Category Archives: School History

Fred Tozer – A Determined Boscombe Schoolboy

The Old School House, Boscombe (Photo by Guy Wood)
The Old School House, Boscombe (Photo by Guy Wood)

Frederick William Tozer was born on 28th June 1885 in Liskeard, Cornwall, the third son of George Tozer, Superintendent of a Life Insurance Agent and his wife Ellen, who were originally from Plympton in Devon. George’s occupation was Superintendent of a Life Insurance Agent. Shortly after Fred was born, his family moved to Bournemouth and, on 5th April 1891 when the census was taken, they were living at No.1 Eaton Villas in Christchurch Road. Fred, then aged 5, was recorded in the census as a Scholar, as were his two elder brothers Ernest, aged 9, and Walter, aged 7, and his younger brother, Claude, aged 4. However, he was probably not attending the Boscombe British School at this time.

Boscombe British Schools Log Book Entries for June 1893 (By kind permission of Dorset History Centre)
Boscombe British Schools Log Book Entries for June 1893 (By kind permission of Dorset History Centre)

On 15th June 1893, when Fred was 7 years old, the Log Book of Boscombe British Schools recorded that “a little boy named Fred Tozer had been brought to school some time ago by his brother”. The Headmaster, William Jones, initially put Fred into Standard II and asked the class teacher, Miss Tickner, to report back after a few days on what he could do. After being assessed by both Miss Tickner and Mr Jones, Fred was found to be “backward in Reading and Spelling” and he was told he would have to go down to Standard I.

Some of the boys at Boscombe British Schools in the 1890s (By kind permission of Dorset History Centre)
Some of the boys at Boscombe British Schools in the 1890s (By kind permission of Dorset History Centre)

Young Fred became very upset; he cried and “declined to go”. Mr Jones asked his brother to leave him at the Infants’ School; however, Fred was determined and continued to turn up at his usual desk in Miss Tickner’s class. Mr Jones told him once again to go down to the lower class, but Fred cried so much and promised to be such a good boy that Mr Jones told the teacher to “enter his name on the Register and let him remain”.

The Sailor's Rest, Fowey, Cornwall
The Sailor’s Rest, Fowey, Cornwall

In 1901, Fred and his elder brothers were still living with their parents at 1 Eaton Villas. Ernest, aged 19,  was working as a “Chemist’s Shopman”and Walter, aged 17, was a “Chemist’s Apprentice” but no occupation was entered for Fred himself, now aged 15. However, by 2nd April 1911, Fred had become a “Mariner/Mercantile”. In the census of that date, he was a boarder at the Sailor’s Rest in Fowey, Cornwall; he was aged 25 and single.

Fast forward to September 1939 and we find Fred, aged 54 and still a “Merchant Seaman”, living with his wife, Ethel, at 29 London Fields West Side in Hackney. However, after all his seafaring, it turns out that in his later years, Fred returned to Bournemouth, where he died, aged 83 at the end of 1968.

Gladstone Road & Boscombe British School (Bournemouth Library Heritage Zone)
Gladstone Road & Boscombe British School (Bournemouth Library Heritage Zone)

Read more about The Old School House here and read other blog posts hereContact Steph Woods to commission a History of your House or Family: fully researched and referenced, written and illustrated then leather-bound. Also, do check out Co-Working at The Old School House; also the Bournemouth 2026 Trust and the present-day charitable work of the BFSS.

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The Old School House, Boscombe, Bournemouth

Boscombe British and Foreign School

the-old-school-house
The Old School House, Boscombe (Photo by Guy Wood)

Currently enjoying a new lease of life as a fantastic co-working space for creative small businesses, The Old School House, in Gladstone Mews, Gladstone Road, Boscombe, Bournemouth, was originally built, in the neo-Gothic style, as The Boscombe British and Foreign School. The earliest part of the building is Grade II Listed and dates back to 1878, when the foundation stone was laid by Sir Percy Florence Shelley, Frederick Moser and others on 21st August.

Sir Percy Florence Shelley, of Boscombe Manor, was the son of poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of the Gothic novel, Frankenstein.

Blue Plaque at Old School House
Blue Plaque at Old School House

The British and Foreign School Society (BFSS) was formed to carry on the work of a young Quaker named Joseph Lancaster, who founded his first school in Southwark in 1798  to provide education for “the industrious classes”. Joseph Lancaster introduced a system of “mutual and self-instruction”, which included rewards as well as punishment and a non-denominational approach to religious education. When the Education Census of 1851 was taken, there were 514 British Schools in the UK and the movement also spread overseas.

The Education Act of 1870 established a new system of locally funded boards to build and manage schools. There were objections to the local rates being proposed and, in Boscombe as well as elsewhere, schools fought to keep their autonomy for as long as possible by seeking voluntary contributions. Eventually, however, the resources of the BFSS were diverted to teacher training and the building of teacher training colleges, with the schools themselves being absorbed into the new system.

In 1876, a Royal Commission recommended that education be made compulsory to put a stop to the use of child labour; however it took many more years for full school attendance to come about, even though it was made compulsory for five- to ten-year-olds in 1880.

Gladstone Road & Boscombe British School (Bournemouth Library Heritage Zone)

The British and Foreign School at Boscombe was therefore built at a time when a great deal of energy was being devoted to improving both educational provision and the lot of children generally. Boscombe was growing rapidly during this period and the school attached to the Church of St Clements was over-subscribed. The new British and Foreign School in Gladstone Road was opened in 1879 and it consisted of two rooms, the larger one to the south being for older children.

An enthusiastic supporter of the school was Alderman Henry Curtis Stockley of “Essendene, Christchurch Road, Boscombe”, who was school treasurer. In June 1895, an appeal was made in the press for funds to provide extra accommodation and the school was extended to the south a number of times between 1895 and 1903, when it became a council school.

Boscombe County Primary School (Bournemouth Library Heritage Zone)

The building continued to be used as a school until the 1960s, after which it became a children’s theatre and, in the 1990s, it was used for adult education.

Contact Steph Woods to commission a History of your House or Family: fully researched and referenced, written and illustrated then leather-bound. Do check out Co-Working at The Old School House; also the Bournemouth 2026 Trust and the present-day charitable work of the BFSS.