Archibald Laing – The First Schoolmaster

One institution that was quickly established after the public house was the school, or more accurately schools, as there was provision for a Boys School, a Girls School and an Infant School. They were all house i the new building on Creed Street which also provided accommodation for the school master.

The first man they hired was a Scot called Archibald Laing. He was a teacher at Clewer in Berkshire and was brought to Wolverton for n annual salary of £100, accommodation and a supply of coal. On the strength of this he married an he and his wife produced four daughters. £100 Should add was a respectable income. The average worker in the works took home £50 a year and Laing’s colleagues, the Girl’s teacher was paid £40 a year and theInfants’ teacher only £30.

Laing ran the school with Victorian discipline for 13 years and then in 1853, after only 42 years of life he unexpectedly died. I don’t have details of the cause of death. But he had an afterlife of sorts because tales grew up about his haunting the old school house at night. Boys, with little else to do, would gather outside the school of a winter evening hoping to catch a fearful glimpse of this apparition.

One night, around 1860, a group of boys were hanging around outside the school speculating on the possible appearance of the ghost when one boy asserted that there were no such things a ghosts. Naturally this claim was met with derision and he was challenged to the point where he said he would go into the school if necessary and prove them wrong.

This seemed to be the only way to resolve the argument and he broke a window and squeezed himself through the iron bars to get into the building. As he landed on the floor he gave out a cry of pin and the boys outside were all convinced that he had seen the ghost, but he assured them that it was alright. he had just cut his hand on a piece of broken lass. He then worked his way through the building but because it was dark he kept bumping into desks. The terrified boys outside were sure that he was wrestling with the ghost. However, this young lad kept his nerve and worked his way through the building, opening cupboards and doors and finally returned to his mates to tell them he had found nothing, not even a wisp of a ghost.

After this the ghost story never came up again, it having been, so to speak, laid to rest.

A view of the schools c 1840