A History of YALDING, Kent, England

William Galpin, village schoolmaster.


When the newly separated boys section of the local National School, along vicarage road, was opened in January 1874, William Galpin was appointed as the first headmaster. Arriving from Hampshire, this newcomer into the rural community of Yalding was soon accepted,and did not hesitate in persuading the local gentry, especially the school managers, to take an active interest in school affairs.

As indicated in his log book, William Galpin instilled a joyful discipline into his young friends by regular military drill in the playground, with the occasional "sham fight" of up to 150 uniformed youth. For each event the youngsters marched with obvious pride up to their wooded rendezvous, at Foxpit on the top of Yalding Hill, where they were to thoroughly enjoy a day of mock battles and picnics, as if enacting the various skirmishes which have swept this part of the weald throughout the centuries. The Rev’d Starbuck of Collier Street showed a great interest in the village children both in school and out and joined William in these activities. His school logbook for 16th of October 1882 reads:-

“ Stands 1V-V1 wrote ‘Composition’ both this morning and afternoon on ‘The Sham Fight’, which brought out many interesting traits in boys characters. On Saturday last 106 assembled in the playground at 10 o’clock had their photo’s taken in review order, then marched out to Foxpits where the Rev’d F Starbuck kindly provided buns, ginger beer etc., then I took charge of the defending force and the Rev’d F Starbuck of the attacking force - some glorious fun followed which put all the boys in high spirits. It is an excellent plan to cultivate this ‘out of door’ contact between Master and pupils - the little fellows feel you can sympathise with and enter fully into their sports as well as into their studies.”

From the youthful chatter and happy recollections of this strict recreation was born the typical community spirit which persuaded them to form a branch of the Boys Brigade with its traditional Brass Band. For the remainder of his stay in Yalding, William Galpin served as their Brigade Captain.

Schools have for a long time organised outings, and a frightening experience befell William on such a trip to Crystal Palace on July 15th, 1880, when at the end of the day one boy was missing. Galpin stayed behind, and the lost Edward Startup returned with his headmaster two days later.



To cope with his boys' urge to learn, he bought a large 'terrestrial globe in 1883, and ten years later introduced them to the subject of electricity, which would be many years before it brightened up their winter evenings. He was also responsible for organising by 1895, regular electric lantern lectures, mainly on China and Japan, at Cheveney Institute, which was then used as the village hall. In those days Yalding had more. accessible "meadow walks" winding by its waterways than at present, but even so, very few people could swim, and it took the drowning of a pupil whilst bathing, and another as he was wading to school during the flood season, for swimming lessons to be started. These were usually held during the mid-day break, involving about fifty boys who eventually became proficient enough to enter competitions, in which a Yalding boy in 1893 won the Maidstone Silver Challenge Cup. This particular boy's family moved to Marden, but he and his brother still preferred the daily trek back to their old school.

Soon after his arrival in the village the new headmaster became involved in the community and 'was elected joint Secretary/Treasurer of the Workmen's Village Club when it was opened on March 19th 1877, William Galpin was very much in harmony with this warm-hearted agricultural fraternity, and eventually had two "working men" of the village elected to join the school managers.

William became very much embedded into rural village life, and was often a liaison between the gentry and the labouring community.


This social genius served, on other committees including the Cricket Club, Young Men's Friendly Society, the Church Choir, Band of Hope, Church of England Temperance Society, Village Allotments, the Lighting Committee, and finally the Yalding Parish Council. In this latter function he submitted the sketch of a pump to be erected, in place of the one on the Village Green.