Sarah Ball and the founding of the Burwell BritishSchool, 9th April 1846
Extracts from: LookingBack*, being a brief retrospect of the Rise and Progress of theBurwell British School, Now celebrating its Jubilee, 1896, by one of itsOldest Living Friends and Supporters [Thomas Thwaites Ball]

THE village of Burwell 50 years ago was like most other villages in the matter of Education - much neglected. There were a few Dames' Schools in the village, of a very primitive character. The largest and most important school was a parish boys' school, kept by a Mr. Bailey, at which only the very common rudiments of learning were taught to a few boys. There was just then springing up a desire for a better class education, and the people wore asking, "Why cannot we have a good public school in this village, where our children can go and receive better instruction?"

Miss Sarah Ball (daughter of the late Edward Ball), then residing in Burwell, was amongst the most urgent advocates for a public school, and tried to persuade her father to attempt raising funds to erect a British School. After a while, Mr. Edward Ball yielded; a public meeting of the parishioners was called, and duly held in Mr. Challis's large barn, nicely decorated and prepared, on Wednesday, May 28th, 1845.

Such was the earnest desire and anxiety of the parents and friends for a public school, that the barn was crowded. Tea was provided, 300 partook thereof, and paid I/- each for it. The provisions for this tea had been gratuitously provided by willing friends, so that all the proceeds were profit, and were handed over to the school building account.

Henry S. Foster, Esq., of Cambridge, took the chair at the evening meeting. Addresses were delivered, imparting information and exciting a deeper interest in the subject of Education. It was unanimously agreed that a schoolroom should be forthwith built for the education of the children of Burwell on the principles of the British School System, and unsectarian. At this meeting, 13 residents of the village, were chosen to form a Committee to carry out this resolution, and arrange as to collecting money, building, etc.,etc. ...

On Thursday, April 9th, 1846, a public tea was held in Mr. Challis's barn, kindly lent for the occasion; trays gratuitously provided. 170 partook of this, for which they freely paid I/- each. After tea, the public repaired to the schoolroom. A hymn was sung; prayer for God's blessing on the school was offered by Rev. Burdett, Baptist Minister, of Cambridge, and the schoolroom was publicly declared open as a British School for the use of the children of the parishioners. The company returned to the barn, and a large meeting was hold, under the presidency of Henry Foster, Esq., of Cambridge. The Rev. D. Flower, Secretary, read a most favourable report of the rise and progress of the school up todate ...

[time passed]

On Thursday, April 9th, 1846, a public tea was held in Mr. Challis's barn... Special reference was made at this meeting to the sad loss the school had sustained by the death of their warm, zealous friend, Miss Sarah Ball, who certainly had been the first promoter of the school, its earliest friend, first suggesting the possibility of raising such a school, and would not have her ardour damped by the lukewarmness of others, but persevered until she saw the project launched and on its way to completion.

Miss Sarah Ball had long suffered ill-health, and consumption gradually weakened her frame and reduced her strength. She was always of a strong religious turn of mind, and ever zealous in every good word and work; friends watched her anxiously, for they saw that although her mind was strong, her energy and effort to do good unabated, her bodily strength was weaker, and she was gradually wasting away. Just as the foundation-stone of the school was about to be laid, Miss Sarah Ball, on October 26th, 1845, died, and from her grave was dug the foundation-stone, her name cut out on it, the date and year, and this became the foundation-stone, "well and truly laid," on which for 50 years has rested the Burwell British School.

Thus it will be seen that from the very conception of the idea of a British School, its rise and progress until now, intimately connected with all its history - its ups and downs —its times of adversity and its seasons of prosperity - from 1845 to 1896 the name of Ball has ever stood in the fore-most rank of its friends and supporters, determined, nothing daunted, to help carry out, in integrity, the unsectarian principles upon which the school was established for the efficient education of the youth of Burwell on the British School System.

*A copy of this book was kindly providedby Caroline Bamber
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