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Gertrude Thurley-Pupil teacher

Gertrude's childhood home-Haydn Terrace

The Peterborough Advertiser, Wednesday March 19, 1902

At the dawn of the twentieth century employment opportunities for women in Fletton were improving. Along with the more traditional employment in domestic service there were opportunities at Farrow’s Peas and Canning factory, Symington’s Corset factory and in the numerous shops that were springing up, both in Old, New Fletton and nearby Peterborough. With the opening of the Fletton Board School (see Blog 9) there were also increased opportunities in education. Gertrude Ellen Thurley was one young girl who took advantage of these opportunities and, at the age of 12, embarked on a great adventure.

Gertrude was born on Christmas Eve 1889. She was one of ten children born to John and Eliza Thurley, nine of which survived to adulthood. John, appreciated the benefit of having a trade and his children entered a range of occupations including, carpenter, joiner, stonemason, jewellers shop assistant and general office clerk.

John was himself a joiner and in 1891 the young family lived at 1 Haydn Terrace, overlooking St. Margaret’s church. He most likely worked for William Hawkins, a builder who lived at Haydn House and who built both the terrace and many houses in Fletton. But John also had ambition. By 1901 not only was he a builder’s foreman but he had also taken a position with John Cathles Hill, as his house agent. In recognition of these new responsibilities John moved his family to 1 St. Margaret’s Road. By 1911 he had left his previous employment behind and had taken on more responsibility with John Hill, becoming both his house and estate agent.

John, and his wife Eliza Ann Rimes, had come along way from when they married in Stanground in 1878. John was the son of William, an agricultural labourer, and Elizabeth Burbidge. Eliza was the daughter of William, a shoemaker, and Mary Rimes. Gertrude evidently shared her parent’s ambitions.

Gertrude became a monitor at the Fletton Board school in November 1902 (see Blog 9). She was just 12 years old. Being a monitor was the first rung on the ladder to becoming a qualified teacher. The brightest children were selected and would be given lessons from the headteacher and then they in turn would teach the children in their charge. These lessons would focus on the three ‘R’s’ reading, writing and arithmetic. The form of the lesson would involve the children either copying work from the blackboard or chanting out loud. The school day looked very different to what children experience today. Lessons would start at 9am and go through to midday. The children would then go home for lunch before the afternoon session, which would last from 2pm to 5pm.

The Fletton School log book records that in the school year 1905/06 Gertrude was a probationer teacher and by 1906/07 she was a pupil teacher. These roles meant that Gertrude had more responsibility and received ‘on the job’ training. Class numbers were very different at this time, sometimes reaching 60 or 70 children. Although life was not all bad. Half days and days off were also readily given when there were local fairs, national events to celebrate or inclement weather conditions.

The school log book also records when the pupil teachers took their examinations and when they qualified. By 1911 Gertrude had qualified as a teacher and was working for the Lincolnshire and Holland Education Authority. Unfortunately, we do not know what school she moved to after she left Fletton. The monitor system of training teachers was abandoned in the early 1900s as the government realised that these pupils were not receiving a secondary education. More formal teacher training had been introduced in 1890 with ‘day training colleges’ attached to universities, but these were not widespread. In 1902 Local Education Authorities were established and secondary education was encouraged for pupil teachers. The LEAs were also encouraged, through grants, to provide local teacher training. The previous pupil teacher system of training teachers was replaced by the bursar system. This new system ensured that all teachers received a secondary education and their training included both practical and theory learning in classrooms and local colleges.

In 1919 Gertrude embarked on another adventure when she married John Pannell. John was a horseman in his father’s butchery business in Pinchbeck, Lincolnshire. After they married they set up home at Starlode Drove, Pinchbeck and John took up farming. This was a time of adjustment for Gertrude, establishing herself as a farmer’s wife and starting a family. John and Gertrude had three girls, Nellie, Maucie and Kitty, between 1919 and 1924.

By strange co-incidence Gertrude’s sister Gladys married John’s brother William Pannell in 1932. William continued his father’s trade as master butcher in Spalding. The sisters were once again living close to one another and perhaps lent each other support as the Second World War loomed.

Gertrude died in 1956 and John died on 20th July 1971.

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