1839 - The First School in Woolmer Green
Woolmer Green has been very lucky to have had a school in the village since at least 1839. This was way before education became compulsory in 1870. This school served the neighbouring village of Knebworth until their school was built in 1911, and several other surrounding hamlets.
The school mistress from 1839 to 1874 was Miss Jane Payne, who left after dedicating 35 years to schooling in Woolmer Green. Jane lived until she was 88 and is buried in St Michaels churchyard. Jane was the daughter of a local farmer, William Payne, whose farmhouse became a private residence many years ago, and it is probable that she used a room in the farmhouse as a schoolroom prior to the current school being built.
1859 – The Current School Building
The First of two school buildings in Woolmer Green was built in 1859, on land given by William John Blake of Danesbury. This was a piece of land called ‘Chequers meat’ containing two ‘roods’ (approximately ½ acre). This land was described in the conveyance as “this parcel of land bounded on the North by the Public House called the Chequers, on the East by Turnpike road, and on the South by a Cottage and Garden belonging to me, the said, William John Blake”
Compulsory schooling – the first school inspection
The First inspection of the school was completed by Rev'd CT Robinson and he states that there was “a very fair beginning in both discipline and instruction”, but did add a little criticism, noting that the arithmetic was “very backward”!
1878 – A School and a Church
At this time the nearest churches were St Mary’s in Welwyn and All Saint’s in Datchworth – which are both a long walk away, particularly along the primitive roads of the period and in bad weather.
In 1878 ‘the wall which divided off the classroom at the end of the school was pierced with an arch and the room at the end fitted up as a chancel. This was dedicated by the rector, the Revd Charles Lee Wingfield, and services were held here until St Michael's church was built in 1900.
1898-1927 – Joint headship
The school had always been run by women – a ‘dames school’ until this time. It was then decided that husband and wife team joint headship.
1899 – School Accounts
We are lucky enough to still have the school accounts from this time. These show that the school at the time was mostly financed by a Government grant and donations from local land owners. They also had children bringing 1d. every week, contributing to their education or towards uniform or shoes.
Dr Youngs charity was set up in Welwyn parish to help pay for clothing and education of 4 boys and 4 girls in Woolmer Green.
1900 – School become compulsory and St Michael's church was built
The church opposite St Michael's school (St Michael's church) was built leading up to 1900 and was consecrated, alongside the burial ground on 3rd November 1900. The drawings showed how the church was envisaged, but the church tower proved impossible to raise sufficient funds for.
The church bell was originally part of the school and it is said that it was bought from the school in 1931 for £10!
1901 – School ‘excellent’ in inspection
"The discipline and instruction of this excellent school deserve the highest praise, and the progress made in all the subjects of instruction is most satisfactory."
1903 – Schoolmaster’s House built
The school house, which is in front of the preschool, between the school and the Chequers pub, was built in 1903.
This first housed Mr and Mrs Stacey (Lampson and Emily) who took over the school joint headship and successfully ran the school for 23 years, until they retired in 1927.
The school master (Mr Stacey) was also the church choirmaster at the church, the churchwarden and the treasurer!
The school was only at this time the front building, in which there were three classes. The toilets were outside! School meals were served in the Village Hall so at midday the children were all crossed over the road to the hall for dinner. They also each had a bottle of milk midmorning.
The village Flower show was a regular event arranged by the school, with Mr Stacey the chief organiser. This was held on the last Saturday of July each year, in the meadow opposite the church. “The whole village took part and there was great competition among one and all.”
The headteacher was Mr Whittingham (April 1940 – Aug 1953). He was also a special constable and the church organist. One day a lorry turned over on the bad corner near the Chequers, so Mr Whittingham left the school to deal with it whilst the village ladies came out and collected up the tea spilt from the lorry!
There was a sports day once a year against other schools in Tewin and Datchworth. Wednesday afternoons were memorable – when there were Gardening lessons at the back of the school in a big plot where the headmaster was in control. Afterwards there was often a nature walk through the wood at Mardley heath.
War time evacuees were living in the village and attending the school at this time – the gardening was a real novelty for them, coming from the city of London. There was friendly rivalry between the village children and the evacuees.
Mr Mortemore sounds like quite a character. When the children at the school played netball or basketball, he would stand with a wastepaper basket on his head as the goal, since the school did not have one!
There were a large number of events put on in the village hall, all trying the raise money to build the new school building. Also some of the WI meetings were held in the school hall.
During the 1960s there was continual fund raising, trying hard, as a community, to raise money for the new school extension.
Mr Paul Stevens was the headteacher from 1976-1980. The school had it’s own football team now.
Mr Brian Jolly was the headteacher from 1980-1992
The Jollys moved into the school house which had been unoccupied for sometime; having to cut back 5-6 feet of grass in the garden.
Mrs Tina Jolly, the headmaster’s wife set up the first school Parent Teacher Association (PTA) for the school – which we now call “The Friends”. The fundraising initially was to get each child a commemorative coin for Charles and Diana’s wedding. This started the legendary ‘strawberry teas’ which cost a pound a ticket, with everyone welcome to attend.
The school celebrated it’s 125th Anniversary in 1985 where the school children and local families came together to celebrate and dressed up in outfits from about the 1860s and re-enacted what their lives would be like.
The school finally had a school bell back in 1988 after 50 years without one.
The school celebrated the millennium year, alongside most of the country!
The school had Woolmer Green nursery running in the current reception classroom until 2011 this ran in the school for around 30 years. This is now the St Michael’s Preschool which is next door to the school, which a lot of children attend prior to starting at St Michael's school
January 2007 – School falling downOn the 18th January 2007, the South East of England was experiencing a bout of particularly inclement weather with strong winds, and at 3.15pm the back wall of the old building (Oak classroom) began to fall down.
School extension 2013
The school got a large new extension, which was finished in November 2013, adding two new classrooms to the school. These are the current Year 4 and 5 classrooms, nearest to the field.