The school bell first rang at today's Colley Lane Primary school on 7th October 1878, when as "Cradley British School" it was located at the Baptist Church in Church Road.
Colley Lane Primary School celebrated the centenary of its building last year. Since then, of course, the old school has been demolished and replaced by a new school, with a greater pupil capacity and enhanced learning facilities.
In this article, deputy head teacher Janet Ingram explains that the existence of this educational institution reaches back 125 years in October 2003, and thus another celebration is on the order of the day. After the high profile of last year's events the 125th anniversary celebrations will be more subdued, although arguably they are for a more important occasion.
Plans are underway for a book on the history of the school to be published. Meanwhile, Janet describes for us the three homes the school has had since its foundation in the 19th century.
Last year (2002) Cradley successfully celebrated the first centenary of our old school building in Colley Lane, and with it the second century of the establishment of formal education in Cradley.
The school was opened at the Baptist Church in Church Road on 7th October 1878.
At first there were three separate departments, or schools, which continued to exist until the reorganisation of education in 1939.
The first Boys School was opened under the stewardship of headmaster Mr. Gregg. The Infants was looked after by Miss Mills (this was established separately from the Girls School in 1880), and the Girls School was managed by Miss Edwards.
In 1902 the girls and infants moved into their brand new Edwardian school in Colley Lane - a wonderful occasion.
The boys had to wait a further nine years, eventually moving in 1911. The infants also moved from High Town Ragged School at that time, where they had been for 13 years due to overcrowding at the Baptist Church.
As we move steadily into the 21st century, Colley Lane now has its third building. We are fortunate with our new location, because from the front of the school we can see the facade of the one hundred year old Infant School in Colley Lane (now used as a neighbourhood nursery for 0-5 year olds), and at the back, the old Baptist Church, where the first school began, overlooks us; a unique alignment of Cradley's educational history.
It is hoped that a book telling of the school will soon be published, a chance to combine both the life in school and wider events affecting the people of Cradley. To quote just a few examples:
At the end of the First World War the school was being continually closed because of the outbreak of diphtheria epidemics and the fumigation that had to take place inside the school buildings; the threat of air raids during the Second World War; the mass resignations of teachers in 1920 when the Worcestershire Education Authority refused to accept the new Burnham scale of pay proposals; the numerous days or half days off to celebrate important events such as the relief of Mafeking in 1900 during the Boer War, and the opening of Corbett Hospital on 31st July 1903.
Most poignant of all are the records of children summoned to Stourbridge police courts to answer charges of playing truant. Instead of attending school, they were out scavenging for coal to help keep their homes warm during the winter months because they were so poor. Or the soup kitchens and gifts of oranges given by Miss Hingley (part of the famous chain making family) to support the needy.
Times were hard, but the over the past 125 years schools in Cradley never failed the youngsters, from whatever generation they came.
There are also the memories of some of the children and staff as far back as the 1920s, which will have a prominent place within the book. Stories of past headmasters and head mistresses who ran these schools, sometimes with a rod of iron, but always sympathetic to the heritage of good, sound education in Cradley. Cradley has a wonderfully rich history, and the book will hopefully tell it from the school and pupils' point of view.
On Tuesday 7th October Colley Lane will be celebrating its Foundation, 125 years ago. To celebrate this event the school will be taking part in some traditional events such as a conker competition and the making of a scarecrow trail, to link with the schools history of having a two week holiday around Harvest time to go hop picking.
In the afternoon we will celebrate the foundation of the school with a special service, in which our oldest ex-pupil (105 years old) and youngest pupil will open our special Centenary Garden, in which items from the former century-old building have been saved and placed, including a specially sculptured dome from the old boys school, and the old boiler house iron railings and gates.
The old trees which were cut down have been made into seats for the children, and up one one corner sits an old air raid shelter.
Many more items will be placed in the garden over the next few months, including the old Girls School sign, numerous domes and the old gas lamp.
Throughout the day, children will be placing items in a time capsule within the new school and this will be sealed and hopefully give a view of what the school life is like now, for those to see in 100 years time.
The week will end with a traditional Harvest Festival. Monies raised will help support the school's overseas charity in Romania, as well as gifts of harvest bags to the school's old age pensioner neighbours.
Cradley Links thanks Janet Ingram for generously granting permission to reproduce the above, based on articles first published in the Black Country Bugle and the Halesowen News.