Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: March 14, 2016
Webpage updated: April 01, 2021

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When the Devonport School Board met on the morning of Monday September 10th 1900, the question of the rules of administering corporal punishment were passed over without comment but the question of providing a new school for Saint Budeaux took much longer.

The crisis was brought about by the imminent closure of the Admiralty School at Bull Point at the end of the month.  This, it was said, 'would cast adrift from 150 to 200 children' to which a further 200 could be added who were not at that time receiving schooling.  Several options were considered.  The Masonic Hall could hold 100 children but 'the sanitary arrangements were defective for the purpose'.  The Baptist mission-room was considered unsuitable but the Wesleyan Chapel could hold another 100.  Using both the Masonic and the Wesleyan buildings would be hardly sufficient as it would require two lots of staff.

Although the Chairman of the Board thought it was very wrong of the Admiralty to close the school so suddenly, the Reverend S G Ponsonby remarked that even if that school remained open, the Board would have to make some provision at Saint Budeaux but now they were forced to.  In the end it was resolved to send the Clerk of Works, to interview the contractor who was at that time erecting the hutments at Crownhill to see if he could erect similar buildings on the part of the site that had been earmarked for the playground of the new school.  It would appear that nothing came of that enquiry.   

Officially, and perhaps rather pointedly, known as the Devonport Victoria Road Board School, it has been said that the infants' school started on November 30th 1900.  However, there is no mention of that in the school log book, which starts with an entry stating that it opened at 9am on Monday December 31st 1900 for pupils to register.  At that time the School was formed in the Masonic Hall as their building had not been completed.  The Headmaster was Mr Edgar Phipps and he had two assistants, Mr Norman Phipps, a Certified Assistant, and Mr Ernest Joseph Owens, who had previously been a pupil teacher.  Lessons started on Tuesday January 1st 1901.

The all-boys' School then comprised the First and Second Standards (24 boys) under Mr Owens; the Third and Fourth (28 boys) were under Mr Norman Phipps; and the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh (37 boys) were under Mr Edgar Phipps.

Messrs Hine & Odgers, Plymouth, designed the new school buildings, one of two storeys and the other of a single storey, both constructed of local brick.  They would accommodate some 1,450 children. The Devonport School Board received seventeen tenders for the work: from Mr Berry, 19,565; Mr Goad, 17,850; Mr Blackell, 17,711; Messrs Roach & Lovell, 17,350; Mr Carter, 16,681; Mr Skinner, 16,349; Mr Paynter, 16,250; Mr Trevena, 16,100; Mr May, 16,055; Mr Coles, 15,878; Mr Andrews, 15,850; Messrs Matcham & Company, !5,673; Messrs Wakeham, 15,138; Messrs Lethbridge, 14,960; Messrs Allen & Tozer, 14,951; Messrs Lapthorn & Company, 14,666; and Mr Blake, 13,900.  It is not known at present if these tenders were just for the two-storey block, which was to be commenced first, or for both blocks.   

On the morning of Monday April 7th 1902 the new school building in Trelawney Avenue, Saint Budeaux, was officially opened by the chairman of the Devonport School Board, the Reverend W Mantle.  The Reverend S G Ponsonby and Mr W Garstang, two members of the Board, were also present.  After giving the children some practical advice on thoroughness of work, truthfulness and punctuality, and making an appeal to them to treat the building and premises properly, the School was opened.  The teachers, Mr Phipps for the mixed school and Miss Moore for the infants', then started to enter the name of those who wished to attend in the school register.  Apparently 270 boys and 150 infants (or more likely the parents of the those children!) applied for admission.  The building could accommodate double that.   There was no reference at the time to girls but they were certainly mentioned in the log book towards the end of the month so were possibly admitted later. 

In the two-storey block the ground floor was for the infants and the first floor for the mixed school.  The cost was close to 11,000.  It was built by Mr Blake, with Mr G Sleeman as clerk of works and Mr W Efford as foreman.  The exterior was faced with local red brick and the roof covered with Delabole slate. 

The interior was finished throughout with white pine dado, copping, and skirting, and the walls were plastered.  There were ten class-rooms, with two cloak-rooms on each floor.  Outside was a large playground and a spare plot of land for extra accommodation when it was required.  The Baylis system of ventilation was used throughout the building, which was warmed by the high pressure system of heating installed by Messrs Longbottom, of Leeds. 

As a consequence of the Education Act 1902, Devonport Victoria Road Board School passed to the Devonport Local Education Authority and became Victoria Road Elementary School as from June 1st 1903.