Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: February 25, 2016.
Webpage updated: March 31, 2021

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On or about October 28th 1872 the Devonport School Board purchased the site for the projected Ford Board School from a Mr Braund.  It cost them 500 plus 6 for the loss of crops and plus another 3 towards the cost of providing a boundary wall.  Then in December the Board raised two loans from the Public Works Loan Commissioners, one for 503, the other for 250, at 3% per annum for 50 years.

The architect of the new building was a Mr J Chudleigh of Newton and he was paid an advance payment of 50 on March 3rd 1873.   The contractor, Mr R Verran of Plymouth, was paid 200 on the same date.

Further loans had to be raised, however: 400 on April 16th 1873; 313 on June 17th; and 400 on July 28th, which along with the previous 753 brought the total borrowed to 1,866.

The School was opened for business in the Ford Wesleyan Sunday School on Monday May 19th 1873 but until the new building was finished the classes for girls and infants were held in the same room.  The formal opening of the permanent school took place on Wednesday November 5th 1873.  That duty was undertaken by the chairman of the School Board, Mr L P Metham, and the Mayor of Devonport, Mr J May. 

The buildings were in the Gothic style and comprised boys', girls' and infants' schools.  The boys' and girls' departments fronted Cambridge Road, with the boys on the ground floor and the girls on the first.   Each comprised a large school-room some 45ft by 20ft and four classrooms, 18ft by 15ft.  Over the boys' porch was a turret containing a clock, and with a spire 70ft high.  The infants' department consisted of a school-room 75ft b 20ft with two classrooms.   The whole building was heated by open fires and had ample lavatories and offices.   The contractor was praised for having completed the building on contract. 

The school was to accommodate 192 boys, 192 girls and 225 infants.  At the opening of the building it was said that the school cost 2,904 or 4 15s 4d per head.  Some years later it was said that the total cost of the site, buildings and architect's commission was 3,005 12s 7d, which worked out at a cost per child of 5 3s 7d. 

At the opening, 111 boys, 93 girls and 161 infants transferred from the temporary school.   The Master was Mr Henry Jones, the Mistress of the girls' school was Miss Maria Jones and the mistress of the infants' (from Christmas) was Miss Thompson from the Truro Training College.

January 1889 saw work commence on building a brand new schools for the infants' department.  The architect was Mr Curtis and the contract was awarded to Mr John Reed of the Eagle Works, Plymouth.  The work was carefully supervised by Mr Millman, the foreman, and by Mr Joseph May, the chairman at the time of the Devonport School Board.  Accommodation was provided for 350 infants.  The cost was about 2,700 exclusive of fittings.

Built in the semi-Gothic style, it was constructed of black limestone nobbling, relieved by quoins and facings of grey limestone and brick dressings for the doors and windows.  The main building measured 76 feet by 22 feet and the western end faced Melville Road.  At the eastern end of that building, and running at right angles, was the class-room building, which measured 60 feet long by 20 feet wide.   The northern wing of the premises formed the cloakroom, which was linked to the other buildings by means of a covered passage.  Both the main and class-room buildings had a lantern roof.  This had been first introduced at Cherry Garden Street Board School and found to be very successful in providing light and ventilation.

In order to increase or decrease the sizes of the class-rooms, Attwood's patent revolving shutters were provided and these could be raised or lowered with little trouble.  At the western end of the main school-room was a raised platform, fitted with desks.  It was said that: 'This gallery can be commanded by the mistress standing in the centre of the class-room building.'

There was a private entrance for the teachers at the north-west of the main building.  This was also intended to provide access in the event of the school-room being used for public meetings.  Entrance for the pupils from Melville Road was through a gated and gabled archway bearing the legend: "Devonport School Board. Ford Infants' School. 1889."  This led into the playground, which was some 45 feet square.  The children then entered the cloakroom building, which measured 40 feet in length by 21 feet wide, so that they were prevented from taking wet clothes into the class-rooms.  It was equipped with McEvoy's patent hat and coat pegs.  Interestingly, though, there was a direct entrance form the playground into the entrance lobby to the other buildings but presumably the children were not allowed to use this.

Although the building was only single-storey, it did have a basement, which was used as a covered playground.  It was enclosed and it was intended to furnish it with swings and other means of recreation for the infants.   Access was by means of stairs from the cloakroom.

Throughout the buildings, the pitch pine floor was covered with Messrs Engert and Rolfe's inodorous felt for the purpose of deadening the sound of the children's' feet.

The new infants' school was opened in September 1889.


In the 1890s, with the coming of the Plymouth, Devonport and South Western Junction Railway, the area to the west of the railway started to develop.   Known as Keyham Barton, this area had no school and Ford had to develop to take the additional pupils.  The Devonport School Board found that it was unable to simply enlarge the old buildings so it proposed to erect a completely new and separate building on land to the west of the original school.  It would be used entirely for the boys' department, with the girls remaining in the old building.

Messrs Hine and Odgers designed the new school and the contract was awarded to Messrs A R Lethbridge and Sons in the sum of 5,280.  Mr Hoskyn was their clerk-of-works throughout the contract.

Built of brick, it had a central hall with eight class-rooms leading off.  It could accommodate 528 children.  Cloakrooms and lavatories were provided at the entrance to the main hall, where two granite staircases, one at either end of the building, led to the upper floor and provided a means of escape in the event of a fire.  The rooms were well ventilated and lit, with the added advantage that foul air could be drawn off by Boyle's ventilators on the roof.   Fresh air could also be supplied by ventilators on the walls.

The central hall and the rooms on the first floor were lined with cream coloured bricks above dados of Robinson's cement.  The plastered rooms, presumably on the ground floor, had dados of pitch pine.  Each room had a patent blackboard and rods for the hanging of maps.

Outside, the playground was the largest provided at any of the Board's schools and was paved with Candy's Chudleigh paving bricks.   Thanks to the steeply sloping ground to the south, there was room not only for a heating chamber, coal and coke stores underneath the building but also a covered play area for wet weather.

This building still survives and bears the name of "Cambridge Road Board School", although this title never seems to have been used in any references to the school, which was always referred to as "Ford Board School".

The building was completed within the contract sum and was officially opened late on the afternoon of Saturday November 16th 1895.  This function was performed by no lesser person that Sir George Kekewich the permanent secretary of the Board of Education.  The hall was decorated with flags and plants lent by the Ford Horticultural Society.  The chairman of the Devonport School Board, the Reverend W H Allin, presided.  Among those present were the Mayor of Devonport, Mr T W Martyn; the Reverend J Palmer, chairman of Stoke Public School; Mr A R Lethbridge, the contractor; Doctor J Rolston, the previous chairman of the Board; three HM inspectors of schools and several parents of pupils attending the school.  Sir George was presented with a suitably engraved silver key made by Mr Croydon, of Devonport.

By 1901, just before the abolition of the Board Schools, the Melville Road section was attended by 425 girls under the Mistress, Mrs Elizabeth Jago; the Cambridge Road section was being used by an average of 685 boys under the Master, Mr Thomas Bickford Tresise, and the Auckland Road infants' department under Miss Elizabeth Geaton was seeing an average attendance of 361 children.

Following the transfer of responsibilities for education from the Devonport School Board to the Local Education Authority in 1903, Ford and Cambridge Road Board Schools became Ford Elementary School.