George VI was watched by the whole school on a 9-inch television loaned by Atkinson’s electrical shop in Crown Buildings opposite.  One morning an announcement was made that a Punch and Judy show was arranged that afternoon at one shilling per boy.  ‘So at lunchtime I went home with Geoff Maldwyn Jones to get some money to see the show, but with no one in we returned to St Luke’s, only to turn into Elton Avenue to see about six Friesian cows wandering around.  They had got out from Mr John Hanson’s dairy in College Road.  So we gradually herded them back to the shippon and were rewarded by Mr Hanson for our efforts with 2 shillings, and yes, we saw the Punch and Judy show.’

John Charles Lowden acted as head teacher for two terms until George Francis Ashcroft took charge on 28 April 1960.  Links with the church were maintained through visits, most weeks, by Canon Bates, and his curates, particularly the Revd David Ellis and the Revd John Woolley, to take assembly and then teach one of the upper classes scripture.  The Bishop of Warrington also helped at special services.  When George Ashcroft was appointed headmaster of Crossens C.E. School, Southport, he was succeeded by Thomas M Edey, an old boy of the school, in September 1969.  In 1971 the School celebrated its centenary.  An exhibition was staged in the school, 100 years to the day after its opening.  Displays in the classrooms showed aspects of English, movement, social studies, religious education, art and craft, mathematics and science.  An historical exhibition showed one hundred years of education in general and aspects of St Luke’s in particular.  The exhibition was opened by the Mayor of Crosby, E Rowland Ball, accompanied by the Mayoress, Mrs Ball.  A centenary thanksgiving service was held in the church the following evening with distinguished guests and, by request, the exhibition was opened after the service, receiving 800 visitors over the weekend.  In September 1971, Tom was appointed headmaster of Lander Road County Primary School, Litherland.

His place was taken by his deputy Colin John Wilson as acting headmaster until its closure.  Colin valiantly maintained the running of the school, giving a good education to the end in spite of its poor facilities; the boys had to be led down Coronation Road each day to Crosby Vale School (now Rowan Park) for lunch, the boys’ toilets were across the yard and the one staff toilet was accessed from a classroom.  During the closing stages there had to be, and was, close cooperation with the headmistress of Halsall School, items of common use were purchased, furniture was transferred to Halsall and joint services held.  Up until the end, the school continued to run stalls at church fairs and provide good recruitment ground for the church choir and cub scouts.

Thus, after 103 proud years of service to the community of Crosby, St Luke’s CE Junior Boys’ School closed on 19 July 1974.

A service of thanksgiving was held on 6 July 1975 in the presence of Councillor E Rowland Ball, now Mayor of Sefton, with lessons read by the last two headmasters.  All that now remains of the school are a lintel stone, inscribed ‘St Luke’s Boys’ School’, at Halsall School, and some stones from the demolished tower of the old St Michael’s Chapel, which were used to form a seat outside the main west door of St Luke’s Church.

The seat outside St Luke’s Church

The seat outside St Luke’s Church made out of the bricks of St Luke’s School, taken in their turn from the bricks of St Michael’s Chapel.