Harpenden British School

from W L Rogers Report on Social Conditions in Harpenden in 1858

Park Hall, Leyton Road c 1905 -built in 1850 as the British School
Herts Archives and Local Studies

In May 1850 the British School was opened on land given in trust by John Bennet Lawes on ‘the waste’ – now Leyton Road alongside Harpenden Common.   In a report on the ‘Social Conditions of Harpenden’ commissioned by John Bennet Lawes, W L Rogers visited Harpenden about 1858, and this is an extract from his Report:

‘There is in the village a valuable British School replete with everything essential to secure a sound education.  The School Master is evidently a superior man – well qualified to teach and appears sincerely anxious to secure the best interests of his scholars.  I found him greatly discouraged by reason of the positive indifference of so many of the parents and so little appreciation of the immense benefit (both to themselves and their children) of education. This is not confined to the poor but many decent families such as farmers and others not expected – of this I had abundant proofs in mingling among the people.

The average number of attendants is 156 scholars of both sexes – a very low number seeing it is the only public school in the village. This supplies an argument and tells at how low a point education is appreciated with a population of near 2,000 souls.  Still on the whole the population must not be classed illiterate – yet ignorant they certainly are. I never saw so little taste for reading of any kind.’

The Infants school was added at the back in 1859 – erected by Lawes at his own expense. It was amalgamated under one management with the Boys’and Girls’ British School in 1871.

(A typescript copy of W L Rogers’ Report on Social Conditions in Harpenden can be seen at Herts Archives – pamphlet collection).

The British School became Harpenden’s Board School and moved to new premises in Victoria Road in 1896 when pupil numbers had outgrown the premises by the gates to Rothamsted Manor.

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