The opening of Morley Memorial Primary School – purpose-built for Homerton College, Cambridge – Part 2

Because one bit involved the laying of the foundation stone, and the other bit involved opening what was not just a primary school, but also a local community facility for meetings and events.

Above – from the British Newspaper Archive here.

On this guest list this time were two of the most influential women in Cambridge – Florence Ada Keynes and Catherine Tillyard – shortly to become Mayoress of Cambridge along with her husband’s election to the Mayoralty of the town.

Above – from the British Newspaper Archive.

Florence Ada Keynes needs no introduction to regular readers of this blog. At the time she was growing in influence and would shortly become the first woman elected to the Cambridge Board of Guardians – the first step into local government with responsibility for overseeing the workhouses and relief efforts for the poor and destitute. Her husband, the economist Neville Keynes was a lecturer in moral sciences at Cambridge University, and just over a decade later would become the Registrary of Cambridge University.

Above – Florence Ada Keynes in 1915 – Palmer Clarke in the Cambridgeshire Collection. Colourised by Nick Harris, commissioned by Antony Carpen.

Catherine Tillyard is less well known but by no means less significant. As a journalist and thus a contemporary historian of the time, she wrote the account of the women’s rights activists and social reformers who were active from the late 1800s through to the outbreak of the First World War.

Above – Catherine Tillyard by Tamsin Wimhurst for the Museum of Cambridge. This is part of a series of boards titled: The Women who transformed Cambridge from 2005. You can hire out the boards from the Museum.

Back to the school

“The Vice Chancellor thanked the Chairman and the Governors for the honour of asking him to preside at that meeting, and to take the chief part in opening the Memorial School. He was filled with admiration and envy at the beautiful classrooms which had been erected there, and was sorry to say that they had nothing like it at the University.

“Having referred to a tie which bound him to that College, namely, the fact that their distinguished Principal was a graduate of Emmanuel College, he said that the new school marked an important epoch in the success of Homerton College. It was not merely a necessary adjunct to the College, but a memorial to the life work of Mr Morley, one of the most princely of their merchant princes.

“Even an inexperienced person could see that the school was not a luxury but a necessity. The science of teaching, like all sciences, must be experimental if it was to be progressive and fruitful in results. Amid the clash of arms and whilst we were still smarting from defeat, people were not perhaps so willing to listen to a discussion on educational questions, but he thought that when they had passed over their present troubles they would see in them only an incident in our successful careers as colonizers, and that perhaps educational questions were really more important and had more bearing upon the life and prosperity of the nation than even a struggle which now engrossed so much interest. He referred to the recent Education Act [most likely the Board of Education Act 1899 that established a central Board of Education in Whitehall], which enabled education to be directed from one central office, as a great gain, and having touched on the training of teachers which happily was now regarded as essential, he concluded with another allusion to the new school. This practising school, he said, was not merely an addition of so many school places for Cherryhinton boys and girls, but it opened a field for new developments and originality of method, which would help on the cause of education, which they all wished to further. (Applause). “

This speech was followed by Charles Morley MP’s [Son of Samuel Morley] remarks on national politics and the creation of the new Board of Education. This was followed by Homerton College Principal John Horobin, whose name is on the foundation stone of the school.

Mr Horobin followed with an address upon “The Aims, Organisation, and Curriculum of the School,” and having acknowledged his indebtedness to the University, Emmanuel College, and the present Vice Chancellor, he took up two points in Mr Morley’s Speech by remarking that John Bull felt very keenly on two questions – [money] and his relation to theological principles. The [money] question could be dealt with very shortly. The school would be free of any expense whatever to the parents whose children attended. There would be no fees charged whatever. (Applause.)

Below – John Horobin from Homerton College here.

John Horobin of Homerton College.

“So far as he had been able to influence the Board of Management he should attempt to go further. He did not believe in charging fees for books or papers. He had come to the conclusion long ago that it was the birthright of every child to have the best possible education; he did not believe that they should have poor schools for poor people, but that they should have the very best schools for all the people. (Applause).

“The school would not be a higher grade school [i.e. beyond elementary]. In the first place, there were excellent higher grade schools in the Borough of Cambridge, quite enough to supply the demand. [Both the County High School for Boys, and the County High School for Girls, were founded shortly afterwards – today’s Hills Road Sixth Form College and Long Road Sixth Form College].

“The new school would be in the nature of an experimental school. They were prepared, if necessary, to fail every day in the week, and that continuously, because if there had been one thing they as teachers had been crying out for for the last twenty years it had been to let them alone when they were in their schools. He corrected the misapprehension on the part of some of the newspapers that the school would be worked by students of the college, and pointed out that the school must be staffed according to the requirements of the Education Department, altogether apart from the fact that there would be students working in the school.

“On the question of religious instruction he said that teachers in the schools throughout the length and breadth of the land kew very well that the religious question was the bugbear of politicians and did not once enter into the schools at all. (Applause). He wanted to say that because he wanted them to claim that if it were not for the efforts that had been made by men and women in the schools who had strong denominational convictions, to keep the religious difficulty out of the school and keep things upon which they all agreed in the school, there would have been a revolution in matters educational long ago.

“He was proud to belong to a profession which, in spite of difficulties put in the way by politicians, had managed to keep the schools as free from denominational principles as they had been up to the present. In the Blinco Grove School, religious instruction would be based upon the things which all the churches agreed upon. The deed of that college was one of the finest instruments he had ever seen. It had this important principle in it – that no student should have advantages or suffer disadvantages because of a particular theological profession. (Applause.)

“They were prepared to give to the parents whose children came to the school the liberty which they claimed and practised for themselves, and if it should be that any number of parents would send to the Board a plea or petition that they would like to have given one by their own teachers some extra instruction, and if they were prepared to pay the necessary expenditure, he was empowered to say that the Board of Management would put no difficulties in their way.

“He publicly expressed his thanks to the builders, Messrs Coulson and Lofts, for the beautiful work they had done in the school, and observed that the managers had tried to show that a school need not be a barn without costing a prohibitive price. (Applause.) It had been said that Cambridge, Oxford, Wales and Cornwall, the four most religious places in the kingdom had absolutely the ugliest and the worst buildings for teachers to work in. It was a marvel to him how the teachers in Cambridge borough schools had done the work they had, work which would bear comparison with any schools throughout the country. The schools were ugly, very often too dark, in some the light was in the wrong place, the desks were antiquated, the walls were not always clean, and the pictures were conspicuous by their absence.

“In the Blinco Grove Schools the basis had been that the aesthetic part of the child’s mind probably developed much earlier than its logical faculties. The way in which the children would be dealt with would be put very shortly. Their purpose was in the morning to have practically what was ordinarily called a primary school. In the afternoon the school would be divided into three sections. The teacher would choose two of those sections to which every child should go, and as far as possible allow the child to choose the third. If they found a girl particularly fond of needlework, they would attempt to let her do a considerable amount of art embroidery, and use her needle in a direction which was not ordinarily found in school. If they found a boy particularly fond of mechanical drawing, their purpose was to have a class in that subject, of which by virtue of his own personal selection the boy would become a member.

“He was quite prepared to break the whole thing down, but what he protested against was the attempt to put all the children through one mill, as the Chicago pork butcher put his sausages through one machine. (Laughter and applause.) It was proposed in the school that a very much larger proportion of the time should be given to subjects such as dramatic recitation, singing, and drawing than was usually found in schools, and they had the space for enlargement enough to give them a science room, a laundry room, and a cookery school. In one word, the school would be a model school, in the sense that they would do everything they could to increase the permanent silent influence upon the child and, secondly, Mr Jones & Miss Ashwith, as directors of method, would have the full power with the head mistress to try any possible method of teaching, and any possible subject of curriculum that they thought would be beneficial. The whole basis of the work would be what the famous headmaster of Rugby: “It matters very little what you teach the child; it is all important how you teach it.” That was the keynote of the school. (Applause). He concluded by extending an invitation to anyone to inspect the school when in operation.”

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