Head Teachers

Head Teachers of Mulbarton School

Richard Whiting - documents for house on Common now called 'Carpenters' show Richard Whiting (Schoolmaster), wife Elizabeth, resident in March 1805.

Mark Bean Petchell - listed in White's Norfolk Directory 1845

William Winter - listed in Directory of 1865


(Further information below on all names marked with an asterisk)

Elizabeth Smith Feb. - Dec. 1875

Elizabeth Ostler Jan. - July 1876

Miss Jarman July - Dec. 1876

Helen Vincent Griffiths Jan - 1877 - Aug. 1879

Eliza E. Bolton Oct. 1879 - July 1880

Alice Eleanor Hardingham July 1880 - Dec. 1882

David Walter Parson Jan. 1883 - Sept. 1889

Arthur George Hubbard Sept. 1889 - Oct. 1893

Albert A. Kerridge Oct. - Dec. 1893

John Van Dyke Jan. 1894 - Sept. 1895 *

William Prewett Sept. - Dec. 1895

David Burnham Jan. - July 1896

J. Walter Joseph Simmonds Sept. 1896 - Oct. 1922 *


Linda Craig 1977 - 1980

Elizabeth Pierce Sep 1980 - Dec 2006 *

Stuart Beard Jan 2007 - Dec 2013

Beverley Theobald from Jan 2014-7 (who was then appointed Head of Mulbarton Primary School when the two school re-joined and retired in 2022).

Mulbarton Primary (again)

Beverley Theobald 2017 - 2022

Natasha Hall - from Sep 2022

E.M.Wheatley (Supply) Nov. 1922

Rowland Howarth Dec 1922 - June 1928 *

Alfred Babington July 1928 - March 1931

R. Ishell (Temp.) April - May 1931

Marion Rowbottom (Mrs.) June 1931 - Aug 1946 *

M. Hewitt (Supply) Sept. - Nov. 1946

F. E. Rhodes (Mrs.) Dec. 1946 - Dec 1950

[W.Cobb (during Mrs. Rhodes leave of absence in Sierra Leone) Aug. 1948 - Sept. 1949]

J. A. Hornsby Jan 1951 - Aug 1956 *

P. J. Batchelor (Mrs) Sept 1956 - Aug 1967

Vivien Smith (Temp) Sept - Dec 1967

Derek Chamberlain Jan 1968 - 1977 (became Head of the Middle School to Dec 1982) *


Geoffrey Dixon Jan 1983 - July 1991

Mike Rutter (dep) acting Head Sep - Dec 1991

Beulah Chatten Jan 1992 - July 2011

David Oldham  Sep 2011 - 2016

Beverley Theobald 2016-7 (then continued as Head of Mulbarton Primary School)


JOHN VAN DYKE, Head Teacher Jan 1894 - Sep 1895

Although only at the school for just over a year, he is the only Head Teacher for whom we have a family photo. This photograph was given to the School by his great-granddaughter who thought it would be interesting for pupils to see what John Van Dyke and his wife Mary Selina looked like. 

The photo was actually taken quite a long time after Mr Van Dyke left the school, as the little girl at the front, their Granddaughter Margery Ivy Vandyke, was born about 1907. Mary Selina was John's second wife (his first wife died in 1890). He would have brought to Mulbarton five children from his first marriage and one from his second. Whilst at Mulbarton, two further children were born: Gladys Mary Vandyke on 27th January 1894 (on the right of the photo) and Margery Woodhouse Vandyke on 23rd April 1895. When John left Mulbarton, he took up a position in West Tofts, Norfolk.' His great-granddaughter commented, '...in every other school John worked in, they lived in the schoolhouse provided...' and this is probably the clue as to why he and so many other Head Teachers stayed such a short time. Many schools - including all those in villages adjacent to Mulbarton - had houses attached, but not here.... 

WALTER JOSEPH SIMMONDS, Head Teacher 1896-1922

Walter Joseph Simmonds, was appointed to the school in Sept. 1896 as head Teacher, with his wife as assistant. He followed what must have been a difficult time for the school, with four Teachers in 4 years from 1893 to 1896. Mr. Simmonds was Head of the school for 26 years, bringing stability. 

School photo 1902. Standing left and right are Walter Simmonds and his wife.
School photo 1902. Standing left and right are Walter Simmonds and his wife.

This photo was taken in 1902, with Mr & Mrs Simmonds standing at the back. The 28 pupils here are probably from the Infant Class, taught by Mrs Simmonds. One child is Horace Lofty, who later ran Mulbarton's Butcher's shop by the Common, whose wife was school secretary for many years.

A school photo was one of many innovations introduced under Mr Simmonds when he took over Mulbarton School. He also started a Football Club (subscription half an old penny), a lending library, and later a savings bank. He expected good behaviour, but discouraged corporal punishment. When he arrived in Sept 1896, he wrote a long comment in the Log Book about the poor standard of the school and the lack of History, Geography and Knitting! He not only improved the '3 Rs', he also introduced better teaching methods - including Science, with simple experiments and observations; and 'proper' games such as Rounders as part of PE. Despite opposition from parents, he introduced gardening for the boys, and when the Wingfield Hall opened the older girls went there for cookery lessons for a week each summer.

When Mr & Mrs Simmonds started, there were 90 pupils: 34 Infants in one small room; 56 in the 'Mixed School' in the main classroom. Mulbarton School had no School House (unlike Swardeston and Bracon Ash): Heads had to find their own accommodation, The Simmonds lived in Swardeston until a school house was built in 1900-01.

Besides being Head teacher, Mr. Simmonds supplemented his income by teaching music and was Parish Clerk with a small honorarium from 1903-20. He took an active part in village life apparently founding a Drum & Fife Band, of which he was bandmaster, and also with the cricket club. He resigned in 1922 after running the school for 26 years - we don't know why. and no  thanks or comments are recorded. Sadly, standards had slipped: the Inspector's report for May 1922 was damning

ROWLAND HOWARTH, Head Teacher 1922-28

It is Mrs Howarth - Elizabeth (Betty) nee Moore - who is the most notable of this couple, for she was the sister of Henry Moore, then a little-known sculptor, but now a world-famous artist. It was because the Moore sisters moved from Yorkshire to Norfolk for the sake of their coalminer father's deteriorating health that Rowland Howarth applied for a job in the County and was appointed to the newly vacant - and less than desirable - Mulbarton post.

On arrival, Rowland Howarth complained about the standards of discipline, and that the older children 'show insufficient industry and interest. Reading is monotonous and wanting in fluency and intelligence, Composition is weak, whilst faulty and unintelligent methods characterise much of the Arithmetic. The scholars have a very limited knowledge of Geography and History: these subjects should be taught on broader and more interesting lines.' He endeavoured to make school more interesting and relevant, and on arrival he and his wife organised the first-recorded Christmas party, complete with a visit from Santa Claus! By 1925 the Inspectors can report that 'Under the present Head Master who was appointed in December 1922 the condition of this school has improved considerably..... If the present rate of progress is maintained the school will soon reach a really creditable level of efficiency.'

During the Howarth's tenure, Henry Moore spent most of his holidays in Norfolk with his sisters Mary (Head Teacher at Wighton who retired to Wells), and Betty, married to the Head Teacher of Mulbarton. It was on our Common that he developed his passion for outdoor carving: he wrote in a letter in 1925: 'I'm thankful for these two spots in Norfolk [Wells and Mulbarton] where I can sit in the open air, cross-legged on patches of grass & chip stone.. ....though I was nearly sent loopy this afternoon by the incessant lowing of a cow that the farmer next door is starving for killing.' [referring to the butcher's next-door to Mulbarton School!] The Howarth's baby, Mary, was born in April 1926 and Moore made a sculpture of her head three months later, in cast concrete. This remained in Betty's possession until her death. By the mid-1950s she and Roland had moved to Kent. Betty was the only surviving sibling at Henry Moore's funeral in 1986. [More information & picture of the sculpture at the Tate Gallery, fig.1]

MARION ROWBOTTOM, Head Teacher 1931-1946

Mrs Rowbottom had to cope with the upheavals of the War years, including the arrival (and departure) of evacuees and children relocated from Norwich. She had two assistant teachers: Mrs Nichols (who left a few months after Mrs Rowbottom) and Miss Larner (who left in September 1945 'after 32 years of loyal and faithful service in this school', and was replaced by Miss Royle). She also had to cope with the loss of her son, Anthony, who was killed during the War. Her husband is remembered for playing football with the boys on the Common, but was not officially employed at the school. Mrs Rowbottom left when the school was taken over by the County Council.

Mr HORNSBY, Head Teacher 1951-56

Mr Hornsby inevitably gained the nickname 'Hornet', especially as he drove a Wolsey Hornet car. He is also remembered for being very tall - over 6 foot. He left the school to emigrate to Canada, from where he sent information to interest the pupils.

Mulbarton School, 1954. Back row, far right, Mr J A Hornsby; back row, far left, Mr Cobb, Junior teacher and Acting Head 1948-9.
Mulbarton School, 1954. Back row, far right, Mr J A Hornsby; back row, far left, Mr Cobb, Junior teacher and Acting Head 1948-9.

Derek Chamberlain, Head Teacher of Mulbarton Primary School from Jan 1968, who continued as Head of the Middle School from Sep 1977 to Dec 1982

Derek Chamberlain coped with the building of a new school and the move from the old school, which took place over an extended period from 1969 (appointment of a caretaker, arrangements for meals) through 1970 (Infants moved Feb) to 1973 (some Junior classes moved Sept then mobiles needed until all building work complete). He also coped with the reorganisation from a Primary School to separate First and Middle School from 1977. This meant pupils moving from Swardeston, Wreningham and Tacolneston at 8+ and the need for liaison with those schools - as well as the closure of Bracon Ash & Hethel Primary School and the opening of  the new Hethersett High School to which pupils went at 12+. When he retired on 31 Dec 1982, Derek Chamberlain wrote in the school log book: 'Having spent 15 very happy years at Mulbarton I sincerely hope that my successor will be as happy as I have been. I am leaving him the best set of children a headmaster could wish for.'

Elizabeth Pierce, Head Teacher of Mulbarton First School Sept 1980 - Dec 2006

Elizabeth Pierce served longer than any other Head Teacher - for 20 years and 1 term - 2 months longer than Walter Simmonds! However, she did take time out for maternity leave and a sabbatical in New Zealand.... Soon after becoming Head Teacher the joint governing body was separated to have Governors for each school. Swardeston School closed and the pupils transferred to Mulbarton First School in September 1983, when a mobile classroom was installed. The school was enlarged in 1985 with the addition of 2 classrooms, a new staff room and entrance lobby. Miss Pierce is remembered by pupils for re-introducing football (for girls as well as boys), starting Short Tennis, and for dressing up for any fancy dress events at school fairs and on special occasions such as hallowe'en! 

Above: Elizabeth Pierce (centre front) with her staff dressed as schoolgirls for a non-uniform day when all the pupils could dress how they wished. Right front is Beverley Theobald,  head teacher of Mulbarton Primary School.
Below: Another era ends: Bev Theobald at her retirement in July 2022