VIDEO: Mystery of the Asda Sarah Robinson stone

A stone commemorating the life of Crawley’s most famous educational pioneer has been found in a supermarket yard.

Asda staff member Jan Gammon, 72, contacted the Observer after realising that the name on the stone read ‘Sarah Robinson’.

jpco-13-3-13 Sarah Robinson head stone in Asda Store yard in Crawley (Pic by Jon Rigby)

jpco-13-3-13 Sarah Robinson head stone in Asda Store yard in Crawley (Pic by Jon Rigby)

Understanding Mrs Robinson’s historical importance to Crawley, Jan hoped to find it a more suitable home.

Describing the moment she saw the stone – which staff believed to be a gravestone - Jan said: “I was about to leave to go home when one of the managers came out of the yard and said ‘I’m not going out there, it gives me the creeps’. I asked him what he meant and he said ‘the gravestone’.

“I’ve worked there since the day it opened and I didn’t know the stone was there.

“Some one said it could be a memorial stone. It’s quite plain and is like a lump of concrete but there is a little bit of carving on it.

“I knew there was a school named after her and I thought she was a Quaker but I didn’t know much else. I thought about it and I felt it was sad that it had been left there.”

Sarah Robinson was a Quaker who lived in Crawley Manor House – whose fields now make up Manor Royal.

Little is known about her life, but her legacy echoed through the years from village to new town and beyond.

She was responsible for the building of two schools in Crawley for children of all denominations and, 20 years before the Government made it law, declared that all children should receive an education.

Mrs Robinson – who had 10 children – approached her friends for contributions and, in 1825, the National School was opened in Ifield Road.

It was followed, in 1854, by the British School, in Post Office Road. Mrs Robinson died in 1875, aged 88. She is buried in the grounds of the Friends Meeting House, in Ifield.

Jan added: “I don’t like to think of it being smashed up eventually. I’m not a religious person but I am a God-fearing person and I would hate to think of my grandparents’ gravestones in London being just thrown in the back of a yard.”

Roger Baker, communications clerk for the Ifield Quakers said he believed the stone could have come from the British School, which was opened in Post Office Road - later Robinson Road - in 1854 and demolished in 1916. Speaking about Sarah Robinson’s legacy, he said: “There’s a little plaque tucked away in Victoria Mews that I doubt many people see. It’s a shame really. Robinson Road is gone and once the school in Ifield lost the name, the history was gone.”