Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: July 12, 2017.
Webpage updated: July 12, 2017




Christ Church National Schools were founded in 1850 by the incumbent of Christ Church, the Reverend G F Whidborne MA, and Captain Sumpter, RN, assisted by the congregation of Christ Church and the friends of education in the Town.  They raised a considerable sum by voluntary contributions which, when added to the 80 from the National Society and the 177 from the Committee of Council on Education, was enough to pay for the erection of a substantial school-house between Morley Place and York Lane, off York Street.

The foundation stone of the building was laid on September 13th 1849 and a memorial tablet in the boys' school stated that Captain Sumpter was the treasurer at the time and the architect was Mr George Wightwick.

At first only boys and girls were admitted but soon it was found desirable to admit infants into the girls' department.  Eventually the room became so crowded that it was found necessary to acquire a house opposite the school in York Place, where in 1859 the two ground floor rooms were brought into use as an infants school.  The infants' school was overcrowded but the boys' and girls' schools could have accommodated more pupils.

It was conveniently situated at the centre of the parish but in many other respects its location was not suitable at all.  Houses crowded in all around and consequently the boys' department was not well lit.

The original premises were divided into two large and lofty rooms, one above the other, the boys on the ground floor and the girls on the floor above.   The boys entered from York Place whilst the girls gained entrance by a flight of steps from Morley Place.  The girls' room, being on the first floor, was well lit and ventilated.  The boys' room, however, being on the ground floor, was crowded in by buildings to within 4 or 5 feet on two sides and within 10 or 12 feet on the third, while the fourth side had no windows at all.  Her Majesty's inspector had told the management that the room was most unsuitable for a school.  The school also had no playground.

There were 119 boys on the register and an average daily attendance of 95.  Their school-room could take 150.  Of the 123 girls on the register, there was an average daily attendance of 94.   Again, their school-room could take 150 children.  The infants school had 150 children on the books of which about 100 were in daily attendance. 

The boys paid 2d, 3d or 4d per week according to their class while the girls and infants paid a uniform 2d a week.  However, where there were three children from the same family attending, the youngest paid only a penny a week.

Most of the children attended the Christ Church Sunday School, which was held in the same building.

Only the basic subjects were taught but in the 3d and 4d classes the boys were taught a little geography and grammar, which was likewise given to the girls in the higher classes.  All the girls and some of the infants were taught plain needle-work and knitting.  The Bible was read throughout the school and the Catechism according to the Church of England was also read, with the approval of the parents.

The receipts of the Schools up to Lady Day 1868 included the school pence amounting to 88 11s 11d, voluntary contributions and collections after the anniversary sermons, 55 10s 3d, a grant from the Lords of the Admiralty of 13 and Government grants amounting to 41 8s.  It should be mentioned that the smallness of the Government grant was due to the fact that the girls' school mistress had only been a certified teacher for three months and thus the grant was not for the full twelve months.   It was reckoned that the grant for the forthcoming year would be 70.

Attendance had fallen by 1868 because of a change of teachers but were starting to improve again.

A report to the Borough Council on March 1st 1906 stated that 'the school is a poor place, built some 60 years ago, in a small courtyard or alley, the result of which is that it is closely hemmed in by buildings on all sides with a consequent loss of light.'  The Board of Education were therefore not prepared to continue their recognition of it as a public elementary school and Christ Church National School closed on Friday September 21st 1906.  The remaining 132 pupils were reallocated to Plymouth Public, King Street, Charles, Grey Coat, Palace Court, North Road Infants Schools in Plymouth and York Street School at Devonport.