St. Paul's National Schools, Commercial Street


Photo reference number: 153

These Schools were situated immediately opposite the Church on a plot of ground on which formerly stood the Poor House. This building was purchased by Sir Charles Morgan, Bart., for £500, with the object of converting it into Schools for boys and girls and infants.
Henry J. Davis, Esq., in his "Short Account of the Rise and Progress of Newport" 1891, stated that:
"At the end of Commercial Street stood on one side St. Paul's Church then (1838) recently built, and, on the other, the parish poor-house, from whence the paupers had first been removed to the new Workhouse on Stow Hill. The poor-house was purchased by Sir Charles Morgan and converted into National Schools for the whole of Newport."
The estimated cost of alterations was about £1100 and the building was intended to correspond as nearly as possible with St. Paul's Church.
Above the centre doorway of the Schools was a chastely design, carved in stone, of the Coat of Arms of Sir Charles Morgan, Bt.

Below was the following inspcription:

NEWPORT
NATIONAL SCHOOLS
FOR BOYS, GIRLS
AND INFANTS,
WAS ERECTED IN THE
YEAR OF OUR LORD
1839
UNDER THE PATRONAGE
OF
SIR CHARLES MORGAN, BARONET,
AND SUPPORTED BY
VOLUNTARY
CONTRIBUTIONS.
J. H. LANGDON,
ARCHITECT.

The original carved stone is now in the custody of the Newport Museum and Art Gallery.
According to Dr. Wrenford in his "Annual Statement" "The Schools were commenced in 1840 by the Reverend James Francis, first Vicar of St. Paul's."

In the deed of Conveyance of the site dated 1840 we find the following:

"For Schools for the Education of Poor Children in the Principles of the Christian Religion according to the Doctrine and Discipline of the United Church of England and Ireland and of a House or Houses for the Master or Masters and Mistress or Mistresses of such School or Schools."
The price to be paid:—"Five hundred and fifty pounds."
The Trust further stated "Upon Trust to permit and suffer the Building that may be erected ...... to be used as Schools for the moral and Religious Education of Boys, Girls and Infants according to the National System and in Union with the National Schools Promoting the Education of the Poor, the children attending such schools being instructed in the Liturgy and Catechism of the Established Church and being required constantly to attend Divine Service at their Parish Church or other Place of Religious Worship connected with the Establishment as far as the same is possible on the Lord's Day."
There appears to be no account extant of the opening of the School. At that date the County of Monmouth, and Newport in particular, were in the throes of the Chartist Movement. Their leader, John Frost, a former Mayor of the Town and two of his compatriots were on trial at Monmouth for high treason. Consequently every available space of the local paper of that date was taken up with a full report of the proceedings.
A memorable event in the early history of the School was the unveiling of the bust of Sir Charles Morgan—a most generous benefactor.

The bust stood on a pedestal at one end of the Boys' Department and was executed by Mr. J. Evan Thomas of Brecon, a pupil of Chantry the eminent Sculptor. This bust is now in possession of the Tredegar family and a Cast is to be seen at the Newport Museum. The death of Sir Charles in December, 1846, was a serious blow to the School. For six years he had taken an active and a very real personal interest in its work.

Another date of great significance to the School was 1872. That year F. J. Mitchell, Esq., erected a Giant's Stride in the Boys' Playground and also a horizontal bar.
From that small beginning arose the most successful gymnastic team under the leadership of the Brothers Huxtable, Jimmy Lamey and several other National School Boys, culminating in successfully winning the National Physical Recreation Shield for the British Isles in 1893 and 1898, and also the Midland County Shield 1896, Adams Shield 1900 and two Bronze Shields 1891.

In 1897 the Managers were very reluctantly forced to close the School down.

"The Committee of Management" said Dr. Wrenford "worked to the utmost to avert the catastrophe, which has, at last, befallen it.
For nearly sixty years the school had done a splendid educational work in the parish; but pecuniary difficulties increased from year to year, and at length compelled the Committee to close the School.
Lord Tredegar had been most kind to us throughout the prolonged struggle. But, at last, under the pressure of the unmerciful demands of the Education Department - the last of which was for costly, but totally unnecessary, structural alterations - the Committee gave up all hope, and closed the School. No other course remained open. It was like submitting to amputation. But the painful thing had to be done. Escape was impossible."

During the years of its existence nearly 25,000 scholars were admitted and received instruction at these schools. Some of these in later life attained to positions of great prominence. Among them a Member of the Cabinet, a Mayor, and several Members of the Newport Corporation, a Town Clerk of Mafeking, and a Town Clerk of Southwark, etc.

The school buildings were dismantled in 1912 and the site reverted with the sanction of the Charity Commissioners to the Tredegar Estate on condition that provision was made for a Sunday School for St. Paul's elsewhere.

The following is a full list of Headmasters and Mistresses furnished by Mr. W. Pheasey a former Assistant Master of the School:

DATE
Jan. > BOYS > GIRLS
1840 > Abraham Broadribb Stock > Mary Ann Stock
1852 > Thomas Williams > Elizabeth Bell
1858 > James Thomas > ditto
1863 > ditto > Sarah Judith Liddington
1865 > John Fisher > Julia Maria Liddington
1868 > ditto > Sarah Jane Ransome
1871 > Robert Walter Dugdale > ditto
1874 > Francis Vernon > ditto
1884 > ditto > Harriet Williams
1889 > ditto > ditto
1895-6 > Albert A. Warren > Boys and Girls Mixed
1897 > J. M. McKenzie

INFANTS:
Miss Young 1840-47;
Miss Elizabeth Gravenor 1847- 1852;
Miss Jane Lloyd 1852-1889;
Miss E. Evans 1889-1897.

July, 1897, School Closed.

Patron: The Right Honourable Viscount Tredegar.

MANAGERS.
The Clergy of St. Paul's. Jones, Mr. C. H.
Heybyrne, Mr.
Hollingdale, Mr.
Townsend, Mr. H. W.
Frost, Mr. E.
Moore, Mr. G. H.
Bell, Mr. G.

Secretary: Bell, Mr. G.

(From the Book: "St. Paul's Parish, Newport". By The Rev. T. Parry Pryce, B.A. (Vicar). George Bell, 53 Commercial St. 1936.)