A Teaching Career:

 Mr Alfred Norman (1863-1933), Audley Headmaster

Joan & Barbara Norman

This article is in two parts.  The first is a short biography of Alfred Norman.  The authors are, happily, in possession of a series of documents and letters relating to Mr Norman’s career.  We think they are sufficiently interesting to include extracts here, and they form the second part of the article.  Incidentally, if any readers were taught by Mr Norman, it would be interesting to receive an account and perhaps publish it in the next journal.                   Ian Bailey (address in introductory article)

            Mr Alfred Norman was born in 1863 at Appleford, in what was then known as the County of Oxford and Berkshire.  His father, William, was a railway signalman and in 1878 he apprenticed Alfred as a pupil teacher at a salary of £5 a year at  Hagbourne Church of England School.  By 1882 or 3 he had moved to Weymouth House National School.  Here he was also involved with the Sunday School and choir.  He was in charge of a class of 68 boys, and, later, aided by a monitor, was responsible for the education of a second class in addition - around 120 boys!

            He arrived in Audley with his wife, daughter and baby son in 1886 to become Headmaster of the Boys’ National School, which was housed in what is now the parish hall, and later became the Infants’ School.  The girls at this time were taught in a room adjoining the vicarage garden wall, which was later to be used as the Scouts’ meeting place.  His salary was £70 a year, with the promise of a £15 bonus at the end of the school year if the school obtained Good Merit status.  In 1890 his salary was increased to £75 with £25 to include and performance and drawing grant.  In 1894 he was asked to undertake a drawing class for pupil teachers from several schools.  Paper, pencils and drawing books could not be supplied by the managers, but use could be made of school models and pictures.

            The headmaster occupied the house adjacent to the schoolroom.  Facilities were limited, and his son recalled how he and his sister used to take a yoke and two buckets each to fetch water from a spring in the vicinity of Hall Street to supplement supplies to the boiler for the weekly wash.  He also recounted how, due to transport difficulties, the school inspector making his annual visit, had to stay overnight and share his bed!

            This was an era of frequent epidemics among schoolchildren, including measles, chicken pox, scarlet fever, diphtheria, mumps and smallpox.  Mr Norman’s son, Cyril, stay with relations at Maidenhead when scarlet fever struck as his younger brother had died during one such epidemic.

            In 1901 the Boys’ School was closed and a mixed school opened in the building  in the centre of Audley which has now been demolished to provide a building site for houses.  Mr Norman, with his ability in technical drawing, submitted plans for the new school which were accepted by the Board of Education.  Mr Norman was appointed headmaster of the new school and continued to act in this capacity when, in 1908, the school was adopted by the county council.  At the “Big School,” as it was popularly called, he was able to indulge in his love of gardening by organising a school garden for the instruction of the boys, who, under his guidance, also planted the sycamore trees which line Hall Street.

            Audley at this time had a close social structure.  The two main elements were farming and mining and there was a lively spirit in the village, resulting in many and varied activities.  Sport ranked high on the agenda, both the school and villagers being involved in football and cricket.  There were flower shows, school plays and concerts, Sunday School festivals and wonderful productions of oratorios from both church and chapels.  In most of these activities during the early part of the century, Mr Norman was involved.  As his physical activity was limited by a limp resulting from a dislocated hip in childhood, he found compensation in other ways.  He, and the resident incumbent, Rev. Pauli, enjoyed painting together.  He also enjoyed wood carving and gardening, the latter being his great love, and when he moved into a new home in Alsager Road in 1906 he planted many varieties of fruit trees, a number of which he grafted himself.  To this day the garden still boasts roses that he planted: Gloire de Dijon, (Frau Karl Druschki) and Alberic Barbier  all flourish.

            A reminder of his interest in wood and design still remains in Audley Church, where the organ screen which he designed is still extant.  Unfortunately, the chancel screen for which he was also responsible was lately removed.

            Altogether, he contributed much to the life of the church and village, acting on numerous committees and serving as a lay reader and parochial church councillor.  He was also involved in the restoration of the church clock and the rehanging of the church bells.

            His ability as a teacher was recognised by Mr Lichfield, the Headmaster of the Audley Grammar School, who in a testimonial spoke of the boys who passed on to the school as being “well behaved and thoroughly efficient in their groundwork, a fitting tribute to the high standard of Mr Norman’s work.”

            He retired in 1926, after forty years as headmaster, and died in 1933.  He was buried in the family grave in  Audley churchyard.



1.  Extracts from the Memorandum of Agreement between the Managers of Hagbourne Church of England School and William Norman. This marks the appointment of Alfred Norman as a pupil teacher and is dated 8th October, 1878.  (Points numbered as in the document)

1.  The Managers agree to engage the pupil-teacher to serve under a certificated teacher during the usual school hours... but so that the said pupil-teacher shall not serve therein less than three or more than six hours upon any one day, nor more than 30 hours in any one week.  Sunday is expressly excluded from this engagement.

2.  This engagement shall begin on the first day of April 1878, and... shall end on the last day of March 1882.

3.   The pupil-teacher shall be paid as wages £5 per annum in the first year, and this sum shall be increased by £2 per annum in each subsequent year of the engagement...

5.  The pupil teacher, while the school is not being held, shall receive... from a certificated teacher of the said school, special instruction during five hours per week...  Such special instruction shall be in the subjects in which the pupil-teacher is next to be examined...

6.  The pupil teacher shall be liable to dismissal without notice for idleness, disobedience, or immoral conduct, of a gross kind, respectively; and this engagement shall be terminable on either side by a written notice of six months, or, in liew of such notice, by the payment on either side of £3 in the first year...

8.  The surety ... assigns, to clothe, feed, lodge, and watch over the pupil-teacher during the continuance of this engagement in a manner befitting the same.

2.  Certificate of completion

            Alfred Norman will have completed his term of apprenticeship as Pupil Teacher in this school on March 31 ‘82.  During the whole term he has conducted himself entirely to the satisfaction of the Managers.  He is respectable, well conducted, and attentive to his duties. 

Signed Mark Baker, Chairman of Hagbourne School Committee, March 15th 1882.

3.  A testimonial for his next job - but is it a glowing one?

St Mark’s Boys’ School, Bath.

            This is to certify that Mr Alfred Norman has been an assistant in my school during the past 11 months; that he has been punctual and regular in the performance of his duties; that he is a fairly skilful teacher and I believe him to be thoroughly trustworthy and honest.

Signed D Clark, Master of the above, Oct 5th 1883.

4.  More testimonials

After this there are two groups of testimonials.  Two are dated early March, 1885 and then 3 in October or early November 1886.  It is the latter which may well have been sent in application for the job in Audley. 

The 1885 references are interesting for two reasons: first, the wrong Christian name is given.  It has a pencil correction done over the top, though when it was done is not know.  The second point is that the Rev Fillsul’s reference here is tentative, but he is much more favourable a year or so later in a testimonial which was probably sent to Audley (and is not printed here)

14 Marborough Buildings, Bath.  March 6, 1885

            Mr William Norman has been Assistant Master in the Weymough House School, Bath, since October 1882.  Having obtained a Certificate he wishes to obtain a Mastership, and I have pleasure in testifying to his good character and attention to his duties during the time that he has been connected with the school.

RE Brooke.  Rector of Bath.  Chairman of the Committee.


St James’ Lodge, Wells Road, Bath, March 5th, 1885

            I have only known Mr Norman a very short time and so I am not in a position to say very much.  But since I have known him, he has conducted himself satisfactorily and got on with the boys.  We had a better report from the Diocesan Inspector this year than for many years past.

Yours faithfully, PWG Fillsul.  Vicar.

5.  In support of the application to Audley?

Abbey & St James’ Boys’ School, Weymouth House, Bath.

            This is to certify that Mr Alfred Norman has most faithfully discharged his duties as Assistant Master in the Above-named school since 25th October 1883, and that his conduct in and out of school, has given me great satisfaction.  At the Government Examination of 1884, his class of 68 boys (Standard I) passed 88%, and at the last Gov Exam 93%.  This year, after the dismissal of a Pupil Teacher, he very kindly volunteered, with the aid of a monitor, to take entire charge of Standard II , as well as his own Standard I - an action which I much appreciated - he has now over 120 boys under his charge, and has thoroughly well prepared them for our Gov Exam due on Dec 1st 1886.  He passed the Government Certificate Examination for Acting Teachers in 1884, hopes to get his Certificate in December, and consequently is seeking a better appointment.  He has taught Drawing and Singing from (word illegible) well in my school.

Signed - Fredk Lewis Helps (Headmaster) 6th October 1886.

6.  Offered the job at Audley

Audley, North Stafford, Nov 10. 1886.

Audley Nat. Schools.

Dear Mr Norman,

            I offer you the Mastership of the Audley Boys Nat School at a Salary of £70 p.a. + £15 Bonus at the end of the school year if the school obtains “Good” Merit grant and “Extras”.  House and coal should the school obtain excellent and Extras a further sum of £5 will be given. 

            We hope that you will not mind helping in the Sunday School and Choir and will take interest in all undertakings which will promote the good of the Parish?

            Your duties will commence early in January next.

            One months’ notice on either side will terminate the appointment.

Yours Truly, John Pauli.

7.  A pay rise

Dec 1 1890

Dear Mr Norman,

            Your salary, for the future, willbe £75 fixed, and a Bonus of £25 at the end of the School year if 17/6 Grant p. head, and also the Drawing Grant be obtained; part of the whole of this Bonus may be witheld if their should be reductions making the grant less than 17/6 p. head, or if


there should be no Drawing Grant earned.  A months notice on either side will terminate the engagement.

Yours Truly, John Pauli.

8.  Thoughts of moving on... two more testimonials

19 Oct 92.

            Mr A Norman has been head master of the Audley Boys’ Nat School for the last six years.  I can with the fullest confidence recommend him  as a master who thoroughly knows how to manage a school.  He has tact, decision of character, a   good disciplinarian and earnest worker, and since he has been here the school has been a great success.  It is with deep regret that he has asked me for this Testimonial but as he is seeking a more remunerative sphere I feel that I can only say, God Speed to him.  Wherever he goes he will be a (illegible - gain?) and Audley will not easily, were it ever, be able to replace him.

John Pauli.  Vicar of Audley.  Corresponding Manager.


Audley Grammar School, Newcastle, Staffs.  Oct 19, 1892

            I understand that Mr Alfred Norman is seeking a post as Head Master in a Board School at Worcester.

            I have known Mr Norman for the past six years and have a very high estimation of his character.  Myself a schoolmaster I can appreciate the very able efficient manner in which he has discharged his duties as Head Master of the National School Audley.  Several of his boys have come to this school for the purpose of advancing their studies, and I have always found the lads well-behaved and thoroughly efficient in (normal?) work.  This I attribute to Mr Norman’s careful teaching.

            Mr Norman’s reports sufficiently show the high standard of his work.  His drawing and painting are of a high order.  Outside his school Mr Norman is always to the front in keeping forward any movement for the good of his community.  He is always cheerful and agreeable in manner, and untiring in his desire to please.

            In short I can with the utmost confidence recommend Mr Norman in the post he seeks.

Vincent Lichfield M.A.  Headmaster, Audley Endowed School.

9.  More work

17 Feb 1894.

Dear Mr Norman,

            I shall be very glad if you will undertake to form a Drawing Class for P.Ts for our several schools, and accept a remuneration for your work any grant earned, i.e. the grant given by govt. for successes.

            Drawing books - paper - pencils &c cannot be supplied by the managers, but there will be no objection to the use of our models, rulers &c.

            Probably Saturday will be the more suitable day for the class to meet.

            I feel sure you will find the H.Teachers willing to co-operate with you.

Your obedt servt, John Pauli.


Next - A Young Surveyor at Kent's Lane and Holditch Collieries, 1941-4