Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: December 25, 2019
Webpage updated: January 03, 2020




Ernest Chandler Cook was born on the Barley House Estate, Plymouth, in February 1866, the eldest son of Mr Samuel P Cook of Tavistock.  He was christened on August 5th 1866.  By the 1881 census the family were living at 7 Well Street and his father was a widower, looking after Blanche L Cook, aged 19; Ernest, then aged 15; Florence E Cook, aged 12 and Samuel W Cook, aged 10.

Ernest was educated at the Plymouth Public Free Schools, in which he later became a candidate pupil teacher.  A year later he obtained a position as a pupil teacher but within a couple of weeks was appointed as a junior clerk at the Plymouth School Board offices.  From that position he rose steadily until, upon the death of Mr Edwin Stribley in 1889, he was selected from 120 applicants as Clerk to the School Board.

Meanwhile, on August 10th 1887 Mr Ernest Chandler Cook married Miss Alice Emily Upton Chandler, of 34 Wine Street, Bristol.

When the Plymouth School Board was abolished under the Education Act of 1902, Mr Cook was appointed as Secretary of the Plymouth Local Education Authority.   He was required to serve at least seven years in order to cover the transition period, after which he was eligible for a pension at the Civil Service rate.

In fact he did not retire until the summer of 1934, by when he had completed 54 years in the Plymouth education service.  On that occasion, some 800 members of the Plymouth Association of the National Union of Teachers presented him with a canteen of cutlery and Mrs Cook with a tortoise-shell dressing-table set.

Mr Ernest Chandler Cook died on Wednesday July 10th 1946 at his home, Ruskin House, Mount Gould Road, Plymouth.  He was 80-years-old.  His wife had pre-deceased him on January 26th 1945.  They had four sons, Sidney, Harry, George and Frank.  His funeral was held at Mount Gould Methodist Chapel on Saturday July 13th 1946 in the presence of the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Alderman Isaac Foot, and the Director of Education, Doctor Andrew Scotland, and afterwards at Efford Cemetery.

He was described as a modest and reserved man, averse to publicity.  Although he only worked in Plymouth he was a keen student of education administration and passionate in his interest in children.  He took to investigating what local authorities could do about education on their own initiative, in which he had the full support of the chairman of the Education Committee.  He apparently startled both his colleagues in Plymouth and the Board of Education in London by devising a plan to divide the old elementary schools into junior and senior schools at the age of eleven and add an extra year for those senior students who had an interest in technical, business or professional qualifications.  He also promoted the abolition of fees in secondary schools.  His Committee accepted the suggestions, as did the Council, and these plans were put into operation in Plymouth before being adopted by the Board of Education, who in due course raised the school leaving age to 15 and removed school fees.

Mr Chandler Cook raised the leaving age in three stages, by a school term in each of three years, and was surprised to find that there were no widespread objections from the parents or pupils.  Unfortunately the whole thing came crashing down in the financial crisis of the early 1930s and fees were reintroduced.   It took over another decade to recover the lost ground.