A History of YALDING, Kent, England


William Cleave, citizen and haberdasher of London, made his will in 1665 and when he died in 1667, reputedly of the Plague, he left all his lands and tenements in Yalding ‘towards the erecting of a Free School in Yalding for the use of that parish’, together with £100 towards building a school house. Eight Trustees were nominated to run the school and administer the charity’s lands.


That school continued with varying fortunes for over three and a half centuries, but from the mid eighteenth century there were disputes between the parishioners of Yalding and the Trustees about the validity of the appointment of new Trustees and resentment at the way the existing ones appeared to be exploiting the charity for their own benefit.


Under the 1853 Charitable Trusts Act, Charities endowed as Trusts, such as Cleaves School, came under the supervision of the Charity Commissioners, who sought to regulate the use of trust funds and the efficient operation of the charity.  In 1860, they enquired into the running of Cleaves and a public meeting was held, following complaints about the management of the school and rejecting the plan of the Vicar Rev Richard Ramsay Warde and Col. Fletcher, two of the Trustees, to turn Cleaves into a National School.  This concern eventually culminated in a new Scheme for the Management of the School in 1874, with a new Governing Body.



This shows Cleaves School just before its closure. At the left side is the recently built classroom of the 1890’s, and an extension to the house at the right hand end. After the First World War, the war memorial was erected where the signpost stood.

Before that toll-gates crossed two roads at this junction and a toll keepers cottage stood on this spot.


At this end of the row of trees stands the village lock-up called the-cage, used for detaining criminals or vagrants overnight before presenting them to the local justice of the peace, the next morning.

It is now used as a council store.

By 1879, the roll of pupils at Cleaves School had declined to eleven. The Trustees’ Minutes record a resolution to appoint a new Master if they did not increase, and the following year it was resolved to change headmaster.  After a brief interregnum, when an unsatisfactory caretaker master was in post, Mr Samuel Williams was appointed, in April 1884.  He served as Master until 1921, a period of 37 years. Williams was a married man aged 38, with three children, two boys and a girl. He had graduated from Kings College London, and his wife supervised ‘the household arrangements and domestic comfort of the Boarders’. He was not the first of the Masters of that school who had served it for a very long period - John Gibbons of West Farleigh was in the post between 1748 and 1799, and according to the inscription on his tomb in West Farleigh churchyard, ‘He went to Yalding school in the year 1748 and kept it 51 years’. He died in 1800, aged 78.


Samuel Williams immediately raised the standard of teaching at the school. The successes of individual pupils from the year 1884 can be seen on the honours boards now displayed at Yalding Primary school. The two sons of Elizabeth and Samuel, Sidney Francis John (S F J) Williams (born 1872) and Horace James Ellis (H J E) Williams (born 1877) went to Cleaves, and their names feature amongst the higher achievers at the school. Sidney’s name appeared on the Honours Board in 1886 for passing his examinations in the Agriculture Science and Art Department, and Horace in 1891 and 1892 for his College of Preceptors* exam and for a first class result in Mathematics.                                                                               Next