Certificate Assembly : 1st May

Horace Wilkins

This is somebody that you will not have heard of, but if you were a school aged child between 1901 and 1911 living in Waterloo, he would have been a very important figure.

In those days, Johanna St School was a large three storey building, similar to the one above, with three different departments. The Infant department - Reception to Y2- was on the ground floor with a separate entrance and its own Headmistress. The Girls department was on the first floor. Girls from Y3 onward would go there. It too had its own entrance and Headmistress. The Boys department was on the second floor and its Headmaster was Horace Wilkins.

He started his headship at an interesting time. The Victorian attitude to why people were poor: because they were lazy and bad, was changing. His predecessor described the boys as ‘sinning and evil’. Horace understood that the boys were poor because their parents earned very little money and often had no food.

In those days there were no school meals, all children went home for dinner. Horace knew that many children were hungry: ‘The children here are underfed and badly cared for in their homes, many are attending hospitals for various ailments.’ He started a Children Care Committee and a system of meal tickets was started.

He also became active in the Country Holiday fund which saw children sent into the countryside for a holiday.

Horace understood that the way out of poverty was to provide boys with a better education so that they could learn a trade. This meant helping them to get into technical college. Most of them, however, went into low paid manual work.

Horace made full use of the public baths, which were opposite the Imperial War Museum where Lambeth Towers now are. Every class went each week, the added bonus was that they all had a wash! The swimming team became very successful and won the Lambeth swimming competition for many years.

In the 10 years that he was Headmaster, Horace had a huge impact on this school and changed attitudes to the families it served. That is why he is my Friday hero.


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