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Maddington National School, Shrewton

Maddington National School, Shrewton Date Photo Taken 2004
Uploaded 25/10/2007 08:29:35
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham

There was a schoolroom to the north of the Vicarage in 1841, which was used as a National School in 1847. Children from Shrewton also attended this school until 1855. In 1856 the Maddington school was used for girls and infants from both Maddington and Shrewton while the boys attended Shrewton school. The 1858 census of schools reported favourably on a good schoolroom with boarded floors and parallel desks. There were 50-60 children taught by a schoolmistress.

Log books for the school exist from 1862 but the information they contain is somewhat limited. The school had frequent changes of schoolmistresses in the 1860s with changes in January 1863, February 1804, January 1866 and March 1867. It is recorded that the children were often troublesome, particularly in the afternoons, and the HMI reports indicate that the teaching in the early 1860 may not have enthused the pupils. For 1862, 'The children in this school are quick and well behaved but not very accurate or forward in their work' while the schoolmistress had been absent for some time because of ill health. In 1863, 'There was a very thin school at the time of my visit. [Only one third of the children sat exams as the rest were ill]. The discipline of the school is good but the children are not so forward nor so intelligent in their work as they should be'. In 1864 the 'Mistress is active and appears to be anxious to do her work but the children are still dull and their attainments are not satisfactory'. There was a great emphasis on scripture and religious knowledge at this time. The older children read books of the Bible and were examined on them while all children attended church services 2 to 3 times a week, with the older girls often going to Shrewton church. Services were either 9.00 a.m. to 9.30 or 9.45 a.m., or 11.00 a.m. to 11.30 a.m.; on some days children attended both.

A change of mistress in 1866 sees to have had some good effects as the HMI report stated 'The children are brighter than before and passed a fair examination'. In 1867, 'Girls are quite well behaved and are on the whole making fair progress in all but Dictation. The Infants are doing well. In 1868 and 1869 the children were in good order, being well taught and making very fair progress. Throughout the 1860s attendance averaged 60 to 70, with most of these being infants. The infants mainly used slates and were taught the basics of reading and writing. When they were 6 or 7 the boys moved to Shrewton school. The older girls used both slates and pens, pencils and paper. An indication of this comes from 1867 when the school received 108 copybooks, 36 exercise books, 2 boxes of pens and 5 boxes of slate pencils. Later the same year the vicar, Mr Bennett, supplied the school with graded arithmetic books.

The girls were not taught too many subjects, apart from the elementary ones of reading, writing and arithmetic. There was some geography (Palestine, Europe, Holland and various other European countries), singing (with some lessons from the vicar's daughter), and needlework, where materials were often prepared by the vicar's wife. The latter work occupied the older girls for whole afternoons on some days. School holidays seem to have been; one week at Easter, although in 1864 only Easter Monday was given, 2 days in Trinity Week (early June) when local clubs held events, 5 weeks Harvest Holidays in August and September, and one week at Christmas. Some half-day holidays were given, including regular ones for Coronation Day (29th June), Shrewton Flower Show, the school treat, HMI inspections and confirmations in church. Holidays were also given on such occasions as the marriage of the Prince of Wales on 10th March 1863 and for the choir girls to attend the church festival at Stapleford in 1864.

Children were also absent for other reasons. Sometimes older girls had leave of absence to stay home and help their mother or to stay at home and help after the harvest. Girls were absent without leave for an early harvest, for picking flowers on the day before the Flower Show, at Whitsun Week, and for potato picking in September. Bad weather also cut the numbers at school, particularly the infants. Wet or stormy weather meant few children at school, very cold weather stopped them attending services in the unheated church, while heavy snowfall might close the school, as it did for 3 days in March 1867. Children also suffered the usual illnesses, and outbreaks of bad colds or coughs could cut the numbers attending school by half while illnesses such as measles and whooping cough caused longer absences from school.

In 1868 a new school was built in Shrewton to replace the schools of both Shrewton and Maddington. This opened after the Easter holidays on 5th April 1869 and the girls and infants moved into it to join the older boys from the old Shrewton school.

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