Clarence Square School

Clarence Square School was the first school to be built by the Gosport Urban District Council in 1903.

Clarence Square School
Clarence Square School

It was built on the site of Burney’s Academy following the Education Act of 1902 which resulted in the Urban District Council taking on the responsibility for Elementary Education. Gosport became a Local Education Authority in 1903. The foundation stone was laid in September 1906 and the school was opened on 28th May 1907 with 343 boys on roll. The school was constructed to accommodate 330 scholars in three rooms for 60 pupils and three rooms for 50 pupils, surrounding a central hall.

The first headmaster was W.W.A. Colbran and following the first week he wrote “For the first week the work has been most satisfactory and the behaviour of the scholars excellent. The acoustic properties of the school are all that could be wished and the arrangements of classrooms, lobbies, playground, offices are such that work can be carried out under the best conditions. The ventilation is splendid. The attendance this week has been exceptionally good” : Taken from ‘The Story of Gosport’ by Leonard White.

It was Gosport’s first Council School, Gosport and Alverstoke Clarence Square School. (Dr. White in his book ‘The Story of Gosport’ refers to it as School No.11: The second followed in 1911 at Grove Road and the third in 1913 at Stone Lane.)

On October 10 1907 the governors were called to the school to note the effect of heavy rain upon the building and the playground. The headmaster wrote on 11th December, when the boys came to school for the first time ‘the results were extremely disappointing, many boys being hopeless in spelling and little better in mental arithmetic – two most important subjects

Clarence Square School C1910
Clarence Square School C1910

On 17 April 1920 a memorial to the 109 old boys who died during the 1914-1918 war was unveiled. The headmaster said ‘Since 1788 there has been a school on this site, and perhaps the most famous was Burney’s Academy where men trained for the navy, had gone forth and worthily upheld the traditions of the British Empire.
The then Commander-in-Chief Admiral Sir Cecil Burney had written ‘I treasure the pleasanter memories of my boyhood at the old school in Clarence Square and I know how well pleased my masters of those far off days would have been to know that the school has followed there on the same site has so gallantly upheld the traditions of its predecessors‘.

Clarence Square School 1918
Clarence Square School 1918

The school was closed in the 1950s when the area was redeveloped and the building became part of a clothing factory. In 2014 it is still largely intact but subdivided for various business purposes. Following the development of the area in 2017 when a new supermarket was constructed nearby more of the external aspects of the building can now be seen.


Memorial plaques
These photos (by Terry Rendall) are of the brass memorial plaques containing the names of former scholars and one teacher (113 of them) from Clarence Square Council School Gosport who perished in W.W.1 (unveiled 17th April 1920) and of 67 former scholars during W.W.2. These plaques were mounted in the school hall but removed when the building was developed and according to the War Memorials Register, they were thrown in a skip. Luckily they were found by Eric Jones retrieved and handed in to Gosport Museum. After a brief period of storage and neglect God’s Port Housing Society agreed to display them  on the understanding they would be maintained by Gosport Borough at their cost. They were finally mounted on an outside wall of the summerhouse in the grounds of the then Northcott House Nursing and Residential Care Home, Bury Hall Lane. According to the minutes of God’s Port Housing Society (January 1990) a re-dedication service was held at 12 noon on Sunday 22nd April 1990.


Northcott House was chosen because of its WWII connections (site of Bury Hall).



The small horizontal dedication plaque reads…

ERECTED BY TEACHERS, SCHOLARS, PARENTS AND FRIENDS EVER GRATEFUL MEMORY OF ABOVE NAMED FORMER SCHOLARS OF CLARENCE SQUARE COUNCIL SCHOOL (EMBRACING ALSO THE ORIGINAL CHURCH SCHOOL OF ST MATTHEWS AND HOLY TRINITY) WHO HEROICALLY GAVE UP THEIR LIVES IN THE GREAT WAR 1914-1919 AND AS AN INSPIRATION TO ALL PRESENT AND FUTURE SCHOLARS TO SO LIVE AS TO BE WORTHY OF THE GREAT SACRIFICE WHICH THEY MADE.


Note the date 1919, This refers to the 28th of June 1919, the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, officially ending the state of war between Germany and the allied powers. Later registered with the League of Nations on the 21st October 1919.


Sources:
The Story of Gosport Dr. L.F.White
Terry Rendall: Information and photos of the memorial plaques.

Links:
War Memorials register for the Clarence School memorial plaques.

Gosport Schools
The Gosport Royal Marine School dates from 1850. An elementary school was opened at Forton in 1830, and another at Gosport in connexion with Holy Trinity Church in 1831. In 1842 a school was founded at Alverstoke, and about two years later St. Matthew’s School, Gosport, and Elson School, were opened. In 1853 an elementary school was founded at Newton, and another in connexion with the Roman Catholic Church of St. Mary was established in 1811. Leesland School was opened in 1850.