George Paul came to Ledbury in the autumn of 1885, aged about 35, when he was appointed headmaster to the Ledbury Boys' National School on the death of the previous headmaster, William Caldwell. 1885 had been a particularly difficult year for the school with a three week closure because of an outbreak of measles following a lengthy period of average attendance as low as 65.8 although about 120 boys were on the books. Some continuity with the previous regime was maintained for about year as William Caldwell's son continued as a pupil teacher until leaving for further training in Exeter. Over the course of his 32 year tenure as headmaster George Paul improved academic standards and poor moral at the school through addressing problems with discipline, attendance, poor premises and low staffing levels. In 1894 he oversaw the transition from the National School to the new Board School regime. In 1900, for the first time within the Chair's memory, 'the highest grant was received for every subject. A total payment of 22/3d per head was made which included 1/6d for drawing, singing by rote 1/-, elementary science and English 2s, geography 2s'.
George Paul was born in St John's Wood, London, but trained to become a certificated teacher at St Paul's College Cheltenham; his wife, Julia was a native of Cheltenham. Their four eldest daughters were all born in Gloucester, so it seems probable that the family settled there. By the time of the 1891 census, some 6 years after the family moved to Ledbury, there were two more children, Reginald, 4 and baby Charlotte, 2 months. The four eldest children, Constance, 13, Alice, 11, Madelaine, 8, and Florence, 6, were all recorded on the census as scholars.
By the 1901 census, the family was living at the School House adjacent to the School in the Homend. The four eldest daughters, aged 16 to 23 were all still unmarried and living at home. Constance, the eldest, has no occupation recorded, whilst Florence, aged 16 was working as an apprentice at a fancy toy shop and Madelaine, aged 18 as a milliner. Constance, the eldest, has no occupation recorded while the two youngest were still at school. Alice, aged 21 is recorded as a teacher in an Art School. Five years earlier, Alice had been a monitor at Ledbury Infants' National School but by March 1901 the headmistress, Miss Hooper was certain the girl was 'unsuited'.
George Paul took an active part in town life. By 1900, a thriving fife and drum band led by him was highly regarded within the town, and played a full part in the celebrations on June 6th to mark the fall of Pretoria. The Ledbury Free Press records that a news board was placed in the High Street 'at the height of the market'. At 7pm the 'Mafeking Boys' paraded with children waving flags and carrying banners, this was followed by the Rifle band whilst at 10pm many bonfires were lit using cartloads of firewood from Wall Hills which were put out at midnight by the Fire Brigade. Two ladies, Mrs Wyld and Mrs Rogers were so impressed that they later organized a collection amounting to 13 pounds.
On Whit Monday, 30 uniformed boys set off by rail in a saloon carriage to Cardiff, playing 'patriotic airs' at every station stop! After a meal in Cardiff, they proceeded to Barry Island where some took quick dips in the sea and then 'emulated the triumphal march into Pretoria' playing their instruments as they rode on donkeys. The band also paraded and played to welcome the New Year 1901 with a Yuletide selection in 'springlike weather' with several shops staying open until 11.30pm. It seems likely that Paul's contribution to the social life of the town helped his efforts to raise the status of education in the town.
8th September 1917 marked the close of George Paul's 32 years of service to Ledbury. The Ledbury Free Press gave a full account of the presentation made on the occasion of his retirement. The senior boy, on behalf of teachers and scholars presented 'a dressing case, an amber mouthpiece, a pipe in a case, tobacco pouch and several tins of tobacco'. In a speech on the playground, E Hopkins, representing the County Education Committee, highlighted 'careful training' which had enabled boys to obtain 'substantial positions in life'. Seeing their former master in retirement 'would bring back happy memories of the times they had spent in school'. He also took the opportunity to urge boys to be regular in attendance to earn a 'monthly half-holiday' and to 'influence those who tried to play truant'
In reply, George Paul said it was 'a real pleasure to receive gifts, which proved their good feeling towards him'. Perhaps remembering his start at Ledbury, he asked 'give my successor all the support, make his work easy for him'. He and his family retired to Beulah in the Homend.
George Paul's death was recorded on Saturday 2nd April 1932 in the Ledbury Reporter and Guardian. Under the headline 'a beloved headmaster', the paper records his love of sport and membership and involvement with The Church of England Mens' Society, Bowling Clubs and the Ledbury Lodge of Buffaloes. It focuses on his founding the Ledbury Church Lads' Brigade of which he was captain and later Major. Interested in the welfare of his ex-pupils, he founded groups at Wellington Heath, Ashperton and Eastnor, and attended several Church Lads Brigade camps. On the outbreak of World War 1, he saw 14 lads off to guard the Waterworks at Rhyader. His patriotism and the Mafeking Boys' parades were also recalled. Above all, he 'never lost his interest in the lads as they grew up, and always retained their respect and confidence. The boys often appealed to him for advice and assistance and never in vain'.
Ledbury Boy's School Log Books
Ledbury Girls' School Log Books
Census 1891, 1901
Ledbury Free Press
Ledbury Reporter and Guardian
Discussion with grandson Mike Paul