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"Chain gang" who learned their lesson

By Toby Neal | Features | Published:

Here we have Shropshire's "chain gang" – children from the county's long disappeared Chain School.

The pictures come from 81-year-old Maurice Jones of Whitchurch, whose father George was a pupil at the Chain School in Maesbury.

"His family lived at a place called Coed-y-Rae in Maesbury. There were 16 children altogether. They all went to the Chain School," he said.

"My father was born in 1894 and was in his 40s when we were born."

The school, he said, was close to the prefabricated tin St John's chapel in the village.

"It's a stone building and is a private residence now. I don't know why it was called the Chain School but it was always known as the Chain School."

He thinks it closed in 1923 when it was superseded by a new council school.

One of his pictures shows Chain School children in 1904 – the date is helpfully being held up on a board.

George is second row down, third from left, and next row down, second from the right, is Maurice's aunt Ruth Jones. Ruth later married Albert Bevan from Kinnerley. Maurice says the teacher's name was Miss Wallace.

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His other picture was taken a few years later, perhaps around 1910, and includes three of Maurice's aunts and an uncle.

Maurice names the teachers as Miss George and headmaster Mr MacMain.

Second row down, with a bow in her hair and marked with a cross, is Amy Jones. In front of her to the left marked with a cross is Herbert Jones. Fourth from right in the same row as Herbert is Edith Jones. And fifth from left in the second row up is Ruth Jones.

Maurice also has a picture of the Congregational Marsh School in the village from around the same time, featuring his mother Alice Jones – Jones was her maiden name as well.

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The head, William Sampson Luke, originated from Cornwall and was there from 1907 until 1923 when he became head of the new council school, serving until 1946.

Maurice is not sure exactly where the Congregational Marsh School, now demolished, was in the village, but thinks it was somewhere near the Navigation Inn.

"My father was a gardener at Twyford House, West Felton. He was in the First World War. He met Brigadier Richards who lived at Twyford House and after they came out of the First World War he offered him a job.

"He had a cottage in Twyford, a little way down the lane from Twyford House. That's where my mother met him. She went in service at Twyford House as a maid. They married in 1933.

"She was born at Morton near Maesbury and her father was a waggoner. They were Congregationalists. That's why she went to the Congregational Marsh School."

Maurice also tells of a terrible tragedy to strike his ancestors.

"Four of my grandparents' children died of diphtheria in 1898. They took the thatch off the house at Coed-y-Rae and the children got playing in the thatch on the yard when it was taken from the roof.

"Six of them got diphtheria and four of them died. They are all buried in Morton churchyard. It was very sad. They were Jane, Alice, John Henry, and Ruth Edith Jones.

"The thatch would be full of mice droppings, birds' nests and things. They always said the virus came from the thatch.

"The family were isolated from the village for two months. My grandfather had to lodge away with his sister while my grandmother stayed with the children.

"They left everything for the children at the end of the lane and they had to collect it.

"The grave is in a lovely condition. I look after it."

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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