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An early 20th century English blackboard offered by Martin D Johnson Antiques and Interiors for £395.

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Slates had been in use as educational tools for thousands of years before a teacher in Scotland gave the technology its most notable upgrade in the early 19th century.

Before that time, slates were employed by individual students as a cheaper alternative to sheets of paper and pens, and teachers would write assignments or lessons on each board individually.

However, in 1801 James Pillans, headmaster and geography teacher at the Old High School in Edinburgh, is said to have introduced a single large chalkboard to his classroom, possibly by hanging all his students’ slate together on the wall, so that all the pupils could see the lessons at once.

The chalkboard was adopted quickly, and manufacture of these tools began around the 1840s.

Today, antique and vintage school supplies are sometimes collected in their own right. Key pieces can also offer some decorative possibilities.

For example, Martin D Johnson Antiques and Interiors in Sussex offers this early 20th century English blackboard for £395. It features a revolving lesson at the top, which can be turned to show a landscape with a covered wagon, an engine and a dynamo as well as a lesson in shorthand.

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The blackboard offered by Martin D Johnson Antiques and Interiors features a revolving lesson at the top (shown here).

martindjohnsonantiques.co.uk