Decline and Closure of Cleaves.
On Thursday December 16th 1897, a goodly company of parents and others interested in the school’s welfare met for the annual Speech Day and Distribution of Prizes, with the Vicar presiding, supported by R Norton Esq and Dr Wood. The Vicar welcomed the opportunity to show his warm interest in the school and the work done there, for in present days competition was especially keen; for to know too little in education was a source of danger, to know too much was impossible.
Mr Samuel Williams (Head Master) stated that examination reports were very good, and that certificates were gained at the College of Preceptor’s by P Cole, H Carpenter, W Chapman and A Maxted, and at the Science and Art Dept. by E Swan.
Mr Williams took that public opportunity to thank Mr Frank Reeves for his kindness in giving the boys the use of a field for football, for the promise of two special prizes by the Vicar, and for a silver shield for swimming by R Norton Esq (Chairman of Governors).
Mr Norton (a former MP) of Downs House on top of the hill, congratulated the parents and boys on many years of excellent work, and that the governors would promote the requirement of a library requested by the school. He reminded those present of the existing competition in life, and that the Yalding boys possessed as it were a ladder, if they would only use it, by which they might reach the topmost rung of success: 1-The National School; 2-The Secondary School at Cleave’s; 3-A Public School; 4-The University; 5-”The Woolsack.”
In the early 1890’s an extra wing was added to the house to accommodate the large family of thirteen children belonging to headmaster Mr Samuel Williams. At the same time through a gift and fund raising an additional classroom was completed at the left side of the school.
In the early 1900’s, a depreciation of the endowment funds, and an increasing bank overdraft, meant that there were often delays in payment of the master’s salary, forcing the trustees to consider selling some of their assets. In 1915, a field was sold at Green Street for £ 396 and was followed in 1917 by the sale of Burnt House to Colonel Borton for £ 400.
In spite of these attempts to survive, the school was unable to continue, and after 37 years of faithful honourable service as headmaster of Cleaves, Mr Samuel Williams resigned at the end of the summer term 1921, and so brought to an end an important chapter for Yalding. The testimonial to Mr Williams took the form of a cheque for £ 50, and a gold semi-hunter watch which was procured for the purpose at a very liberal discount, through the kind offices of Mr Palmer, Watchmaker of the High Street.
The Board of Education favoured the closure of the school to allow the slender endowment income to accumulate, but the school did not re-open, and in 1926 the property was purchased by a syndicate of five local gentlemen at a cost of £ 670, then re-sold to the Parochial Church Council for £ 170.
Thus ended an institution that had played a colourful and dramatic part in both the labouring and intellectual components of village thought and life. The boys in their Eton collars, had marched down the High Street to church every Sunday morning, where they sat in the south transept on raised pews. Without this youthful presence to fill them, these pews were removed in the 1920’s to reveal an ancient tomb in the South Transept that very few villagers, if any knew existed.
Several years later the house was sold, whilst the school was used as the church hall, but now that has been purchased for residential use.