If you are reading this page using a screenreader, we support ARIA landmarks for quick navigation too

Wiltshire Community History

Viewing multimedia and description text


Southwick Church of England Primary School

Southwick Church of England Primary School Date Photo Taken 2004
Uploaded 15/10/2008 08:34:02
Views 7373
Comments 0
Map Latitude 51.29761110088825 : Longitude -2.2334271669387817
On the Map
View Exif Data
Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham

In 1833 there were 5 private day schools in Southwick while from 1858 most Southwick children were attending the school at Upper Studley. In 1868 R. P. Long of Rood Ashton provided a piece of land while money for a school and a teacher's house was raised by subscriptions and donations. The building was designed by Lemuel Moody of Trowbridge in the Tudor style in brick with stone dressings. The cost was £700. The main schoolroom, pictured here from the rear, was 55 feet long by 21 feet wide and the classroom 20 feet by 16 feet. The school adopted the principles of the National Society.

Fortunately the school logbooks have survived form the first day and we have a good picture of the school in Victorian times. The school opened on 28th September with an attendance of 20, although there was a larger attendance at a tea party in the evening to celebrate the event. By 1st October the attendance rose to 40 and to 50 by 5th October. On that date the night school began, attracting 60 young men and women who were anxious to improve themselves. The evening school continued with good numbers while by December 1869 the school was known as Southwick Church of England School and was probably connected to St John's Church at Upper Studley, as at that time there was no Anglican Church in Southwick.

The first staff were headmaster William Green, with Ellen Green as assistant teacher. The HMI report for 1869 found the school, 'very fairly conducted but the instruction has not advanced far as yet. Evening scholars have passed a very fair examination'. There was praise for the master. Unfortunately teaching and discipline deteriorated during the next year for the 1870 report said, 'The state of the school is very unsatisfactory as to order, and work, and attainments. The children are noisy and are not readily obedient, and are backward in their work . . . Religious knowledge very moderate'. After this report Mr Green resigned in March 1891, being replaced by George Freemantle on 7th June 1871. He found the school to be very backward in all subjects, no child knew their multiplication tables completely, and that order in the school was very bad. Later in 1871 the HMI report stated 'order is well kept and arithmetic is very well taught. The other subjects quite creditably so.'

Further reports show steady improvement. In 1872, 'the school is in good order and the children have passed well in the elementary subjects.' The night school scholars did well in reading but only moderately in spelling. In 1873, 'The discipline of the school is good and the children have passed on the whole fairly in the elementary subjects. Evening scholars passed fairly well.'

The elementary subjects were reading writing and arithmetic and this included repetition, dictation, grammar, spelling, poetry, numeration and mental arithmetic. The number of other subjects increased in the 1870s and 1880s to include history, geography, natural history, needlework, knitting, singing, musical drill and map drawing. There was great emphasis on scripture, especially in the yearly years, with Old and New Testament subjects; sometimes these lessons were taken by the vicar of Upper Studley. The large amount of religious instruction may have been an account of most of the children being Baptists and an attempt was being made to indoctrinate them with Church of England beliefs.

Individual lessons included 'Cause of day and night', 'The Creation', 'Division of time', 'Sense of sight', 'Measures', 'Life of Abraham', 'Light', 'Jesus Christ', 'John the Baptist', 'Paper making', and 'Weights and measures'. Geography lessons included 'The Channel Islands', 'The globe and the shape of the Earth', 'Discovery of the New World', 'Norway', and 'A map of the World', The children studied their own county of Wiltshire from 1874 and by March 1883 were sitting an exam in the geography of Wiltshire. Younger children had object lessons from 1874, with subjects including a book, dog, pain, corners of a square, peacock, sheep, salt, the colour red, sugar and snow (in January when it was lying on the ground).

Older children were doing homework from 1871 and all children were learning songs. Early ones included, 'the Pet Lamb', 'Buttercups and Daisies', 'The waves of the sea'. Later ones were 'Auld Lang Syne' (1882) 'The busy little mother' (1883), 'Old Winter he cometh' and 'Snow' (1884), while in 1887 they learned 'God Save the Queen' for the Golden Jubilee. The infants covered an increasing range of subjects and by 1883 were learning stick plaiting and then stick laying to understand the principles of building a house. They also had lessons on walls, fireplaces, doors and windows. In music they learned the names and sounds of musical notes. The older children had fortnightly examinations in the 1880s.

Parents normally paid one penny (0.4p) a week for their children to attend school. The school day was 9-12 and 1-4 and many children would return home for their midday dinner. The annual holidays were 10 days to 2 weeks for Christmas, Good Friday plus 1 week for Easter, although sometimes this was reduced to Good Friday only, one week at Whitsun, and 4 weeks Harvest Holiday in the summer. For the latter older children would help with the harvest and younger ones take food to their parents working in the fields. Various half day holidays were given, such as for Shrove Tuesday, the anniversary of the Queen's coronation on 28th June, the school treat and after HMI examinations.

Attendances at school averaged between 60 and 80 for both day and night schools but there were many seasonal variations. Children were absent for many reasons. In April older children were kept at home for gardening, in June to help with hay making, in September to do late harvest work and in October for potato picking. Parents of many children were weavers and older children were often kept at home to help with the looms. In January 1874 it was said that many boys and girls over 9 were occupied with loom work, as were some younger children. When weavers were out of work in June their children were employed in the hayfields to earn some money. Other causes of absence were Southwick Fair in late September/early October, Trowbridge Flower Show in August and fetching coal given to their families by the vicar. December 21st was 'Gooding Day' when children called on houses to collect Christmas 'boxes' on St Thomas's day. This was sometimes given as a day's holiday but at other times children absented themselves from school.

Bad weather also caused low attendances with heavy snow in February 1873 and January 1880. Heavy rain or very cold weather also affected numbers; in January/February 1873 severe weather made the playground very muddy and caused problems in keeping the school clean. Illnesses tended to be more widespread and serious than today. In 1872 an outbreak of scarlet fever brought about the closure of the school from 23rd July to 9th September, including the Harvest Holiday. As a result children were very backward in their lessons on their return. Other regular illnesses at the school included scarletina, measles, chicken pox and mumps, as well as the usual coughs and colds.

Regular lessons were interspersed with special events, to which children would look forward for many weeks. The Night School enjoyed a tea with singing and dancing in 1869 and also had a tea party with a magic lantern show after their exams. In 1872 they had a supper for 40 scholars. In July 1869 the day school enjoyed a tea for 120 children. The schoolroom was decorated with flowers and tea and cake provided by the Stancomb family. Afterwards there were races and games in the fields. Mrs Stancomb also provided dolls and toys for the infants. The school was sometimes closed for public events such as church tea meetings (the classroom was unfit for the children the following morning!) public meetings and events for the Golden Jubilee in 1887. The school was often visited by the vicar and school managers and prizes for attendance and remembrance of texts were regularly given to children. In June 1883 the children were photographed on an afternoon.

There were various punishments and instances of misbehavior recorded. These included telling lies, lateness, truancy and carelessness or disobedience in class. On one occasion in 1873 children had spent their school pence (fees) on sweets on their way to school. Punishments included detentions and being kept in at dinner time; the cane was used on older children. In July 1884 the village policeman had to call as some boys had stolen peas from his garden while Mr Long also complained that apples had been taken from his orchard.

By 1875 the school had a headmistress, Miss Mary Jane Wilkins, assisted by Sarah Gale as teacher. Kate Rogers was a pupil teacher (being taught by the headmistress and in turn teaching the younger children) who later became assistant mistress in the early 1880s. This all female staff were a very good team of teachers, as evidenced by the HMI reports. 'The work of the elder children is very thoroughly done, both in the elementary and the class subjects. The Reading, Spelling and Sums of the 4 lowest standards were remarkably good; as were the Elementary subjects of the elder Infants. Discipline very good (1881). 'This is a remarkably good school' (1883). Good reports continued through the 1880s.

The school was enlarged in 1898 to accommodate 200 children and in 1907 the average attendance was 115. The school ceased to be an elementary (all age school) in 1931 when children aged 11+ were transferred to secondary schools in Trowbridge. Southwick then became a mixed Junior and Infants' School. After World War II it became a voluntary controlled school and in 1955 there were 71 pupils. In the 1960s and 1970s the Victorian school proved inadequate for modern education and in 1975 a single storey building was erected on a new housing estate to the east of the village. This was a spacious school with a playground and grassed area, including a sports field, pond and quiet area, with a geology garden. There were 161 pupils in 1997. A Willow Trail has been created for children and in 2002 there were 132 pupils aged between 4 and 11 years.

Comment on the Photo

You can add a relevant comment on this multimedia item - please complete all fields

All comments will be moderated and will be displayed on this page if approved

Note: This is a history site and we have no connection with the school, church, etc. that the multimedia item relates to

For general feedback, comments or questions not relating to this multimedia item, please use this form.

Your Name

(will not be displayed with comments)

If you can't read the word, click here
word above:

Map Location of Southwick Church of England Primary School



This website

Contact details

Contact Wiltshire Council

Write to us or call us

Wiltshire Council
County Hall
Bythesea Road
BA14 8JN