Headmaster – 1857-1865
Archer Flux noted in his History of the School that Robert Sheaf M.A., was a certificated master of the 3rd class, afterwards promoted to the 2nd class, and he was something of a musician. At one time he was Churchwarden of Highfield.
It appears that Robert Sheaf and Jane Olivia Ivie married, in the quarter ended Jun 1857, in the Croydon registration district (2a 221), their application for the situation of Master and Mistress was considered on July 18 1857 and because ‘their testimonials appeared satisfactory’, was accepted. Mr FitzGerald was requested to communicate with Mr Sheaf, & to request him to proceed as early as possible with his arrangements to come to the School: upon the same salary which had been paid to Mr & Mrs Winser, viz 70£ per annum, with coals during the winter months.
The school building was already too small by 1858 and was extended into the boys’ playground.
Adjustments were made to Master Sheaf’s salary in the next few years and were also detailed in the minute book.
Nov 29 1858 A gratuity of £14 was awarded to Mr Sheaf out of the Capitation Grant, including an allowance of £2 for instruction given to J H Nicholls during the year.
Feb 1 1861 It was resolved, in consideration of Mr Sheaf’s efficient discharge of his duties for the last years to make an augmentation of 5£ a year to his salary.
In February 1859 it was decided that an Assistant to the school mistress could be employed at about £10 should someone suitable be available – it appears they decided to wait for a former pupil teacher, Sophia Wren to be admitted to training college. Unfortunately, Sophia died on October 1st 1859, aged just 21, and was buried in the graveyard at Highfield. So, in February 1860 the managers were still discussing the position of assistant mistress. This seems to have been resolved by the 7th April 1861 when Mrs Sheaf’s sister in law, Elizabeth Ivie, is recorded as Assistant Teacher on the Census, and shown to be living in the Sheaf household.
Also in the house on Census night were 26yr old Robert who was born in Portsea, his Irish wife Jane, 23 yrs and their 1 year old daughter Amy, also Susannah Bone a 78 yr old widowed local nurse, a 14yr old servant, Sarah Hausson from Leicestershire and James Page a 15yr old pupil teacher from North Stoneham.
From Freebmd and the 1871 census they have an older son, Thomas Henry, who would have been 3 at the time. Is it possible that Susannah is there and Thomas absent because another child is imminently due, Charlotte Ann is registered Apr/May/June 1861 in South Stoneham (2C 48)?
Government changes to the rules about funding of schools were to have an impact on Teachers’ pay, so the managers had to consider the implications for Highfield and Mr Sheaf specifically.
Oct 3 1862 The diminution of the Teachers’ income by the operation of the Revised Code was taken into consideration, and it appeared that the Master would lose his grant of 18£, & a gratuity of 12£ usually given him by the Committee and of the Capitation grant. Mr Sheaf requested that the children’s’ payments might be very materially increased without inflicting hardship on the parents, & in his opinion beneficially as regards the children’s’ attendance. He was desired to prepare a schedule of payments, increased according to his purported plan, to submit to the next meeting of the Committee. The Committee offered to increase the Teachers’ salary from 75£ to 93£; & to give a gratuity of 5£ in addition in case the childrens’ payments should be increased £25.
A new agreement between the Managers & Teachers was to be drawn up to the above effect, in which Mr Sheaf should engage to teach 3 nights in the week in a Night School, if required, at that communication in addition to his stipend, as the Managers might be able to give him.
At this meeting it was also resolved to try and obtain an additional piece of ground for the use of the School.
Robert Sheaf suffered a period of illness from April 25th to July 8th 1864 and was unable to work, the school was carried on by his wife in his absence with the help of the pupil teachers and monitors.
His time at the school was to come to a close and April 3 1865 it was reported that Mr & Mrs Sheaf had given notice of their intention to resign their situations at Midsummer.
He appears to have left a problem for the incoming head at the next annual prize-giving, because on February 15th 1866 Mr Carden records that children previously mentioned were taken from school because they did not receive prizes, Mrs Windebanks said it appears they had been promised a prize this year by Mr Sheaf.
In 1871 he appears to be living with his further increased family in Wanstead, Essex where he is the master of a National School.
Notes on the History of Highfield School written by Archer T Flux
Diary of a School – compiled by Jo Ladkin & Isobel White