We believed our school was about to be celebrating 135 years in 2018 but our research so far has shown us the foundations of our school were established in 1823 by Rev Thomas Helmore - Founding father of The British School.
Rev Thomas Helmore was a non-conformist minister who married Olive Holloway daughter of Capt. Joseph Holloway RN, a well-known family in Hampshire. Olive had opened her own small school for girls in Hampshire. It was very popular.
'The children, delighted with their charming teacher, induced their mothers to ask leave to come; and soon, applications from the fathers being accepted, the crowded state of the room rendered it desirable to build the small meeting-house mentioned above, in which to assemble her converts for admonition and prayer.'
When the couple married they moved to Kidderminster where the Rev was beginning a new post
as minister. From there they moved to Stratford:
'When Mr. Helmore came, to reside at Stratford, not more than forty children were being educated at the only National School, which was situated in Bull Lane. Finding such a lack of opportunities for teaching the poor, Mr. Helmore founded and organized British Schools, in connection with the Independent Meeting, in the Rother Market, of which he was the Minister.' The active founder of the British Schools not only visited, but taught daily in them, until he trained his schoolmaster, Mr. William Pardoe, to take sole charge. He drilled the boys, taught them to sing, drew and coloured large maps which he mounted on frames, crossed with a network of twine and pasted over with several layers of paper. When complete, these "blank" maps could be seen at the other end of the schoolroom.
An infant school — quite a novelty in those days, if we except the good old-fashioned dames' schools — was a source of great delight to those who watched its development under the loving care of good little Mrs. Corbett, directed by the indefatigable minister, who taught the tiny creatures to sing and act their school songs and to do a variety of useful exercises which have now become familiar to educationalists.'
In 1823 the Rev Helmore founded a boys school in Rother Street chapel. In 1825 a girls school joined them.
Soon there were 300 children in the British School compared to 40 in The National School. Every
morning before Rev Helmore preached his sermons the children sang their morning hymn.
'Let grateful songs arise Jehovah's name to praise'
Over time the school eventually becomes dangerous and uninhabitable. The School board in 1881 purchase
land which is now Broad Street to build a new school to house the 300 children. The log book from that time
records the time when the new board took over the school.
The British School Committee having made arrangements with the School Board to take these schools under their management the former body of Gentlemen cease control over these schools this day Friday May 13th 1881.
On May 16th 1881 Mr. Henry Cordingsley took over as Master and the school was named Stratford Upon Avon Board School. He wrote in the log book:
Commenced his duties as Master of the above school today. My present engagement under the 'Board'is for six months only. Present salary at the rate of £120 per annum to be monthly. The whole teaching staff of The British Schools were engaged for the same length of time. Holiday given today in honour of the Chairman of The Board Arthur Hodgson Esq C.M.G being appointed High Sheriff of
The school continued in the original buildings until an inspection condemned it.
In the case of the infants school I cannot recommend their Lordships to make further payment of the grant unless new and suitable premises be provided. The room is in now way fitted for the purpose of an Infant school, being approached by a steep and dangerous staircase from Mixed school below.
On November 19th 1883 the new school building opened on Broad Street. The plans can be seen below. It was a state of the art school for its period. Seperate toilets, plenty of room, playgrounds.
Memories from ex-pupils
Simon Woodings - Journalist for Stratford Herald
'If I may, I’d like to share a Broad Street memory with you – which basically explains why I’m in the profession
that I’m fortunate enough to enjoy today. Education is so important in a child’s life but equally important is the enthusiasm, vigour and fun that a particular teacher brings to the table. In 1972-3 that teacher was Stuart Durnian (I believe his son is part of the Parker Mercer Durnian estate agent partnership in Warwick/Stratford). At close of play, each day, our teacher Mr Durnian (senior), would captivate us for ten minutes reading from two books which I subsequently requested as birthday and Christmas presents. These were – Spy Stories and Ghost Stories.…. the whole classroom was captivated and didn’t want to go home! - I have never stopped using words or reading ever since………thank you Broad Street. We used to go to The Paddock every Thursday afternoon for PE as well!'
Simon goes on to share...
The fact that I was actively encouraged to write and communicate has allowed me to have a wonderful career in journalism – which continues just around the corner from Broad Street! I also enjoyed 17 great years as a press and PR officer for The Automobile Association. I mention this because it’s so important to see how encouragement and education at an early age can guide someone through life.
We had another great teacher called Mr Cox. We had a fancy dress competition - Christmas 1972. I went as the classic composer Johann Strauss and finished third which meant I got a book voucher (more reading to be done!). When he introduced me on stage to my fellow pupils he said: “Mr Strauss can’t stay long because he’s parked his piano outside…….. on double yellow lines!” The children just loved it and we couldn’t stop laughing (think of that image!) - that’s why we love Broad Street – learning was and is fun!
I remember Miss Lacey used to organise shows and took singing choirs to interschool competitions in Wood Street Hall. I was in one of the winning choirs and we sang 'The Ash Grove' and 'The Queen's Horses, The Queen's Men'. (Coronation Year). Miss Lacey also organised pageants in the boys' playground. I begrudgingly played one of Robin Hood's men (I hated dressing up) During the public performance, the show suddenly stopped when a harnessed Monkey appeared on the wall of one of the Evesham Place gardens. We all stopped to look at it, and in that time a Bee stung my middle finger, the poison from it passed into my index finger which swelled up badly. Mr. Heinz the sports shop owner who lived in Scholars Lane treated me with ultraviolet lights and cut the skin right down to the bone to remove the puss. Apparently he was not supposed to treat people like that, but in my case it worked and the finger grew again - Happy Days at School.
I started in the nursery class situated in the playground next to Chestnut Walk, I was three and a half then, I had my own clothes peg in the hallway, my shoe bag had a yacht embroidered on it, we played in the morning and had a sleep on camp beds in the afternoon! Miss Perry taught me to write in later years, Jock Durnian was a very popular teacher. Football in the paddock at the top of West Street where the fire engines emerged from to attend incidents! I have a lot of fond memories of schooling those days!