Clara Grant School, Knapp Road, Bow

Clara Grant School, Knapp Road, Bow

Do you remember Knapp Road School?

Bill Hawkins emailed us to ask, if anyone remembered Knapp Road School.

A walk to Knapp Road told me that it is now called The Clara Grant Primary School, and a quick bit of research produced an absolute deluge of fascinating local history.

School Board for London

Visually it looks like one of the many sturdy School Board for London buildings which have lasted so well. High on the wall a plaque reads Devon’s Road School, 1905. The SBL (colloquially LSB) was setup following the 1870 Elementary Education Act. The SBL built 400 schools like this one between 1870 and 1904 – quite an achievement. Then responsibility passed to the London County Council, but there was obvious continuity. The board was elected democratically and from the off in 1870 all ratepayers, including women, could vote in a secret ballot for the board. That 1870 board had three women on it, including Elizabeth Garrett Anderson. Many caring, influential and can-do people served on the School Board for London.

Clara Grant School, Knapp Road, Bow
Clara Grant School, Knapp Road, Bow

The aim of the SBL was to provide sufficient school places for London’s poorest children. By the late 1880s they were educating 350,000 pupils. The London board had passed a by-law in 1871 compelling all parents to have their children educated from the ages of 5 to13. That didn’t work too well as school attendance wasn’t free until 1891. Additionally poor children were working, either helping their mothers with outwork, such as making matchboxes on the kitchen table, or simply in employment.

Geezer Ted Lewis (1929 – 2017) told me how he came to leave school at 11 during WW2. He was evacuated to a village in Devon that had a church run school which only took infants and juniors. So Ted went to work on a farm, which he enjoyed. He’d previously spent all his boyhood summer holidays hop picking in Kent, and had gained some experience.

Ted Lewis tells how he left school aged 11.

Clara Grant

Clara Grant was born in 1867 to a reasonably well-off family in Wiltshire. She trained to become a teacher at Salisbury Diocesan Training College, and her first post was at a small Wiltshire church school in 1888. Motivated by her Christian faith, she became the head of a school in Hoxton in 1890. She set out to help the most deprived children in London. Ten years later she became head of a tin school at Bow Common (All Hallows). When the splendid Devon’s Road School in my photos opened in 1905 she was headmistress of the infants.

Clara Grant listed at Devon's Road School 1910
Clara Grant listed in 1910 PO Directory as infants’ mistress at Devon’s Road School

Clara was up to speed with the latest ideas on child development. She was influenced by the work of Friedrich Froebel who invented the kindergarten. This considered the whole child – health, physical development, emotional well-being, the environment and other factors as important.

Fern Street Settlement

Fern Street Settlement London Dec 2019
Fern Street Settlement London December 2019

The Settlement Movement began with the 1884 founding of Toynbee Hall in Whitechapel. This socially reforming movement brought rich and poor together in one place. Wealthy volunteers brought donations, culture, education, and provide daycare, and healthcare to the struggling poor. Clara Grant worked at Toynbee Hall for a while, and this influenced what she did next. In 1907 she opened up her own terraced house in Fern Street, which backed onto Devon’s Road School, as a small settlement. By the 1939 PO Directory (below) you can see that it now occupied 3 houses.

Clara Grant listed as Fern Street Settlement Warden 1939
Clara Grant listed as Fern Street Settlement Warden 1939

Margaret MacMillan established the first school clinic in London in Devon’s Road School in 1908. Clara organised hot breakfasts for her young pupils, paying for porridge, milk, bread and butter. She also gave them proper clothes and boots. The Settlement provided healthcare, a dentist, a library, and organised a thrift club. Clara Grant is famous for the farthing bundles of toys which the children queued to get. From 1908 a worker and nurse would visit every baby born to families in the area once a month for a year who were connected to Devons Road School.

Clara Grant received an OBE in 1949, and died soon after aged 82.


Does anyone have any memories of going to school in Knapp Road to share with Bill?

Knapp Road 1939 from London PO directory
Knapp Road 1939 from London Post Office Directory

Read more East End history on OurBow.

120 Comments

  1. Hi Dave I was at the school in 1949 can remember some of those teachers you mentioned, also have some fond memories some not so fond, nitty Nora yes definitely and also some of us from poorer family’s used to be given cod liver oil and a spoonful of malt and you had to line up to have it off a spoon. Loved the sticky spoonful of malt but wasn’t to keen on the cod liver oil. Happy days xx

  2. Our family moved to Bracken House, Bow in 1962 and I went to Devon’s Road Primary School with my older siblings Jean and Derek. We all later moved onto St Pauls Way Secondary School. I was 11 in 1967, so I’m a little younger than most people that have commented on this page.
    Unfortunately I can’t remember any of the teachers names when I was there, so I’m hoping that if anyone was there between 1962 and 1967, you may be able to fill in some gaps for me.

    1. Hi Valerie I was at St Paul’s Way school in around fifty six, I can remember Mr Buckingham I think his name was he taught music and maths. Only remember because he was very naughty in music with us girls,. And in maths he had a habit of throwing the board rubber lat you. Also a geography teacher who was very strict but can’t remember his name but a very good teacher but had no sense of humor.

    2. Stirred a few memories. St.Paul’s Way School.
      Yes, Mr.Buckingham, who banged the piano at assembly, was very naughty indeed, but harmless. Mr.Couzins, Miss Lathlean, Miss Hilda ‘shut up you impudent child’ Heslop. Mr.White – tall teacher armed with slipper & the strict blue-bearded Scots teacher Mr.McEwen? All remembered around 1953-55.

    3. hi sarah

      i was at SPW – 61-66.teachers were:reg cousins;mr buckingham;miss lathlean(head) then mr cousins;
      mr ward;mr wills;miss rolls;miss butler;the gibbs twins;mr george_and mr hurley both p.e.
      we were a good sports school: i boxed;played cricket and football;was in the athletics team.
      we had two all england boxing champions: john gleed and colin coughlin and two west ham footballers colin mackleworth and tony carr.anyone else out there from 61 -66?

      does anyone remember: alan hooper;tony andrews;peter freeman;susan hill;tony pell-ah those memories.

      chris savory

    4. I attended St Paul’s way from 1953-1958
      Mr Buckingham RHC( rough house Charlie) as he like to be known fantastically kind and funny teacher some other teachers not mentioned so far Alfie Graceman as we called him although he once told us Alfie wasn’t his name . Mr Kite the French teacher , mr minuar
      Geometry ( not sure that’s how it’s spelt) Mr Hancock Art some sport bloke shise dad was a baker M r Fish great history teacher and a nice friendly bloke
      And what about the tube journeys to Fairlop to play football each week the old airdrome is long gone and is the old school with those lovely big French doors open in the summer great

    5. Hello Rose & Chris.
      Enjoyed reading your comments SPW.
      Just remembered the nickname of the terrifying Scottish teacher there – Killer McKweon.

    6. I was there between 1961-1965. Mr Jackson was the first headmaster i remember then Mr Pope. My first teacher was Mrs Terry, no relation then Mr Bond who would either throw the blackboard rubber at you or hit you round yhe back if the head if you played up. I remember getting a prize on prize day and playing football on the roof. I lived in Swaton road.

  3. Wow, it’s incredible to hear stories from fellow students who attended Devon’s Road School, even going back to the 1940s! The nostalgia is simply enchanting. As for me, I had the privilege of attending Devon’s Road in 1982, starting from Nursery and continuing on. My experience there was a whirlwind of emotions, a mix of both hardships and delightful moments.

    I must confess, those were trying times as there were only a handful of Asian children studying at the school, and unfortunately, I often found myself subjected to racial bullying, harassment, and even physical attacks. It was a challenging aspect of my journey.

    Yet, amidst those difficulties, there were memories that remain etched in my heart. I fondly remember some incredible teachers like Neil, Margaret, and my beloved teacher, Mr. Mike Bond. Ah, Mr. Bond, the mere mention of his name would send shivers down our spines, for he was known as the strictest of them all. Each morning, he would challenge us with mind-boggling math problems, making sure we were pushed to our limits. And woe unto those who chatted instead of listening, as he would swiftly hurl a ball their way! Oh, the tales of his booming voice and thunderous shouts, echoing all the way to the street! His classroom was situated on the top floor, on the left-hand side, offering a breath-taking view of the Docklands and even the Crystal Palace Telecommunication Tower.

    However, as I reflect on my time in Mr. Bond’s class, I realise that he was not the stern figure that rumours made him out to be. In fact, he was an incredibly kind-hearted man and an excellent teacher. I still recall the day I read a book to him, “Discovering the Universe.” I read it with such fluency and passion that he was thoroughly impressed. Without delay, he whisked me away to a specialist teacher who focused on nurturing the reading talents of gifted children like myself. It was a moment of triumph, a memory that lingers with me to this day.

    Of course, Mr. Bond had no tolerance for misbehaviour or distractions in his class. Oh, and I must confess, I had quite a knack for general knowledge. Whenever there was a competition against other classes, testing our knowledge, and I knew numerous answers, Mr. Bond would call me out, exclaiming, “Yah! Nurul Ma Man!” It always brought a smile to my face.

    There was a spine-chilling tale that circulated among the older boys, claiming that the school’s basement was haunted. According to their account, during the dark days of World War II, the basement served as a resting place for the deceased. It sent shivers down our spines, but it added an air of mystery to the school’s history.

    During my reception and early years in Year 1 and 2, I would spend my time playing near the edge of the wall, constructing tiny homes for little ants. It was a world of imagination and wonder for me.
    One of our favourite pastimes was playing rounder’s on the rooftop. Occasionally, the tennis ball would escape the confines of the fence, bouncing into people’s gardens below. The teachers would then send us intrepid adventurers to retrieve the ball. Oh, how times have changed! Nowadays, such actions would be considered a violation of safeguarding laws, and the teachers would face serious consequences. It’s quite amusing to think about it now!

    Ah, those were the days at Devon’s Road School, filled with a medley of experiences, both challenging and delightful. They have become cherished chapters in the story of my life, forever etched in my memory.

  4. Hello everyone
    I went to Devon’s road 1947-1952 my sister Rose was 2years in front of me
    Mr Jackson was the headmaster I remember mr Woolley and mr Hislop and what about that huge man mr Gilbert and the scary miss Harvey miss Mulligan was my teacher when I startedI didn’t like school much my best lessons were when we had the bbc school programmes on the radio and sometimes a film on an old projector and what about the occasional visit by the police giving a road safety exhibition in the playground with a bloke who fell off his bike in front of the car
    Funny how things stick in your mind I vividly remember Mr Gilbert came in and whispered something to our teacher who stood up a told us the king had died. We rushed home to tell mum. And what about Nitty Norah who came round every month or so to check our hair go nits with a steel comb dipped in evil smelling stuff

    1. I attended Knapp Road school in 1944 infants and junior until 1950. Then as a senior, sent to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. (mixed) Southern Grove. Anyone who knew me still around?

    2. I would love to read some of your recollections of the infants school. It probably hadn’t changed much since my dad’s time.

    3. A long time ago 1944, can’t remember that much. We lived in Rounton Road, opposite the left-hand entrance of the school, number 70 was only 150 yards away. I remember the curtains being drawn in the classroom at about 2 pm and pupils being put to bed for a nap in ex-army beds, similar to a stretcher. This terrified me, not being used to it, I used to run from the school and hide up a tree that was outside the house, knowing that my mother would return me if I went indoors. I would watch someone from the school come to the house to report my escape, from my hiding place in the tree. My mother knew where to find me, as this was a known hiding place of mine, I would come down only if she assured me that I would not have to go to bed again. this was a regular occurrence until I was exempt from nap time. Treasured memories. Can’t climb trees anymore.

    4. Jimmy I remember that very well when we had to sleeping the afternoon dobyouvremember the headmaster Mr Goode

    5. There may not be many left of us but I think that we had a really good life even with the war I still remember getting married in the Catholic Church in canton Street I. 1955 the same year as getting my call up foe my national service any way take care as you said not many of us left

    6. As you say, Bill, happy times, better growing up in those days than it is now, despite all the shortages of post-war Britain. You take care also.

    7. Hi mate, my brother Johnny Cornish went to Southern Grove at that time and I remember that one of his lessons was cooking, ring any bells ? Also, another kid that went there was called, believe it not, Evan Helps , how could you forget that one. Another kid was called ”Chopper” Knight. I dont know his christian name. Apparently young Chopper was a bit of a villain who would help himself to pickled onions from the factory on St Pauls Way.
      Regards, Jimmy.

    8. hi beverley
      i went to devons J.M.infants 1954 .my teacher was miss jacobs i only remember ‘playing’ with water and sand.
      chris

    9. Anyone else remember Charlie (Chopper) Knight. A good friend of mine in my early teens.

    10. Hi Jim, sounds like chopper, we were at Southern Grove school together, same birth year (1939) both born in St Andrews hospital in Devons Rd. We used to get on the barges on the Bow canal and nick peanuts, gave them to friends at school. The playground used to be littered with shells. Good old days.

    11. Charlie ( Chopper ) Knight. Had a younger brother nicknamed Chisle. Lived on the railway bridge in Devons Rd.

    12. Chopper Knight was in the bombed school, that is the Knapp Rd. school before they
      demolished it. He was up on the third floor when it gave way. He fell through all the
      floors until he hit the ground floor, got up, dusted himself off and walked away.
      The kids are tough in the East End.

  5. Hi there

    I was at Devons J.M. 1954-61. I remember teachers being:Mr Jackson(head};John Islip(who went as a missionary to Africa);Chris Pope;Miss Gadd;Miss Baraclough; Miss Morris and Miss Jacobs(reception).
    45+ in a class- I remember playing football and cricket for the school and have the photos!
    I went on to SPW Sec.

    Chris Savory

    1. Hello.
      Knapp road School to me was the school at the top end of Knapp Road that got bombed during the war and demolished. My elder brother was a pupil there at that time.
      I attended Devons school from 1945 until 51 when I passed on to St. Paul’s Way
      I can only remember Miss Gadd and Mr Islip from your list above, but I do remember that my first teacher was a Miss Taylor followed next term in the kindly Miss Roper’s class. The head Mistress was the fearful Miss Hunt.

    2. hi derek
      yes knapp road was at the other end of knapp rd and was destroyed by a flying bomb in WW2.
      my parents lived next to it.
      which pupils do you remember at devons rd?

      best.
      chris

    3. Hello Chris..
      I can’t remember any of the pupils at Devons with the exception of Mike Ellis, who lived in Campbell Road. On my first day at school I went into Miss Taylor’s class. She asked the kids that were already there “This is Derek, does any body know him” ? Mike put his hand up and I went and sat next to him, even though I didn’t know who he was at all . Our friendship lasted thtough our schooldays and into adulthood, where I was best man at his wedding as he was at mine. Later we both lived near each other in Hornchurch until he moved to the coast when he retired. But we are still regularly in contact.

    4. hi derek
      i have a similar story in that ,bob woodman,was in my reception class;my juniors; st pauls way;football teams and on many holidays. we too are still in contact and meet up when we can.
      he lives in sidcup- i live in eastbourne.

      chris

  6. Hi Gina, I had the same teachers in the 50’s and also there was Mr Jackson the headmaster.
    Some of the kids in my class were, Frances Adnams, Irene Philips, Roger Washbourne,
    Sidney Bootle, Lennie Sinclair. Sir Michael Caine always says, we weren’t poor, we
    were underpriveleged. Too right, Michael…………………..

    1. Hi Jim

      We may have been in contact before via another site.
      I lived in Sumner house ,Devons rd-1050 to 1968.

      We have some mutual friends in Michael Lovell,Marilyn Drake and Bob Goodbody.the lads
      lived near you I think?

      Best
      Chris Savory

    2. Hi Chris, Yes, I was in that class too. Roger Washbourne had a twin sister, Barbara.
      Also, there was Charlie Souza, Melvyn Finegold, Dennis Isaacs, Reggie Beckwith, David Cooper,
      John Lamming, Michael Brand, just to mention a few.
      Bob Goodbody and Mick Lovell lived in my street, Fairfoot Road. I’m still in touch with Mick and I think
      he contributes to Our Bow. I can’t believe I got this far in life still in one piece.
      It’s been a fantastic ride and I’m so grateful to hear from folks like you from the old days.

    3. cheers jim.
      i live in eastbourne had have done for 46 years.
      im now semi retired, working for brighton uni- after 33 years teaching in special ed.
      what have you done in aussie since ’68?

      ps. i remember selling lead to wally tibbats and playing footbal with his younger brother johnny!
      chris

    4. Hi Chris, I have talked to Mick and he remembers you very well. He wants to have a day out with you in the near future. Hi e-mail is: mikelovell@mr-genius.co.uk
      I’ve had a rare old time out here and have lived in Sydney, Melbourne , Wellington NZ. and
      finally ended up in Adelaide. I did a trade for raising steam in boilers and got what’s called
      a ”First Class Engine Driver’s certificate. That meant I could operate any boiler and steam turbine to
      generate electricity. I had two jobs aver the 40 years working for two private companies, working in
      control room environment. The Aussies I worked with have mainly been fantastic blokes and I still have days out with a lot of them. I’m on my second wife, having divorced the Aussie girl I was with and believe or not, this one is from Broadstairs. I met her in Peru when we did the same Amazon
      expedition in 2009. She now lives here in Goolwa Beach with me, about 80kms from Adelaide.
      I have a son aged 45 who is a dental specialist in Adelaide.
      I’m glad to hear you have done so well and it’s funny how we all like to move to the coast having come from the big smoke. I’ve been back a few times and I must say, I feel like a foreigner.
      I still remember the old street and the good times with all the mates.
      Stay well and we’ll talk soon. Jim
      ps. james.cornish@live.com.au

  7. Hi all,

    I’m doing a bit of the old genealogy tracking at the moment and a vague conversation with my dad involved one of his aunts being married to a school keeper, somewhere in East London.
    I’ve just found that my grandaunt’s husband, Stanley Chandler, was a school keeper there back in 1939 and they lived on site.
    His name was Stanley Chandler but I doubt theres anyone out there who would remember him. But in saying that, at this stage I have no idea how long he worked there so I guess it’s not impossible that he could have been there through the 50’s.
    He passed away in 1962.

    Cheers everyone
    Phil

    1. I went to this school (then Devons Road School in the 50’s. My 2 older sisters and brother went there too. I loved it. Our teachers were Mr. Islip, Mr. Woolly and Miss Gadd. Miss Allan, the rector’s sister, from the Lighthouse Baptist church , was our reception class teacher.
      The playground for the juniors, was on the school roof.
      There were around 48 of us in my class; a boy called John Newland and l passed the 11 plus and went to grammar school from there. We lived opposite the school in a little road called Chiltern Road. I think the houses we lived in were all pulled down and replaced with a skyscraper. It was a happy school – we didn’t know we were poor! ???

    2. I was at the school from 1946 until 1951 and can remember the caretaker at that time. He lived on the school premises. The caretaker’s house was to the right of the school. Can’t remember his name but he was a short man, who often chased me out of the playground after hours.

    3. Hi mate, I was there from 51 to 56 and the old caretaker was Mr. Hooper.
      If I remember rightly he had a limp and couldn’t catch us kids.
      We would play football at the far end of the playground and when we saw him coming we would
      shoot down the side of the school and climb the gate into Knapp Road.

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