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Wiltshire Community History

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British School, Zeals

British School, Zeals Date Photo Taken 2003
Uploaded 25/10/2007 08:29:35
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham

The Congregational School was opened in 1840 through the efforts of Mr I. M. Jupe and seven other local people. It was intended for children in the Zeals, Bourton (Dorset) and Penselwood (Somerset) areas and was sited at Winbrook. In 1856 a new, larger Congregational chapel, pictured here, was built and the school used the old chapel building; by 1858 there were about 40 children attending. The school adopted the principles of the British and Foreign Schools Society and became known as the British School. The school was divided into the Mixed (elementary education for boys and girls) and the Infants (for children aged from around 3 to 7 years).

By the 1890s the lessons for the mixed school included arithmetic, grammar, writing, spelling, drawing, reading, dictation, needlework, singing, geography, history, drill and exercise and knitting. In 1893 topics for lessons included building a house, the Post Office, the sea shore, a storm, an india rubber, gold, a candle, tea, sugar and milk while recitation for the top standard was the trial scene from Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice. Attendance in good weather was between 50 and 60 but in bad weather this dropped to about 40. It was found that a fire in the fireplace was insufficient to heat the large room and a stove was placed in the middle of the room to provide more even heating.

An HMI report for 1893/4 says, "The school shows decided improvement, and the progress extends to all the elementary subjects of instruction. Better cloakroom accommodation and a playground are needed." "The infants are in good order." In 1895 it was noted that the school was mainly attended by children living in Dorset and that the school was closed at times when the mistress was ill. By this time evening classes, for those working during the day, were being held with subjects such as writing and composition, history, arithmetic and vocal music.

In 1901 subjects for the older children (aged up to 14) included reading, writing, English, arithmetic, history, 'Queen Victoria and her people', geography, dictation, Europe, Palmerston, and object lessons. The younger children had reading, writing, work with copy books, transcription and dictation, formation of sentences, arithmetic, history, geography and object lessons. All children did drawing, needlework and physical exercise. School holidays were; 1 or 2 weeks at Christmas, Good Friday and Easter Monday, 2 weeks at Whitsun (late May/early June), and 4 or 5 weeks for 'Harvest Holiday' in August and early September.

In 1907 there were 70 pupils at the school, which after being taken over by Wiltshire County Council, became known as Winbrook School. The importance of farming in the area is very evident in the early 20th century with the school being closed for haymaking in June 1916 for 3 weeks. By 1919 there were gardening classes for the boys. Winbrook School continued with a dwindling numbers until 1932 when it closed at the end of the school year on July 29th. Winbrook School was then amalgamated with St. Martin's Church of England School to form Zeals Elementary School, on the site of St. Martin's School, which the 41 children from Winbrook attended from September. During the Second World War the Winbrook schoolroom was used as a school for evacuees for a short time.

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