Scarratt’s Tunstall – King Street Schools

victorian schoolroom


William Scarratt’s book “Old Times in the Potteries” is a collection of facts and reminiscences of life in “the six towns” from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th.

Published in 1906, the book is based on a series of articles William wrote for the Weekly Sentinel.

Born at Tunstall in the early 1840s, he was educated at a Dame School, King Street National Schools and Newchapel Grammar School.

In his book, William says there were several dame schools and three elementary schools in Tunstall when he was growing up. One of the elementary schools was the Church of England National School in King Street (Madison Street). The school, which was built with money raised by Christ Church, was housed in a “clean, lofty, airy, well-ventilated building”.

The other two elementary schools were British Schools founded by the Methodist Church.

The National School in King Street, which William attended, was opened in 1839, and by 1841, it had 333 pupils (125 boys and 208 girls).

In those days, parents had to pay school pence for their children’s education. The parents of children attending King Street were charged 2d a week for each child’s schooling.

By the time William went there, a good-natured rebellion known as barring-out had become a school tradition. On barring-out day, the boys came to school early. They locked the headmaster and the teachers out of the building and refused to let them in until the headmaster agreed to give all the pupils a holiday.

When recalling his school days, William wrote about the barring-out day ceremony he saw during his first year at King Street.

In this edited extract from “Old Times in the Potteries” he says:

I was one of the little ones and of no consequence in the eyes of the older boys and was an observer of the first barring-out day I experienced. The headmaster came to school at the usual hour, but he could not get in. Great was the excitement inside the schoolroom. The big boys went to the open windows. Some of them put the keys on a long pole which was held out so high that the headmaster could not reach them. The headmaster and the teachers had been barred-out.

Parleying of a bantering nature began between the boys and the headmaster which continued until he agreed to give the whole school a holiday.

Great was the triumph of the victors who said they would have kept the doors locked all afternoon if he had refused to give them their annual holiday.

Can You Help Spotlight?

Like most of the schools built in Tunstall during the Victorian era, King Street has been demolished.

Spotlight on North Staffordshire is researching the history of education in Stoke-on-Trent. If you went to school in Tunstall and would like to share your memories of your school days with us please email