Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: July 12, 2017
Webpage updated: March 27, 2021




The Sutton-on-Plym National Schools were a boys' schools located in Saint John's Street (formerly Shepherd's Lane) and a voluntary one for girls and infants, situated in Parr Street.  Both were managed by the incumbent of the Anglican Church of Saint John, Sutton-on-Plym Parish, the Reverend C Coomb and a committee elected from the subscribers.

It was in the spring of 1861 that the boys' schools was erected on a site adjacent to the Church.  The ground cost 256 12s 9d and the building cost 558 4s 8d, contributing to the total cost (including conveyancing, fees and fittings, of 871 16s 4d.  Luckily the amount raised by voluntary contributions and Government grant was 879 14s 6d, including 500 from the Reverend H F Tozer, so the school got off to a very good financial start.

The boys' school-room was 60 feet long by 18 feet wide and 25 feet high, and was well ventilated and lit.  There was a large playground attached.

Average attendance was between 115 and 120 boys, well in excess of the accommodation available and there was constant weeding of the irregular attenders to make room for new entrants.  Only a short time previous the regular attendance had been 140 boys but this was found too large and the numbers were reduced to the above mentioned level.  It was felt that a school capable of taking 250 boys was necessary to fulfil the requirements of the parish.

Every pupil had to pay 2d per week but in the case of unable to afford this, the incumbent of the Church or one of his congregation paid it for them.

Children joining the school were expected to be baptized either prior to admission or soon afterwards although this rule was not applied in the extreme and boys dismissed if they did not comply.  Boys from outside the parish were expected to join the Sunday School as well although those living in the parish were allowed to go to any Sunday school of their parents' choosing.

Reading , writing and arithmetic were taught plus elementary grammar and geography was available for those old enough and advanced in their education to understand it.  The Bible and the Church Catechism were also taught by the incumbent.  The boys had to attend church services on feast days and saints' days.

There was as yet no building for the girls and infants to attend.  They met in a small, ill-adapted and dingy room in Parr Street, which was hired for the purpose.  As it was not recognised by the Government, it received no financial support other than voluntary contributions from the parish.  The school was attended by around 90 children, who filled the room and who paid either 1d or 2d per week for their elementary education.  They were taught by a mistress and several monitresses.

Income in the year 1867 was 19 8s 6d from voluntary contributions (which were falling), 37 6s in school pence, 2 10s from the sale of unspecified materials, Government grant 45 7s 2d, making the total income around 104.  The cost of each boy was about 1 per year, less the weekly fee contributed, whereas in the girls and infants, the cost per pupil was less than 10s per year.  Their income was made up of voluntary contributions amounting to 12 17s 6d, offertory of 5 11s 1d, and school pence of 14 10s.

The expenditure for the boys' school amounted in 1867 to 119 13s 8d, of which salaries accounted for 92 17s 6d.  The girls' school spent only 33 6s.

A great need was identified for a new building for the girls and infants school, which would also release some pressure on the boys' department as well and local manufacturing industry located in the parish, around Coxside, were to be encouraged to make contributions.  It was opened in 1869.

When the Education Act 1902 transferred the responsibility for education to the Plymouth Local Education Authority, the Sutton-on-Plym National School became the Saint John's Church of England Elementary School