The Board School

The school in Station Road, now St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, was originally the “Board School”.  It opened on Monday 14th January 1878.

Prior to the Elementary Education Act of 1870, children’s education was not compulsory but was typically provided by the churches and by “Dame Schools”.  With the developing industrialisation, the “Dame Schools” would be seen as a form of child care whilst parents were working.  The extent of formal education delivered by these schools was probably quite variable

As a result of the Act an education board was set up in Tadcaster in 1875.  The Board was allowed to raise funds from rates, build and run non-denominational schools, and pay the fees of the poorest children.  Attendance could be made compulsory if necessary.  A site was selected for a school and building commenced.

1849 map showing the selected field for the school

The field had belonged to the Reverend Brooksbank.  From newspaper reports we know the school was designed by E Birchall of Leeds.  The cream-coloured bricks used came from Laisterdyke, Bradford and the stone from Bramham Moor Quarries.

The Board included Mr J. Smith (chairman), Mr. J. Allen (vice-chairman), the Rev. Theophilus. Clarke (vicar), Mr. J. Varley,, Mr. G. Swinden, Mr. W. Dixon, and Mr. M. Lancaster.  The Clerk was Benjamin Blaydes Thompson.  At the opening ceremony, the pupils were each presented with a medal bearing the inscription “Tadcaster Board Schools – opened Jan. 14th, 1878.”  In the evening they were entertained to tea at the Town Hall by Mr. Smith.

Board School in Station Road

Board School in Station Road

The nearest part of the building in this photo is the Master’s House

A distinctive feature of the school was a bell tower rising 26 feet above the school.  It is not clear when this was removed.


The Board School as originally built

The school was divided into 3 equal parts.  At the west end was the Infants, in the middle the Girls and at the east end the Boys.  There were three doors each with either “Infants”, “Girls” or “Boys” inscribed above.  The inscriptions are still visible above the Infants and Girls doors.

The records show that of the girls who joined the school when it opened, about half had previously attended one of eight private (or Dame) schools in Tadcaster.

Teaching took place with many classes (or Standards as they were called) and often with more than one teacher to a room.  It must have been chaotic.

The school was quickly found to be too small and was extended at two different dates.

This shows the 1893 extension to the school, almost doubling its size

The first extension basically doubled the 3 parts of the school.  The original rear wall of the school was retained as a partition between classrooms.  These can be seen by visiting the Library.  The large pillar is part of the original rear wall.  Where there were windows to the rear, these became partitions between the rooms that allowed more light into the rooms.

The work was clearly going to be disruptive, but one would expect the Victorians to have everything carefully planned.  The Boys’ School log book suggest otherwise.

Sept 9th 1892 – The School premises are now being enlarged. It was not decided till Saturday Sept 3rd where the boys are to be located during the alteration. It was then resolved to use the Church Sunday School (Girls).

The boys could not assemble on Monday Sept 5th owing to that day being required for the removal of desks, apparatus, etc.  They assembled on Tuesday morning Sept 6th after the Harvest Holidays.

All the classes being in one room, the boys being required to sit close together, and the ventilation proving defective, it was found impossible to do any work.  This was reported to the Clerk.

Mr A Cooper, Chairman of the Board, visited the school on Thursday morning, together with the Rev Mr Clarke the Vicar and arranged for some of the classes to meet next week in the classrooms of the Board School

Sept 16th  1892  –   Mr Cooper Chairman of the Board visited the school on Monday morning.

On Tuesday morning Standards II and III removed to the classroom at the Board School under the supervision of Mr A S Beckett, Assistant Master.  Standards I, IV V and VI remained in the Church Sunday School under the Headmaster.

The above arrangement allows of better facilities for work, and is healthier although owing to the staff, it leaves Standards II and III solely to the assistant without any supervision from the Headmaster.

Average attendance for the week 107.  Number on the registers 126.

The log book does not report any significant issues until:

May 19th 1893 – A busy week.  On Friday removed to Board School, having been in the Church Sunday School (Girls) since September 1892.  Closed the school on Friday for one week for Whitsuntide Holiday

May 30th 1893 – Re-opened the school in the enlarged premises.

The simpler wall at the rear of the Infants’ School

The 1893 extension was to a different and rather simpler style.  The cream coloured bricks were once again used for the outer walls.



The school showing the 1901 extension

A view showing the 1901 extension at the right

The 1901 extension provided two additional classrooms.  The bricks on the south and east walls are a close match to the  earlier bricks but there are small style changes.  The rear or north wall however is in red brick.

Strangely, the 1901 extension does not seem to have caused a record to be made in the Log Book.  Bearing in mind that it records that Mr McGowan “did not arrive at school on Tuesday morning until 11:30 due to his train having been delayed by fog”, it seems odd that the building work was not worth any mention.

The rear of the Girls and Boys School

The picture to the right shows a large play area, but in earlier times a kitchen and toilets divided the girl’s playground from the boys’.

During the Second World War, air raid shelters were built on the front of the school.  It is not clear when they were built but the Log Book refers to air raid practices where the children went to Tower Brewery for shelter.  In later years, these were used for storage and growing hyacinths!  They have now been demolished.

Another wartime addition was the Nursery which was built at the back of the School.   This was a concrete structure.  This building has also now disappeared.

The Education Board was replaced in 1902 by the Local Authority.  The school continued in use until 1967 when the Junior School moved to new premises in Wetherby Road.  The Infant School followed in the 1970s.

The Library moved to the rooms occupied by the Infant School in 1981.  St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School moved into the former Junior School in April 1988.

Comments about this page

  • Junior school moved to Wetherby Road but it remained the Infants School into the 1970s with Mrs Ball as headteacher, Mr Westerman (?) caretaker and I remember Mr Smith the lollipop man..

    By Stephen Baul (20/05/2023)

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