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Lacock Church of England Primary School, Lacock

Lacock Church of England Primary School, Lacock Date Photo Taken 2003
Uploaded 25/10/2007 08:29:35
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham

The school was planned to be ready in 1821 to mark the 21st birthday of William Henry Fox Talbot. It was provided by Henry Fox Talbot but owing to the fact that cottages had to be demolished on the site and new homes found for the displaced tenants the school did not open until 1824. The school was built to accommodate 100 pupils of all ages and the Talbot coat of arms are on the wall of the original building. The school would have always been connected with the church and at some point, probably in the late 1850s, the school adopted the principles of the National Society and became Lacock National School. In 1847 there were 77 boys and 72 girls on the register along with 60 infants, who were taught in a house, the village shop, opposite the school. The boys were taught by a master paid £35 a year and the girls by a mistress paid £25 a year. The school was maintained by voluntary subscriptions and fees paid by parents.

As the building was already too small for the number of pupils another classroom was added in 1852. By 1858 there were about 120 pupils in the school, taught by the master, William Simco, his wife Elizabeth and 3 pupil teachers. They still also taught 60 infants in a room across the street. A building grant of £318 allowed a new school to be erected on the site of the old in 1859. It could accommodate 120 boys, 100 girls and 80 infants. The area of the school site remained the same but the actual area of the school within it was increased. The Talbot family gave the site, which they still owned, and money for the new school. An HMI report in 1863 said of the school, 'Discipline and order very firm. The work of the whole school is above the average'. In that year the school celebrated the birthday of the Prince of Wales and Mr Simco commented sadly, 'children better pleased with cakes, ribbons and medals than with books and slates'. Subjects for the older children included, reading, writing, arithmetic, Bible history, scripture, liturgy, spelling, history, geography, grammar, composition and sewing. The older children had occasional excursions including one to Weymouth where they saw the sea for the first time.

In the infants' school an HMI report of 1870 noted that, 'crawling, screaming babies were spoiling the infant teacher's work'. There were 213 children at the school in 1870 when it was further enlarged to provide accommodation for a total of 300 pupils. An evening school was also run and in 1875 its scholars were said to have passed good examinations. In October 1874, when a new mistress, Jane Brown, took charge of the infants she wrote that the children were very rude and disorderly. There was a quick improvement and the children concentrated on learning reading, writing, arithmetic, scripture, needlework and singing. In 1879 Mrs Simco, wife of the headmaster, took charge of the infants after spending 29 years teaching older children in the mixed school. At the end of the century, in 1899, the infants' yard was improved and the roof of the boys' school had to be strengthened by 6 iron ties. School holidays were 2 weeks at Christmas, 2 weeks at Easter and 1 month in August for the harvest; sometimes there would be a week off at Whitsun at the end of May. Throughout the 19th century attendances were often low for various reasons. Sometimes it was through illness, storms or heavy snow but other reasons included helping with the harvest, beating for a shooting party and following hounds. Sometimes older boys gave up school for the summer when they had completed the 150 attendances required by the by-laws. Sometimes children were banned from school and on one occasion in 1885 two boys were sent to a reformatory school for stealing onions!

By 1907 the school was under the control of Wiltshire County Council and the number of pupils had fallen to 160 with the number continuing to fall during the first half of the 20th century as the population declined. In 1955 the school was granted voluntary controlled status. There were now 135 children, the population had begun to increase after the war, and these were aged from 5 to 15 years as Lacock was still an all age school. By the early 1960s senior pupils had been transferred to Chippenham school and Lacock became Lacock Church of England Primary School. At one time the playground at the back of the school accommodated an above ground swimming pool but this has now been removed. In 2002 the school had 49 pupils aged from 4 to 11 years.

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