C.V. Horner (1897–1980): Education and Schooling

After chronicling the anecdotes and memories of his childhood, Horner begins the second chapter of his memoir by reminiscing about walking a mile to his school and how three families were allowed to eat packed lunches in the classroom. He recalls: ‘[e]ach family took it in turn to sweep up the crumbs, we never made many crumbs when it was our turn to do the sweeping.’ (14)

Despite deeming his days at school to be ‘uneventful’, (14) he remembers actually enjoying his education, declaring himself to be a ‘good scholar’. (14) Horner then introduces us to his schoolmaster, Joseph Sedgewick, or—as he was known for his flat-footedness—“Clapfoot”. He is described as being very strict, recalling a time in which Clapfoot struck Horner twice over the head with his cane, for something Horner fails to remember, resulting in ‘two large lumps’. (14) Back in those days, Horner notes that school governors had much more authority, and he proceeds to detail what happened after he was caned

The three of us [Horner, his father, and the governor] went to see “Clapfoot”, who shook like a leaf as he could not deny hitting me. The governor warned him severely never to let it happen again. The master was in such a state that I bet he had to hurry to his toilet when we had departed. I never remember him ever hitting me again. (14)

Horner has a few more school time stories up his sleeve, including an occasion when Clapfoot was locked out and attempted to get back in via the classroom window; ‘when he was about half way [through] the window dropped and trapped him by the buttocks!’ (14-15) There was also an apparent Pancake Day tradition, in which the older students would lock the school doors at lunchtime and shout ‘“Hip, pip, hooray, it’s Pancake Day, if you don’t give us holiday, we’ll all run away”.’ (14) In regards to actual events, that is all Horner seems to remember; he highlights the level of discipline, particularly how everyone would sit quiet and ‘“take it all in”’ (15), with each day feeling almost no different than the day before. As such, he more fondly remembers his extra-curricular activities, and proceeds to describe them in greater detail.

West Burton Primary School.

By the time he was ten-years-old, Horner was hired by a farmer for a month’s haytiming, which was apparently ‘the custom in those days’.  (15) For all his hard work, he was paid a mere pound per month, which increased to thirty shillings when he turned eleven, and then two pounds at age twelve. Throughout this chapter, he prefers to discuss the customs of the holidays in his time, including Easter, Halloween, and Christmas, the latter of which he describes as not being ‘the elaborate, commercialised affair it is today’. (21)

As mentioned in the Home and Family blog, Horner states that it was somewhat of a convention for children to leave home and school once they reach the age of fourteen, especially with larger families that lived in smaller homes. Despite this, there was a lack of opportunities available for school leavers; the limestone quarries had not started production and the majority of coal mines and slate quarries had closed down. As a result, Horner writes that most boys ‘went into farm “place” – a living-in job on a local farm and the majority of girls, unless they were farmer’s daughters with plenty of cheese and butter making work waiting for them at home, went into domestic service.’ (29) Horner notes that females had an especially difficult time, as they would start as living-in maids with little freedom and low pay. On the other hand, males would sometimes become apprentices to the local joiner or blacksmith, yet they too would also have a minimal salary.

Dent Primary School.

Horner remarks that ‘the days of the village saddler, tailor, baker and so on were numbered as more and more good[s] were “imported” into the dale [b]y the railway reducing the need for craftsmen and tradesmen in the dale.’ (29-30) He goes on to mention that could have had a ‘golden opportunity’ (30) to attend the local grammar school if his father had the money; however, ‘the finance was bogey.’ (30) Rounding off his chapter on his school days, Horner writes: ‘[w]ith a fair number of younger brothers and sisters it just did not appear feasible so it was that, like the rest, I too left school at fourteen to earn my keep.’ (30)


  • Burnett, John, David Vincent and David Mayall. Ed. ‘C.V. Horner.’ The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography 1790-1945. 3 vols. Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1987, 1989: 2:422.


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