In 1813 the Methodists joined with other nonconformists in Horncastle to establish the British School which was built on the Wong. This startled the Anglicans into action, and a few days later in a meeting in St Mary’s vestry room they established a National School for educating ‘the poor children of the town and neighbourhood in the principles of the established Church’. A subscription list was opened, the vicar Dr. Madely canvassed strongly and within eight days £272 12s 6d was raised. Sir Joseph Banks gave land in Manor House Road and also 24 ash trees, five elms, one maple and one beech. The building rose rapidly as doubtless there was fierce competition with the more ambitious nonconformist school. Simon Paddon charged £247 3s 9d for the brickwork and Harrison and Jiggs £176 for the woodwork (against which could be set £64 15s from the sale of surplus timber). The school of one classroom for all children opened in April 1814, with Henry Reeve as teacher, joined two years later by Mary Boulton to teach the girls needlework. Expenditure included such items as slates £2 14s 4d, three blackboards 12s 6d, a cane 2d, and cleaning the privy 1s 6d. Robert Riches took over in 1822 (to 1841); he was a popular teacher and average attendances rose from 101 in 1826 to 148 in 1830, and in 1823 the first pupil teacher was taken on; Riches salary was raised from £60 to £70 in 1827. School times were from 9 to 12 and 2 to 5 in the summer (the afternoon 1.30 to 4 in the winter) and parents were required to send their children clean, with hair combed and clothes well mended. From 1837 school pence varied from 1d for labourers children to 6d for those of tradesmen, until places became free in 1891.
The school flourished despite illness and epidemics, absenteeism through calls for child labour and the attractions of fairs and funerals. A separate girl’s school and house for the boys teacher and overall head were added on the east side (on the site of four cottages) and opened in 1863. Nine years later a boy’s wing was built on the west side, and in 1876 the infants separated out. The head of the National Schools for 37 years (1888-1925) was John George Southwell who missed only two days through illness. In his time scholarships to the Grammar School became possible, and the children were taken to see an ‘exhibition of moving pictures’ at the Drill Hall ‘by kind generosity of Major and Mrs Weigall’ (1913).
The school was taken over by Lindsey County Council in 1903 and became a single mixed school in 1922, when the garden behind Rollestone House in Bridge Street was made available for gardening lessons. Other long serving teachers were Miss Margaret Jane Whitehurst (1891-1920) the girls head and Miss Alice Whitehead (1894-1921) the infants head. Charles Frederick Kay instituted the first parents’ day (1928) and first school sports (1929). The school was redesignated Manor House Road Council School in 1934, the same year the County Council bought the Oaks Meadow for use by all Horncastle schools except the Grammar. Under a reorganisation in 1937 the National School ended as a separate entity when it became Manor House Road Infants, with seniors moving to the Cagthorpe (Methodist) School. The latter moved to the County Junior School in Bowl Alley Lane in 1952, followed by the infants to an adjacent site in 1974.
The Community centre was opened on 27th June 1981 by Dr JD Brackenridge. Chairman of Lincolnshire Health Authority.
Extract from Horncastle & Woodhall Spa by David Robinson