Woodborough’s Heritage

Woodborough, a Sherwood Forest Village, recorded in Domesday

Baptist Chapel School 1883-1885 (Also known as Lilly’s School)

From around 1883, and for about 2 years, an alternative private venture school to Woods Endowed School on Lingwood Lane in Woodborough was run at the Baptist Chapel on Dark Lane (now Shelt Hill). This alternative school was formed because of the rising costs of sending children to Woods Foundation School. The private venture school was, according to the articles below, published in various local newspapers over a two year period, was run by a Mr Lilly¹ and the school was known by the name “Lilly’s School”. Research undertaken by Mr Peter Saunders, a former pupil at Woods School and whose father was headmaster at the school, states that the master at the Baptist Chapel school was a Mr Lenny a “letter carrier”. After approximately 2 years pupils were gradually returned to the endowed school, but during this period parents were prosecuted and the following report in the Nottingham Evening Post dated 26th January 1884 gives an account of such a prosecution and provides an insight into events at that time.  

Note ¹ The 1881 census states that a Cephas W Lenney ran the school and that he was a postman and born in Edingley in 1863.

Basford District Medical Officer of Health then closed the school from 22nd September to 4th December [1882]. In February 1883 the Trustees decided to raise the school charges from 1d a week to the following – one child in the family 3d, two children in the family, one 3rd the other 2d, three in the family 2d each, infants 2d. As the school pence had to be pre-paid, Mr Houseley wrote: “about half the number of scholars refused to pay and are being sent home daily”.

Meetings were held in the village protesting against the raising of the School pence and although twenty families who refused to pay it were served with notices by the Attendance Officer of the Basford Board, no notice was taken of these. Three of the parties summoned were fined 1d each, but one of the Magistrates made certain statements during the hearing of the cases which quite counteracted the effect of the fines. After two months there were still over 60 children whose parents both refused to pay the school fees and also canvassed the parish in favour of a British National School.

On 6th February 1883 an opposition school was started at the Baptist Chapel. Tradition has it that the name of the teacher was a Mr Lenny, but the 1881 census gives the name as Cephas W. Linney, postman, and his age then as 18. With no teaching qualifications, no materials, and a sizeable number of pupils his task must have been very difficult. In June 1886 out of 12 scholars who had been absent from Woods School on account of the School Pence dispute, Mr Houseley wrote that when they were examined for Labour Certificates only one had passed the required standard for total exemption from attendance at school, the others failed even in the requirements for partial employment.

The ‘Opposition School’ was attended principally by those children whose parents were dissenters and/or framework knitters. Meanwhile Mr Houseley was grumbling at the non-attendance of his other pupils, saying that in the village there was a great demand for juvenile labour for work on the farms, fruit picking, winding the slips of cotton onto bobbins, seaming hose etc. On 24th January 1885 the School Governors realised that the situation that had torn the village apart for almost two years could not continue.

They decided, firstly, that the School Pence be reduced to 2d a week all round, to be paid in advance every Monday morning. Secondly, that each full time scholar on making 85 attendances and each half-time scholars, holding a certificate, on making 50 attendance out of each 10 consecutive weeks commencing 22nd February should be entitled to a return of half the school fees. Thirdly, that all school material necessary for the instruction of the scholars in accordance with the Rules of the Education Department to be provided by the Trustees of the School free of cost, except for slates. Fourthly, that prizes be awarded to six scholars who made the greatest number of attendance from 1st December 1884 to 30th November 1885. Prizes would also be awarded according to merit to all scholars who passed satisfactorily the Government Examination.

Doubts existed among parents of children at the Opposition School as to whether the School Pence would be returned for good attendance and were reluctant to send their children back to Woods School. At this time the Feast Holiday lasted for a week but the headmaster commented that it would be the best time for the principal (summer) holiday, as haymaking, turnip singling and fruit gathering gave employment for several weeks to a large number of children.

By Peter Saunders.


The following four press cuttings published between 21st March 1883 and 28th January 1884 detail the actions taken by both sides in this dispute between Woodborough parents and the State.

Reported in the Nottingham Evening Post on 26th Jan 1884.



At the Shire Hall, Nottingham, this afternoon, before Lord Belper and Mr T I Birkin, Joseph Plumb and William Marriott were summoned for a breach of the bye-laws of the Basford Union, - Mr C F Spencer clerk to the Guardians of the Basford Union, prosecuted, and Mr Acton appeared for the defendants, - Mr Spencer stated that the defendants were summoned for not sending their children to a public elementary school, having no reasonable excuse for keeping them away. – The defendants, Plumb and Marriott, were before the Bench last year for not sending their children to school. In the parish of Woodborough there were two schools, one an endowed school and one a private adventure school.

In January last [1883] 12 months ago, the school fees in the endowed school were raised by the manager, and in the same year an adventure school was opened in the parish by a teacher who at present carried this school on. The children of the two defendants went there together with the majority of the children in the school. It would be for the parents to prove to the satisfaction of the Bench that the children were attending an efficient school. In May last the vicar of parish of Woodborough and the corresponding manager of the endowed school explained to the Basford Union, and subsequently the vicar informed the Education Department that the Union was willing to prosecute the parents for sending their children to a non-certified school, and that the efforts of the school managers were being hampered by an organised opposition in the parish.

The consequence was that these proceedings had been taken, and the onus rested upon the parents to prove that their children were attending an efficient school, - Mr Russell, the school attendance officer, produced a certificate to show that the children had only attended a certified efficient school once in 401 times. They had been attending a private adventure school. – Cross-examined by Mr Acton: The fees in the Nation [National] School were increased, and a large number of parents kept their children from school. For some time they were without a school, and during that time the two defendants were summoned for not sending their children to the school at all. Immediately after that an adventure school was opened at the Baptist Chapel [Woodborough], called “Lilly’s School”, Mr Lilly being the master.

Witness had visited the school, and there were between 50 and 60 children there. There was good order. The room was clean and healthy. There was no objection, so far as he saw, to the management of the school. - Evidence was called on the part of the defence to prove that the school at which the children were now being taught was an efficient one, and that the defendants’ children had progressed satisfactorily in their studies. – Mr Higginbottom, schoolmaster at the Arnold Board School, stated that he had inspected the school, and the examination was a successful one. – The Bench expressed their opinion that the school was an efficient one, and dismissed the case.   

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Marriott, Plumb & Clayton summoned to the Shire Hall.

Reported in the Nottingham Evening Post on 21st March 1883.



At the Shire Hall, Nottingham, this day, Mr Francklin in the chair, Joseph Marriott, grocer, Joseph Plumb, gardener, and Henry Clayton, framework knitter, were summoned by Mr William Rossell, attendance officer to the Basford Union School Attendance Committee, for having neglected to send their children to school, Mr C.J. Spencer, Clerk to the Basford Board of Guardians, appeared to prosecute. The defendants expressed a desire to lay before the Bench a statement of the reason why they had neglected to send their children to school.

It appeared that the school in question is the National School, and is the only one in the village. It is endowed to the extent of £90 a year from Wood’s Trust, and it was said that for the last 140 years the fee for the children had been kept at the nominal sum of one penny per week. The Trustees of the school however, decided to increase the sum to three pence a week, alleging that the requirements of the new Educational Code were so great that they could not afford to continue the old arrangement. On this a meeting of the parents was held, and it was resolved not to send the children to school until the old charge was restored.The three defendants took a leading part in the matter, wrote to the Charity Commissioners, and on the 13th inst, opened an opposition school in a building connected with a Baptist Chapel.

There were about 150 parents connected with the strike, and the present three had been selected as representatives. The authorities merely wished to get the children to school, and did not desire to interfere in any way with the dispute. One of the defendants complained that he had sent his child to school, but the teacher kept her during prayers, and then sent her home because she had not got the new fee of threepence. He had always been willing to pay the fee. Mr Spencer said that the dispute with the school managers was no excuse for the absence of the children from school. Mr Francklin said he thought as the case stood it was a good excuse. Mr Spencer said there was a general strike at Woodborough, and the education of the children was all stopped. Mr Francklin said the Bench had nothing to do with that: the children appeared to have been sent to school and had been sent back.

The defendants pointed out that a new school had been opened at Woodborough on the 13th, to which the children were sent, while the summonses were dated the 14th. Mr Spencer said that by a recent decision teachers were authorised to send children back who did not take the proper fee, and such attendance without the proper fee was not to be taken as a compliance with the requirements of the Act.

The new school was taught by an ex-postman, and he could not speak as to its efficiency. Another defendant said the inhabitants of Woodborough were strongly of opinion that the endowment of the school was sufficient without the raising of the fee.

It was now proposed to raise the fee to the same as in schools where there was no endowment. Another defendant complained that the schools were badly conducted, giving as proof the fact that with 181 scholars the Government grant earned was only £56. The Bench said that they would not go into that question, and fined the defendants 1s [shilling] each.

Marriott, Plumb & Clayton

Letter to Nottingham Journal 3rd April 1883

re Government grant to school


In your report of the charge made against three persons from Woodborough, at the Shire Hall, on 19th inst, for the non-attendance of their children at the National School, it was stated and reported that £56 Government grant only was awarded. The school master felt aggrieved at this, and stated to us that the amount awarded was £75, but £18 was deducted from this as a fine because of an insufficient staff of teachers. This Government grant, beginning at 1879 to 1881, has varied from £44 to £56, and was never more than £56: when the fee above mentioned is taken into consideration the grant for 1882 is only £45 with 181 scholars on the register. But it is only fair to state that the school had been closed for 11 weeks in consequence of an epidemic in the village. We now leave the public to judge whether this case be an efficient school for a village of nearly 900 inhabitants.




Woodborough March 30, 1883.

Reported in the Nottingham Journal 28th January 1884



Further magisterial proceedings. At the Nottingham Shire Hall on Saturday, before Lord Belper and Mr T.I. Birkin, Joseph Plumb and William Marriott were summoned at the instance of Mr W. Rossell, attendance officer to the Basford School Attendance Committee for a breach of the by-laws by not sending their children to a public elementary school within the meaning of the Act.

Mr C.J. Spencer, Clerk to the Guardians, appeared to prosecute and Mr Acton defended. Mr Spencer stated that defendants were summoned for sending their children to a public elementary school, without legal and sufficient excuse.

Defendants had been before the Bench on a similar charge during the previous year. At Woodborough, where defendants lived, there were two schools, the one endowed, the other a private adventure school.

Up to January 1883, there was only the endowed school, but at that time the managers of the endowed school raised the fees, and in consequence the majority of the scholars left, and the adventure school was started by the teacher, who still carried it on. Defendant’s two girls went to the adventure school, and it rested with defendant’s parents to prove to the satisfaction of the Bench that it was an efficient public elementary school within the meaning of the Act.

In May last, the vicar of Woodborough, and the managers of the endowed school had complained to the Basford School Attendance Committee that the adventure school was not duly certified. The Authority was unwilling to act, and after some delay the vicar appealed to the Education Department, stating that the Authority declined to act, and that the managers of the endowed school in their work by organised opposition. The result was the present proceedings.

Mr Rossell, compulsory officer, proved the non-attendance of the children at the endowed school, except once out of 401 times possible. Cross-examined by Mr Acton, witness said the fees being raised at the National school caused a great deal of dissatisfaction in the village, and a large number of the inhabitants kept their children away in consequence. During the time that there was no rival school, and the children were kept at home, several parents were summoned for not sending their children to school.

The result of the prosecution at that time was the opening of a private adventure school at the Baptist Chapel by a Mr Lilly. He had visited the school at the Chapel, and found that there were fifty or sixty children in attendance.

The room was clean and healthy, the order good, and so far as he could see and judge, there was nothing objectionable about the management or conduct. Mr Acton then called as witness a number of parents of children who attended the adventure school, who all spoke in the highest terms of the school, the way in which it was conducted, the education given, and the progress by the children.

The Head Master of the Arnold Board schools (Mr Higginbottom) said he had visited the adventure school, and everything was in good order, and he had examined the scholars, who answered well.

The Magistrates dismissed the summonses, the Chairman remarking that they were of opinion that the school which the children were attending had been proved to be efficient.