Kresen Kernow is home to some brilliant documents which paint a vivid picture of what life was like at school in Cornwall in the past.

Originally schools were set up by voluntary religious organisations or societies, and most local towns had a fee-paying grammar school, but the 1870 Education Act created School Boards which ensured a more even coverage of elementary schools. Kresen Kernow holds records of these Boards, including minutes, as well as hundreds of records for individual schools.

After 1862 school log books, kept by the headteacher, are a particularly useful source as they describe events in the day to day life of the school and often record notable events (such as a circus in town or the impact of an air raid), absences (for blackberry picking or because of a disease epidemic) and behaviour of individual children. Our collections also include admission registers, punishment books, photographs, magazines and school plans. Please note that it can be possible to trace individuals through these records, but records containing sensitive information are closed for 30 years or longer.

The 1902 Education Act transferred responsibility for administering all schools to the County Council, and we look after records relating to managers, governors, education policy and education committees.

Kresen Kernow is also home to a collection related to Camborne School of Mines (founded in 1888), which includes governors’ minutes, correspondence and pupil records up to 1993, as well as exercise books from the 1930s. We also look after records of other technical and training schools, such as Truro Training College and Probus Demonstration Garden, as well as private schools, including Truro Cathedral School.

Published histories of schools are also available, and schools are often mentioned in the histories of towns and parishes.

Key search terms: place names, school names, admission, punishment, education, teachers, pupil, education, student

Key collections: CC/ED (Education department), SRC/DC (District Education Committees), CSM (Camborne School of Mines), AD994 (Truro Training College), AD1683 and AD2160 (Probus Demonstration Garden)

Recommended reads:  Cornwall Education Week handbook: May 30th-June 4th, Truro, 1927 contains an introduction to the history of education in Cornwall up to 1927. We also hold histories of individual schools, just search the library catalogue using the school name.

Watch: you can watch films about many items in our collections, including school registers and log books, on our YouTube channel.