The History of St Michael’s

Head Teacher: Mrs Jan Martin | Deputy Head: Miss A Prentice                          
London Road, Woolmer Green, Herts. SG3 6JP | Email: admin@woolmergreen.herts.sch.uk | Tel: 01438 813267 | Fax: 01438 815623                      

Do you recognise the building in the background of this picture? Someone in this photo is linked with a current member of staff. Have a close look in the front row...

The History of St Michaels

The little girl in the front row on the far left hand side is Jean Webber's Mum, Emily Giddens. Emily was born in 1909 and moved to Woolmer Green shortly afterwards aged approximately 6 months, and went on to attend St Michael's School. This is a picture of her with her fellow pupils aged 4-5, as the photograph was taken in either 1913 or 1914.  Emily died aged 70 in 1979 and is buried alongside her husband, Reginald, and their other daughter across the road from the school in St Michael's Church cemetary. Jean herself went to St Mary's School because at the time her family lived marginally closer to Welwyn and the rule was that you went to your closest school. She couldn't, however, keep away forever, as she is now best known as our lovely lollipop lady!

B197 OLD

Woolmer Green had a school 30 years before the school boards were set up in 1870. In 1876 Parliament made education compulsory for all children between the ages of 5 and 14, although in rural areas they were often excused from lessons to help with agricultural work, especially at harvest time. 

We have copies of the Woolmer Green School accounts dating from 1899. The school was mostly financed by a Government grant, and by donations from landowners and the Great Northern Railway Co.  However another source of income was "school pence".  Each child was expected to bring 1d. to school every Monday as a contribution to their education.  This was eventually abolished in 1891, but the children were still told that they could bring their money which would be paid into a boot club.  When a child had enough in his/her account they were given an order to a local tradesman to buy a pair of boots or some other article of clothing which was required. 

Audit old accounts 1

Here are some excerpts from the old school accounts. I wonder how our school would cope with a government grant of £107!

In the early days of the school the children, staff and villagers used to walk all the way to St Mary's Church in Welwyn for their services as it was the only church in the local area. It was a long way to walk, especially in bad weather, so in 1878 "the wall which divided off the classroom at the end of the school was pierced with an arch and the room at the end fitted up as a chancel". This was dedicated by the rector at the time, and services were held there until St Michael's Church was built in 1900.

Some memories that have been recorded from pupils around this time are as follows:

"The road was quiet when I went to school, I could whip up a top from the top of Mardley Hill all the way to school as there were only horses and carts".

"The school was only the front building in which were 3 classes...the toilets were outside. (We played) hopscotch, skipping, tag and marbles."

It was also recorded in the Parish magazine that all school meals were served in the village hall, and at midday the children were crossed over the road to the hall for dinner. They also had a bottle of milk mid-morning. There was also an annual flower show held on the last Saturday of July in the meadow opposite the church. "The whole village took part and there was great competition among one and all".  Mr Stacey, the headmaster at the time, was the chief organiser of this event.

The school took in evacuees from London during the Second World War, and they found the rural pursuits that pervaded school life a novelty, having come from the city.  One man wrote, "There was gardening at the back of the school in a big plot where the headmaster was in control. In the afternoon there was perhaps a nature walk through the wood".  Two brothers apparently came together as evacuees from London and were "most upset" when their parents took them home. A villager wrote, "There wasn't much fighting between the village kids and the evacuees, more a friendly rivalry".

WI in oak class
In 1951 the WI held a meeting at the school to discuss raising money to build more classrooms. Do you recognise the room they are sitting in? It is the current Oak classroom!

 

Jean at wedding
The photo above is of a young Jean Knowles (Mrs Webber) taking a picture of her sister at her wedding in Woolmer Green. You can find more detail in the text underneath the photo.

 

First TA copy

This is Vera Mardlin who was the first, and at the time only TA at Woolmer Green School. She helped out in every class.

 

           Millennium photo.docx
There may be a few faces that you recognise here in this photo - taken in 2000.

 

Some of you may remember a frightening incident that occurred a few years ago at St Michael's just before the end of the school day. The South East of England was experiencing a bout of particularly inclement weather with strong winds, and at 3.15pm on Thursday 18th January 2007 the back wall of the old building (Oak classroom) began to fall down. Below are the newspaper clippings from the WHTimes that day. Fortunately nobody was hurt and everybody lived to tell the tale.

 

wall copy newspaper

 

WI Mrs Tjong
This is a more recent picture of the WI - including a few familiar faces (can you see Jean, or Mrs Tjong?) - taken in 2001. By this time they were meeting in the village hall.

 

Recently acquired painting of the school: 

On 23rd September our school received an unexpected parcel which, upon opening, was a beautiful watercolour of St Michael's Woolmer Green School. Alongside the painting was a card which read as follows:

"Dear Mr Mallon, My mother, Jean Harvey, worked at Woolmer Green School from when she qualified as a teacher in 1971 at age 40 until her retirement in July 1991. On her retirement she was presented with the painting of the school which I believe was painted by a relative of the Head Teacher at the time. My Mum has had the painting hanging in her home until she died in February this year. My brother and I both feel returning the painting to the school where she spent 20 years teaching and was very happy, is the right place for it to go. I also enclose a photo I found of a Victorian Day they held at the school. I wonder if any of the children in the photo (below) are now parents of children at the school? Kind regards, Christina May." 

 

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If anybody has any old photographs of Woolmer Green School or St Michael's Church and the local vicinity that they would like to share, please do bring them to the office and we would love to scan them in and put them up here for everyone to see.