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13 - Learning and Playing


Village Schools

Schooldays inevitably feature strongly in childhood memories.  The present Village Hall is built on the site of the National School erected 1820. The School was supported by fees, subscriptions and government grants.  When the school first opened, 36 poor children were educated free, and in the late 1880's some children were paying 3d (1(p) a day.  A stone in the north wall is inscribed '1821 National School - Peace and Prosperity'.  A photograph shows a long brick building, either painted white or plastered.  Kelly's Directory for 1905 states that the school (built for 120) had an average attendance of 75 under the Master, Arthur Mewis. 

A Wesleyan school, (which later became the site for the new Chapel), was built in 1859/60.  Originally built for 100 children, Kelly's Directory for 1905 records an average attendance of 34 boys and girls. 

In 1907, the children moved to the new Council School, formally opened on 16th October, by Col. Legard, Chairman of the North Riding Education Committee. Classes started on October 17th with 112 children on roll. The attendance for the first day was 95 in the morning and 98 for the afternoon. 

School Managers were Matthew Liddell (voted Chairman), R Souter, J Farrer (Correspondent for the Wesleyan School) Thomas Wood (Correspondent for the Church School), W Mattison, W S Appleby and Rev Newman.  There have been seven head teachers:

William Metcalfe 

October 1907 - April 1945

Charles E Denton 

April 1945 - December 1966

E M Wilkinson

January 1967 - August 1971

R Danby (temporary)

September 1971 - February 1972

Dennis Richardson

February 1972 - March 1988

Robert Audsley (temp)

April - July 1988

Hilary Henderson

September 1988 to the present day

A row of cottages on Main Street was demolished, and the red brick School was built. The Infants class was on the eastern wing and the large classroom was divided with a wooden partition for the Junior and Senior classes. Water was pumped into an open tank in the porch from a well in the back yard. Limewashed earth closet toilets were in the rear playground.  Electric light was installed in 1939. Water installation started in the village in 29th June 1937 and the school's toilets were converted to the 'water carriage system' in the autumn of 1940.  Temporary toilets were installed in 1978 with indoor toilets finally coming in 1989. 

The school had playgrounds to front and rear, and school gardens stretching down to Back Lane. Playgrounds were divided by brick walls, with a wooden door. The older boys took the front yard near The White Dog.  "Boss" wouldn't allow football in the playground, so that was played in the street, and the children often had a big skipping rope right across the road.  

The school garden had six or seven plots, mainly growing vegetables.  Tended by the older boys, they were handed on when they left school at fourteen, as young men. Twice weekly gardening sessions often featured the surreptitious smoking of woodbines, (purchased with the 2d refund on empty bottles), down Lucy Balk. 

The Senior girls had lessons in Cooking and Housewifery, from a travelling Cookery Van - an extending trailer on four wheels.  For a short spell in the 1930's the older girls travelled by bus for cookery lessons, at first to a centre at Wigginton, later at Uppleby, Easingwold. 

Farlington had its own school catering for infants, through to fourteen year olds.  A past pupil remembers twenty to twenty five children, all in the one room.  Farlington school closed in the late 1930s.  Children travelled to Stillington school on foot or cycled, from Marton, Farlington and outlying farms and homesteads.  Mr. Morse's School Bus and Taxi service started in 1948. 

Pre- World War 1, Harvest holidays were taken late August to September, with Potato Picking holidays in October.  Records also show a number of official closures, some for celebrations and Royal occasions - Coronations, Weddings, Jubilees and Funerals.  Others were for trips and outings.  One was for the sun's eclipse in June 1927.  Other closures were for less welcome events - Measles epidemics in 1912 and 1920, Mumps in 1914, and lack of heating fuel during 1942, 1946 & 1947. 

Some days off were not official.  There were a number of distractions which might cause pupils to play truant.  These included the Easingwold Point to Point races and Bush Beating days for the boys.  There was also the Hunt, which would meet outside one of the Pubs.  As one young Hunt Follower remembers, sometimes the school bell would go and children would be right down Easingwold Road.  'You'd have to leg it back up the road and at school you had to line up in front of your class...'. 

Pupils could gain scholarships to Easingwold Grammar School, and the first one to do so (in 1910) was William Mattison.  In 1970, selection examinations to Easingwold School were abolished.  Most children now transfer to Easingwold School when they are eleven years old.  

The effects of the Second World War stand out in the school records.  From September 1939 the village was home to evacuee children.  The first group, of 116 (mainly Roman Catholic boys from St Charles School) came from Hull.  In July 1940 another 103 came from St Patrick's Junior Boys and Girls Schools in Middlesbrough. The Village Hall was used as a temporary school room until June 1943.  Over 50 of the children were accommodated at Stillington Hall with the Roman Catholic Brothers and others stayed with families in the village and surrounding district.  Many evacuee children only stayed a matter of days before returning home to their parents.  The remaining ones, apart from the one or two who stayed with their adopted Stillington families, had all returned to their homes by December 1942. 

In December 1939 Hunter and Smallpage of York organised the black-out of the school windows. Brother Edmund, from Stillington Hall, came into school during the winter of 1939 / 40 to give a series of First Aid lessons. From November 1941 the school became a Rest Centre for emergency purposes.  Blankets and cushions were provided, and stayed in school until the end of 1944. There is only one mention of late opening after air raid warnings, this was in July 1941.  In May the same year, a local farmer asked for about twenty five lads (aged over twelve years) from the Village Hall school to help with carrot pulling and potato setting. The boys would get an extra week's holiday to the Whitsun week and have a week off their holiday at a later date. 

School dinners were also a wartime innovation, they started on 22nd August 1944 with 41 children being served.   Meals were taken in the Institute the Village Hall - which was used as a Dining Centre for the Council School right through to October 1956.  By 1951 about 60 children were served their midday meal, supplied from the Central Kitchen at Strensall. By 1956 the purpose built in-school kitchen was completed.  Meals were cooked at Stillington for Sutton on Forest Primary School.  During the 1970s they were also cooked for the WRVS Meals on Wheels Service, until this was transferred to the Tanpit Lodge Kitchen in Easingwold. 

In September 1970, a new wooden classroom was erected for the Infant class.  With the development of the Parkfield estate, the roll increased from 71 to 121 and four classes were run from the existing premises.  By 1977 with 117 on the roll, (35 in Class 1, 32 in Class 2 and 50 in two Infant classes), the School Doctor had to examine the children in the Village Hall owing to lack of space!  

The wooden classroom was destroyed by fire in July 1990, about an hour after the children had left school.  A replacement classroom arrived during the holidays for school to continue the following term. 

There are now over 70 children attending the school and plans are going ahead to build an extension to the Infant classroom.  

School buildings were also used for other activities.  There was a Methodist Sunday School from 1920 through to 1943 run by Mr and Mrs Smith and the Manson family amongst others.  The Garbutts started the Wesleyan Sunshine Corner, which was similar to a Sunday School. 

In 1936, Fred Baker started a Boys Club in the old Wesleyan school building with one evening a week for Bible classes and another for hobbies, handicrafts, gymnastics or Scouting activities.  The older boys helped to renovate the building, which was also used for a mixed Youth Club. 

During the late 1920s, the Council School was also used as a meeting place and for social occasions the Gymkhana Committee, the Druids Club, Village Garden Produce Association, Church Whist Drives, Dances and Concerts. The School was used as a Polling Station for Local, District and General elections, and in 1979 for the election of a candidate for the European Assembly.  


The Village Hall

When the new council school opened, the old school fell into disrepair, and this raised the question of what to do with it.  Some activities had transferred to the new school, but a public meeting in January 1928 elected to renovate the old building for use as a Parochial Hall.  This was done with the aid of public subscriptions, village fund raising, and a grant from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners (on the understanding that the Hall was also available for Marton and Moxby).  A kitchen, ladies toilet and a fuel store was built, and the Hall was officially opened by Squire Liddell, in September 1929 with Mr Turton MP in attendance. 

From this time we have more detailed records of the use of the Hall as a meeting place. Organisations using the Hall included Men's and Women's Clubs; a Girls' Club; the Fur and Feather Society; the Horticulture Society and the Scouts and Guide movement.  Recreation was a priority, with dances; concerts; billiards; keep fit classes; and film shows provided by Mr Fred Baker and later Mr H Smith of Easingwold. Official uses included Rates Collection centre; Weights and Measures centre; Polling Station; Chiropody Clinic and Baby Clinic.  From 1939 The Home Guard also met in the Hall. 

In 1962 the Village Hall underwent its next alteration with a Committee Room, cloakrooms and toilets added along the front of the existing building with a new entrance.  Loans were invited from the Village residents to pay for these alterations, together with numerous fund raising events.  The Hall is operated by a hard working voluntary management committee, and ownership has been secured with the Official Custodian for Charities. 

The Green round the Village Hall used to be the location for Stillington Feast which was held each Whit week, with horses, caravans, shows and amusements.  The Village was spruced up for the occasion and children earned extra pocket money by weeding the cobbles.  Half days were taken off for cricket matches; children danced round the maypole; bought "Spanish" - a liquorice flavoured drink; mushy peas from Bob and Anna Leeman; Shipley's Fair would come out of their village winter quarters in Woods' builders' yard, with equipment repaired and painted up for the start of another season on the road.  A travelling circus occasionally used the Green during the 1920s and 30s.  There are memories of elephants being walked up to Town End Pond for water and showing off some of their tricks with the lads' sweet bags. 


The Sports and Social Club

As early as 1883, Stillington had a Cricket team in the Forest of Galtres league.  They played on the Well Field, part of the Stillington Hall estate.  At first, only the actual square was fenced off , but when the land was bought by the Church Commissioners, cattle were also kept clear of the outfield.  For many years there were two oak trees on the field and one on the boundary; they were eventually felled when the estate was sold.  Rolling of the cricket pitch was done by pony, with its feet specially covered.  The entrance to the field was either through the estate gates from York Road or down South Back Lane from the rear of the Hall coachyard. 

The earliest pavilion was a white painted hut with a red roof.  This became a store when a York railway carriage arrived to be used as a new pavilion and tea room.  The remains of this carriage were removed from the rear of the Sports & Social Club in June 1997. 

Meanwhile, Football had been played on the Novey, a field to the South of the Well field, for many years.  After the War, the land was needed for farming, and the pitch then moved to Bob Gibson's field, on the West side of York Road. 

In 1959 a Public Meeting was held to consider purchasing the cricket field and a further six or seven acres adjoining, from the Church Commissioners.  An initial offer had been turned down in 1936, but this time an offer of 300 was accepted.  The Football Club moved across, and the Stillington Playing Field was established, run by the Football and Cricket Committees.  A new road entrance was made from York Road and a children's corner was established with slides, swings and a rocker. 

In 1961 an extra piece of land to the north was purchased for a new pavilion, Bar and Social Hall.  A wooden ex-RAF building was brought from the Redcar area.  This provided a Social Hall and two changing rooms, and was partly financed by a house to house collection in the village.  It was opened in 1962, by Cllr Jack Wood, (later Lord Mayor of York) on what was to be the first annual village Sports and Gala Day - these ran until 1980.  The brick lounge and bar extensions were built in the early 1970s; the social hall was later widened with a brick shell built and two new changing rooms. 

In 1974 the Park land was bought by a Mr Backhouse of Scarborough, and he had ideas about establishing a Golf Course.  Finances proved otherwise, and the Farm and remaining land were bought by John Sparrow and family.  This created another opportunity to expand the recreation facilities and an adjacent three acres of land was bought by the Playing Field in 1974, followed by a narrow strip - some six or seven yards of land - in 1976. 

Three red shale tennis courts were built in 1976-77; the bowling green was laid in 1978; a hockey pitch was marked out in 1979 and two squash courts were built in 1983.  A new children's play area was created near the entrance in 1988 and for the Millennium, the area is being extended and re-equipped.  The new brick Bowls Pavilion was built with the aid of Lottery funding and was officially opened in 1997. 

Apart from paid cleaning and bar staff, the entire sports complex and its various sections have been planned, developed and are maintained on an entirely voluntary basis.  This includes the upkeep of pitches, bowling green, courts and their surroundings.