The Cottage Homes were erected in 1890 in Amos Lane in Wednesfield and consisted of 8 homes, each for 30 children. They were managed by the Wolverhampton Poor Law Union, which consisted (in 1896) of the townships of Bilston, Heath Town, Short Heath, Wednesfield, Willenhall as well as Wolverhampton.
As with other schools, the Master of the Cottage Homes School kept a log book, and this gives us a fascinating insight into life during the First World War at the Cottage Homes. Interestingly enough, in many ways, life appears to go on as normal, with the children continuing to receive their regular lessons in religious instruction, sewing (for the girls) and woodwork (for the boys).
The War initially appears to be more of a minor irritation, as seen by the following entry on 24 August 1914:
Reopened School again this morning with 204 children on the roll and 193 present. All the teaching staff present except Miss Cluley who went to Florence (Italy) for her holidays; she is held up there in consequence of this European War.
But even Miss Cluley was back at her duties by 31 August. By April 1915, the Master is aware of 57 of his boys being enlisted in the army, and by July five ex-pupils are “on active service as Mine Sweepers”. Some of the old pupils saw the war in a more positive light, reporting “how well they were doing as regards wages since the War started.” The Master is also keen to use the War as an opportunity for educating his pupils, asking permission in January 1918 “to take the Upper Standards 4, 5, 6,7 to see the Tank in the Market Square on one of the days next week.”
Armistice Day on 11 November 1918 appears to be greeted in a similarly muted fashion:
The Superintendent gave a short address to the children and informed them of the signing of the armistice at 11 a.m. after which they were dismissed for the rest of the day.
Although the Cottage Homes school log books are only a snapshot, and only one person’s view of what was going on, they give us an indication of how life appears to have gone on as normal for those not personally affected by the Great War.