In the previous post, I talked about John Puckle, who left money in his will for a school to be set up to educate poor children of Laindon and Basildon. One of the conditions was that the schoolmaster in charge should be a graduate but it was doubtful that the last and most well known master, James Hornsby, attended university or ever graduated. His first occupation listed in the census was farm labourer and it may have been that he was a former student of Puckles School, as he lived in the Great Burstead area.
Graduate or not, he must have been a reasonable teacher, as he was the schoolmaster for forty eight years and is remembered today in the name of the senior school near St. Nicholas Church; The James Hornsby School.
Puckle’s school catered for up to 20 boys and girls, who were taught reading, writing and arithmetic and they would pay 4d or 8d depending on the level of instruction they received. However, the number of children varied according to the farming seasons and on occasion, there were up to fifty scholars of varying ages. In November 1874, there were 41 children attending the school, 20 of whom were funded by the Puckle Foundation. In that year, the eldest child was twelve years old and the youngest, Thomas Spooner, was five. It was likely that Mr. Hornsby taught lessons in the nave of the church as well as in the ground floor room of the school house. The belfry area of the nave was used as a scullery and we know that Catherine, the third and last Mrs. Hornsby, stored her pots and pans there and used it to dry her washing in wet weather. In reply to a parishioner who complained about the washing, Catherine said “Well people don’t go to church on Toosdays”.
The school closed in September 1877 when St. Nicholas School opened (later renamed Laindon Park Junior School). Mr. Hornsby died in 1887 at the age of 87 and he is buried in front of the Priest House with his three wives: Sarah, who died in 1851 aged 59, Catherine, who died in 1859 aged 47 and a second Catherine who died in 1883 aged 68.
It is thought James Hornsby was a strict disciplinarian and was not adverse to using the cane although this was probably quite normal for the nineteenth century. The story that always makes my imagination work overtime has to do with the beam in the School House.
One thing’s for certain, that popular sci-fi command was never heard in Puckle’s School although you might have heard this, “Please DON’T beam me up, Mr. Hornsby, Sir!” If you want to know more, you’ll have to get your copy of ‘Daffodil and the Thin Place’, which doesn’t include Captain Kirk, nor Scotty but does come out on 29th June and can be pre-ordered here