This sound clip was recorded on Christmas Day,1953, from the Morley family home in Stockport. Herbert (Bert) Norris Morley (furthest left in below picture) introduces his father, Herbert Morley, to give his Christmas message.
Herbert Morley (center right in above picture) then takes the stage to make his incredible Christmas message. He looks back over his 92 years of life and gives some great advice to listeners. You can feel the age in his voice which fills this message with so much emotion.
Christ Church School
Herbert Morley was the longest serving headmaster at Christ Church School in Heaton Norris, Stockport. He oversaw the school from 1883 through to 1924, and began his career as the headmaster of the girls department when he was just 21 years old.
The picture above was taken in 1912, it shows Herbert Morley (center) taking Christ Church children on their annual Walking Day event around Stockport.
Christ Church school was originally built as a Sunday School – the only means for most Victorian children to learn the basics of reading and writing. However, at this time, the country was waking up to the need to educate the working classes. Sunday Schools began to admit day scholars, and then on February 16th, 1850, Christ Church School opened its doors to the children of Heaton Norris as a Day School.
The school was built at a time of great hardship among the working classes. The 1840’s – known as “The Hungry Forties” – bring to mind bread riots, potato famine and dire poverty. It was also a time when the population of Heaton Norris swelled as the spinning and weaving mills needed more and more workers. Wages were low and families, living in squalid, overcrowded conditions were poor, and most were illiterate.
It is said that Morley took responsibility for teaching Heaton Norris children with vigor and determination. He introduced a system of merit and marks as a reward for those who were keen to learn. He deplored the system where children as young as 8 were permitted to work part time.
Like many Victorian schools of the time, Christ Church School was terribly over crowded and pupils often had to sit on the floor.Imagine these little children , after a hard morning’s work in the mill, coming into a cold and overcrowded classroom.
Strict discipline was maintained throughout the school and corporal punishment was frequent and, by today’s standards, severe. Disobedience or unruly behavior merited six strokes of the cane. Three boys found cutting the woodwork on the staircase each received 12 strokes. In 1889 the school keys went missing and two days later the missionary box disappeared. Clog marks found at the rear of the school matched those of a boy who had just been on a spending spree. He was sent before a magistrates and convicted.
Truanting was a common offence despite the vigilance of School Attendance Officers. This was punishable by caning or, in some cases expulsion. Children could also be crossed off the register for dirty appearance.
It is said that amid this atmosphere of strict discipline, Christ Church School maintained an atmosphere of happiness and pride in its many achievements.
Herbert Morley retired in September 1924 after 42 years as headmaster of Christ Church School. He was one of the first members of Stockport Education Committee on which he served for 22 years. He also pioneered the first Heaton Norris Football Team which played at Green Lane. They were named the Heaton Norris Rovers but later changed there name to Stockport County.
Herbert Morley passed away in 1954, one year after his Christmas message was made. Sadly, Christ Church School, which ran as a school for 140 years was demolished in 1975. All that remains of the school is the church tower which still remains today.
Acknowledgement and thanks to Bette W. Hall for giving access to research materials and sound recordings.