A History of St. John the Baptist Church of England

Primary School

The first Church school was created in a small building within the church grounds in 1633 whilst a very enlightened academic called Soloman Richardson was vicar of Mexborough. The students were educated in the scriptures and in basic reading, writing and number.

Eventually the school was moved to better premises and is written about in the Mexborough Terrier in 1866 as being ‘an important and beneficial part of Mexborough life.’

We know much of what went on during the daily life of the school from the logs that were dutifully filled in by successive Head Teachers. Supervising the move to a new building in 1866 was Charles Tandy who was succeeded over the coming years by John Ackroyd in 1873, James Perkins in 1886, Percy Smith in 1909, Mr Spring in 1922, Mr Popple in 1937, John Offord in 1970, John Hunter in 1989, Carol Barnes in 2012, Sarah Wray in 2016 and the current Head teacher Adam Minor took up post in September 2018.

Much of the life of the school reflected the life of the town and the country as a whole, with the surviving documents giving a fascinating insight into life at the time.

There were some significant events; such as the removal of the Bell tower in 1922 after it had doubled as the town fire bell for many years, the addition of a new infants room being added in 1938 and the move to the ‘new’ school  on Sedgefield Way in 1968, but much of life at St. John’s was very gentle and ordinary – the teachers just getting on with giving the children of Mexborough the best education they could. This did involve having an award winning choir for many years, an unbeatable football team during the 70’s and 80’s and very strong links with the Parish Church through all its lifetime.

Perhaps the best way of illustrating how life in Victorian and Georgian England can be seen through the windows of the school is to dip into the school logs:

23rd April 1866

Bought Standard 2 two dozen slates

2nd August 1866

Male pupil teacher resigned from his post not liking his work

17th May 1868

Examined Upper classes in Scripture, boys v. good but girls backward in answering. Many non attenders due to prevalence of both Measles and Whooping cough

19th October 1868

Lit fires in classrooms, received nuts from Denaby Pit, warned students not to get too close to flames when moving around class.

26th February 1870

Smallpox and Fever being greatly on the increase in Mexbro’ I warned the whole school of the necessity to practice clean habits and not to attend school if they had any case in their respective homes.

16th July 1884

Completed examination of children – found fair progress on the whole. Grammar poor in classes 2 and 4, Arithmetic not at all satisfactory in class 3 and 4 – a few in standard 1 only just know their letters. A wide difference exhibited in children in the same class – regular attendance is the cause.

April 1st 1887

Visit without notice by H.M. Inspector. He tested the registers and found them correctly marked.

January 1888

The Denaby colliers are still unable to work. Much distress in consequence. Both the attendance and school pence are affected. Albert Basson returned to school minus his middle finger – lost whilst helping his father on the farm. Agnes Hornby run over by a cart, but able to attend school.

May 9th 1888

H.M. Inspector’s report

“Not withstanding some weakness in the writing and arithmetic of the fifth standard, the work generally is so well done and the tone and order so good that the highest merit grant is unhesitatingly recommended.

Needlework again deserves special praise.”

November 10th 1904

We have lost 3 scholars to Measles this week, the disease continues to prevail. 7 of our young people have died in the last month.

June 21st 1907

Visited by Local Authority’s inspector Mr Stannard. Broke up at noon for Mexborough Feast Week.

August 4th 1914

We heard today that Britain has declared war on Germany, this will surely affect many of our scholars and staff who have fathers and husbands of an age to fight.

September 25th 1914

Mr Carwood has enlisted in the army, we wish him god speed and presented him with an inscribed match box.

May 9th 1915

One of our teachers Mrs Crawley heard today that her uncle was drowned when the Lusitania sank. Her class was covered by Miss Brown.

February 11th 1916

Several of our scholars received yesterday notification that their fathers had been killed in France, Mrs Chambers has been asked to visit their families.

November 11th 1918

Great celebration in school today. Our thoughts are with those scholars whose fathers and brothers will not be returning from the war.

St. John’s School is fondly remembered by many in Mexborough and the school is currently teaching several 3rd and 4th generation scholars. Many of our parents can describe the walk from the old school to the new, they bought bricks for the school swimming pool and remember when the library (now a computer suite) was built. The spirit of the school, which survives to this day is palpable and survives within the spirit of the staff and pupils of the 21st century. A lot has changed; in 1984 we got our first computer, in 1990 we extended the car park to accommodate the much larger staff, in 2002 we opened the Nursery and in 2011 the entrance was extended to include a modern administration area. Perhaps the Head teachers and staff mentioned in the old log books would feel at odds with interactive whiteboards and lap tops but maybe they would feel at home in the staff room and the playground as the new generation learn and teach the same ideals and principles that they did.