This article has been kindly written by Leah Rashid, University of Reading UROP student.
Photograph of the Redlands Infants Staff around 1896/7. Eliza Chattaway, middle row centre. We also know that one of these women was most likely Minnie Gillender who went on to become head of Coley and Oxford Road Schools.
Eliza Chattaway (1870-1956) dedicated 40 years to education in Reading and Berkshire as headteacher, lecturer, and author of the book, School Nature Rambles.
Eliza was born into a family of iron workers in Wednesbury, Staffordshire and as a teenager trained as a pupil-teacher. She moved to Norwich and Ely teacher training college around 1890 and started work in their demonstration school.
Aged 25 she became head of Redlands Infants School, Reading (1895-1913). During this period, Miss Chattaway introduced Nature Studies to the education system of Redlands School. She encouraged 'one hour nature walks each week' to her students and would even exchange vital lessons such as Maths for Outdoor Lessons. Miss Chattaway was influenced by thinkers such as Dr Maria Montessori and even contributed to the growing literature about early childhood education. She became an Associate of University College Reading, lecturing on Kindergarten Teaching in their early Education Department and across the county via the Berkshire County Education Committee.
In 1912, Miss Chattaway published School Nature Rambles with Oxford University Press/ Hodder & Stoughton. The book follows a year at Redlands and offers advice on planning lessons. Although, this may be a book directed to infants teachers, the language used in the book has a philosophical tone, enticing all of our souls to the nature around us. The book includes photos of Miss Chattaway and the children on their ‘rambles’ and includes the children’s reactions to natural events such as snowfall and autumn.
In 1913, Miss Chattaway became head of Wokingham Road Infants School (now Alfred Sutton School) in Reading and worked there until her retirement in 1934. In 1939 she moved to Bournemouth, Dorset where she spent the last years of her life.
We are trying to find out more about her. With the help of the Berkshire Record Office (which holds her small archive and logbooks), the University of Reading Special Collections, and online research we know something about her life, but we still have more questions:
- Was she involved in any local or national groups or societies?
- Does anybody have family photographs or stories from the time which might include her? She was at Redlands Infants, 1896-1913; Wokingham Rd/Alfred Sutton, 1913-1934; and University College Reading, 1911-1934.
- We know she kept in touch with former colleagues and students – are there any letters/stories/images out there?
Please contact us if you have any information about Eliza Chattaway and her work.