Woodford Halse Archive

The Old Tin Hut, Church Street, Woodford Halse
The Old Tin Hut

Woodford Buildings

St Mary’s

What of the organisations attached to the church? Three spring immediately to mind, the Sunday School, the Choir and the Mothers Union. There have been others, but they have fallen by the wayside. The Sunday School is the oldest, when it started, no-one knows, but it could well have been in the late 18th century. At about that time there was a strong movement throughout the County to set up Sunday Schools and in a paper by the Reverend W.J. Bain, A Paper on the Early History of Sunday Schools especially in Northamptonshire (1875), Byfield is mentioned as follows:

“On Sunday last, by means of a subscription of the principal inhabitants, a Sunday School was opened at Byfield in this County; when 98 children, decently apparelled, were conducted to Divine Service; many of whom, without the benefit of this institution would have been absent from the Church profaning the Sabbath, and of course, ignorant of their Christian Duty. Hence the utility of these schools is clearly evident and reflects no little Honour on Parishes where they are established.” “April 12th 1788”.

It is most likely that Woodford would not have been far behind Byfield in starting a Sunday School but it is not until 1835 that evidence that a Sunday School was in being at Woodford can be found. It can be found in parliamentary papers, published that year, which quote an extract from Education Returns, 1835 which says: “There is at Woodford Halse one Sunday School, attended by 60 males and 60 females, it is endowed with £6 per annum, the master and mistress are each allowed a salary of £4 per annum, which is made up by collections after a sermon.”

Then in a book by John Taylor, entitled Robert Raikes and Northamptonshire Sunday Schools, the Reverend H.H. Minchin is quoted as saying, “I cannot learn when the Sunday School was first established here but it has been going on beyond the memory of the oldest inhabitant. Until the present school was built in 1856 the children were taught in the chancel by a labourer to learn the alphabet, spelling, which was learned during the week and said on Sunday, and reading the Bible. They also learned the Catechism. Some of my predecessors used to Catechise after the second lesson and to assist sometimes in the school. In common with many neighbouring parishes we have a legacy of about £5 a year left by Sir John Knightley for the support of the Sunday School but I have not been able to see a copy of the will.”

Until 1965 the Sunday School was held in the Church Room, a corrugated iron building which stood where the present car park now is. This served the Parish as the Sunday School and for general purposes until the present Church Room, built as a cinema, was bought and opened for use on the 15th July, 1965. As to the number of children attending, there are no records until Mrs. Ruth Thomas recorded in her Village Scrapbook in 1953 that there were 95 children attending at that time. In 1984 there were eight children attending and in 1986 there were about a dozen.

By kind permission of Woodford Halse Archive