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Wiltshire Community History

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Winsley C.of E. VC Primary School, Winsley

Winsley C.of E. VC Primary School, Winsley Date Photo Taken 2004
Uploaded 01/11/2004 15:39:50
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Original Media Location: Michael Marshman

In 1858 a report on schools stated that there was no schoolhouse or day school in Winsley, but that the sum of about £25 was in the hands of trustees ready for a scheme for building schools. Fundraising for a school seems to have begun in earnest in 1866 and the following amounts were raised. £276.19.5d (276.97p) from local people led by H. D Skrine of Winsley House; £104.7.0d (£104.35p) from people in other parts of Wiltshire and eastern Somerset; £125 from the National Society, £25 from the Salisbury Diocesan Board, £25 from the Dean and Chapter of Bristol, and £25 from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Included in the local contributions were £7.17.9d (£7.89p) collected at the laying of the foundation stone and 17/7d (88p) from the poor of Winsley.

Winsley Parochial Schools (infants and mixed) were officially opened on 17 June 1869 by the Rev F. T. McDougell, late Lord Bishop of Labuan (an island in the South China sea, near Sabah, Malaysia). The opening was followed by a public meeting and a further collection towards paying off the debt of more than £100 that remained from the building of the school. The school had cost £888.6.2d (£888.31p), including £57.13.0d (£57.65p) for architect's fees and conveyancing.

We can get a picture of life in the school from the logbooks, which start in 1873. From the 1870s to 1891 a mother and daughter, Mrs Cave and Miss Cave, were the head teacher and assistant teacher, helped by a pupil teacher and monitors. The pupil teacher was taught between 8.30 a.m. and 9.30 a.m., when the school began, and sat examinations each year to qualify as a teacher. When a new head teacher was appointed in 1891 we are given some details of the post. The salary was £60 a year, with a partly furnished house, a garden and an allowance of coal. The head was expected to assist with the Sunday school and choir on a regular basis and was also paid as a temporary organist for the church. There was a period of three month's notice to be given by either side. At this time there was also a pupil teacher, a monitor and a monitress.

The H.M.I annual reports on the school from 1872 to the 1890s are fairly good with only a few weak points noted each time. Thus in 1875, 'The mistress keeps the school in fairly good order and has been fairly successful in teaching them. The reading of the fifth standard, the spelling of the second, fourth and fifth standards and the arithmetic of the first and fourth standards are weak points.' In 1879, 'The first and third standards are weak in arithmetic but in other respects the results of the inspection are completely satisfactory. The writing throughout the school, and the geography of the fourth, fifth and sixth standards are particularly good. Discipline of the children seems to receive careful attention.' In 1890 the 'children in good order and making very satisfactory progress in elementary subjects.' Other comments were, 'recitations well known', 'fair knowledge of grammar', and 'geography, needlework and singing good.' The infants were in good order, backwards in mathematics, but fair in other subjects.

Children learned the elementary subjects of reading, writing and arithmetic with scripture lessons; the vicar sometimes gave the latter. Singing was also taught to all children. Older children also learned geography, some history and needlework. Drawing had also been introduced by 1891. Texts were learned for recitation and in spring 1890 poems learned were;

Standard 1 (youngest) 'The Quarrelsome Kittens'
Standard 2 'Lucy Gray'
Standard 3 'The Hand Post' and 'The Irish Harper and His Dog'
Standard 4 'Gelert's Grave'
Standard 5 and 6 'Legend of Horatius'

In autumn 1891 the poems learned were;

Standard 1 'Ballad of the Tempest'
Standard 2 'Beast and Man and Brothers'
Standard 3 'The Cripple Boy' and 'Birds Nest'
Standard 4 'In Swanage Bay'
Standard 5 and 6 'The Blind Highland Boy'

A comment in the 1885 H.M.I report says that the infants should have object lessons, when they learned about all aspects of an item. This was put into practice for the second half of the 1880s.

In the second half of the 19th century school holidays were similar to those of the 20th century but the main difference at Winsley was the time allowed for Easter. There was two weeks holiday at Christmas but only Good Friday and, in the 1890s, Easter Monday. However two weeks were allowed for Whitsun in late May and early June. In the summer the Harvest Holiday lasted for four weeks and was moveable, depending on the earliness or lateness of the harvest. There were always several half and full day special holidays in any year. A half day holiday was normally give after the visit of the H.M.I. or Diocesan inspectors, while for half a day each year the school was used for collecting the parish tithes. There were the annual Sunday school and choir treats, while from 1891 a day off was given at the August Bank Holiday (first granted nationally in 1871). In June 1887 the school was closed for a week during the celebrations of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, while in July 1893 there was a half-day holiday treat for the marriage of H.R.H The Duke of York and H.R.H. Princess Mary of Teck.

The number of children attending school rose steadily from the 1870s. By the 1880s the average was around 75 but by 1891 the weekly attendance was in the 90s and had reached 100 by May. In 1892 there were 128 children on the school roll and the average attendance was 107. It remained at over 100 through the 1890s. The increase at this time may have come about from the introduction of free schooling in 1891. Until then parents had paid a penny (0.4p), two pence (0.8p) or threepence (1.25p) for each child.

Attendance at school was also substantially affected by the weather, unauthorised work and illness. Cold wet and stormy weather reduced numbers, particularly among the younger children, while sometimes, as in March 1887, February 1988 and February 1893, the school was closed for a half or whole day because of snow storms. At times children illegally went to work for a few months during the school year and there were regular absences among the older children for gardening (March), getting in a late harvest (September), and gleaning (September/October). Illnesses tended to be more serious and more frequent than today. Besides the normal colds and coughs there were outbreaks of measles, scarletina, mumps, whooping cough and influenza. The school was closed for 8 weeks, including the Harvest Holidays, between July and September and in 1880 for an epidemic of scarletina. Influenza is first noted in 1890 and recurred in several years of the 1890s.

Most of the punishments given for wrong doing involved being kept in after school was finished, although the cane was used for more serious offences. Among the lesser offences were disobedience, being late for school, inattention, obstinacy and carelessness.

From 1891 there are various comments about there being too many infants for the accommodation available. A gallery was asked for, but not provided, and in September 1891 the six year olds were being taught in the large room with the older children. Eventually it was agreed to extend the school and in November 1893 the building materials were delivered for enlarging the infants' room. This work was completed in March 1894 and the school could now accommodate 130 children. By 1907 the average attendance had increased to 120 and so the school was nearly full.

Unusually, in 1892, the children were asked to bring pot plants from home to stand on the school windowsills. This seems to have been very satisfactory and doubtless added some colour to the schoolrooms. From Christmas 1892 a system of rewards was introduced. Tickets were awarded for punctual or regular attendance and one-penny (0.4p) was given for every 12 tickets 'won'. A penny could buy a reasonable number of sweets.

After 1902 the school was taken over by Wiltshire County Council and was probably known mainly as Winsley Church of England School from that date, although that name had been used as early as 1880. In 1931 the school changed from an elementary (all age) school to one for infants and juniors only. Children aged over 11 years went to secondary school in Bradford on Avon. The teacher's house was sold in 1951 and used as a private residence from then. The number of pupils in 1955 was 68 and they were accommodated in rooms of 42 feet by 18 feet and 24 feet by 19 feet. There was another room of 15 feet 6 inches by 12 feet 6 inches that also contained a sink. Ceilings were 18 feet high.

With many new houses built in Winsley in the 1960s the numbers at the school increased and a mobile classroom, a Pratten wooden building, measuring 60 feet by 24 feet was erected in the playground. Even with this the school was proving too small by the end of the 1960s and a new school was built at the Tyning in 1972. The school has attractive playing fields and a special garden has been planted. The area served is Winsley, Murhill, Avoncliffe and Limpley Stoke and in 2004 there were 137 pupils, aged between 4 and 11 years.

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