Miss Mary J Watson
HH Infant School opened as a separate entity in the Lowson Street building on Monday, 3rd February 1902.
Its first HT was Miss Mary J Watson, who remained there until 1906. Throughout this period she had two assistants.
One was Miss E.A.Nicholls, a trained, certificated teacher (TC) who later, in 1906, took two examinations for the degree of L.L.A.(?1)
She left the school in 1910 to take a headship.
The other assistant was Miss E. Allison, a Supplementary teacher (S), who also left in 1910.
The new school opened with 97 children on the books and 84 actually present. As mentioned above these figures were recorded in the Log Book every week. They will be given here only from time to time in order to indicate the growth of the school.
In the second week of her tenure Miss Watson, as required, laid down the syllabus for the year ahead. (She was to repeat this each year, with only some minor variations and additions. Later HTs however discontinued this practice.)
Varied occupations for the year.
Paper folding and Designing. Brush drawing.
Paper folding. Mosaic work.
Building with cubes. Making Birds’ Nests. Bead Threading. Setting Table
Object and Conversational Lessons
Animals: Horse, Cow, Sheep, Cat, Dog, Elephant.
Birds: Duck, Goose, Hen and Chickens.
Insects: Bee, Fly, Spider.
Plants and Fruit: Apple, Orange, Tea, Coffee.
Employments: Shoemaker,Carpenter, Coalminer, Blacksmith.
Natural Phenomena: Rain, Water, Ice.
Common Objects: Lead pencil, Table, Umbrella.
Conversational Lessons: Dishonest and untidy children. Stone throwing. The Postman. A Railway Station.
Form and Colour.
Additions in future years included:
Barley, wild rose, country walks, brush-drawing, mosaics, mat weaving, coalminer, police, blacksmith, drawing on dotted squares, helping mother and good manners. the tea table, cleanliness.
An official from the Education Office, sometimes the Chief Education Officer (CEO) himself, visited the school each month to check the registers. (The CEO’s official title at that time was ‘Director and Secretary’).
In addition to frequent brief calls, an HMI inspected the school for a day or two each Spring and made a report, which the HT was required to copy into the Log Book, to be countersigned by the CEO.
In 1902, just one month after the opening of the school, the brief report read:
The Infant Class is in good order and very fairly taught but more might be done to develop the children’s own capacity for observation and expression.
It also stated: The certificate of Miss Watson will be issued, upon the application of the School Board, after her completion of 18 months’ recorded service. (?2)
In 1903 the Inspector reported: The discipline was not good, the attention of the children could not be maintained, and the classification was faulty, being by age and not by ability. The work was not as forward as it reasonably might be expected to be and the HT’s standard of attainments for the classes was much too low. Better results will be shown when the attention of the children can be secured and maintained.
In 1904: Although answering out of turn has not entirely disappeared, a commendable improvement is noticeable in the order and attainments of the children. Payment of the higher grant is therefore recommended. A piano should be provided. At present the children are required to sing and drill at the same time.
In 1905: The school is taught pleasantly and with very fair success. The piano recommended last year has not been provided. It is a matter for regret that the desks are so high above the seats that the children cannot assume a proper position for writing. The desks are all of one pattern, 10½“ above the seats and with flat tops. In many cases the front edges of the desks are on a level with the children’s armpits. The girls should be taught to hold their needles properly when sewing.
In 1906: Owing to the character of the accommodation it is difficult to secure for the Infants that special training which is so desirable and important. The teachers however do the best they can. The children are bright and the 'baby' class is in good hands.
The HT herself made a quarterly report on the progress of all classes.
In May 1902 she stated: I have examined the children and found the work going on very satisfactorily in all the classes, with the exception of a few children, both in the first and second classes, who are a little backward in Arithmetic.
In July 1902: Many new children have been admitted recently and they, of course, are not up to the standard and will require considerable attention.
In May 1903: 15 children have been admitted since Easter and of these only two can do anything at all; the work in the Babies’ Class, otherwise, shows signs of progress. The reading in the Second Class is not so good…. There are a few children in first class who are rather backward….
In October 1903: On the whole the work is going on very nicely. The Reading throughout the school shows much improvement. The Arithmetic too is good with the exception of a few children who are backward… Recitations, games and songs are well taught and much enjoyed by the children.
Other entries by the HT included:
I have put some of the backward children into a lower class.
I have examined the children and passed up the best ones.
It is to be regretted that there are so many old children in the babies’ class (i.e. Class I) who have been but recently admitted.
Entries about illness included:
School closed for five weeks on account of an outbreak of diphtheria and measles.
Measles and whooping cough prevalent among the children.
Chicken pox is very bad among the children.
Other events included half-day closure in May and November for the ‘Hirings’, when the children offered their labour to local employers. In the case of the girls this normally involved domestic service.(What did the boys do?)
Various people visited the school during this period, including a minister, who examined the children in Scripture, and Miss Pease, who heard the children sing.
Prizes for good attendance were presented by a visiting councillor.
The school closed for various reasons, sometimes mid-afternoon, sometimes for the whole day.
For example, on 2nd June 1902 all the schools closed for the whole day to celebrate the Declaration of Peace following the Boer War.
(The Peace of Vereeiniging of May 1902 marked the end of the Boer War and absorbed the Boer republics into the British Empire in return for a promise of self-government. In SCDUMC* there is a picture of the Darlington Volunteers being welcomed by the Mayor in front of the Old Town Hall on their return home from South Africa on 1st June. See also GJFOPP45*)
The school closed for two days, 25th and 26th June, to mark the Coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, when medals and sixpences were given to the children.
(Many activities took place in connection with the coronation, including a competition for the best dressed houses and shops, a grand parade of schoolchildren, a monster bonfire, a coronation banquet and an ox-roasting in the market place. Members of the ox-roasting committee along with the animal which provided the meat are shown in a picture in SCDUMC*.
Other occasions for time off were Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, the annual Horse and Dog Show, the County Council Election, the visit of the Chinese Commission to the local works.
(The Chinese Imperial Commissioners visited Rise Carr Rolling Mills. The Rolling Mills were involved in the production of puddle iron, the re-rolling of steel bars and the manufacture of special sections and, together with other firms in the town, made Darlington important enough to attract foreign visitors. The Commissioners were visiting Britain to study the underlying principles governing the leading municipal, industrial, and commercial undertakings. In SCDUMC* there is a picture of the delegation, which had just witnessed the manufacture of iron bars for the British Admiralty.)
(On the marriage of Edward VII (then Prince of WALES) and Alexandra of DENMARK in the year 1863, two of Darlington's streets were named. These streets, Wales Street and Denmark Street, are just south of Westmoreland Street). (This information was provided by local historian George Flynn on one of his guided walks).
On one occasion the children left school at 3pm, for the convenience of those teachers going to the Garden Party given by Miss Pease of Woodside.
(Woodside was a fine nineteenth-century mansion, demolished in the 1930s to make way for housing development. Woodcrest, Woodvale and Manor Roads now stand on the site. For the last fifty years of its life it was the home of Gurney Pease (son of Joseph Pease of Southend) and his widow. The lady mentioned above is presumably their daughter. The last relics of the estate, the vinery and kitchen gardens, formed a market garden operated by A.Race and Sons, until this too was sold in 1984 for building purposes.) (DSD*)
During this period (precise date?)the management of the town’s schools was transferred from the Board of Education to the Local Education Committee.
Miss Watson’s final entry for attendance was on 31st August 1906:
Number on books 124. Average attendance for week 97.
The number of pupils on the school’s books had thus increased by 27 during the first four years of its existence, with no additions to the staff.