1916, 4 March – Batley News

Here is a round-up of pieces from this week’s Batley News relating to the parish and parishioners of St Mary’s. As ever, the spelling and punctuation matches that of the newspaper.

It seems appropriate, given March is designated Women’s History Month, to include this article about Batley’s Domestic School. This was attended by Batley school girls, including those from St Mary’s. Besides showing the rivalry between Batley and Dewsbury, it also illustrates attitudes to women as domestic home-makers in this period, and how this shaped the education of girls. The differences between the Batley and Dewsbury set-up also shows the freedom with which local authorities had in deciding the school curriculum.

Park Road School – Photo by Jane Roberts

Dinners at 2d. a Head.
Practical Education that Costs Rates Less Than £30 a Year.
More Democratic Than Dewsbury Home-Making School.
Refugee Girl’s Comparison with Belgian Tuition and Food.
(Special to the “News.”)

There were 22 of us to dinner on Tuesday, and the total cost was 3s. 5½d.—a fraction over 2d. per head for cottage pudding (made of bread, potatoes, onions and fresh meat), followed by succulent roly-poly pudding. And the supply was so generous as to be what is sometimes called Y.M.C.A.—“You May Call Again.” There was rice pudding, too—but that jam-roll dainty was the favourite, and the milk diet was left for the next day’s party!

Girls bought the materials for the repast, cooked and served it as nicely as well-mannered girls should do, and also shared the comestibles. The whole proceedings were interesting to a “News” visitor and others, because they showed the practical utility of domestic instruction given to Batley elementary scholars. First and foremost in this working-class community, the children have to be taught to prepare a dinner good and cheap; and palatable also, it may fairly be added.

Batley’s Home-Making School is not like Dewsbury’s. It may be described as more democratic, and open to all comers (girls from 10 to leaving age of about 14), and it costs considerable less, for the home-training is given in a corner set apart at Park Road Council School, whereas at Dewsbury the Home-Making School is a separate institution, with its own overhead expenses, and is for girls of 13 or over who have completed day-school careers.

The latter girls have the advantage that they are taught every day. At Batley, each girl’s turn comes every 13th day; 18 attend each day—and it is comparatively seldom one is absent. They are all too delighted to meet Miss Gwen Burkett, the domestic School mistress; for it is ever so much nicer to do arithmetic by shopping than in a prosaic exercise book!

The Park Road Centre is additional to the cookery classes attended by the same girls at Batley Technical School, where the mistress is Miss Norah Burkett (sister of the other expert).

The special Centre is not for fancy-work in pastry. It is a plain, practical institution, intended to be of every-day usefulness to a girl at home. She is taught how to control the ovens to the best advantage (the fireplace, by the way, is fitted up with both gas and coal ovens); she is taught the workings of the hot-water apparatus; also how to launder a table-cloth, to clean the fire-grate, check the gas-meter, stone the floor, etc. In brief—how to be a sensible Yorkshire girl, fit to manage a home.

When asked if they enjoyed the school, the chorus was as one loud voice, “Yes, sir!” The girls attend from 9.45 a.m. to 3.45 p.m., so they have a real chance to learn.

This is what they bought on Tuesday:— Two loaves of bread 7d., 1lb. suet 7½d., jam 6d., half-stone of potatoes 5½d., meat 9d., onions 2½., peas 4d.; total 3s. 5½d. From those they made the dinner mentioned in the first paragraph.

It was the day when Staincliffe School girls were there. The “News” man hopes all the other merry young people in frocks won’t be jealous. If they are, he is willing to patronise every day’s contingent, if they all behave and cook as well as the cheery ones from the top of the hill. And the mistress said they were all equally keen, alert and accomplished; so they can divide amongst them all these compliments.

Mr. G. R. H. Danby (director of education) explained that the Home-Making Centre costs the rates between £20 and £30 a year; not more. For it receives such good Government grants, and is so economically worked, that the expert mistress’ salary and other expenses are largely covered.

The children themselves pay 3d. each for a dinner. Of course, there was a bit of balance on the right side on Tuesday; and that would be devoted to the purchase of oddments like grate polish, rubbing stones, etc., or to some day’s dinner that exceeded the average cost.

The charge never admits of a turkey dinner, or a baron of beef. Neither does the average wage of a working-class home—and that is what the Centre has to bear in mind all the time.

“One object that we have,” Mr. Danby remarked, “is to uproot the fish-and-chips idea for dinner, and to prove the possibility of dinners for coppers”—that is, good dinners at a low expense.

The latest register revealed the anxiety of the girls to attend, even in such an erratic winter as the present:—Purlwell 94 per cent of possible attendances; Brownhill, Parish, Gregory Street and Hanging Heaton, 92; St. Mary’s, Mill Lane and Carlinghow, 90; Park Road, 89; Staincliffe and Warwick Road, 88; Healey, 84.

There is a “home-making’ room (on a less ambitions scale than the Centre at Park Road) at Warwick Road School, and, thanks to the earnest interest of Miss Maud Thomas, one of the staff, it is a very popular centre of instruction in domestic science. One is to be established at Purlwell also; but the general effort to introduce “practical education” is somewhat under a cloud owing to the war-time call for economy. Otherwise, Park Road would have been equipped some time ago with opportunities for instruction in bed-making, etc.

Some people may say, “Oh, bed-making is easy.” Let an inexperienced individual—an average man, for example—have a try; and the chances are that the bed will be an amusing representation of a billowy sea.

The “News” man had the good fortune to be put at table on Tuesday next to a particularly interesting girl—one of the earliest arrivals amongst the contingent of Belgian refugees. Her acquisition of knowledge of the English language has been remarkable; and altogether she is a bright and bonny girl, of exceptional intelligence.

She readily expressed her delight with the Home-Making Centre, and when asked if there was a corresponding institution where she came from—a lovely little town hard by Liege—gallant little Liege—she explained that there was one, called the Ecole Menagere. She attended there, and the lessons were evidently on the same lines as Batley and Dewsbury.

“And what do you call this roly-poly pudding in French?”
”Oh, we don’t have this kind of pudding,” she explained.

Anyway, when she returns to her Belgian home, with its garden and blooms, its nightingales and blackbirds, she will be able to tell of those succulent, sweet, satisfying, suet roly-poly puddings which she helped to make at Batley’s practical school.

Although I have not included full details of the following articles as being not specific to St Mary’s, this edition of the paper was rife with pieces reflecting attitudes to women. It included a feature about a new wash day aid – the “Eclipse” Vacuum Washer. The piece started with the words:

The housewives of the Heavy Woollen District do not take kindly to labour-saving ideas. They prefer their “good old-fashioned ways”

These ways included clothes being “peggied,” rubbed, boiled and scrubbed. However, in demonstrations, the new device which could wash a tub-full of clothes in four minutes, without the previous scrubbing, made “a washing day look like a holiday.” Though I imagine the price of 15s. 6d. would be out of the reach of many parishioners, orders were apparently pouring in to the Bradford Road store of Messrs. Brett and North.

The Tribunals looking at exemption appeals from those men being called up for military service, and including views from their employers in backing up those appeals, had numerous hints and examples of women not being up to replacing men in the workplace. These included an employer appealing for the exemption of a stockingette and puttee weaver said “I began to put in women because I thought they could manage, but after a few weeks I found they could not stand the hard work.” In response, and in granting a temporary exemption, the Mayor said “It is not a woman’s job. It wears them down.

There was even what was termed “a lively discussion” at the Batley Co-operative Society’s monthly meeting on the substitutes of female for male labour, and the attitude adopted by the Amalgamated Union of Co-operative Employees (AUCE). Strike action was even being threatened if the union demands were not met. These included women should not be engaged if the Union could find male assistants; if females were engaged they should receive the same rate of payment as men, after a three month probation; that they should be members of trades unions as a condition of employment; their employment should be temporary; and their conditions should be suitable.

Women were regarded by the employers as inferior, and the tone of the article is summed up by the quote from the members of Batley Co-operative Society’s Committee:

Our experience is that females are by no means equal to the male assistants. It would be a reflection on the male assistants of our Society if we were to pay females the same wages after three months. I think we haven’t got two females that are equal to one expert male assistant.

The strike was subsequently averted, as reported the following week, with the decision that women would only be put on the same scale as the men after serving three months probation.

Away from attitudes to women, parishioners Dominic Tarmey, and his wife Honora, had a new local appointment, reported as follows:

Mr. and Mrs. Dominic Tarmey, Cross Bank, Batley, have been appointed caretakers at Oakwell Smallpox Hospital, at 26s. a week, with house, coal, and gas…