The Kitchener Institute: a centre for technical education in Stone

By Philip Leason MBE

Pensioners’ Coronation Celebration Tea Party held at the Kitchener Institute on Victor Street, Stone, 1953.

This article is as a result of an enquiry I received from a Gazette reader asking for information on “an interesting building on the junction of Berkeley Street and Victor Street”.

The query refers to the former Kitchener Institute (or ‘The K.I.’ as it was widely known) which was built in 1911.

Towards the end of the 19th century technical education and further learning was undertaken in the town by the Mechanic’s Institute which was located in the Town Hall in the High Street. Then in 1899 Stone Urban District Council decided that in order to bring technical education into line with educational policy, they would establish a ‘Technical Institute Committee’ which started its first course of classes in September 1903.

The classes were scattered around the town –  boot and shoe-making and joinery at Westbridge House; bookkeeping and commercial classes at St Michael’s School; shorthand and typing at Christ Church School; art classes at the Mechanics’ Institute and French classes at St Dominic’s School.

These classes worked well for a period but it was felt that it would be more beneficial if all classes were located in one building and so the County Education Committee decided to erect such a building, to be known as the Kitchener Institute. 

A large brass tablet in the building stated:                    

“This Building, Erected in 1911 Partly by Private Subscription and Partly by the Local Educational Authority Is Associated with the Names of Francis Elliott Kitchener and Frances Anna Kitchener Whose Zeal for Education, unfailing energy and wise counsel all Staffordshire and especially the district desire most gratefully to commemorate.”

Francis Elliott Kitchener was born in Newmarket in Suffolk on 30th December, 1838, and attended Repton School from 1851-54 and Rugby School from 1854-57. He then went to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he won the Latin Declamation Prize. On leaving, he went as Assistant Master at Wellington College from 1861 to 1862. He then became Assistant Master at Rugby School from 1862 to 1875. In 1875 he came to Staffordshire to become the first headmaster of Newcastle-under-Lyme Grammar School, a post which he held until 1891. It was through his enthusiasm that the school developed and became one of the leading schools in the area. 

On his retirement in 1891 he went to live at Oulton Old Hall and in 1892 became the first President of the Old Newcastilians Club. 

He was a County Councillor and Chairman of the Technical Instruction Committee from 1895 to 1903 and Chairman of the Education Committee from 1903 to 1905 and then again from 1909 to 1912. He later became an Alderman of Staffordshire County Council.  A half-length portrait of him is in the County Council Art Collection.

Nationally he was Assistant Commissioner to the Royal Commission on Secondary Education.

Francis married Frances Anna Hammond, who was an enthusiastic botanist, in 1868  and in 1874 published a book entitled ‘A Year’s Botany – adapted for home and school use’. Francis shared her interest and in fact in the forward to the book she wrote:           

“My husband has helped me so much (1) By a set of lectures of his which I attended, (2) by suggestions, and (3) by entirely writing three original papers for the ‘Monthly Packet’ when I was ill, that, though my name is given to the book, it is really almost as much his as mine.”

Frances Kitchener died on 21st February, 1909, and her husband on 6th July, 1915. On his death numerous tributes where paid to him in the local, national and educational press.

He was buried alongside his wife in the churchyard of St John the Evangelist in Oulton. The grave is quite distinctive with a white marble cross and is still cared for by Newcastle High School.

As this year we are commemorating the end of the First World War, I should mention that Frances was a cousin of Lord Kitchener of Khartoum.  

Granville Secondary Modern School’s woodwork classroom, in the Kitchener Institute, 1949. The woodwork teacher at the time of the photograph was Frank Phillips.

From its opening the Institute offered evening classes in mathematics, science, arithmetic, book-keeping, shorthand, English, geography, dress-making, cookery, laundry, fancy needlework and woodwork. Many people who had left school attended the Institute to learn new skills which would be useful in their chosen career. In addition, the Institute was used by the day schools for some of their classes.

Later Granville Secondary Modern School, which was located in Old Road (now Christ Church Academy), had its woodwork, cookery and               needlework classes as well as a form class there.

In the 1960s the Domestic Science teacher was Mrs Williams and the woodwork teacher was Mr Frank Phillips. Mr Phillips was not very tall and received the nickname by the pupils of ‘Shorty Phillips’. During the first year of the woodwork class pupils made, among other things, a small boat, a matchbox holder and a spade scrapper. A phrase which was impressed into pupils’ minds was “Always saw on the waste side of the pencil line”.  As they progressed, they learnt to make small pieces of furniture and I wonder how many readers still have items which they made under the watchful eye of Mr Phillips.   

A few years ago Mr Phillips lent a series of photographs to be copied on to the Staffordshire Past Track website of the staff of Granville over the years. Unfortunately some of the members of staff are not named and I am sure that Chris Copp, the Senior Museums Officer, would be pleased to receive details of the missing names. To view the photos go on to the website – www.staffspasttrack.org.uk – and type into the theme explorer Granville Secondary Modern School. Then email past.track@staffordshire.gov.uk any missing names.

The teacher of the general education class based at the K.I. during this period was Mrs Scott, the wife of Mr George Scott, the Headmaster of Christ Church School in Northesk Street.

Another section of the building was used by the school dentist and this room was also used for medicals for children leaving school. 

In the evening the building continued to be used for evening classes and was also used by the Recorded Music Society for their meetings.

In addition social events to commemorate national events for people living in the local area were held in the K.I. Some readers may remember the parties held there to celebrate the Coronation of the Queen in 1953.

Granville Secondary Modern merged with Alleyne’s Grammar School in 1969 to form a comprehensive school and the woodwork, domestic science and general class at the K.I. closed.

The building was then used by Staffordshire County Council as a day centre. In March 2011 the Council put the building up for sale for £175,000.  The sales details stated that

“The 3,000 sq ft, single-storey building has a number of offices, meeting and classrooms, as well as basement cellar, kitchen and parking off Berkeley Street and may suit a variety of uses subject to planning permission”.

The building was eventually sold and converted into housing.

I hope that the above will bring back memories to some readers and will be of interest to others. Please help us to keep the heritage of Stone alive for  generations to come. If you have any photographs relating to anything mentioned here, please contact Staffordshire Past Track. All photographs will be treated with the utmost care and returned safely to their owner after they have made digital copies.

All photo’s used here with kind permission of Staffordshire Past Track www.staffspasttrack.org.uk