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District Schools

Poor law unions were allowed to set up District Schools by an Act of parliament of 1844. This was one way to separate children from the workhouse environment. The children were housed in large dormitories which lead to the schools being known as “barrack schools” The Wargrave school was set up in the old Workhouse buildings.

At District schools children learnt the three Rs and some craft skills to help them gain useful employment. The boys had workshops which taught shoe making, metal and wood work, as well as gardening skills. Each school taught skills for the major industries in its area.

Although they were usually set up in existing buildings they proved expensive to run and the dormitories meant that infections were easily transmitted and some of the schools that were opened had a reputation of harsh discipline as the result very few unions set district schools up and eventually Cottage Homes became the more favoured solution to the problem of poor and orphaned children.

Family Connection.

When  John PILGRIM [12309]  died in 1878 his children were cared for in different ways. It is not yet known what had happened to his wife Louisa.

Alfred John [12310]  married Ann ACHURCH in December quarter of 1879 when he was 22.

Thomas [12311]  and his younger brother  George [12325]  went to live with John’s sister in law  Mary [12179]  and her husband Thomas SILVER. They did not have any children of their own.

Samuel [12312]  married Mary BIDDLE in 1880 at the young age of 19.

Louisa [12313]  went into service and two of the youngest sons  Albert Edward  [12315] and  Jesse  [12322] went to the Reading and Wokingham District School in Wargrave.

Reading and Wokingham District School in Wargrave.

Peter Higginbottham quotes reports by Poor Law Board Inspector, Mr Pigott of 1858 and 1859. From the earlier report

“This district school, although unfavourably circumstanced in respect of its locality and the imperfect construction and arrangement of the buildings (the old Workhouse of the Wokingham Union), continues, notwithstanding, to improve yearly in efficiency”

The workhouse had been considered to be in a poor state “damp and with poor ventilation” and in 1848 a new one was built in Wokingham.  The first superintendent for the District School found was John Edwin RIGDEN (1851 census). On this census the children are listed by name. 

The second report by Pigott quoted by Higginbottham says the boys were taught tailoring, shoemaking and farming in Wargrave. Girls were taught domestic skills.

The “inmates” were helped to find employment. Pigott indicated in his 1858 report that fifteen boys had gone to and kept “respectable” places (Higginbotthom). As yet Albert has not been found after the 1881 census but in 1891 Jesse was a factory labourer in Reading.

The superintendent at the time the Pilgrim boys were residents was Brice BENNETT whose wife was matron and daughter Eliza was the infants’ teacher. In 1891 son Brice was an elementary Teacher. Brice BENNETT had been a pupil teacher age 15 on the 1851 census in Cheshire. In 1861 he was the school master of the national school in Wargrave. Pigott had said how pleased he was with the management of Mr & Mrs Preeseman in 1858. On the 1861 census James CHEESEMAN is listed as the superintendent and the pupils are listed by age and place of birth and are only identified by initials and not given the dignity of a name.

The PILGRIM boys’ mother had been Louisa CLEMENTS so it is worth mentioning that in 1871 a William CLEMENTS was the farm bailiff at the school and his wife Charlotte (formerly DEARLOVE nee SPOKES) was the school nurse, however, as yet these have not been linked to the family.

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