The School of Handicrafts in Eastworth Road, Chertsey, was founded in 1885 by Dr Thomas Hawksley, an East London doctor. It was established as a school for needy boys and its primary purpose was to give the boys a trade.
There were problems in the early years; children were taken home or ran away, staff resigned and there were complaints that the food and clothing were inadequate. It was not long, however, before the school gained a well-respected reputation.
The boys, who came from all over England, received a basic education until the age 14. Then for a further two years they trained in boot-making and repair, carpentry, farming or gardening. Boys who did not find employment straight away on completing this training could then work at the school in various capacities.
The lifestyle at the school was Spartan. The day beginning at 6:30 a.m. and the diet was described as “wholesome but plain”. Discipline was generally strict but many old-boys, however, look back on their days at the school with fond memories.
The School was largely self-supporting with the farm provided milk and vegetables, and the school knitting machine made all the boys’ socks. Shoe repairs and carpentry done proved useful for the school, and earned additional revenue with outside orders. The school band also earned fees from playing at numerous functions in and around the town.
The School of Handicrafts closed in 1952, and the buildings used to accommodated St. Thomas the Apostle School instead. The school was finally destroyed in September 1995 to make way for a new office development.
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