Proposed School Board (1885)

School boards were established by the 1870 Education Act and replaced by local education authorities in 1902. They were directly elected and could run local elementary education on a non-denominational basis, with the power to levy a rate, but a majority of ratepayers had to vote to establish one. In Winslow the Boys' and Girls' Schools were National Schools, under the "voluntary" auspices of the National Society (which was Anglican) although not at first the vicar. Anglicans therefore opposed the idea of a school board and non-Anglicans supported it; this division was (at least in Winslow) more or less the same as Conservative v Liberal. The proposal for a school board was apparently a reaction to the intervention of a new vicar, Rev. H.A. Douglas-Hamilton, who was regarded with suspicion by nonconformists, unlike his predecessor. Without him, the Board of Management consisted of 5 Anglicans and 4 non-Anglicans. The fact that Winslow didn't get a school board in 1885 is the reason why it still has a Church of England school in 2020. The first report below gives the background, reproducing the statements of both sides, and the second report gives details of the public meeting.

Buckingham Advertiser, 28 Feb 1885


For the past twelve years it has been a recognised rule in respect to the town schools that no minister of religion should take part in the management as a Committeeman, and to this rule the late Vicar [Mr Preston] quietly acquiesced.  The present Vicar [Mr Douglas-Hamilton], however, affirms that he has a right under the trust deeds to a seat, ex-officio, on the Committee.  This departure from the hitherto customary mode has caused considerable agitation amongst the Non-conformist section of the inhabitants, who have coupled this decision on the part of the Vicar with other items which have been noticed during his residency in the parish.  Accordingly this battle in the name of religion grew stronger and stronger, several retired from the Committee of Management of the Schools, and the quietude of Winslow was thrown into a state of turmoil and excitement.  During the week the following were amongst the placards issued to the inhabitants:-

            An attempt is being made to force a School Board upon our parish.  Our present School system has worked well, and at a very small expense. The working men have received great benefit from it.  If a School Board is formed it will bring a heavy rate upon the parish.

            Now how would this rate be paid?
Agriculturalists would pay it by reducing your wages. 
Owners of cottage property would pay it by raising your rent.
Shopkeepers would pay it by raising the price of your provisions.
            Lastly:- How would the working men pay for it?
Look above, and you will see by lower wages! Higher rents!! And dearer food!!!
Working men, think of this, the power lies in your own hands.  Do not be gulled by soft speeches and School Board agitation.  You know what you now have to pay.
Let well alone.

Do not be deceived by false posters, the object of which is by throwing dust in your eyes, to prevent you exercising your just rights;  but study the following facts:-
A School Board will not reduce your wages.
A School Board will not raise your rents.
A School Board will not increase the price of your provisions.
A School Board will not spend thousands of pounds.
A School Board will not increase the school fees.
But on the other hand –
A School Board will give your children a better education for less fees.
It will give them a better education, or their time will not be wasted by being marched off to Church, or in learning catechisms, Romish intonings, and bowings and scrapings.
It will be more efficient, for it will have more power than the voluntary system, which has but little legal standing.
It will have the power to remit the school fees in cases of poverty, without making the parent a pauper.
It will give you a voice in the management of the schools.
It will make all pay their fair share and no more, there will be no shuffling then.
It will before long be compulsory throughout the country, and will be found the cheapest in the long run; remember that the children in Ridgmont Board School earn 15s per head Government Grant, while the children in Winslow Voluntary Schools earn only 10s.


Notice has been given that a meeting of ratepayers of the parish will be held to vote upon a proposition – “That it is expedient that a School Board be formed for this Parish.”  We desire to bring to your notice the facts which apparently have caused this action to be taken.   At the annual meeting of the subscribers to the Winslow National Schools, which was held on the 2nd January last, the Vicar claimed, by right of provisions in the trust deeds of the various schools, to have a voice in the management of the schools.  It was proposed that the Vicar should be admitted on the Committee of Management ex officio, but the proposal, upon being put to the meeting, was lost.  It was afterwards suggested by Mr. Willis that the question of the Vicar’s right should be determined, by its being referred for arbitration to an independent member of the legal profession, and he offered to provide copies of the deeds for this purpose.  This suggestion was applauded by persons of every opinion.  The Vicar afterwards wrote to the Committee of Management, enquiring whether they were willing to adopt Mr. Willis’ suggestion, and after further correspondence with the Vicar and his solicitors, the Committee of Management decided to agree that the matter should be referred for a legal opinion, as had been suggested.  Upon this decision being arrived at, four of the members of the Committee, viz., Mr. Willis, Mr. Wigley, Mr. W. George, and Mr. East, resigned their position on the Committee.

To those Inhabitants who pay rates, we wish to point out that if a School Board is formed, there must be a serious increase in the rates they pay.  It is impossible to say what amount would have to be spent upon school buildings, but it must be considerable, and has been estimated at thousands of pounds.  The annual expenses also will be larger, owing to salaries and such like expenses.  Also, at the present time, between £30 and £40 are subscribed by persons who do not pay rates, or whose rate is trifling in comparison with the subscriptions they pay.  These subscriptions would be lost if there is a School Board Rate.  Also a sum of forty guineas is annually paid to the schools by the trustees of a charity.  This sum would probably not be paid to a School Board.

To parents who send their children to the schools we say – Do not be deceived by the idea that Education and school fees will be less under a Board, should there be any change it would be in the direction of an increase of the weekly school pence, to meet the increased expenditure.

To cottagers who do not themselves pay rates, we point out that whether they have children to send to school or not, the matter concerns them, for most certainly in most or many cases the owners of the cottages will put up their rents to meet the new rates imposed by a School Board.

It is in the interest of all parties that a School Board should be avoided.
GEORGE R. GREAVES,    Chairman.                                                                
HENRY MONK, M. SELBY LOWNDES, JAMES KING, GEORGE GEORGE Committee of Management, Winslow National Schools.


The following is a truthful statement of the facts which led four members of the schools committee to resign their seats.

A meeting was held on January 9, at which a letter was read from the Vicar asking what steps the Committee intended taking as to ascertaining his legal right to sit as an ex officio member.  By a majority of 4 to 2 the secretary was directed to reply that the Committee did not feel themselves called upon to prove the Vicar’s legal position in regard to the Schools.

A special meeting was afterwards called to hear a letter from the Vicar’s solicitors, addressed to the Chairman, and which read as follows:-

                                                20, Whitehall Place, London, S.W.,
                                                                        January 20th, 1885.

Dear Sir, - The Rev. H. A. Douglas-Hamilton has consulted us on the subject of the extraordinary mistake which the Committee of the Winslow Schools seem to have made in ignoring the express provision of the trust deeds, and excluding him from his position as one of the Committee of the school.   They appear by resolution to have thrown upon Mr. Douglas-Hamilton the assertion of his rights, but as those rights are by the express terms of legal instruments (which are open to the Committee) absolutely beyond doubt or question, we hesitate to put the Committee to the legal expences [sic] which must necessarily fall upon them if we take proceedings on behalf of Mr. Douglas-Hamilton against their express refusal of his rights under the trust deeds,  These expences [sic] would be considerable, and the conduct of the Committee is so inexplicable, that we feel bound to write this letter before taking action.  The trusts are so clear, that only one result is possible if they are wilfully violated by the Committee, and we can only suppose that it is by some misunderstanding that they at present decline to give to Mr. Hamilton the position which is so undeniably his.  We must ask you to lay this letter before the Committee, and to let us hear from you decisively if they still refuse to give Mr. Douglas-Hamilton the position accorded to him by the trust documents.
            We are, dear Sir,
                        Your obedient servants,
                                    CRAWLEY, ARNOLD, AND CO

Mr. James King proposed the following resolution – “That an opinion be obtained at the joint expense of the Committee and the Vicar, drawn up by a solicitor on each side, and that such an opinion be binding on the Committee and the Vicar until the annual meeting in January next.”   Mr. Geo. George seconded.

One of the Committee then pointed out that the Vicar’s solicitors in their letter made no reference to leaving the matter to arbitration but in unmistakable phraseology said – if you don’t allow the Vicar to take part in the meetings at the Schools, we have instructions to commence an action against you.  The Committee had no evidence even that the Vicar was willing to refer it to arbitration and even if they had they were conscious of the fact that they were returned to office by the majority of the subscribers who distinctly voted that no minister of any denomination should be allowed to sit on the Committee.  They could not therefore honestly, and in defiance of the opinion of those who returned them, support such a vague proposition, and thus unnecessarily dispose of the funds of the Schools.

Mr. Willis also asserted that he was not willing to stand the brunt of an action at law brought by the Vicar’s solicitors, and backed by the National Society.

Mr. Wigley then proposed the following amendment:- “That the Committee feel that they have no right to spend the money of the subscribers in submitting the Vicar’s difficulty to legal arbitration without first obtaining the subscribers’ sanction in meeting assembled for that purpose, such meeting to be called as early as possible.”  Mr. W. George seconded.

On being put to the meeting, 4 (Messrs. Willis, Wigley, W. George, and James East,) voted for the amendment, and 4 (Messrs. Greaves, M. S. Lowndes, Jas. King, and George George,) for the resolution; the Chairman then gave the casting vote in favour of the original resolution.

Messrs. Willis, Wigley, W. George, and East, then resigned, not being willing to defend an action brought against them in their capacity as members of the Committee:   

Winslow, Feb. 21, 1885       

Bucks Herald, 28 Feb 1885


On Monday evening a meeting of the ratepayers of the parish of Winslow was held in the Schoolroom to consider the advisability of establishing a School Board.  The proceedings were announced to commence at seven o’clock, and at that time the room was crowded, whilst a number of people were gathered about the doorway.  The large majority of the assembly preferred standing to sitting down, although some located themselves upon the forms, and when our representative arrived upon the scene the ratepayers appeared to be wrangling in excited groups.

Among those present were the Vicar, the Rev. H. A. Douglas-Hamilton, the Rev. F. R B. Pinhorn, the Rev. J. Riordan, and Messrs. G. R. Greaves, T. P. Willis, W. Lowndes, jun., Lambton, E. W. S. Lowndes, W. H. French, H. Monk, Parrott, C. Colgrove, J. C. Hawley, A. G. Stevens, H. Bullock, E.. J. French, G. D. E. Wigley, S. Jones, W. George, J. Allen, T. Saving, Viccars (Little Horwood), Dr. Newham, &c.

Mr. Monk having proposed that Mr. Greaves take the chair, Mr. W. H. French urged that a Chairman should be, like Caesar’s wife, above suspicion, and that no gentleman should be Chairman whose action was likely to be called in question in course of any discussion which might arise.  As an amendment he begged to propose a gentleman who was a large ratepayer of the parish, and who had not been involved in the unhappy disagreements that had occupied the attention of their township; he proposed that Mr. Cornelius Colgrove be requested to take the chair.

Mr. Parrott seconded the motion, and a division on the question seemed imminent, but Mr. Colgrove’s voice was presently heard above the din announcing that he declined to act, whereupon Mr. Greaves – in a metaphorical sense – took the chair.  He stationed himself at a desk in a corner of the room, and a number of the “leading spirits” formed a broken half-circle in front of him.  Mr. Willis was on the right hand of the Chairman;  while Mr. Monk stood by the left corner of the desk;  and the Chairman was confronted by Mr. Sylvanus Jones, whose interjections were frequent and of a very hearty character.  It would be impossible to give the reader a full representation of the scene, and there were so many interruptions, and at times such a volley of cross questioning, that reporting the speeches became a difficult matter.

... Mr. Willis, as Clerk of the Union, then read the requisition, which set forth “That it is expedient that a School Board be formed for this parish.”  He also read the names attached, and said that out of about fifty only one or two were not ratepayers.  He had been through them carefully and found them to be all right.

Another wrangle ensued, in the course of which Mr. Willis said he should not have called the meeting if he had not received a proper requisition.

... The Chairman – If any gentleman wishes for a School Board, will he kindly propose a resolution, and then perhaps some one will second it.

Mr. Sylvanus Jones –I propose that we have a School Board for this parish.

Mr. French seconded.

The Chairman – Before any gentleman speaks I beg the meeting to confine itself to the subject, and the speakers not to take more time than they can help.  (Hear, hear.)  We have met here for business, and I hope not for animosity in any way.  (Hear, hear.)

Mr. Monk – I rise to propose this – I know every one of you.  You have always complained to me that poverty strikes you.  You can’t meet your payments;  trade is bad, farming is bad, and everything else is bad.  And what do you want to do this matter of – to increase our rates.  (To an interrupter: “You shut up!” – Laughter.)  Gentlemen, I will ask you as sensible men – every one of you – you know your own way about – do you want to pay a sovereign where less will do?  (Voices : “No, we don’t.”)

Mr. Monk (to Mr. Sylvanus Jones) – You shut up till I have done.  (Loud laughter.)  I know you all;  I have lived amongst you fifty years and ought to know you, and I know very well that you don’t want to pay more than you can help.  If you do pay, you will grunt.  (Laughter.)

... Mr. Neal - I second the proposition that there be no School Board.  I hold with what Mr. French said when we met to carry on the schools, and I rely on his words.  He gave us a great deal of praise, and said they were carried on with both economy and efficiency.  (Applause.)  That is all that we require.

... Mr. Neal – They have said that the children will be educated for nothing, and that we shall have no rates to pay; but if you look at the statistic of any of the School Boards you will find that they have generally quadrupled the rates.  (Hear, hear, and disturbance.)  A School Board would be a great expense to this parish; and when gentlemen come forward and subscribe so liberally – as they have done – it would look very bad to throw their subscriptions in their faces.

Someone here shouted – “To make up for other people’s deficiencies!” and the usual wrangle followed, in the course of which Mr. Neal declared that he would rather put himself under Clerical dictation than under Dissenting intolerance, and this produced some spirited ejaculations from Mr. Sylvanus Jones.

... Mr. Saving said that year after year he was more confirmed in opinions he had already expressed.  He contended that the committeemen should “stand every one on their own bottom, and not come in one on the back of the other.”  (Laughter.)

... Mr. Monk – You must remember we have got a vicar in Winslow, and you can’t get rid of him.  If you have a School Board he will be a member.

... The proceedings now bordered on the uproarious, and in the midst of the din Mr. Monk could be heard holding an animated argument with Mr. Sylvanus Jones, who stoutly maintained that he (Mr. Monk) was not present at the meeting referred to.  Mr. George George was also reminded that he had spoken for over five minutes.  Mr. George George (continuing) said the challenge had been thrown down for a School Board (“Be quick!” and laughter).  The great thing, they said, was clerical interference.  He contended that the Vicar had brought nothing new into the matter, but simply asked for a pure right.  Mr. George was again referring to Mr. Willis, when that gentleman said, amidst laughter, “You let Mr. Willis alone!”

Mr. Wm. George – Tell the truth, my boy!  (Laughter and “Hear, hear.”)

An interval in the oratory here occurred, the crowd closing around the Chairman’s desk, and a buzz of conversation being kept up.   At length the Chairman said he thought it would be the best plan if some one proposed an amendment.  Everybody in the room, he added, knew the whole of the circumstances.

... Mr. Wigley said no one regretted more than he did the tumultuous scenes which they were witnessing that night.  (Mr. Monk – “I don’t believe it!” and laughter.)  He wished to say also that no one regretted more than he did (Mr. Monk – “Don’t believe it, George!” and renewed laughter) the tumult and unpleasantness stirred in that parish  (Hear, hear.)   The Schools had been in their present condition and under the present management for ten years.  (Voices : “Eleven,” “Twelve,” and “Thirteen.”)   During all those year no Vicar had had a seat on the Committee (Hear.)  If he was not mistaken – and he believed his Church friends would bear him out – it was by their special request that the Vicar was excluded from the committee.   (A voice : “Whose request?”)  He (the speaker) was always willing to pay a high tribute to the efficiency of the schools and the manner in which they had been conducted;  and he could not but feel that if the Vicar had retained the position which the former Vicar held in respect to the schools they would have gone on as quietly.  No one regretted more than he did the unfortunate conflict which the Parish had been thrown into.  (Cries of “No” and “Yes.”) 

In response to cries for “the Vicar,” that gentleman mounted on a form, and said they would perhaps give him a patient and quiet hearing, though he appeared to be an obnoxious person so far.  He was told that he had forced them into this position. – After a sharp passage with Mr. Willis, the Vicar went on to say that there were trusts in connection with the schools, and as Vicar of the Parish he felt that he had no right to give up the rights which pertained to him in virtue of being an executor under those trusts.

... If they had a School Board, they must clearly understand that it was of their own seeking.  They would incur a heavy expense; and he should probably be returned as a member of that Board – (Mr. Monk : “I will take care you are at the head of the poll!”)  If he was returned what would they have gained?  The rate might be 1s. 4d., 1s. 6d., or 2s., and they must remember that once saddled with the Board they would not be able to get rid of it.  

... In conclusion, the Vicar said he did not mind personal insult and ribald remarks as he walked through the streets, but when his visitors, strangers in the place, were treated in the same manner, he thought it was time for Winslow to “shut up.”  (Hear, hear, and disturbance.)

... The Rev. J. Riordan [Congregationalist] said he had heard that it was stated that the movement in favour of the School Board had been “hounded on” by him.  (“No” no!”)  He wished to say that if any one thought so he was quite mistaken.  Personally he was in favour of a School Board in a district, because he thought that it was on the whole the best arrangement under the system of compulsory education.  At the same time he did not want to force a School Board on the parish, and he would call their attention to the offer of the vicar to revert to legal arbitration.

…Mr. Parrott then moved, - “That, being desirous of preserving peace in this parish, and living at peace with each other, an early meeting of the subscribers be called, and that the Rev. Douglas-Hamilton and the Rev. J. Riordan be elected, and the old committee go back.”

Mr. Wigley seconded, and the resolution in favour of a School Board having been withdrawn, Mr. Parrott’s amendment was agreed to.