Webpage created: July 13, 2017
Webpage updated: March 27, 2021
SAINT JAMES THE LESS NATIONAL SCHOOLS
The School was started in 1858 in 'a very inadequate and ill-looking building in Bath Street'. This was very accessible, being in the heart of a poor part of the Town, but was in an area of filthiness being near the centre. Lessons were held in a large room capable of holding 100 infants only each day during the week. The room was used for services on Sundays until the Anglican Church of Saint James the Less was built.
Through the efforts of the incumbent, the Reverend James Bliss, the School was moved to a healthy and elevated position in Prospect Row, above the West Hoe Limestone Quarries. What it lacked in accessibility it made up for in the healthier situation and it was considered to be a bonus to education of the young that so many were prepared to walk from the Bath Street area to the Hoe to go to school at all.
The site was given by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty and the walls of some of the old buildings standing on the site were utilized in the construction of the School, which was built by Messrs Adams and Sons, of Plymouth, at a cost of around £800. There were lofty rooms for the boys, girls and infants, all separated, and two large playgrounds, one for the boys and the other for the girls and infants. It was said to accommodate 220 children. The new School building was officially declared open on Monday October 24th 1864. It may have been meant to house 220 children but cakes were provided afterwards for 250. The Master was Mr Facey.
There were in 1868 65 boys, 52 girls and 48 infants on the books, although the rooms were large enough to take many more. A certified teacher conducted the boys' school, assisted by monitors. Likewise, a certified teacher looks after the girls and infants, in which she was assisted by an assistant mistress with special responsibility for the infant children. There were also monitresses.
Instruction for the boys and girls comprised the usual reading, writing and arithmetic, to which was added grammar, geography and history. The Holy Scriptures were taught as was the Church Catechism. The girls also did needle-work and knitting.
One feature of the School was that the boys were taught drawing and vocal music. The boys who had good voices were, with the consent of their parents, admitted to the Church choir and by regular attendance at the Church they could apparently earn back their expense of the schooling.
The boys were charged 2d, 3d, or 4d while the girls and infants paid a uniform fee of 2d a week.
A Government grant, the school pence and voluntary contributions, including collections at the Church, paid for the expenses of the Schools, which amounted to about £140 a year.
When the Education Act 1902 transferred the responsibility for education to the Plymouth Local Education Authority, the Saint James the Less National School became the Saint James the Less Church of England Elementary School.