Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Beware what you go looking for......... stories behind the book nu 22, the pitfalls of research

An occasional series on the stories behind the new book on Manchester and the Great War*

Students at St Clement's school. Chorlton-cum-Hardy, date unknown
Now one of the concerns exercising many people here in the city in 1916 was the issue of the “half timers.”

These were the children whose schools had been taken over as hospitals to tend the sick and wounded returning from the war zones.

It had resulted in a degree of ad hoc provision for some at least. In the February of 1916 the Manchester Museum reported that it was providing effective instruction “for 900 to a 1,000 children per week drawn at present from the higher standards of the elementary schools”*

The school population, 1910
A similar scheme was underway at the “City Art Gallery, the Whitworth Institute, and kindred institutes in the city,”

A national conference held in the city a few months later argued that the system of half timers had to be abolished.

There were 72,000 in the country of which 61,000 were in Lancashire and Yorkshire and rather than allow the practice to continue Parliament should raise the “school leaving age, allow local authorities to have educational oversight of children to the age of 18 and a proper supply of well trained teachers.”**

Central School for Boys and Girls, 1906
The first school taken over was the Central High School for Boys and Girls on Whitworth Street which had a thousand students and from August 1914 became the headquarters of the 2nd General Western Hospital.***

Then in 1915 the authorities took over another seven schools.

These were Alfred Street in Harpurhey, Alma Park in Levenshulme, Grange Street in Bradford, Lilly Lane in Moston, Ducie Avenue, and Moseley Road and Heald Place.

Finding the student numbers of these seven led me back to the street directory for 1911, which conviently lists every Manchester school including both those maintained by the local authority and the faith schools.

Grange Street, Bradford, 1906
Not only is there an address and a date for the opening of each establishment but also the capacity and the average attendance for the previous year.

And the rest as they say was a painstaking afternoon with a blank spread sheet recording each school and its average attendance for 1910.

There were gaps with some schools offering no information added to which the data is five years out of date, but I reasoned it would at least offer some comparisons.

Along the way it would also tempt me to look at school attendance for the year and compare different areas of the city from inner city Hulme to semi rural Chorlton-cum-Hardy and well healed Didsbury.

The "seven" taken over in 1915 and their average attendance in 1910
But an hour stretched into two and expanded into a third, and along the way the sheer tedium of in putting the data sat beside the very real prospect that this was just a nerdy enterprise.

Still the first bit has been done.

I now know that in 1910 the average attendance of all 193 schools came up with the figure of 101,353 young people.

And of our seven schools one offered no data, a third had been built but not yet taken in a student, leaving the remaining five with 4668.

A school photograph, St Clement's, date unknown
So that would suggest that something like 5688 young people may have been our half timers in 1915.

In time the names of some them and even their stories may come to light.

For now there is a small bit of me that wonders what else I could have done on a very wet and dismal Saturday.

Location; Manchester 1916

Pictures; Manchester Municipal Secondary School later Central High School, Whitworth Street,  1907, City Engineers, m65853, Grange Street School, Bradford, 1906, City Engineers, m77534,  courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass and students at St Clement’s school Chorlton-cum-Hardy, circa 1900, from the Lloyd Collection

*A new book on Manchester and the Great War http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/A%20new%20book%20on%20Manchester%20and%20the%20Great%20War

** War Service in the Museums, Teaching the Half Timers, Manchester Guardian, February 21, 1916

***2nd Western General Hospital, Manchester, 1914-1919, Margaret Elwin Sparshot, courtesy of David Harrop

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