Education in Yeovil
In 1808 followers of Joseph Lancaster, a Quaker, formed the Royal Lancastrian Society in order to carry out his educational ideas. The Society changed its name in 1810 to the British & Foreign School Society after Lancaster, an indifferent manager of finance, cut himself off from the organisation.
The system allowed for tuition of large numbers of children by other partially educated children with an absolute minimum of paid staff. The British Schools were competitive, with pupils moving backwards and forwards in rows of desks according to their achievements.
In 1834 Parliament made a grant of £24,000 (in the region of £20 million at 2017's value) to elementary schools which was shared between British and National Schools. By 1851 there were over 1,500 British Schools in the country, drawing their main support from Nonconformist families.
In Yeovil the British School was housed in the Vicarage Street Hall and Pulman's Weekly News, in its edition of 2 December 1884 noted that the school achieved "very good examination in elementary subjects, excellent penmanship" and commented "These schools provide for the education of 200 children without any cost to the ratepayers of Yeovil. The scholars, though under the supervision of the local Board, are supplied entirely by the funds of Mr Miller's Orphan Asylum at Bristol."
In 1889 Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser noted "British Schools Vicarage Street - Supported from the funds of the Bristol Orphanage. Number of children attending, 181. Master Mr S Payne, Rose Cottage, Sparrow Lane; Mistress, Miss Raymond, Middle Street."
On 11 May 1895 Pen Mill School was opened by EL Whitby, Chairman of the Yeovil School Board. The original intention had been that with the closing of the British School in Vicarage Street - a Nonconformist rival to the Anglican National Schools - the new school would be for the sole use of children who had previously attended the British School. However, with the development of the eastern end of Yeovil, the School Board opened the school to all although Mr Payne did transfer from the British School to be the first headmaster at Pen Mill.
This 1960s photograph shows the Vicarage Street Hall, immediately beyond which is the entrance to Quidham Place.
Vicarage Street Hall, probably photographed in the 1950s.