Hob Hill History
Although Hob Hill CE/Methodist (VC) Primary School opened in 1971, our school history goes back much further. Situated in Rugeley in the village of Brereton in Staffordshire, we are incredibly fortunate to have a long and interesting history. Our story begins like this:
Our school lies in the town of Rugeley. Its name comes from Anglo-Saxon language – Hrycg, which means a ridge or chain of hills. This is put together with the word Leah, which means a woodland clearing to make the name ‘Rugeley’. The Anglo-Saxons discovered the town on a low ridge on a lea (clearing) above the flood plain of the River Trent. In Saxon times, this area was part of the kingdom of Mercia. When William (I) invaded England, a rebellion was led by the Normans by Edwin, son of Earl Aelfgar of Mercia. This was crushed in 1701 and the Normans took control. When Rugeley was first recognised as a town, it had only 35-40 inhabitants. In 1086, Rugeley is recorded in the Doomsday book as having nine households, a meadow (three acres), a woodland and one mill.
Brereton is a Saxon name. At first it was always written - Breredon. This was made of two Saxon words meaning - Briar-Hill – the hill where the briars grow. Because families living in Rugeley had to feed themselves, they ploughed a small area around their homes, grew hay in meadows near the River Trent and left the rest of the land to be common where animals could be turned out to graze. Brereton was part of this common. As the number of people in Rugeley increased, more food had to be produced and some of the common was ploughed up. In the 12th Century, a few families moved from Rugeley to the place on the common called Briar-Hill. There they built houses and began to clear and plough the land.
Methodism was introduced into Brereton by Mr and Mrs Gething. Mr Gething was a collier and came to manage a colliery in Cannock Wood. His daughter had attended Wesleyan services and eventually persuaded her parents to go along. Thomas Gething was then shortly converted to Methodism. In 1806, they came to Brereton and their house (The Stone House) was licenced for preaching until the first chapel was built in 1809. A lady known as Miss Elizabeth Birch was also influential, using her position of wealth to spread the word of God in and around Brereton. In 1838, she built and endowed six almshouses for poor widows. A few years later, she built and endowed the Free School for forty boys of poor parents residing within three miles of Brereton. In 1853, Mr Vickers then came to Brereton to take over the Free School, where he remained for forty years. In 1904, a replacement for the Free School (The Wesleyan Day School) was built. It became Brereton Senior School for a while but then became George Vickers Methodist Primary School in 1939, until it closed in 1969.
In addition to the Methodist school, Brereton’s National School for girls was built in 1891 on Main Road to replace Brereton's first school, built by Miss Sneyd in 1826. It became known as Brereton C. of E. School and from 1930 took only girls aged 7 - 11. By the 1950s the school was becoming overcrowded. This was relieved by the building of Nursery Field C.P. School in 1961. The school (now named St Michael's C. of E. School) closed in 1971 when the pupils were transferred to the new Hob Hill school. In the slideshow below, St Michael's School is the tall building with a pointed window on the black and white photo; the low building next door is a remnant of the 1826 school.
Over the years, Rugeley has been at the heart of several industries including markets, iron works, glass manufacture, tanneries, hat making and coal mining. Many of these industries can be seen at the entrance to Rugeley town, along with hitching posts that were used to tie the horses to along Horse Fair (see photos below).