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St. John's Infants' School, Tisbury

St. John's Infants' School, Tisbury Date Photo Taken 2003
Uploaded 25/10/2007 08:29:35
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham

The infants' school was built in 1873 at the instigation of Rev. F.E. Hutchinson and the expense was shared between Lord Arundell, Sir Michael Shaw-Stewart and Alfred Morrison. The first term began with 53 children and this soon increased to 64. There were some early problems because girls brought along their younger brothers and sisters, whom they had to look after, and these frequently caused a nuisance by crying in lessons. Mattresses were bought for the babies to sleep on.

An early object lesson for the children was the horse and they then learned the song 'If I had a pony'. Other subjects studied in class were: the human hand (unfortunately the following week one boy pinched his finger in the door as it was being closed), the swan, the weasel, the sparrow, sealing wax, milk, the eagle, the guinea pig, the camel, the cow and coal. Apart from these object lessons the children learned to read, do simple arithmetic, write and also had religious instruction.

In the 1870s the children seemed to suffer many illnesses and apart from colds and coughs many children were also absent for illnesses such as whooping cough and measles. The school holidays were 4 weeks for Christmas, Good Friday and Easter Monday, one week at Whitsun (late May/early June) and 5 weeks Harvest Holiday in the summer. Normally sweets were provided for the children by a local resident just before the school closed for Christmas.

The British School in Tisbury closed in 1875 and on 14th May 10 boys and 15 girls from the British School were admitted into the National School. In 1881 a new headmistress took over and found some children in a very backward state. In January of that year there was a dreadful snowstorm and the school was closed for some days. This was followed by an epidemic of whooping cough and the school had to be closed again. By this time the children of families in the workhouse were attending but there were problems with other children coming to school without their school money - parents had to pay 1d (about p) or 2d (about 1p) a week for each child. In the summer of 1881 the attendance rose to over 100 in the good weather. It became so warm that the children were taught in outdoor classes in a shady part of the playground.

In 1894 Mrs. Emily Miles became headmistress. She had been a pupil teacher at the school in the late 1870s and was an enthusiastic local historian as well as an energetic teacher. She ensured the school had a piano, many pictures for the walls and a well-stocked museum by the early 20th century. In 1920 she published a book, 'Tisbury (Past and Present)', which contains a wealth of information. The school itself had been taken over by Wiltshire County Council and was known as St. John's Infants' School. The children enjoyed various outings later in the century, including one to London, on which the children took a lamb named Henry that they had adopted.

In 1973 the school moved from its original building, midway up the High Street, and joined with the Junior School in a purpose-built school, to become Tisbury Church of England Primary School, under which heading further information can be found.

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