By Clive Edwards

From around 1610 to 1750, there was a little church school on the south side of Quarry Road for the children of the Neston townships. Its remains are possibly a pile of stones lying there, just to the west of the entrance to School Lane, which runs in a straight line to Upper Raby Road. The Raby children would have walked to school by School Lane or gone via Cherry Wood or by as it is now called, Bluebell Lane.

After this period, it is uncertain what schooling was available for the children of Raby. Jane Arrowsmith, a teacher, lived with the Ellison farming family at the time of the 1841 census. As the Ellisons had 10 children, she may have been employed by them for their own family! Annie Waistle, age 50, was shown as a teacher in 1851 and she had come from Liverpool. No teacher was listed in 1861 census, but in 1871 is shown Jane Miller, age 20, also from Liverpool. A Raby school was included in an 1870 survey, but not a location.

The Raby School and School house

The Raby School and School house

In 1877 Joseph Hirst of Thornton Manor, built a school house in Raby for the infant children, on land given by the Earl of Shrewsbury (as was the land for the very early school). It seems that Annie Willet was the teacher in residence throughout most of this school’s life as a day school. She was born in 1854 and baptised in Neston on 3rd December. Her parents were John, a labourer and Annie and they lived then on Thornton Common.

In 1881 age 26, she was shown, as a teacher, living in the School House with her parents. For the 1891 census she was shown as age 35, a teacher, living there with her mother, now a widow and with Samuel Goodall, a boarder, age 31, born in Hull and a certified teacher. She was also shown as the school mistress in a directory of 1892, but the 1896 directory says that ‘the children of this place attend the school of Thornton Hough’.

The 1901 census shows her as head of the household, living with her aunt and with Samuel Goodall, boarder, age 42, who was a school master and in 1911 she was of ’no occupation’ living with her sister and again with Samuel Goodall, now a Head Teacher, employed by the County Council. It appears that they were living in the Raby School House, but teaching in Thornton Hough.

Annie died in 1917 in Wirral and her age was given as 60, probably because it was not known accurately, it should have been 62 or 63.

An earlier view

An earlier view

The school building carried on as a Sunday School and was used also as the Men’s Club. The minutes of the Men’s Club survive from 1924 to 1950. From 1924 to 1944, the Rev. H.A. Bull was the President. Frank Griffith was the Secretary, succeeded by John Griffith and by Leslie Griffith in 1932, all of the next door Hillyard Farm. The Shakeshaft family were caretakers for several generations. From 1929, the Treasurer was Mr W. Bryan. Billiards was the principle recreation. Concerts and Whist Drives were also held. For the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, a television set was brought in for the event. The last event in the building was a whist drive and I peeped in at this in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s.

It became too costly to repair the roof and was sold by the church to become a private dwelling in the 1990’s.

 Prepared by Clive Edwards of the Burton & Neston History Society, May 2016.

Some details of the early school  from ‘Neston – Stone Age to Steam Age’ published by Burton & Neston History Society.

Any school in the parish must have required a fee as a ‘free’ school was proposed in 1610, when John Talbot of Grafton (one of the Talbot family who had been lords of the manor of Little Neston since early in the sixteenth century)  signed a deed with six Neston men who were to act as trustees. He provided a plot of land, then part of the wasteland or common on Windle Hill, which was supposed to be at the centre of the parish,

“for the purpose that a school house be erected and built by the parishioners of Great Neston, and for a schoolhouse to be kept and maintained for the education and bringing up in learning of such young children as now be and hereafter shall be inhabiting in the parish.”

Perhaps it proved to be a difficult task, as it was still not finished by 1626, despite many of the residents leaving bequests in their wills, for example in 1613 George Mason of Raby left £2 to be invested for the maintenance of the school, and in 1624 Richard Sutton left money ‘to the schoolhouse on Windell Hill if it be made a free school’, a turn of phrase used by many of them.

In 1609 Richard Matthews of Raby had asked in his will that his youngest son, aged six, be kept at school for eight years. Neston had a schoolmaster in 1622, by the name of Brown, though we don’t know where his school was.

Possibly a temporary building was in use at first for the Windle Hill school, but it appears from the churchwardens’ accounts that the school was being built or perhaps rebuilt in the early 1700s at the expense of the parish.  Payments were made for lime, nails, slates, sand, stone flagging, boarding, hinges, glazing and seating.  The school was along the road now called Quarry Road, which leads from the Chester High Road towards Willaston. Leaving from it on the left as you go uphill is School Lane, and the school house is thought to have been near the end of School Lane on the south side of Quarry Road.  

This section of the book was written by Susan Chambers.

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