Walk through the gateway before the door to Christ Church, Quinton, and you see on your right a tall upright stone cross, standing on a pedestal, quite the most impressive memorial in the whole churchyard, commemorating the village schoolmaster, Aaron Millward. There are inscriptions on all four sides of the pedestal, and others on a horizontal slab in front recording the deaths of his wife and a grandson, but not the least potent words are those on the north side telling of the debt his former students and friends hoped in some measure to recall by erecting it:
As you pass through the churchyard gateway to the Anglican church of Christ Church, Quinton, you may be struck by a well-preserved stone monument, still standing to the right of the entrance after most of the gravestones have been cleared from the churchyard, which bears the inscription:
The many friends and scholars of the late Aaron Millward erected this memorial cross for 28 years the devoted Master of the Quinton National School and the earnest helper of every good work in the parish.
Apart from long service, what had he done to deserve this commendation? What sort of a man was he, and for that matter what sort of a woman was his wife?1 Many years ago, my uncle, Philip Edward Harlow, drew my attention to this memorial to his grandfather, so setting in motion the quest, which has produced this account of his life.
Aaron Millward was the fifth and last child of Robert Millward (1785-1841), tailor and draper of Birmingham, and Hannah Howard (1799-1877), who were married at St Martin’s, Birmingham, on 26 January 1829. Robert’s parentage and origin are uncertain, but family tradition declares he was ‘of Alvechurch’ (though his baptism is not recorded there), and – much more doubtfully – that he was closely related to the Millwards of Redditch, important and wealthy needle- and fishhook-makers. According to her family Bible, Hannah was the fourth child of John and Hannah Howard, and she was baptised, as were her nine brothers and sisters, at Alvechurch. Traditions of both families are preserved in a letter of c1906 from Emma Downing, Aaron’s sister.
More of what can be learnt of Aaron’s life comes from a report of his funeral, which is accompanied by a ‘Brief Memoir of the Deceased’, published in a local newspaper, the West Bromwich Weekly News for 28 July 1888. The fact that a printer’s proof of the Memoir, with a request for checking, survives in the family papers strongly suggests that a member of the family was the author, and hence that its claims have good authority.
According to Emma Downing, the earliest home of the Millwards was ‘in the Lightwoods’, near the King’s Head (which stood on the corner of Bearwood Road and Hagley Road) in Beech Lanes, not to be confused with Lightwoods House, the grand eighteenth-century mansion in Lightwoods Park. The Millwards’ umbler abode stood opposite the great house, and there Robert and Hannah’s first three children were born, and baptised at St Paul’s, Smethwick. No doubt they would have wished to stay on, but in 1837 Lightwoods Park passed by inheritance into the hands of Elizabeth Grundy who married Henry Willett and died later the same year, so that the house passed to him. Willett, a Leicestershire man, evidently had not much sympathy for local people and had their house demolished because it obscured his view. Uprooted, the Millwards then moved to an earth-floored cottage, the last house in what is now Meadow Road, Ridgeacre, the site recorded as the dwelling of Hannah Howard on the tithe map of 1844. There she gave birth to Aaron on 10 May 1839 and had him baptised at St John the Baptist church, Hales Owen, on 9 June (This is Emma Downing’s account, which is here to be trusted in preference to the Memoir, which puts Aaron’s birth in Beech Lanes).
It was not a propitious moment for a new Millward child to enter the world: only two years later, on 14 August 1841, his father died of scrofula, leaving his mother, now forty-one, to bring up a daughter and son of a previous marriage, and three more daughters, the eldest only ten, as well as her infant son. Furthermore, Hannah may well have been left in reduced circumstances; Robert her husband had benefited through a legacy from Aaron White (after whom Aaron Millward seems to have been named), a farmer of Frankley, who left him £40 a year, a horse, and a cottage, but the will was disputed, presumably by other members of the White family, and ‘everything came to be lost’, as Emma Downing put it. However, Hannah cannot have been destitute, because the tithe map shows she did not need to work.
In 1842, not long after Aaron’s birth, the ecclesiastical parish of Quinton was carved out of the large parish With Aaron Millward we come to the first known educator among our ancestors. Though no more eminent in the eyes of the world than a village school head could be, he was a remarkable man.
First, however, a word about Quinton where he lived for most of his comparatively short life. Some four and a half miles from the centre of Birmingham, on the road to Halesowen, west-south-west of the city, lay what was at the time a hamlet of that Worcestershire town known locally as ‘The Quinton’ (the name, recorded as early as AD 848, meant ‘the Queen’s Estate’). It was originally part of the large, seventeen square mile ecclesiastical parish of Halesowen, from which it was separated in 1842 of Hales Owen with the addition of parts of Warley Salop and Warley Wigorn. For the new parish a new church, Christ Church, had been built in the Early English style in 1840-41; it originally seated 605, but by 1936 the figure had fallen to 470.
‘At a very early age’ Aaron entered the Quinton National School, one of the pioneering works of the first priest, the Revd R.B.Hone, providentially established in 1842 (though the old schoolroom is said to date from 1846) concurrently with the new parish, in time for his arrival in the world. The school records showed that he never missed a day’s schooling there, nor at the Sunday School either, but his formal education came to an end at the age of twelve when he got employment in a lawyer’s office in Birmingham(perhaps as an office boy?). From there he went on to a cabinet maker’s, but he cannot have stayed more than a few months in either job, because it must have been in 1851 that he was apprenticed tailor and worked at the trade for nine years – it had been his father’s trade, and Aaron’s half-brother, now twenty-six, was already a tailor. The Census of 1851 describes Aaron still as ‘scholar’, living with his widowed mother, her daughter Mary, a dressmaker, her younger sister Ann, a servant, and their half-brother, Frederick Howard (their mother’s previous marriage was to a cousin of the same name).
Meanwhile the Rector of Quinton, the Revd Christopher Holroyd Oldfield, who had been appointed to the living in 1857, had come to recognize in the twenty-one-year-old tailor ‘qualities which fitted him for a higher pursuit’; Oldfield, attempting in 1866 to summarize his own ministry over the last nine years, devotes a page to the Day Schools and, after naming two short-serving teachers, pays this tribute to Aaron:
I then asked Aaron Millward, a young man brought up in the school, to become the Master. He was a tailor and the leader in the choir; he had lately become a teacher and a communicant. He has gradually advanced until he has procured his certificate on the second trial, without any assistance from myself, and he has raised the school to a higher state than it has ever reached.
Despite his youth, it appears from the Memoir that Aaron, after a fortnight temporarily in charge of the school, was appointed to the vacant Mastership in June 1860. From then on and for the rest of his life, the school, the school house where he lived, and the wider parish were to be his domain.
The Quinton National School had not prospered in its early days. Four years after its establishment in 1842 there was only one schoolroom, divided by a partition, and a teacher’s house, and in 1847 HM Inspectors reported that the premises, teaching, and discipline were poor. The Master and Mistress received a mere £20 p.a. between them, plus the fees, and were leaving because their income was so wretchedly low. The 1851 Census tells us that a certain John Bloomer Bayley was by then the schoolmaster and his wife Mary Ann the mistress. Things may have improved when, in 1852, the school was enlarged by the addition of a second room, but it still failed to hang on to its staff for very long; Billing’s Directory of 1855 records that Mr. J.H.Huxley and his wife were in charge, with an average attendance of ninety. By 1857, it had become a Mixed School, with fees varying from 1d to 3d (the fees were raised some years later), when a Mrs. White was in charge, but she was followed by a Miss Finch whose health failed.
From 1859, the school began to receive annual grants from the state, an indication that it had earned the approval of H.M. Inspectors. Aaron took over, therefore, at a better stage in the school’s development. The average attendance in that year, 1860, was sixty-five, but thereafter it increased by rapid bounds. Though Birmingham was busy expanding, it is not easy to determine from the census figures what was happening at Quinton, because the parish was subject to a succession of boundary changes; the population of Ridgacre itself showed no dramatic rise in the censuses until 1881, but was the catchment area of the school coterminous with the parish? Since elementary education was not compulsory until 1870, the growth of the school may be attributable to other factors, perhaps the increasing prosperity and ambitions of the working people, perhaps the quality of the discipline and teaching. In that connection, an observation of the Rector is worth remarking: ‘I forbid corporal punishment by the master – on any needful occasion it is given in my presence by the master or my own hand. Thus the master (as far as he carries out my wish) is secured from inflicting hasty punishment under the heat of excitement, and the parents’ confidence and goodwill is increased, and the moral tone of the school is improved.’ That seems a remarkably advanced view for the time (in 1920 the school log records a good many instances of corporal punishment).
Overcrowding in the school must have been a perennial problem (it is mentioned in inspector’s reports – see below), despite the opening of a new school at Causeway Green in 1862. The Quinton school building was enlarged again in 1864 and yet again in 1871. In 1877, a printed appeal for funds for a new schoolroom claims that the existing rooms ‘now accommodate 300 children, and 320 are under education, with an average attendance of 250. The attendance has twice doubled itself in sixteen years.’ By the time of Aaron’s death in 1888, the number of pupils on the books had reached about 340.
Aaron’s Teacher’s Certificate, an imposing document of four parchment pages, each measuring 315x475 mm, and including brief records of school inspectors from 1868 to 1882, gives some idea of his attainments. They can be supplemented by the full reports, which survive in the school archives, covering the years 1881 to 1887. Aaron had no previous training for teaching, and it took him four and a half years to achieve the award of a certificate ‘in the third division’ in December 1864. To judge by the Memoir, he must have used the school holidays to study in London, because it records that he received ‘much aid in his studies to obtain [the certificate] from a course of lectures which he attended at the Home and Colonial Training College, London, these classes being open to him through the interest of the chaplain, the Rev. – Fleming’. In 1866 the Rector recorded in the Vestry Book, ‘The school has now reached an efficient state’, a verdict supported the next year by the inspector who commended Aaron after listening to him teaching a class. The same year he was awarded a Certificate of the Fourth Class, Upper Grade, which allowed him to superintend pupil-teachers. The inspectors in later years give mostly favourable reports on the school, and frequently record ‘progress’; by June 1871, ‘the school is in a thriving state’. By 1879, when his certificate was raised to First Class, the comment ‘This is a good school’ speaks for itself. The next year overcrowding is reported, and a recommendation made to reduce numbers or provide additional space, and increase the staff by an extra Assistant Teacher and two more pupil-teachers; despite this, the report of 1881 speaks of ‘very good standard work – excellent order’; and in the entry of 1882 Aaron is exonerated from a degree of deterioration which had set in, ‘not through any fault of Mr. Millward’s but . . . [because] his two best teachers have left’. The full report of 1883 points out weaknesses, but ‘the Head Master’s personal industry is highly commendable’. Therefore, it continues; in 1886, a number of students ‘had to kneel on the floor for want of desk room’, and it is recommended that numbers should be restricted to 210 in the Mixed School. In 1887 the premises were in need of repair and new books required. Clearly, Aaron frequently had to struggle with inadequate premises and a shortage of staff.
It must not be forgotten, too, that most of his students came from very poor and disadvantaged backgrounds. Though it may have appeared ‘a most dark and wicked place’ in 1842 to John Chambers writing in the Primitive Methodist Magazine, Oldfield, who made it his duty to get to meet every one of his parishioners, voiced a more moderate opinion some twenty years later:
In character they are good types of Englishman though short of the highest order . . . with hearts gentle and subdued, steady and resolute in what they undertake – slow in every mental process, which may be attributed to their work – ignorant, with most of the evils of ignorance – and, in the two besetting sins of drunkenness and immorality lower, I hope, than other parishes.
As is well known, the majority of the population followed the deadening occupations of nail-maker, miner, and labourer.
For the most part, we get no more than occasional glimpses of Aaron’s assistant staff. A street directory of 1867 names, besides the Master and his wife, a Miss Mary Mills as ‘infants’ mistress’ at the school. In the early 1880’s another member of staff was a certain Edith Susan Harlow who worked there as a pupil-teacher. Because her home was some distance away at Hobmoor Road in Small Heath to the east of Birmingham, she became a weekly boarder at the school. Her presence supplies us with more information, for it was the duty of her brother, John Starcke Harlow, to escort her to and from school every weekend. No doubt, he was invited in for refreshment, and there the trouble began. Aaron’s daughter Fanny and Starcke (my grandfather) fell in love, and in June 1884, she wrote to her father and mother from Sheffield, where she was by then working as a teacher, to announce her engagement. Aaron’s mind was thrown into confusion at the thought of thus ‘losing’ his one daughter, who was only twenty-one, but he took the blow in good part, as two letters we have from him show. The first was rather business-like and cold, doubtless reflecting the shock of the sudden news and Aaron’s absorption in his work. Fanny evidently wrote again in an apologetic manner, and his second letter made up for the first in warmth and tenderness. After all he had not much of a leg to stand on, having himself married at the age of twenty-one!
Despite his concern for his daughter, in the earlier letter he finds space to put in a word about his work, which adds interestingly to our picture of the place. The school was evidently starved of funds or equipment: ‘Nine months of the School Year nearly gone and two classes not yet had their books given to them from which they will be expected to read, and many of them not yet had a piece of stuff [cloth] in their hands to learn how to sew’, he laments. The same letter gives a glimpse of some goings-on in the classroom. Miss Dunton, a new teacher, had taken over a class, and the Rector’s wife received a complaint, presumably from a parent, of ‘overpressure’. Aaron comments dryly: ‘Poor little dears! Miss D. gave them their books to read instead of letting [them] sing and stamp half the day to the tune of “Do you want to know how Bread is made”.’ Evidently playing up to new teachers is not a practice invented by twentieth-century children.
The school records add to this glimpse of daily life at the time. The earliest log book of the Mixed School is lost, and we have only that covering the 9 January 1888 onwards, the year Aaron Millward died. But the Infants’ School log survives from 25 June 1877, and Sarah Millward’s weekly reports provide information, much of which applies to the whole school. Together with these, we have the Admissions Registers and the Annual Reports of the Inspectors from the Education Department. Here are a few samples.
Children were admitted to the Infants’ Class as young as three, and stayed until they were seven. Holidays, determined by the Managers, were few and short: a fortnight at the end of August for Harvest ‘to give the children the benefit of gleaning’, a week at Whitsun, and a week at Christmas. Average attendance in the Infants’ Class in July 1877 was four-fifths of those on the Register; in November the Managers regarded an attendance of five-sixths as good. However, there were many who were irregular, despite the Education Act of 1870, which had made attendance compulsory. A penalty of double fees for bad attendance seems to have been ineffective, and in January 1879, we first hear of a visit from a man who must have become the dread of parents, ‘the newly appointed Attendance Officer’. His first visits to parents brought in several irregular children and raised the average attendance of the Infants (normally 60-80) by fourteen. In November 1879 we have evidence of severer measures: the Attendance Officer called to say that ‘ he had served Notices on the parents of these children [the irregulars] to comply with the Rules at once, or be summoned before the Magistrates’.
Equality between the sexes was not yet on the agenda, but it is interesting to find in December 1880 the inspectors advising ‘it would be for the benefit of the [Infant] boys if they were taught to knit’. The recommendation took effect, for in February 1882 they reported ‘knitting is well done (by Boys and Girls alike)’. In August 1882 the advance of technology is reflected when teaching had to be interrupted to allow a gas fitter to lay in service pipes. The poverty of most of the parents has already been noticed, and poor children had little defence against bad weather. Several times in these years the majority of the children, being without any protection from rain, arrived so soaked that the first hour had to be spent drying them off. Cold was an even worse hazard. In the terrible frost of 1878-79, which endured from the last week of November right through to the beginning of February, reports range from ‘children come late pinched with cold and able to do very little during the first hour’ to ‘it was with the greatest difficulty that we kept the room sufficiently warm to enable the children to work’. It was not only the children who suffered: ‘Great distress exists among the parents, some unable to pay the School Fees and many without food or fire’, and again ‘Mechanics have no work, Labourers are frozen out.’ Even when the thaw began at last, ‘the roads are in such a state that little children cannot get to school’. In a better year, one girl could not get to school for three months ‘for want of shoes’. The same year brought fatal illness: three children died of diphtheria at the beginning of April, and in the autumn croup and scarlet fever took off others.
It must have been in response to conditions like these that Aaron sought to aid the people’s suffering. With the Rector, we are told, he was ‘mainly instrumental’ in forming the Quinton Church Benefit Society, ‘a great blessing to the parish’, which sounds like a source of funding for families that had fallen on hard times.
As if daytime teaching were not enough, Aaron became involved in the night school. The Rector had started a night school in 1858, but had to give up teaching himself before 1866, at which time Aaron, already his collaborator, took over. This additional occupation would account for the otherwise surprising fact that Aaron also held certificates, though they do not survive, in chemistry, physiology, electricity and magnetism, geology, and machine construction, subjects would seem to be well beyond the curriculum of an elementary school. From an initial enthusiastic attendance of seventy, numbers had shrunk to an average of fifteen by Aaron’s time.
The Rector’s wife had helped him in his musical studies, and music became a love for him, so that he gave up much time to organizing concerts. After only five years as Master, he had established the school’s annual Shrove Tuesday Concert. However, the only record we have of his musical qualifications is a modest certificate dated 26 June 1883 from ‘The Tonic Sol-Fa College’ (whatever that may be) recording that he passed the requirements of the Elementary Certificate in ‘Elementary Knowledge of Musical Memory in Time, in Tune and in Sight-Singing’. In the same year a cryptic entry in the school log reads: ‘Time Table made out to requirements of Mundella Code – singing on the Tonic Sol Fa Method. The Lord’s Prayer must be accurate with distinct repetition.’
Aaron must have been a man of enormous energy. Not content with a very full load of daytime teaching, he became involved in the Sunday School Movement, which meant in those days not primarily religious instruction but mainly the teaching of reading and writing to poor illiterate adults on the one day they had free, and he held a regular early Sunday morning class for them; this was distinct from the Bible class on Sunday afternoons, in which he was also involved. Then there was sport: ‘The younger men of the parish always found in him a sympathetic friend, and he interested himself much in their amusements, particularly in their cricket and football clubs.’ Teaching, sport, and music did not exhaust his work for the parish. He was even secretary of the local Horticultural Society.
He was a devout man and active in church affairs too. He joined the church choir at the age of seven and rose to be organist and choirmaster for many years. He was a regular attendant and communicant on Sundays, and frequently on weekdays. He appears as a signatory of the minutes of the Vestry meetings from 1868 on, and in 1874 the Rector nominated him as a member of a newly-formed consultative body, the Voluntary Church Council, surely a revolutionary idea at a time when most rectors preferred to wield autocratic power in their small domains. In 1881 Aaron was evidently the moving spirit in organising the first Harvest festival in the parish, together with ‘a few working men, Joseph Crump, James Speake, and Christopher Jones’ of the Bible Class; ‘the whole parish responded’, records the Rector.
I have said little so far about his private life how did he ever find time for one. However, he did. The Revd C.H.Oldfield and his wife had brought with them when they arrived from Hampshire in 1857 Sarah Anne Cooper, the daughter of an Alton plumber and painter. Sarah’s obituary notice in the parish magazine tactfully omits the humble capacity in which she came, but Oldfield describes her as their nurse. She was nine years Aaron’s senior and they were married in Christ Church, Quinton, on 2 April 1861, before he was yet twenty-two. It may be the fact that they had both lost a parent at a very early age helped to bring them together. Added to that, the security of his job and the fact that a house came with it must have made an early marriage possible. They had three children who survived infancy. There is no record of the relationship between the father and his two sons, but it is evident that his daughter, Elizabeth Fanny, loved and admired him greatly. In one of her articles published in The Birmingham Post many years later (1902), she wrote:
I remember an old-fashioned schoolmaster in an old-fashioned National School who kept a number of old books, some of them novels, which he used to lend to those good boys and girls who had accomplished their tasks to his satisfaction; and I know one extremely naughty girl whom he kept good and industrious for a whole month by allowing her occasional half-hours with a very dilapidated copy of Scott’s ‘Ivanhoe’.
In the literary conventions of a century ago, that was a way of writing about yourself. We can judge, too, from this that Aaron did not subscribe to the view prevalent in some pious educational circles that novels corrupted the young!
Justice would not be done if one omitted the very considerable contribution to the school made by Aaron’s wife. The Rector described Sarah Anne already in 1866 as ‘an able helper in his work’; at first, she was to run the infants’ class, a task she embarked on as soon as they were married. She had no more qualifications than her husband had had when she started, but in 1872 she was awarded a certificate of the third class without examination to teach infants (under seven) on the recommendation of the school inspectors, who were authorized to grant it to one who had been a teacher for ten years. However, the task must have been formidable. In 1879 the average attendance was 81, but, as the inspectors pointed out the next year, her certificate did not entitle her to take charge of pupil-teachers; so she must have been coping single-handed with the help only of monitors. The inspectors wanted to separate the Infants’ School from the Mixed so that she could have an Assistant Mistress of her own. The annual reports from 1874 to 1888 are uniformly favourable; the only exception, which is understandable, was in 1887: ‘Mrs. Millward shows her usual industry, but her attention appears to be divided between two classes, one of which would be sufficient for her to teach.’ An extension for an infant room had been built in 1871, and she rose to be Headmistress of the Infants’ School when it was made a separate department in 1872, continuing in that post until 1884, when Aaron’s failing health obliged her to give up; after that she remained as Assistant and Sewing Mistress until shortly after his death. Meanwhile she had found time to bear five children and bring up three. An obituary in Parish Notes for March 1906 supplies much of this information, adding: ‘During her widowhood, Mrs. Millward lived in quiet retirement in High Street, always ready to help and guide her neighbours who were in any trouble and difficulty’. Her home must have been a fairly new house, since what is now High Street was open fields until 1875.
There is a temptation to think of nineteenth-century society as rigidly stratified and generally stable, but the history of Sarah Anne’s Cooper family shows how misleading the idea can be. Her grandmother, Anne Burningham (born in 1776), who married Sarah Anne’s grandfather, John Cooper of Odiham, Hampshire, in 1796, was the only child of minor gentry, and some of their descendants moved in high society: a daughter married the Chief Constable of the Isle of Wight, and a granddaughter married the younger son of a viscount. Anne Cooper herself, however, though heiress to a fortune of over £4000, was rendered homeless and penniless by a lawsuit after her father died in 1826, and can have had precious little to leave to her nine surviving children when she died. Moreover, Sarah Anne’s father, Jonathan Cooper had lost his wife in 1839, within a few days of her giving birth to their fifth child, who lived only three months. Sarah Anne, born on 6 March 1830, was the second child and only surviving daughter, and though only nine years od at the time, may have soon had to take charge of the housekeeping for her three brothers. She seems to have been attached to her lost infant sister, for she gave her only daughter the same names, Elizabeth Fanny. It is not hard to understand why she was reduced to taking the menial post of nurse to a clergyman. Possibly, she only got that because her great-grandmother was the daughter of a Hampshire vicar.
All three of the Millward children went to their parents’ school and stayed on as pupil-teachers. I know little about the sons. Edward Aaron Millward (‘Ted’, ‘Ted’, 1864-1951) followed his father into the teaching profession. He passed his pupil-teacher’s examination without trouble in 1882, went on to train at Saltley Training College, and became master of a new school at Chaddesley Corbett, near Kidderminster, Worcestershire, where he remained for the rest of his life. He played the organ, like his father, in the local church. Francis Henry Millward (‘Frank’, 1869-1951) was less successful. He failed his Parent Teacher’s examination in 1883, was not recommended for a shortened term of apprenticeship in 1885, and when he left in 1888 was ‘qualified under Article 50 but not under Article 52’. In the same year, a fellow pupil-teacher named Ellen Garner, daughter of a glassblower of Warley, failed her examination. Were the two of them too busy, I wonder, gazing into each other’ s eyes? -- they were to marry in 1897. Frank lived in Quinton at his father’s property, Lilac Cottage in Meadow Road, after his father died; his signature is appended to the Vestry minutes for many years. He was still in Quinton in 1910, and his attachment to the place continued at least until 1925, when the death of his eldest son was recorded on Aaron’s memorial:
Also their grandson, Edward Francis Millward. H.M.S. Valiant. Buried at Rapallo Italy. July 5. 1925. Aged 27 years.
Family tradition says that Edward Francis was in the Royal Navy and was killed trying to board a moving train. A great deal is known about Aaron’s daughter, Elizabeth Fanny Millward (1863-1922), who married my grandfather. She ‘passed well’ her pupil-teacher’s examination in 1881, and proceeded to train at St Mary’s College, Cheltenham. There she was the best student of twenty-seven in her year, and went on to teach in the Central Higher Grade School in Sheffield; she received a glowing testimonial from the Head when she left to get married. She was an avid reader, and reviewed books and wrote articles, first for The Birmingham Daily Gazette and, when that paper was closed down, for The Birmingham Daily Post. She also wrote and published short stories for a variety of magazines. Both had families, some of whom are in touch with the Harlows of today.
Aaron suffered from ill health for a number of years. The log books show Sarah Anne having to take charge of the Mixed School on several occasions, and for a whole week twice in 1880, once on account of his bronchitis and again for his asthma. (There is evidence for hereditary asthma among his descendants). Illness caused his absence for two and a half months in the winter of 1881-82. However, what killed him was Bright’s Disease, an affliction of the kidneys, followed by a stroke. On 26 November 1887, Aaron drew up a will – an action that probably indicates growing anxiety about his health. On 2 January 1888 he wrote ‘I am far from well’, and he died on 19 July 1888 at the early age of forty-nine. Large numbers of mourners came from miles around to attend his funeral, one even from Leicester, and to pay their respects at his coffin, lying in state in a school classroom. Obituaries tend to exaggerate, but I think his may not have been far off the mark when it claimed: ‘Never before has Quinton given manifestations of such outward grief and sorrow for one of its sons.’ He had served the parish and its people in many capacities for twenty-eight years.
A word might be added about the Rector with whom Aaron collaborated for most of those years. The Revd C.H.Oldfield also served the parish for twenty-eight years. He or his wife rarely let a week pass without visiting the school. The notes he wrote in the Vestry minutes book recording both his successes and failures – about which he is notably candid – mark him as a conscientious man, devoted to the welfare of his people. He and his family were also generous in their support for the school whenever money was called for. He was evidently much appreciated by his parishioners who erected four stained glass windows in the church as ‘a testimonial’ to him on his departure. T.W.Bunting has much more about him. (there is more on him in the account of Sarah Anne Millward’s life). R.H.K.Chapman, the music master at Bourne College, Quinton (the Primitive Methodist school), wrote a generous verse tribute to the memory of this village schoolmaster. Chapman had established himself as the college poet, and made many verse contributions to the college magazine, The Bourne College Chronicle (an article in this journal signed ‘MJN’ incidentally perpetuates the unfortunate reputation of the Quinton: ‘The inhabitants . . . are generally of the working class and of somewhat primitive habits’!) He seems to have been an enthusiastic teacher and a capable performer as singer as well as on the violin and piano. He had been appointed to his post only a few months before Aaron died, but with a shared enthusiasm for music, it is not hard to imagine the two men quickly getting together. His verse tribute is rather conventional: a strong religious faith is emphasised, and other lines describe Aaron as self-taught and record his love of teaching, but I choose to quote lines which draw attention to another quality:
In skill’d advice the workman’s friend; A man on whom all might depend.
When my uncle, Philip Harlow, visited the Quinton Church in the 1970’s, he found the churchyard cleared of all gravestones except one, that of Aaron Millward. That says much for the devotion in which his memory was still held nearly a century after his death. After he died, Quinton was to have but a short independent existence, being swallowed up by Birmingham in 1909.
My attempt to answer these questions has been greatly aided by many printed works, notably those of local historians, the late T.W.Bunting, Michael Hall, and Anthony N. Rosser. Both the last named and Bernard Taylor has given invaluable help in pointing me in the right direction on many matters in this quest. I also gratefully acknowledge the help of Mrs. Alison Passmore, Headmistress of the Quinton National School, and Mrs. Loraine Lampon in giving me access to the school records. Not least, the staffs of Birmingham Central Library and the Worcester History Centre have been unfailingly helpful.
Vestry Minute Book of Quinton Church
Records of Quinton Church School
The West Bromwich Weekly News, 28 July 1888
VCH Warwickshire, VII
Bunting, T.W., The Story of a Parish: the Quinton 1840-1990 (1990)
Hall, Michael, Dark and Wicked Place: Quinton in the mid 1800s (2000)
Rosser, Anthony N., The Quinton and Roundabout, 2 vols (1998 and 1999)
Corlett, E., A History of Quinton C of E School from !877 (Typescript, 1977)
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