Park Lane Infants School
Wigan Road, Ashton
Part of Group:
At Risk: No
A Sunday School was begun in 1813, originally in two small rooms of a cottage but later in purpose-built rooms adjoining the north side of the Chapel. From the outset an attempt was made to provide the children with a general education. In response to a questionnaire from the British & Foreign Unitarian Association in 1830, Rev Knowles stated: “There is a Sunday School, with instruction on the Monday evening, to the senior scholars, who think proper to attend. There are 57 boys and 44 girls in the school... The instruction consists of reading and spelling. 29 boys and 17 girls are taught writing. 19 boys and 5 girls are taught arithmetic. Last winter the elder scholars, from 16 to 22 years old, were instructed in some branches of natural theology. Cleanliness, attention, and decorum are not forgotten” (Wigan Archives, D/NU 1/4/83).
In 1875 an attempt was made to establish a day school but the financial burden proved too great and the first day school at the site closed in 1893. A second attempt was made in 1902. A bequest by Miss Ann Elizabeth Shaw enabled the construction of new school rooms, still standing to the west of the Chapel. By happy coincidence, the Education Act of the same year for the first time allowed state funding of church schools. Following the introduction of the 1944 Education Act, Park Lane opted for "voluntary controlled" status whereby ownership of the land and buildings remained with the trust but day-to-day control was sacrificed in exchange for the assumption of all financial responsibilities by the local education authority.
Sarah Ellen Sudworth (née Lowe) was a pupil at the school from 1913. She recalled that-“The small room of the school was known as the Little Room, and was presided over by Miss Brindle, the Headmistress, and Miss Smalley (later to be Mrs Marsh). The room had two classes, the babies (Miss Smalley) and the six year olds (Miss Brindle.) In winter a lovely warm fire burned in the large grate, and a large iron-railed fireguard kept any curious child at bay, and on rainy mornings was useful for drying socks and stockings. A cardboard box was always kept filled with miscellaneous oddments to change into. In spring, the window sills held amber coloured glass bulb vases, and as the days and weeks passed, we watched with awe the white roots twining around the vases in the water underneath the hyacinth bulbs. Under the window was an upright piano, which Miss Brindle played for the dancing lessons....
Tuesday nights was ‘Sunbeam Circle Night’, in the day school room. All the boys and girls off Rose Hill, the boys and girls from ‘Cox Lump’, along with the Sunday School children and Superintendent, would converge on the school, and sit in more or less orderly rows in the school desks placed ready for them. Tom Lomax played the piano for one or two children’s hymns, and the solos sung by some of the girls. Recitations were given, and both songs and recitations were rewarded by much applause from the assembled company. Names of anyone who had been unable to attend were given in and flowers sent to any sick child.”*
By the late 1970s the facilities at Park Lane seemed outdated by the standards of the time. Meeting on 31 October 1979, Wigan MBC's Education (Finance & General Purposes) Committee agreed a recommendation “that in view of the unsatisfactory condition of the present premises and the uncertainty of their future, all necessary steps be taken to close the School as soon as possible” and, further, that the Council should issue the requisite notice under s.13 of the Education Act confirming its intentions to close Ashton Park Lane and to establish a new Community Primary School at Landgate. The Park Lane day school finally closed in 1983, with most pupils of eligible age transferring to the newly-built Perry Brook Community School on Landgate Lane.
The 'Shaw Memorial Schools' remain part of the Chapel estate and continue to be used for a variety of activities. In June 2013 a celebration was held to mark the 200th anniversary of the Sunday School.
Text and images provided by the Makerfield Rambler.