J.R.Richardson

Mr James Robert Richardson Headmaster of Northop School from 1904 to 1929
A Brief Biography
As this project got underway, the legacy of Mr Richardson began to shine out. He painstakingly chronicled the names of local men who served in the Great War but more than that, he seems to have been a dedicated and inspirational teacher. The loyalty and affection in which he was held resounded down the years to us and the more we learnt about him, the more we felt that we should give him his own page on the website. Like other ‘pillars of the communities’  in the Parish of Northop, he played a big part in instilling patriotism and national fervour, (see his school log book), so like the rest of them ( Mr Vaughan The Vicar, Lord Justice Bankes of Soughton Hall, CL Williams, Magistrate and County Councillor of Lower Soughton Hall and others) he must be held partly responsible for encouraging young men to take the colours. They were different times with a real and genuine fear of the enemy and it is easy with the hindsight of history, to pass judgement on such men. Mr Richardson, through his endeavours afterwards, displayed great compassion and a determination that the boys would never be forgotten. Apart from all that, he is an interesting man who influenced generations of children in the Parish of Northop. So who was he? What have we been able to find out?
The Russian Connection
The first surprise is that James Robert Richardson was born in 1864 – in Russia! He was baptised on the 13th November 1864 at the Chaplaincy in Kronstadt. Kronstadt is situated on the small island of Kotlin in the eastern part of the Gulf of Finland, 48 km west of St Petersburg. It became a strategically important, fortified naval base during the reign of Tsar Peter the Great. As Anglo-Russian trade expanded throughout the nineteenth century, The Russia Company became a patron of a chaplaincy in Kronstadt, to meet the spiritual needs of British residents and sailors. James Robert Richardson’s father was, we know, a ship’s carpenter which could easily explain his presence in Russia. It is more difficult to explain why his wife was also there and why his first son was born there. Mr Richardson, whenever he completed a census form always stated his exotic birth place but always added that he was a ‘British Citizen.’
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His wife and children.
Letter of Application to Northop School.
This is a remarkable letter of application which demonsrated Mr Richardson’s presentational skills. The first striking feature is that he has attached a photograph of himself to the top of the letter. This practice, though more common nowadays must have been very impressive in 1904. The photograph reveals a very handsome gentleman of 39. His hair and moustache are immaculately groomed. His gleaming white, high starched collar is fastened neatly with a natty necktie. He is wearing a waistcoat and a jacket and in the buttonhole of the jacket is a flower. He looks like an attractive man of style and confidence. He must have been well on the way to being offered the job before anyone read a word of his application!
The letter itself is written in his familiar, confident and attractive handwriting. I have transcribed it below because the paper size makes it impossible to scan satisfactorily.

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St Bede’s & Marloes National School
Marloes
Milford Haven
Jan 5th 1904
Dear Sir and Gentlemen.I beg to offer myself as a candidate for your Northop National School together with my wife as Assistant Mistress.
I am 39 years of age and have been Master of the above school for over 6 years during which time the grants have been doubled and the school raised from ‘warned’ to ‘excellent’ & highest grants earned. We have also worked hard to  raise the moral tone of the scholars and have succeeded as you will see by enclosed testimonials.
My wife is an excellent teacher of Infants & Needlework and qualified under Article 50.
Previous to taking up our present post, I was for over 8 years Headmaster of Codford St Mary National, Bath and before that I was First Asssistant of Kendal National with an average of 400. I was trained in Seaham Harbour, Durham. So you will see that my experience is wide and varied.
I might also add that previous to coming here I was honoured by the Government of Jamaica with the offer of the headship of their school at Kingston with an average of over 500 scholars.
In addition to the usual qualifications I am a fully qualified teacher of manual instruction & hold the full diploma of the London City & Guilds for Woodwork, Woodcarving & Drawing. I have also the Diploma of the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth for Horticulture which subject together with Nature study I successfully teach here. Singing by note: Drill (Model Course): Drawing “D” Sciences & Languages. I also hold the Archbishop’s Divinity certificate.
We are thorough loyal churchpeople & I am licenced Lay Reader here, member of choir & wife also takes occasional duty at the organ.
We are always prepared to loyally assist in any project for promoting the interests of the Parish and school.
We have two children: daughter aged 16 is a probationer for Pupil-Teachership. son aged 9 is away in school at Lancaster.
The reason why we are seeking a change is because we wish to be further North & nearer to our relatives. We are under no notice to leave here.
Should you honour us with your favour by appointing us it would be our earnest endevour always to discharge our dities faithfully & effectually.
I enclose copies of testimonials, reports and references wich I trust will merit your kind consideration.
Awaiting your kind favours
I beg to remain Dear Sir and Gentlemen                                                                                                    Your Obedient Servant
James R Richardson
The Correspondent Esq
The Cottage
Northop
There were, enclosed many testimonials as well as the names and addresses of 14 willing referees.  Here is one of the testimonials.
I have much pleasure in testifying to the excellence of Mr J R Richardson as a teacher. He was most painstaking and energetic and had the welfare of the children thoroughly at heart. He organised a museum, the best in the neighbourhood. He conducted several most successful and interesting children’s entertainments (songs, recitations etc). He did not confine his interest in the children’s progress merely to school hours. He willingly helped in the Sunday School.
I will gladly answer any questions concerning him and I trust he may be successful in obtaining your appointment.
Mrs Richardson was a very kind and efficient teacher of Infants and Needlework.
I have the honour to remain gentlemen,
Your obedient servant
W Wynne Wilson
Rector of Handborough Oxford.
Formerly Rector of Codford St Mary.
There was also a newspaper cutting, describing the event that was put on in Codford to say farewell to Mr and Mrs Richardson when they left to work in Pembrokeshire.
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Mr J R Richardson headmaster of Northop National School 1904 to 1929. The inspiration for this website. The pupil with him on the right hand picture is Benjamen Hodgkinson. His brother Wiilie was killed in the war and has his own page on this website.

Parish Magazine January 1918

On November 9th in the Parish Church by licence, Miss Richardson School House was married to Sgt Birse, Sunderland. Mrs Birse was on our school staff till recently and gave general satisfaction. She was most popular among the school shildren. This in itself is a proof of her good qualities and general disposition. Sgt Birse is on active service in France and while on a short leave took the opportunity to thus carry away one of our most cherished treasures. We congratulate them both and we wish them long life and usefulness in the bonds of holy wedlock.

(Sgt Birse had visited the school in November 1915 – see Mr Richardson’s Log Book. We had wondered who he was as we could find no mention of him in Northop records. Now we know!)

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