John Wesley was convinced of the importance of education and following the advice of his friend Dr. Philip Doddridge, opened schools at The Foundery in London, and at Newcastle and Kingswood. Following the upsurge in interest in education which accompanied the extension of franchise in 1832, the Methodist Conference commissioned William Atherton, Richard Treffry and Samuel Jackson to report on Methodist schools, coming to the conclusion that if the Church were to prosper, the system of Sunday Schools (3,339 in number at that time, with 59,277 teachers and 341,442 pupils) should be augmented by day-schools with teachers educated to high school level. The first state funding for primary schools was made in 1833.
The Rev. John Scott proposed in 1843 that 700 new Methodist day-schools be established within seven years. Though a steady increase was achieved, that ambitious target could not be reached, in part limited by the number of suitably qualified teachers, mostly coming from the institution founded in Glasgow by David Stow. The outcome of the Wesleyan Education Report for 1844 was that planning began for a permanent Wesleyan teacher-training college, resulting in the foundation of Westminster Training College at Horseferry Road, Westminster in 1851, with the Rev. Scott its first principle.
On the 27th December 1851, a Grant & Release of freehold ground by reference to Model Deed for purposes of a Wesleyan Day & Sabbath School, was made for land in Thringstone (Pegg’s Green) for the education of children & adults, or children only of labouring, manufacturing and other poorer classes in the district of Griffydam, Newbold, Worthington, Froggatt’s Lane, Thringstone, Pegg’s Green, Swannington, Coleorton & Osgathorpe. At that time part of Griffydam and Peggs Green were in Thringstone Parish until 1884.
The earliest record found of a school building recorded as being at Griffydam, is in the Post Office Directory of Leics & Rutland 1855. In this, it states that Griffydam has a National School. This was in fact the Wesleyan Day School, which had a close relationship with the Griffydam Wesleyan Methodist Chapel. According to “The History, Gazetteer & Directory of Leics & Rutland 1863”, the large Wesleyan Day School was built and opened in 1853 at a cost of £850, to accommodate 200 pupils. The school was located on Nottingham Road just beyond what was then the Red Lion Inn.
The Wesleyan Day School attracted wide support from surrounding villages. Children from Griffydam, Coleorton, Peggs Green, Swannington, Osgathorpe and Thringstone attended the school.
A few years after the school opened, when 82 pupils where registered, the Annual Report of the Wesleyan Committee of Education 1855-1859 contained the following report “Griffydam, (Ashby–de–la-Zouch) Mixed, 82. This school continues under the teacher by whom it was opened, and has been successfully conducted for many years. The tone of this school is of the best kind ; the discipline kind but effective. The progress, measured by ordinary rules, would possibly deemed in some points not sufficiently marked ; but the teacher has impressed his own individuality on his modes, and the children turn out well under his teaching. The school is greatly valued in the locality, and suffers no loss, however schools may multiply around it”.
Other extracts from the Annual Reports of the Wesleyan Committee of Education can be found here:-
In the Leicestershire Record Office at Wigston, there is a log book for the School dated 1862 to 1873. The reference is E/LB/364/1, and it certainly makes for interesting reading for anyone wishing to find out further information on school activities in those days. The Inspectors Report May 17th 1865 was written in the Log Book by William Kidger (School Secretary) and reads as follows:- The instruction and discipline are in some respects satisfactory, but there seems to be a rather want of life and spirit in the teaching. A summary register for the weekly, quarterly and yearly averages is required. Floor dirty. proper books should be provided for the first standard. The instructions in sewing should be improved.
A selection of comments from the logs made by the various teachers can be viewed by clicking on the button below. Newspaper articles relating to the school also provide an interesting glimpse into the school's past.
A rare photograph off the Wesleyan Day School
Courtesy Of Marilyn Baldry
This plaque was discovered covering an old well in a garden on Top Road. It is the only remains of the school. The text would have read:
WESLEYAN DAY SCHOOL OPENED 1853 ERECTED BY VOLUNTARY CONTRIBUTION WITH AID FROM THE PARLIAMENTARY GRANTS
A = Griffydam Wesleyan Day School
B = Now School Lane
C = Nottingham Road
The following teachers were listed:-
1864 - Rebecca Haywood
1865 - Hannah McNeal
1866 - Meneen Fanny Mogford
1869 - Mary Ann Ryder
1870 - Letitia Walker
1875 - Robert H Plowright
1880 - S. Barraclough, William Ball
1889 - Robert Hance
The headmaster for 26 years was Robert Hance who died in 1915. His grave can be seen in the Griffydam Wesleyan Methodist Chapel graveyard. Agnes Stewart (nee Bird), the mother of local historian and author Samuel T Stewart, was born in 1901 in Anchor Lane, Peggs Green and attended the Wesleyan Day School. She related that the headmaster, Bobby Hance (Robert Thomas Hance) was very strict, and always walked around with his cane in his hand. She recalled the saying that “Bobby Hance could make you dance” which clearly related to the cane. Robert Hance was recorded as being the last headmaster at the school.
When a new school was built in School Lane it was used as an overflow school and then continued as an Institute until it was demolished.
Click here to find more information about the Wesleyan Day School in Samuel T Stewart's publication.
Late 1800's Photo Of Pupils and Staff
Additional Photos Can Be Found In The Gallery Section
Grave Of Headmaster Robert Hance