Based on childhood recollections
of Silver Street School, Edmonton
which was built in 1900 to earlier Victorian specifications.
The Board School system
My mother wrote as if her school was a Board School.
However the Balfour Education Act of 1902 abolished school boards and put
education in the hands of local authorities. I have been unable to establish
whether this meant that Board Schools were also abolished. It is possible
that my mother's terminology was a widely used hangover from the Victorian
era of a few years earlier or that the act took time to enforce. My mother
referred in her writing to the man who visited homes to check on absenteeism
as the School Board Man and she often used to mention the Board of Education.
Whatever the facts of the matter, her writing is nevertheless informative
and insightful about life at the time.
Pat Cryer, webmaster,
and daughter of the author
Like other children from working class backgrounds in the early 1900s, my
brothers and I started our education at what was called a Board School because
it was under the Middlesex Education Board. It was
Silver Street School in Edmonton,
which was well situated at the edge of a housing district, the
Huxley Estate in Edmonton.
Segregation of boys and girls
The school was typical of other Board schools in providing free education
designed to equip boys for earning a living and girls for keeping house. For
this reason alone it was hardly surprising that boys and girls were taught separately.
Boys and girls were even taught on different floors. However the segregation
of boys and girls went further than the teaching. Once the children had grown
older than what were called 'juniors', the two sexes were kept entirely separate.
There were three floors to the school building. The youngest children were
on the ground floor, girls on the first floor, and boys on the top floor. There
were separate entrances for all three, and there were also separate playgrounds.
The youngest children and the girls played in one playground, while the boys
used a playground on the other side of the building.
School entrances - for the youngest children on the left and for girls
on the right, leading from a shared playground to separate floors, the
ground floor for the youngest children and first floor for girls.
School entrance for boys leading from their own playground
to the top floor.
Photograph courtesy of Cliff Raven, 2011.
Below are details of the lintels.
The girls' and juniors' lintels have since been painted white whereas
the boys' lintel is probably more the original colour.
Such lintels can still be seen on old buildings of
Victorian and Edwardian schools, even where segregation has long since
There were no older girls in Silver Street School in my time (the mid 1930s).
They were transferred to Hazelbury Road School when it opened in
1931, which was no doubt tied in with the building of the council estates
in Edmonton. So, although the doorway marked Girls would have been used
by girls before 1931, it was afterwards for the junior boys (aged 7 to
The top floor could be accessed through the Juniors
entrance but the older boys (aged 11 to 14) had the separate main gate playground
and stairway at the far end of the building.
When, as a junior boy, I was
late for school, I would (illegally) go in the Seniors gate, run to
the far end and use its stairway to the second floor. As there was no monitor
there to catch latecomers, I could look as if I was coming back from the
toilets after assembly.
The school playing field
There was a small field or playing ground at the end which was turned into
an allotment during the 1914-18 war,
and worked by the boys.
The cycle shed and the bicycles
Women with bicycle, early 1900s, courtesy of Moyra Hill. The support at the
front for the lamp could also carry a basket.
There was also a cycle shed for the teachers as they mostly
arrived by bicycle.
I like to picture the teachers. No cocking a leg or dashing along
for them. The women would cycle along at a dignified pace with their cycle baskets
on the handlebars in front of them.
The headmaster would get on to his bike
elegantly by stepping onto a little bit of metal on the middle of the back wheel
to raise himself onto the saddle. He was a well built, grey headed, imposing
man who looked as though he was in command of any situation.
School attendance and meal breaks
We were called to school by the school bell which could be heard quite a
distance away. It was in its own bell tower, like church bells.
We started school at 9.00 am. Dinner-time [lunch-time] was from twelve until
two, and home-time was at four. Most children brought a slice of bread and butter
to school to eat in the playground at morning break, but they went back home
for dinner. No food or drink was provided.
Checks were made on absentees by an inspector known as the School Board Man.
He would make enquiries if a child was absent for any length of time, then send
in his report. The School Board Man who came to our house was respected. He
always wore sombre clothes and lived in a very nice house. Like everyone else,
he went around on a bicycle.
This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in 20th century Britain from the early 1900s to about 1960, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times. It is © Pat Cryer.