From documents, ref: DDCL/581, discovered at the Treasure House, Beverley, East Riding of Yorkshire.
The oldest part of Hensall School – the tall building - was constructed, together with the church, in 1854, by William Butterfield for the 7th Viscount Downe.
According to Archbishop Thomson’s Visitation Returns for the Diocese of York, of 1865, approximately 65 children, from age 5 – 15 years of age, attended the weekday school in the village, paying by voluntary contribution. The school was run by a Master and a Mistress. Forty boys and girls attended the Sunday school. There had also been a night school, but attendance was very low.
The Rev. Edward H. Bryan was Vicar of St. Paul’s Church in Hensall in the late 1880’s. On his arrival at Hensall cum Heck Vicarage, nr Selby, he was shocked to discover that George Mason, the Master of Hensall Parochial School, had been running the school, ineffectively, for at least twenty years. Few children were passing their annual examinations and, as a result, the school was receiving a reduced grant. The following correspondence gives an insight into the schooling system of the time and the problems faced when the Vicar tried to address the issue of the education of his parishioners’ children.
27th September 1887
Hensall cum Heck Vicarage, Selby
I shall be greatly obliged by replies to the following.
1. On my coming to this Living, I found a schoolmaster here who, I believe was appointed some 20 years ago! Can you say when he was paid the first Salary?
2. I’m determined that he shall leave. Will you say what notice should be given him?
3. If he will not leave the School and School house which belong to the Living can he be turned out by a policeman or must an action at law be brought?
Your obd. Serv.
A few days later, Rev. Bryan received a reply from J. Sykes, of the Education Department, confirming that George Mason first entered his duties at the school at Christmas 1867.
Presumably, matters became worse as, in July 1888, Edwin Ogle, of Heck Hall sent the following letter to the Secretary of the Education Department in Whitehall:
It is my painful duty to call your attention to the disgraceful state of the Hensall Church School. Out of 84 Scholars 17 have passed, and some of these ought to have passed last examination. Now as this state of things has been going on for the last ten years, we, the inhabitants of the Parish of Heck think it advisable to have a change in the Schoolmaster and respectfully ask the authorities at Whitehall to make a thorough investigation. Scholars are driven away to other Schools in large numbers and as the School is supported by voluntary subscription and the children’s pence we feel the burden heavy. If you will kindly put this case before the Committee we shall feel grateful.”
On 4 August 1888, the following letter was sent to Rev. Bryan by A. Hodgson of the Education Committee:
I am directed to enclose a copy of a letter which Their Lordships have received with regard to the condition of this School, and to request you to lay it before the Managers.
With reference to your letter received at this Office on June 30th, I am to inform you that Their Lordships had great hesitation in paying the grant for the past year, in view of your statements with regard to the conduct of the Master, and that the payment was allowed only on the ground that the Managers had unanimously decided to give Mr Mason a further trial during the past year.
Their Lordships will be compelled to refuse the grant to this School next year if the Managers are unable to give absolutely unqualified certificates of the good character and conduct of the Master during the year.”
Rev. Bryan then called a meeting of the School Managers, saying:
“I am calling the School Managers meeting to take action on this year’s Report. It makes the 10th utterly discreditable all round – fines and all the rest of it! Another year of this sort of thing and the school which has for years been little more than a big Dames School will forfeit the Grant Altogether! This makes me wretched.
Lord Downe will come over, the meeting is fixed for Thursday 23rd at 4.30 pm. I shall be glad if you will come and be present to aid us with your advice.”
However, Rev. Bryan was concerned that the Churchwardens did not seem to be as worried about the issue as may be hoped. He wrote the following letter to local solicitor, Mr Clark:
“I had an informal meeting of the last churchwardens after the Report came and pointed out to them the loss entailed to the school by the several successive years of this sort of thing and I hope they are frightened by the heavy fines and are seeing the absurdity of burdening the pockets of the Farmers and hurting themselves by depriving the school of the ordinary Government aid, thro insisting on retaining the services of an incompetent Master.
I feel sure Lord Downe will with myself be glad if you came to the meeting. I am anxious that everything should be done formally and legally secured and besides there would be your advice. The meeting is not till 4.30 pm, so I trust you will manage it.”
As Mrs Mason was also employed at the school, as sewing mistress, Rev. Bryan requested confirmation from Mr Clark, solicitor, that she would be included in Mr Mason’s discharge. Vacant possession of the school house was required by 24th November 1888, to enable the new Master to move in, an advertisement for the post being sent to the newspaper on 24th August.
However, on 11th September, Rev. Bryan received the following note from George Mason:
“Unless you pay what is due to me by Friday next I shall ask Mr. Stuart Lowdon to see if he can get it for me.
However, the Reverend seems to have already made a generous offer to resolve the problem, although the following letter indicates that this offer may not have been made to Mr Mason:
“Dear Mr Clarke,
Enclosed came this morning. I am sorry Mr Mason does not know that I voluntarily handed you a cheque last week to pay him out of my own pocket amount due to him and to his daughter in case he should want the money, and you had no special reason for keeping him waiting. Would it not be well that he should know this. Whether it will be advisable to withhold this payment as a means of getting him out it is not for me to say, tho’ I think the inducement to deliver up will rather be in the offer you are empowered to offer him for me, of a full quarter salary down for himself and daughter if he leaves the school house quietly and at once.
I shall like to know what you do about this.
PS I should tell you that as you have kindly undertaken the school matters for me in the present circumstances I have not taken any notice myself of Mr Mason’s letter.”
This was followed by another blank cheque from Rev. Bryan, who explained that:
“there is no school money on hand nor likely to be for some time as the smallness of the grants and the school salaries have long overburdened the school and this year there has been the fine additional. I told you I would also be responsible for the money for you to give him the 3 months salary up to November 24 next so soon as he gives up the school premises entirely.”
Rev. Bryan goes on to say:
“Churchwarden Heaps has informed me this morning that Mr Mason has told him yesterday that he had no intention of leaving the school premises, so it is quite time he received further warning. The Churchwardens both agree with me that the school be closed on Tuesday next for a fortnight, to open sooner if the premises are in the managers peacable possession, and accept your kind offer to come over on Tuesday and see that this be done properly for us. Will you also afterwards have the notice affixed to the Church door and School and a copy sent to the School attendance officer on behalf of the Managers. Will you also direct your clerk to let the Master remove his own papers before fastening up the School and cause him to deliver up all School Books, papers as the property of Managers including Registers, Log Book, Class Books, etc., after which your clerk I imagine will wait to see the new locks affixed and all made fast before handing over keys to me and I should like him to deposit duplicate keys with you and to make his own arrangements about Policeman and Locksmith. I do not know whether there is anything more to say. The matter is in your hands.”
The following notice was delivered to George Mason on 18th September 1888:
“To George Mason, Mrs Mason his wife, Miss Beatrice Mason and all others whom it may concern
We the undersigned Managers of the Hensall Church School hereby authorize Messrs. E & T Clark Solicitors Snaith or their representative, Mr T.S. Mills, to enter the School, receive the key, Register and all other documents to wit things belonging to us as Managers, to close the School until further notice and do all such things as may be necessary for a conclusion to the above purpose.”
No resolution had been reached by the following month, when Rev. Bryan sent the following letter to Mr Clark, together with yet another blank cheque:
“I entered upon this business with the wish that Mr Mason and his daughter should be paid in full all salary up to the date of closing the school. Anything further than this, as a present will depend upon himself and other circumstances as quite an independent matter.
Supposing that you paid him and his daughter up to August 31. I now send another blank cheque for you to fill up with the allowance in proportion to the account rendered which you have paid, counting from Aug 31 to Sep 18th on which date we closed the School. I beg that you will be so good as to pay him at once and let me have your receipt that I may know that he and his daughter have been paid all dues in full up to the last day of service in the School (Sept 18th ult). I particularly wish that there shall then no dispute arise on the 19th (the day the Writ of ejectment has force) from Mr Mason claiming this money and troubling me further about it. I have had quite enough of the matter and more than enough and we all have. I cannot rest until I know that this payment has been made.”
The meeting, to be attended by Lord Downe, Mr Clark, Mr Mason, etc., was scheduled to be held in the Schoolhouse – a fact which caused Rev. Bryan some concern:
“I presume in naming Schoolhouse as the meeting place, you intend an adjournement to Vestry or Vicarage when Ld. Downe comes, the school house being crowded with the Mason Family would mean Mrs Mason and Misses Mason all coming to entreat Ld Downe.
If Ld. Downe comes from London, I do not expect he will arrive here before 2pm, that is leaving King’s Cross at 9 and driving over from Selby but as you will behove, the churchwardens if they come, will wait your bidding, and I suppose Mr Mason can legally attend though the meeting take place in Schoolhouse?
I hope this painful business will soon be over. If Mr Mason had listened to my private admonishes from time to time it might never have happened.”
By 22nd October, a school had been set up in Heck Mission Chapel, under a “new staff”. Attendance by the children was “good”.
It is at this point that we first hear from Mr Mason’s solicitor, I.Kaberry, who indicates that Mr Mason has now involved his Union in the matter:
“23 October 1888
Re Mason – Hensall
I sent you bond herein duly executed yesterday morning by the hand of Mr Mason. From a conversation I had with your Mr Clark last Tuesday, I think it very probably that we might come to an equitable settlement of this case without the incurring of further expense.
I am, of course, only agent in this matter but I have no doubt that any recommendation coming from me would have some weight with the National Union of Teachers.”
Two days later, Mr Mason’s demands were made, via his solicitor, to Rev Bryan and Mr Clark:
“In pursuance of my suggestion to your Mr Clark yesterday, I would suggest the following terms of settlement:
1. Mr Masons salary to the end of the quarter
2. Daughter’s salary
3. Proportion of Grant based upon last years estimate.
If House given up at once an equivalent up to the end of the quarter
Mr Bryan to give up the tenancy of one of the 3 houses he has taken to be selected by Mr Mason.
If terms are agreed upon I shall be glad to advise my client to give such assistance as he can to the new Master.”
However, these demands did not please Rev. Bryan:
“Dear Mr Clarke,
As I said from the first I have no wish whatever to be hard on Mr Mason. I said so last month before the case began and since, that I am quite willing to pay Mr Mason and his daughter up to the end of the quarter, and I believe I told you that if he wanted it, I would add something more which would do for house rent or something else. I do not see what more I can do.
The two houses (not 3) taken by me at Hensall were applied for and the first refusal asked quite irrespective of Mr Mason, in fact long before his 3 months notice – the one in Hensall village I took on Jun 20th alt for a party who are coming to occupy it directly, and the further arrangements connected with it cannot be altered now. The other cottage near my house it would not be at all convenient for me to lose, as I require a man to live near at hand to attend to the Church fires, my house, and garden – and I have been waiting for this house a long time and without it I am constantly being put to very great inconvenience. I think it is a great pity Mr Mason can’t be persuaded to consent to let the New Master go into the house at once and not put us to further trouble and I think if I pay him £23 to cover all expenses he might reasonably give us up our premises without more ado.
I am yours faithfully, Edward H. Bryan.
I am sorry I cannot leave home today to come over to see you but I don’t think I can say any more than I have.”
Rev. Bryan was also concerned regarding the administration of notices:
“Dear Mr Clarke,
Forgive my sending this letter on a point which I have repeatedly alluded to in speaking with you on the subject of the second notice you served upon Mr Mason – which point is that the Patron’s signature does not appear thereon? Does this matter? I know that when you advised me and obtained my own and the Church Wardens signatures you did not advise recourse to the Patron as well. And in answer to my enquiry told me that the Signatures you had were sufficient.
But, I do not feel quite comfortable about the wording and reservation of the first … applying in this case? If it does, might it not be shown in Court that the validity of that 2nd notice is thereby made doubtful consequently the dismissal contained irregular and then where shall we be?
I fear you will think me unnecessarily fidgety or forgetful of your own words that relative to this threatened action in trespass, that in your judgement Mr Mason has not a leg to stand upon.
I hope my anxiety from pecuniary circumstances and Parochial responsibilities may be an apology for bringing this point before you.”
Rev. Bryan’s increased frustration can be seen in this letter written later the same day:
“Dear Mr Clark,
You have not cleared my mind at all on the point I felt I must write to you about this morning.
The second notice you instructed us to give Mr Mason has not had patrons signature. Does this effect it in any way or render Mr Masons dismissal irregular?
His frustrations continue:
“October 29, 1888
Dear Mr Clarke,
No 1 & 2 I understood had all along being offered subject to a peacable delivery of the premises.
No. 3 is not mine to give. It will be fairly the winnings of the new staff to this school and on it mainly depends the staff income. More than ? years successive utterly bad Government reports have left the school financially very low.
4 & 5 I don’t understand. If 4 means an extra donation to help him a bit with the move and having no house at hand to go to I believe I offered that through you.
5 is beyond possibility – the two house (not 3) were taken for a particular purpose. I have long had in my mind. The arrangements for no.1 house were completed last June and the married Lay Reader for whom I took comes in March. No. 2 house I have waited more than 2 years to acquire – it first fell vacant last year in my absence abroad. I applied for next refusal and I am put to sufficient inconvenience by keeping out the man and wife to give shelter to the new master for a few weeks, and I cannot be expected to go on doing the same when I am requiring a man to be about the vicarage and churchyard – anything reasonable I have always desired to do and will still do.”
Further demands from Mason’s solicitor ensue:
“1 Nov 1888
My client absolutely denies the allegations contained in your letter and if need be can prove his statements. As to the House that difficulty can be got over. He is willing to give up the School House to the new Master if hes allowed to occupy the House which he now occupies. The amount due to my client will be as follows
5/12th of a years salary: £31.5s.0d.
Ditto for his Daughter: £6.5s.0d.
Ditto Grant: £12.10s.0d.
My Client wishes me to say that he has not in anyway interfered with or hindered the education of the children. The school has always been at the service of the new master.”
Note attached, written by Edward Bryan:
“Salary paid to Sept. 18th
School reopened August 13 and closed Sept 18, proportion of Grant can only be allowed for this period.
Cottage now in occupation of schoolmaster I engaged and require for my man who is waiting to come into it.”
Meanwhile, the villagers were resistant to sending their children to the temporary school:
“Hensall Vicarage, November 8th
Dear Mr Clarke,
I find a report has gone abroad all over the Parish deterrent to the attendance of the children at the Temporary school – it is that while the proper school is closed no compulsory powers of education exist in this Parish and that the managers cannot compel the children to attend school at Heck. At this moment little more than ½ the children of the Parish are being educated and now some are being withdrawn for the above reason. If you could kindly name some one to me (or send some one suitable) who would at once if possible visit the Mission Chapel at Heck and make a drawing in detail of the building, showing the portion used as a school and the arrangements of Desks as the proper measurements – I would send it up to the Department and see if they cant be got to temporarily certify the place.
I feel the matter is of sufficient importance that no time should be lost if we want to have the children presented at next exam.
On 9th November, Mason went to the solicitors of the Teachers’ Association and offered to refer all matters to them. His solicitor, I. Kaberry was not pleased and felt that he and Clark could have settled the matter themselves.
On 13th November recommendations of Mr Arnold, the legal adviser of the School Managers Society, were received: “If you give the salary and the proportion of grant, and settle with his daughter, as you propose, it seems to me that you are doing as much as can possibly be asked, and if this is finally refused… I will try and bring the matter before the Elementary Teachers Guild. Mr Arnold has our Government Reports for the past 8 or 10 years and if you approved of the course he mentions he would I presume bring this before the Guild which supports our recalcitrant master.”
By 23rd November, indications are that the Churchwardens are now unanimous in their approach to Mr Mason – they want him to leave.
The following day, a revised offer was received from Mr Kaberry:
“To make an end of the matter my clients are willing to accept £25 and half my costs and half Mr Hellers expenses, say £10 for the whole, making £35. My client to leave the house within a fortnight if the state of his familys health will permit.”
(Mr T.E. Heller was Secretary of the National Union of Elementary Teachers)
By this time, the long journey to the temporary school at Heck was taking its toll on the pupils:
Dear Mr Clarke,
Have you heard anything further on Mason. I have so many children ill with colds attributed to the tramping to and fro to Heck and so many signs of the people beginning to lose their patience that I am not sure that it would not be policy to pay almost any sum if that would end this terrible block to education and the peace of the Parish, especially if the law is so tardy and not available for some time.
However, a worrying development had been drawn to Rev. Bryan’s attention:
“Masons 21 years in the school here expires next month. It has just been reported to me that he is of opinion he can make further claim (life possession or something or other!) if he can hold on to that time! Is there any ground for such an opinion?
Nevertheless, on the following day Kaberry offers to accept the £25, plus £3.3s.0d. for Mr Heller’s expenses and undertakes that no part of the latter sum shall go into the hands of Mr Mason. He fears that if he has to pay the whole costs there will be nothing left for him. He asks for a cheque to be sent to him. This cheque is sent by Rev. Bryan by return:
“I enclose cheque as requested. Of course it will be secured that possession of the premises be had by us before the payment is actually made and you will kindly let me hear as early as you can. I may lose no time in arranging for the wellbeing of the school.”
Ill health, however, causes a further delay:
“Mr Heller has forwarded me a letter from Mr Mason stating he has taken a house in Pontefract but that his child is suffering from scarlatina and she will not be fit to remove for a week. Will you please therefore give him this time.”
One week later, things seem to be moving:
“6 Dec, Hensall V.
Dear Mr Clark
It is satisfactory to note that at last there seems a near prospect of a settlement of Education and I congratulate you upon this success to your efforts and thank you for all you have done to bring it about.
What a lot of annoyance expense and trouble that man has given – all apparently to secure proportion of grant (not earned) for the other part of the payment had been voluntarily offered by me thro’ you from the first and throughout.”
However, the key does not seem to have yet been returned by Mr Mason:
Dear Mr Clarke,
Have you the School house key? I can’t hear of its having been left anywhere in the Parish and some of Mr Mason’s family were in the house this morning when I took Mr Masterman to inspect the school. Mr Masterman would like to inspect the house, if the key can be got before he returns. Mr Caulton, the new Master, was taken to the house on Saturday morning by Mr Mason and found all empty. Mr Mason wanted to sell him some fixtures.
But, the following day, word is received from I. Kaberry, to say that Mr Mason tells him that he has given up the key of the school house, so he wants his cheque.
So, it seems that Rev. Bryan’s worries are over … but, not quite. On 27th July 1889, he sent the following letter to Mr Clark:
“Thank you for your account. For the breathing time you have given me – I shall be very much relieved if you will kindly tell me whether I will get any more money?
I have had to practise … self denial to meet the unusually heavy Parochial calls this year and have not … of putting the school on a proper financial footing save gradually.
The school has done a little better in its work but the Grant is again so small that it will necessitate a severe effort on my part to raise it out of the low water and the Churchwardens object to any reduction of Master’s salary which is the only reasonable and proper course open under the circumstances. There are no funds whatever in hand, but £6 to the bad, so I shall have to relief the small sum you ask. I think the account should stand in the name of the managers, not Vicar, as the School management is not in my hands, were it so the difficulty abt. dismissing the late Master would have been considerably lessened.
And, even four years later, despite a change of personnel, Rev. Bryan’s relationship with the village School Master had not improved:
“5 Apr 1893
Dear Mr Clarke,
I had occasion yesterday at noon to send my housekeeper to the School house for the school keys with word that I would return them that night. The Master refused them and sent word saying that he might want to go in. I then sent for him and explained that I was not prepared for any hesitation on his part to comply with such a very reasonable and simple request. He was aware that a quantity of clothing had been placed loose in the schools by the sisters and I wished to have the school locked up and the keys at one place until the Sales women came at night to arrange the sale. I had no wish to inconvenience him in any way, but as it was a holiday week he could scarcely be using the school and could either fetch anything out before sending in the key or call for the key if required during the few hours it would be at the Vicarage. He hesitated and said had I any right to it. This rather unsettled me and I answered somewhat sharply “Of course I have. Do not detain me when you know I am so busy over such a quibble. Go and get the key at once. How can you be so rude and disobliging” He went off looking very cheeky and as no key came, later on when I had to go out in the Parish, I went myself and asked for it. He came to the door on my requesting to see him, but again wanted to dispute with me my application for this key and when finally I got it he again said “Have you any right to it?” The whole affair was entirely unexpected. The schoolmaster has always maintained a profession of loyalty toward me and I am greatly surprised. The thing must be nipped in the bud and he must be given distinctly to understand the Vicar’s authority over the school. Please send him a plain letter at once to the effect that the Vicar has right of the school keys and most certainly at holiday times and out of education hours.
We will most probably never know whether Rev. Bryan managed to make his peace with the School Master, but it will be interesting sometime to explore later school log books to find out whether the school at Hensall managed to turn itself around and eventually provide the children of the village with the education to which they were entitled.