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Plaque to remember schooling pioneer

ABLUEplaque will be installed in Frome to commemorate an influential teacher and educationalist who once lived in the town.

In association with Frome Society for Local Study and Frome and District Civic Society, the plaque will be put up at 6 North Parade, where Clara Grant OBE lived during the 19th Century.

Clara Grant, born in Chapmanslade in 1867, moved with her large family to North Parade when she was 8 years old. She received her secondary education at various dame schools in Frome  before enrolling for teacher training in Salisbury.

She later worked in primary schools in Somerset and Wiltshire before moving to Bow in East London in the 1890s. She became Head Teacher at the Infants School in Devons Road in 1900 where she immediately instituted a series of changes that improved the lives of the children.

She revised classroom techniques, provided hot breakfasts for the children, supplied them with clothes and shoes and famously created and distributed ‘farthing bundles’. These provided children with toys of their own at minimal cost.

Eventually Clara became known as the ‘Bundle Woman of Bow’. The packages contained whistles, dolls, beads, decorated pill boxes, marbles, cigarette cards and such like. They were so popular that children would start queuing at 7am, and continued to be sold until the 1970s.

She also founded the Fern Street Settlement for mothers to meet and discuss their problems; it still serves as a local community centre.

The school where she taught was renamed the Clara Grant Primary School in 1993.

Clara Grant wrote her autobiography  ‘Farthing Bundles’ in the 1920s, as well as several books on improved teaching methods. She was given the Order of the British Empire shortly before she died in 1949.

Information provided by local historian Alastair MacLeay.