Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: September 16, 2018
Webpage updated: September 16, 2018




A small school existed at Laira Green, on the eastern edge of Plymouth, in 1871.  It was apparently being run under the auspices of the British and Foreign Schools Society.  The exact location is not clear but it will have been on the low ground near to the river as flooding was reputedly a continuing problem and the children were often caned for playing in the water.   The Lee Moor Tramway also passed close by and one boy is said to have been killed while trying to hitch a ride on one of the horse-drawn wagons.

The Board of Education's inspector, Mr E P Arnold, visited the School in that year and reported that the building was unsuited to the needs of the parish.  There were 123 inhabitants in Laira of whom 118 were 'of the class whose children may be expected to attend Elementary Schools.'   Twenty-three children were expected to be attending from the hamlet and there were another fifty children from elsewhere in the parish of Eggbuckland already on the register.  He considered it unfair to expect the children from Crabtree to walk two miles uphill in order to be able to attend the Eggbuckland National School.

A Mr Butler carried out another review of the situation in 1872 and plans were made to move the School elsewhere.  One of those plans was for the parish to erect a combined chapel and school at Crabtree for the use of the families of soldiers stationed at the nearby forts as well as the civilian inhabitants of the hamlet.  It is claimed that although the War Office gave the land for the chapel, Mr Soltau, the Lord of the Manor and a nonconformist, withdrew his support because of the involvement of the Established Church and as a result the school was never built.   It has also been claimed that the chapel was never used as a school: however, the self same author claims that the Laira British School moved in to the Crabtree Mission Chapel in the July of 1874.

Through the kindness and liberality of Mr G W Soltau, the Day and Sunday Schools of Laira Green and Crabtree met on Wednesday February 26th 1873 to celebrate the half-yearly treat.  When tea was over, the meeting was opened with singing and a prayer, after which valuable prizes, the gift of Mrs Soltau, were presented to the scholars with suitable addresses from Mr Soltau.  Mr Jago, the headmaster of the Plymouth Public Free Schools, expressed himself much pleased with the training of the children by the excellent schoolmistress, Miss Cox, in proof of which he stated that a little boy who had recently transferred from the Laira Green School to the Free School, had successfully competed with 800 boys in winning one of the six prizes which were given to the School.

An anthem written for the occasion was heartily sung by the children and the very happy evening brought to a close.

On the morning of Wednesday November 11th 1874 the Crabtree Mission Chapel was opened to serve the most southerly part of the parish of Eggbuckland.   The newspaper report reveals that it was capable of holding around 180 adults for worship and that it was fitted with benches which could easily be converted into seats and desks so that the 200 or so children from the School could have their lessons there as well.  During school hours the chancel could be shut off from the rest of the building by means of folding doors.  Although it was a mixed school, there were, as usual, separate entrances for boys and girls.

Miss Jane Elizabeth Cox continued as the mistress in charge of what was then known as the Laira and Egg Buckland Day School.   She was 24 years of age and had previously been employed at the Charles National Schools in Plymouth.   Her salary was 40 and she was allowed 10 to pay assistant teachers.  There was a Committee of Management who paid rent of 18 per annum to the owner of the building, Mr William Condy, from whom the building was leased for fourteen years from June 24th 1874.  The Committee consisted of Mr G W Soltau; Mr H Clarke; Colonel Kingsman; Mr F Harris; Mr Crocker; Mr Austen; Mr W Skardon; Mr Fowler and Mr Dodridge and the secretary, or Correspondent as they called her, was Miss Lydia Brooking of 2 Saltram Villas, Laira.

According to a report dated September 14th 1874, there were 17 boys and 22 girls each paying 2d per week and 26 infants each paying 1d per week.  Interestingly, in view of the claim that the school was not built but that the chapel was, the School received an annual income of 8 for the use of the premises for public worship on Sundays.

There were three rooms: a large one of 34 feet by 18 feet and two smaller ones of 14 feet by 9 feet.

As the population of the area that it served grew during the latter part of the 19th century so even that accommodation proved unsatisfactory.  As a consequence, in 1890 the Egg Buckland (sic) and Laira Green School Board was formed in 1890 to arrange for a new building to be erected.  The Laira Board School was opened in Beverley Road in 1892.