Monday, 23 April 2018

Educating the Newcomers

Work is now well advanced on recreating and improving the website St Albans' Own East End; delivering it on a new, more modern, platform.  There are many limitations to the present website platform, the most important that it is no longer being serviced.  So, as they say, the time has come ...  and we will hopefully see the new site in all its east end splendour later in the summer.

One small new feature on the collection of photo pages devoted to the schools will be a brief history of each one.  We take them for granted, but they came into existence for many different reasons.  Yes, each one opened to provide more places for children living in the district, but the more we explore how their beginnings the more we understand how flimsy was the planning in each case, and how little the various education authorities took account of the data which was available to them.

Today, of course, there is so much data available – and even more can be commissioned by virtually anyone and for any purpose. Even basic facts and numbers available to authorities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, such as census returns and movement of households into districts, did not appear to convince planners that crunching this limited information could possibly assist in making provision for school places.

For example,  from the 1890s almost thousands of homes were emerging from the fields on both sides of Hatfield Road and for a decade the education authority chose not to commit itself to building a school in the district; not even to negotiate with the developers to reserve a plot of land on which a future school might be built.

Shortly before the emergence of county authorities the St Albans Rural Education Board constructed a school, Camp, specifically for children living in the villages and hamlets on the east side of the city.  This  became urgent because the St Albans (city) Education Board had reviewed its existing policy and denied future access by rural children to city schools, mainly Alma Road, St Peter's and Priory Park, and Hatfield Road.  

Children in all of the homes in the Cavendish, Fleetville and Castle areas were expected to attend Camp School.  It wasn't only a question of numbers either.  A child living in Brampton Road had no straight-line access to Camp School as the only rights of way across the railway line were in Sutton Road and Camp Road.

The first part of Fleetville School opened in 1908, although strangely, the authority had no expectation that many children would attend on the first day, only employing the head teacher and deputy until proof could be shown!  Between them, Camp and Fleetville carried the burden of education the east end's children – all of them up to leaving age – until the opening of Ss Alban & Stephen in 1934.  The removal of senior children into senior schools at Hatfield Road, Priory Park and, eventually Beaumont, occurred from 1930, and relieved some pressure on space. Incredibly, it was not until 1955 and 1958 respectively that new schools were opened at Windermere and Oakwood, the latter being known at the planning stage as the Fleetville Extension School.

We now have nine (10 if Samuel Ryder is included) centres educating primary-aged children, and during the post-war period the education authority was finally able to do what the 1944 Education Act envisioned: to enable primary children to attend a local school within a short walking distance of their homes.  Of course, the open enrolment concept of recent years has partly negated that aspiration, with many children being ferried by car to a school further away on the basis that it is a good school.  Yes, there's a debate to be had here.  Good schools everywhere, more open air and exercise for all, fewer cars, less stress around the school gates, cleaner air ...

Next time we will discover how bad it became for children over the age of eleven.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Spies in Glenlyn Avenue

A rather small and narrow field bordering Camp Road – which everyone had then known as Daniel's Field – was purchased by the enterprising partners of building firm Goodwin and Hart in 1930.  The two had become friends during the First World War while being sent on heavy labouring assignments as a result of their refusal to join the military.  On their release they pitched up at St Albans, thinking there were useful work opportunities.

Daniel's Field was thought to be the firm's first development purchase, as opposed to single plots; the result became the three delightful roads of Lynton, Windermere and Glenlyn avenues, developed as culs de sac mini-communities.  Windermere was different in that it had no turning circle, providing a later opportunity to build on the allotment field behind.

Homes in Lynton Avenue were occupied first, in 1931.  Owners of the £750 Glenlyn Avenue new-builds were able to take possession  by 1934.  A recent blog titled Just Dropping In reminded a reader of an event which had occurred to the parents of the writer shortly after moving into their new home.

Glenlyn Avenue today.

Many attempts were made in the decade or so after the First War, to heal divisions created by the conflict.  Government, local authorities, communities, church groups all made attempts to offer the hand of friendship.  While at the community and individual level the contacts were clearly well intended and positive, as we all realised the future at national and international level was seen by many with some suspicion. 

Although I have not yet discovered any examples I understand that advertisements were placed in the press during the course of the 1930s in which families were encouraged to offer extended vacations or 'friendship visits' to young people from Germany and maybe other European countries.   I will research these advertisements and update the blog later.

One family from Glenlyn Avenue responded positively and invited Herr and Frau Khol to stay for a while, as they spent their days exploring the district – no doubt including the Cathedral, the newly completed lakes and the curiosities of the city's narrow streets and its countryside.  The guests were expected to contribute towards the cost of their accommodation, and I have no doubt the hosts were expected to engage with their guests, and overcome any language barriers as best they could.

In this case, probably in 1935 or 1936, before the extra rooms were needed for a growing family, the contributor assures us that her or his father, having fought in the First War, bore his opponents "no ill will ... letting bygones be bygones."  No doubt there were hundreds of similar hands of friendship taking place around the country during the early and mid Thirties.

Lynton Avenue in 1931.

The Glenlyn Avenue couple clearly felt the experience of hosting a German couple had been successful and agreed to repeat the offer the following year.  A young man had brought his bicycle with him.  Perhaps he did not think that cycles might be available for hire in the UK, but nevertheless he spend much of his time cycling around the district.  This could have revealed one difference in approach between the guests.  One could imagine, though this might not have happened, hosts and guests sharing some time walking and travelling by bus together.  Unless all owned a bicycle the process of exploration would be more of an individual exercise.

And exercise might be an appropriate term since the young man from Wuppertal began quizzing his hosts about the Ballito factory in Fleetville [for those whose recollections do not extend back that far, Ballito, on today's Morrison's site, manufactured silk stockings].  They are reported to have been searching questions, which his hosts thought suspicious.  They possibly confided in friends before asking the young man to leave, no doubt contacting the sponsors of the visits, which today would be considered part of the tourism industry.

That was that; no more friendship visits, and the country was within three years of another international conflict.

The two recent stories have concerned spies, or collectors of data, who were discovered on the east side of St Albans.  During the 1930s and 40s how many more arrived and successfully collected their data and returned to pass it on?

My thanks to the contributor of the earlier post for adding her family's experience to the wider story.