St Mary’s, Newchurch-in-Pendle is a small rural school situated five minutes from the villages of Wheatley Lane and Fence to the south and five minutes from the village of Barley to the north. It lies to the north-west of the town of Nelson in north-east Lancashire and north of Burnley, twelve minutes drive away.
Its location in a rural setting has wonderful views of open countryside, and it may be passed by walkers following the “Pendle Way” long distance path. It lies adjacent to the renowned St. Mary’s Church, Newchurch often visited by tourists to the area.
It is a two form school, currently with 52 children, who are taught separately in the two key stages. It has a secure playground and an Early Years Outdoor Play area.
A new class room for Key Stage 2 children was constructed in 2008 on the back of the school and an extension to the Key Stage 1 class room on the side of the main building.
A more recent development was being awarded the School Games Silver Award and an Outstanding SIAMS Inspection.
The foundation stone for St Mary’s School was laid on 19th September 1874 and it opened almost two years later in 1876. There were initially 63 pupils with four classes receiving morning lessons in religious instruction, reading, writing, dictation, copy books, arithmetic and counting. Afternoon lessons included tables, mental arithmetic, notation and numeration, reading, writing, dictation, copy books, arithmetic and counting! As a special treat, on Friday afternoons, all four classes had a quarter of an hour’s singing!
A report in 1879 from the Education Department said,
“It is fair to state that this school….has during the last two months been almost inaccessible from snow and bad weather. It is a matter for wonder how many children got there at all.”
In 1890, the numbers on roll reached 99.
In 1903 Mrs Wigglesworth, the caretaker, used to brew tea or cocoa for pupils who lived too far away from school to go home for dinner.
For this they paid 1d.
In 1910, Mr Hodgkins, the Headmaster, introduced gardening into the school curriculum. A school garden was made and many prizes were won at local shows.
In 1923 the infant classroom was enlarged.A time capsule containing old coins and newspapers were placed inside a cavity in the wall.
This was discovered in 1963 when workmen were enlarging the school.They also discovered a Foundation Commeroration Plaque, now displayed in the school entrance.
In 1930, older children attending the school, aged 11-14 years,were transferred to Barrowford Secondary School. According to records, parents disagreed vociferously!
Electric light was installed in the school for the first time in 1936. That same year the school received an excellent report.
In 1938, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Nelson. A bus was hired to take the children to see them.
Evacuees from Bradford arrived in Newchurch and school numbers swelled.
In August 1945, the end of the war in Asia saw the children taken to Blackpool to celebrate. Some had never seen the sea before.
School dinners were now cooked and served from the school kitchen.
Funds were raised to buy the school a radio.
In 1949, the first Rushbearing Queen was crowned.
1954 saw the acquisition of a film projector and a record player in 1956.
1963 was the time of a severe winter across the country. In January of that year, roads around the school were blocked with snow for five days. The school water supply froze and emergency water supplies were brought in from a tap higher up the hill. However, in February the emergency water supply froze too! It was only in mid-March that the school had running water again! Unfortunately, workmen who were digging up the school driveway, accidentally dug up the water mains! Once again there was a very intermittent supply of water!
1966 saw an outbreak of mumps with attendance dropping to 13. It was nearly a month before all 34 children were back in school.
In 1968 a television was installed in the school.
Acknowledgements to Edith Procter, former head teacher at St Mary’s, who contributed so much to our school for many years.