A Brief History of Chapel Lawn School

27th April 2016

Chapel Lawn school was built in 1856 for the princely sum of £478 2s 2d, with almost half the cost being covered by the Earl & Countess of Powis. Early records show that about 15 to 24 children attended initially, but numbers were very fluid due to ‘fairs, bad weather and whinberry picking’ (more about whinberries in a later blog). Typical excuses for non-attendance in 1892 included “gone to the shop”, “baby bad” and “carrying sticks”!! It wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that the school started to perform satisfactorily. Numbers grew to around 70, but the typically-rural excuses continued to impact attendance, particularly after the introduction of daylight saving in 1916 – the majority of the children had to travel over 2 miles each morning so that certainly didn’t help.

In 1941 the first evacuees from Liverpool schools arrived and soon there weren’t enough seats to go round. By 1946 though, when peacetime returned, numbers were back down to the mid-30s. In 1947 the canteen was built (now our bedroom) and the school started to serve hot dinners. On 22nd January the then Lord Powis visited and pronounced that the school had ‘a splendid cook’. Despite this, attendance dwindled through the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and eventually the school was closed in 1985. The school log book notes that the final school outing on July 16th of that year was to the West Midlands Safari Park – somewhere I made several happy visits to in my youth!

There are a few lasting features around the house – sadly we’re having to block off the old bread oven in one of the bedrooms as it’s a bit of a hazard, but the school bell remains by the back door. When we moved in there was even an old metal paper towel dispenser in what will be the en-suite to our ground floor room, and our outside toilet is sited where the old girls’ toilets were. We also have some interesting window latches - there's a photo of one in the Guest Info page - which are of a fist clenching a rod. Allegedly this is a link to the Earl of Plymouth estate and possibly even Clive of India, but I need to do more digging on that subject so watch this space.

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