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Wiltshire Community History

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Calne Without

Derry Hill National School, Calne Without

Derry Hill National School, Calne Without Date Photo Taken 2004
Uploaded 25/10/2007 08:29:35
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham

A school and school house were built at the corner of Rag Lane, opposite the entrance to Bowood Park, in 1843, with the assistance of a government grant of £132. In 1846-7 there were 26 boys and 26 girls attending. The school at Buck Hill had been running for some time already and the 2 schools in this area continued until 1892 when Buck Hill closed. There was movement of pupils between the schools as one was favoured over the other by some parents at different times. By 1859 there were between 80 and 100 children on the register and the schoolroom was considered large, well lit and well ventilated. There was a certified master, a pupil teacher and a sewing mistress. By 1803 the staff had been increased by an assistant teacher and there were 39 girls and 50 boys on the register. Weekly attendances varied greatly, often because of the weather or seasonal work, and were between 58 and 84 pupils. The HM1 report for 1863 said, ' The children of the school are in good order and the work very fairly done. The night school is also going well.'

The night school provided lessons for older boys who were at work during the day. It opened in October and normally ran to March or April on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The hours were 7.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m., fees were 1d. (0.4p) or 1 d. (0.6p) a week and the students could sit the examinations of the Southern Counties Adult Education Society. Fees for the day school were 1d (0.4p) a week for the children of labourers and 2d (0.8p) a week for children of tradesmen. In April 1863 the latter were charged to 3/-(15p) a quarter. The school day was 9.00 am - 12 noon and 1.00 p.m. to 4.00 p.m. In 1863 the schoolmaster's house was altered, possibly because he was getting married at Christmas, and the older boys had to clear up the rubbish left by the workmen in the school yard. In January 1864 Mrs Beaney, the master's wife became the sewing mistress and a monitor was also appointed from the school children in 1864. There were now 91 children on the register and the HMI report stated, 'the children were fairly well advanced in their work.' In 1864 there is a record of items received from the National Society's Repository. These included, registers, pencil cases, penholders, chalk, pens, pencils, foolscap paper, 24 1st reading books of the S.P.C.K. and many other reading books. The younger children would have used slates and the older ones copybooks and paper. When Mr Beeney needed more copies of the 1863 school report the 1st (top) class wrote out copies for him. In February 1864 a Clothing Club was started for the children with parents paying in money on Mondays to save up to buy new clothes for their children.

At the end of 1864 the Beeneys left for London and the school seems to have deteriorated for 2 years with one master only staying for 3 weeks before leaving through ill health and others also only staying for short periods. In the middle of 1866 Miss Graves took over and began to turn the school around. The 1867 HMI report said, 'Miss Graves seems to be making real effort to improve the school, which she found last year in an unsatisfactory condition both as to alignments and Discipline.' By this time attendances were averaging 90 children and the 1868 report said 'Miss Graves is doing her work well under very discouraging circumstances. She found the children very backward and is improving the attainment: the discipline is very good.' In 1870 the 'School is in very good order.' Miss Graves left in December 1870.
In 1870 the schoolroom was found to be inadequate and a new school was planned. In March 1871 Henry Smith took over as master and a new school, pictured here, and a teacher's house, partly converted from an existing building, was built to the west of the church in 1872. On Monday April 28th 1873 the children marched from their old school at 11.30 am along the road to the new school and formally took possession of it. It was opened by a reading of the Special Service for opening Church of England schools and Marquess of Lansdowne formally declared the school to be open. The vicar, local dignitaries and many parents were present and Lady Lansdowne asked for a half-day holiday for the children. When this was granted there were loud cheers for her ladyship. The vicar however said that he hoped that parents would ensure better attendance by their children in the new school than there was in the old.

The dimensions of the new school were:

Senior Department 42 feet x 18 feet by 16 feet high
Infant Department 26 feet x 16 feet by 16 feet high
Classroom 16 feet x 14 feet x 16 feet high

This was a total of 1,396 square feet as against the 948 square feet of the old school.

By 1882 George Payne was the master and there was also a 3rd year Pupil Teacher, a pupil teacher on probation and 2 monitors. A School Penny Bank Scheme was launched in that year. During the early 1880s the attendance varied around 90-100 but by 1888 it was 115 to 120. Some monitors went on to become teachers; Elizabeth Fortune was a Pupil Teacher in 1886 in her 4th year and her sister Emily and Emily Singer were paid monitors. In 1887 Elizabeth was the Assistant Mistress, Emily Fortune the Infants' Teacher and Emily Singer a probationary Pupil Teacher. The appointment of an infants' teacher might be because of comments in previous HMI reports. In 1882 the report stated.

'The writing has improved very much, and the general condition of the school is one of most satisfactory progress; but a source of weakness exists in the apparent neglect from which the infants have suffered, the elder class among them being very backward.'

Similar comments appear in reports up to 1886 which also stated 'The school appears to have fallen off very much under the late teacher, and the present master [Mr Scutt], who seems likely to raise it, has as yet had no time in which to do so.'

Children who attended school regularly received prizes for the best attendance records at the end of the school. At Derry Hill this took the form of money in the late 1880s with children receiving between 5/- (25p) and 6/- (30p) with a special prize of 7/6d. (37p). This was at a time when a labourer's wage was about 10/- (50p) a week. In 1888 22 pupils received a total of £5.11.0d. (£5.55p).

The school log books start from 1881 and provide a picture of life in Victorian times in the school. The basic subjects were the '3 Rs' - reading, writing and arithmetic and these included lessons on grammar, parts of speech, spelling, dictation, proportion, tables, simple short divisions and vulgar fractions. The older children studied compound multiplication with numbers requiring factors, mensuration, division of decimal fractions and square roots. Religious education was an important part of the syllabus and the vicar often took these lessons. Children learned the catechism and studied liturgy and wrote essays on such subjects as the meaning of the Lord's Prayer and St Matthew's Gospel. The school often attended church services during the school day, particularly on Saints' Days and Ash Wednesday. They also practiced singing hymns for church services. Other subjects included singing, chanting, music and the theory of music; history, including chief dates of events; geography; needlework, which included making dresses from donated calico for villagers in need of them; and object lessons on one particular item. From 1869 domestic economy was taught and in the 1880s the older boys were studying Euclid. Passages of poetry and prose were learned for repetition and these included lines from Goldsmithss 'Deserted Village', the poem 'I Remember', 'The Village Blacksmith' and 'Field of Waterloo'. Object lessons for the infants were 'Bread', 'Sugar', 'The Horse' and 'The Shop'.

Holidays were similar to, although shorter than, those of the 21st century. In the 1860s the Christmas holiday was 10 days, although in 1863 it was longer because the master got married then, while at Easter the children went to church in the morning of Good Friday and were given the afternoon plus Easter Monday and the Tuesday off. The Harvest Holiday, when children helped their parents gather the harvest was 4 weeks, mainly in August. By 1870 Whit Monday was given as a holiday and from 1873 a whole week was given for the Whitsun holiday at the end of May. A limited number of half and whole day holidays were given for special reasons. In 1863 an extra day was added to the Harvest Holiday as the schoolroom was being whitewashed, while in the same year the children spent an afternoon in Bowood Park to celebrate the birthday of the Prince of Wales. Also in 1863 the top class spent some time making decorations for the Sunday Thanksgiving service for an abundant harvest. Half holidays were also given on the occasions of the Sunday School treat, the School Feast, Ascension Day, Calne Flower Show in September, and, by 1883, for the Athletic Sports. On 8th November 1869 the children had a feast at school to celebrate the marriage of the Marquess of Lansdowne and then went to the Golden Gates to welcome him. Half holidays were also often given after an HMI inspection and examinations.

There were also some special events that the children enjoyed. In 1863 they joined the pupils of Buck Hill School in Bowood Park to practice singing to celebrate the marriage of the Prince of Wales on 10th March. A dinner was also arranged and the older girls made ornaments for the dinner table. In Junee of that year the Rev. Fletcher entertained the children to tea on his lawn followed by games in the park while on 6th January 1864 he distributed Christmas gifts and the night scholars had a special supper in the school. A Sunday School Club was started in the 1870s and on 9th May 1873 a concert was held in the school.

Children were often away from school, sometimes because they were needed to help at home or in the fields. Seasonal work that kept the children away was; potato planting in April, pea picking in June, early harvest in July and potato picking in September and October. In the 1870s the older boys were also working in allotments. The military were also responsible for some absences as when children stayed away to watch Calvary or Yeomanry manoeuvres in Bowood Park. Specific illnesses are not often mentioned but there were the usual coughs, colds, sore throats, measles and chickenpox, along with skin diseases and 'bad eyes', which could have been conjunctivitis. There does not seem to have been serious outbreaks of scarlet fever or diphtheria. Bad weather could also affect attendance, especially among the infants. A rough and windy day in 1863 kept half the children at home, deep snow in February 1873 made for a low attendance while a very cold day in 1882 kept many children away. Hot weather made children inattentive and listless and on 31st July 1885 the temperature was 82F in the schoolroom.

A variety of punishments were given for misbehaviour. There ranged from being kept in at lunchtime and after school, through cautions and detentions to being rapped over the knuckles or caned. Misdemeanours included arriving late, snowballing and interfering with passers by, stone throwing, playing the law game of 'buttons', playing truant, not doing homework, telling lies, damaging a new Bible, disobedience and talking in class. In 1873 the children were warned of the danger of playing in the road as they could be run over.

The school was taken over by Wiltshire County Council in 1905 and further infomation can be found under Derry Hill C. of E. V.A. Primary School.


Hajin Dho said:

This school was my old school. I am now in Clifton College. I miss my old friends. I will visit one day soon. Thanks! Hajin
Posted 03/05/2010

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