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Lesson 4 - A Child's Week

Home life

By 1887 Ashington had become a model pit village under the ownership of the Ashington Coal Company, who had built 665 houses in 11 long rows running east to west. The majority of these houses were two storeys high and had four rooms. Downstairs was a kitchen and a sitting-room, with two bedrooms upstairs. The toilets (netties) were outside in the back yard. The houses were considered to be much more comfortable than the usual housing for working people, but as the miners’ families were often very large, there can’t have been much room!

The sources you will look at for the first five questions are about life at home and in the streets of Ashington in about 1900.

Click on the images to make them larger.

1. Look at the photograph of the kitchen and fireplace.

nro_876_346  NRO 876/346

  • a. What do you think the part of the fireplace to the left of the grate (where the fire burned) was for?
  • b. Why is there a rail above the fireplace (hanging from the ceiling)?
  • c. What 4 jobs would the fire have been used for?

2. Look at the photograph of the back lane.

nro_5283i13_netherton_web_200 NRO 5283/I/13

  • a. What do you think the woman is doing?
  • b. Do you think it would have been easy or difficult for someone to keep their home and family clean when living in this kind of houses?
  • c. What is at the back of the house?

3. Look at the photograph of the woman standing beside a barrel.

nro_4683207_web_200 NRO 4683/207

  • a. Where do you think the woman is?
  • b. What household chore is she doing?
  • c. What is she using to do this?
  • d. How long do you think this would take?
  • e. How long would the same task take today?

4. Look at the photograph of the two women and child sitting down.

nro_5283c1816_web_200 NRO 5283/C/18/16

  • a. What are the women doing?
  • b. What would the finished product be used for?
  • c. What do we have instead?

5. Look at the photograph of the two boys with the barrow.

nro_5283c14007_web_200 NRO 5283/C/14/7a

a. Where are the boys?
b. What are they doing?
c. What similar service do we have today?

School Life

In 1873, a new school was established to educate the sons and daughters of the miners of Ashington. The money to build it was raised through church funds and public subscription, the most prominent subscriber being the Ashington Coal Company. Before this, children had been taught at two small schools, but because of the growth in the mining industry in the second half of the 19th century, these schools were no longer sufficient to serve the needs of the increasing population. Also, by the end of the 19th century, new laws were passed which meant that more children were going to school. In 1880, elementary education was made compulsory for all children, although they still had to pay for schooling until the 1891 Free Education Act allowed most children to receive a free elementary education. The minimum school leaving age was raised to 12 in 1899.

Every day the headmaster of a school would write down in the school log book what had happened, including what the children would be learning, how many children were absent and any unusual incidents. The next two questions are about log book entries for Hirst County Primary School, another Ashington school built to accommodate the needs of the expanding population.

1. Look at school log book page number 64.

ces2121_web_200 CES 21/2/1 page 64

  • a. Write down 2 of the poems the children will be learning.
  • b. What will the children be learning about in geography?

2. Look at school log book page number 143.

ces2121_b_web_200 CES 21/2/1 page 143

  • a. Why is attendance so poor?
  • b. How long do they close the school for and why?

Classes could be very large! At Bothal School, in the late 1890s, one teacher had a class of 104 children, with the assistance of only one pupil teacher, who would be a former pupil training as a teacher by helping a qualified member of staff.
A log book entry for Bothal School Infant Department (where the youngest children were taught) lists the subjects being taught as:
‘dictation, reading, handwriting, arithmetic and mental, colour and form object lessons, sewing, knitting and musical drill.’

3. Look at the copy book cover from a school in Alwinton, Northumberland, in 1905.

ep_99168_b_web_200 EP 99/168

  • a. What exercises would have been found in one of these books?
  • b. How should the pen be held? (look at the right edge)
  • c. How many children have used this book?

To download these questions click here