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Wiltshire Community History

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Whitesheet Church of England VA Primary School, Kilmington

Whitesheet Church of England VA Primary School, Kilmington Date Photo Taken 2003
Uploaded 25/10/2007 08:29:35
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham

In 1829 Sir Richard Colt Hoare gave a small paddock as the site for a school, between the present school and the road. The deed for the school is dated 31 March 1830 and a handsome schoolhouse was built with the money raised by a public subscription. A total of 40 children could be accommodated and this school served the village for over 40 years. It was reported as being in dilapidated state by 1870 and a new building, behind the original school, was built for 120 pupils in 1873-4. The cost, including a house for the schoolmistress, was £640. Unfortunately the population of the parish dropped by 20% in the 1870s and by 1899 the average school attendance was only 46.

A countryside survey of schools in 1903 found a certain number of dilapidations after 30 years. Apart from broken chairs and tables and nine out of date desks, that needed replacing, there were no fresh air inlets and the worn floors of the mixed school and the infants' classroom needed to be replaced by a new wood block floor laid on six inches of concrete. The decoration of the classroom was in bad condition and it was recommended that the walls be distempered and the woodwork painted with three coats, the old paint being first burnt off. The pit closets needed to be replaced with Moule's earth closets and the buildings repaired. The school had 50 pupils in 1907 when it was taken over by Wiltshire County Council.

Unfortunately the Victorian school logbooks have not been deposited in the Record Office but we do have a few glimpses of school life from 1920.

In December 1921 the children gave a 'simple entertainment' to their mothers, performing such songs as 'Liberty', 'Daffodils' and 'Bye bye children'.

The following February the school was closed for a week owing to an outbreak of influenza. Scarletina struck the school in July 1927 when the school was closed for 18 days, and in January 1929 whooping cough in the village brought about closure for two weeks.

A happier closure was on 23 April 1923 when a holiday was given for the Royal Wedding. On 4 June that year the vicar brought his gramophone into the school so that the children could hear recordings of the speeches made by the King and Queen for Empire Day. The children were said to be 'all most interested and delighted'. By 1929 the school had a radio and at 11 a.m. on 24 May the children listened to the live Empire Day broadcast and particularly enjoyed the singing of William Blake's 'Jerusalem'. Since its founding the school had been an elementary, or all age school, and from 1918 children up to the age of 14 were educated there. It became a junior school for 5 to 11 year olds on 1 September 1930 and the older children were transferred to the secondary school.

Kilmington C.E. Junior School

During the 1930s the school organised various trips for the older children. In July 1935 they visited Bristol Museum and Weston Super Mare while in July 1938 they had a trip around Dorset that included Corfe Castle, Lulworth Cove and Wool. These ceased during the Second World War, but school numbers increased owing to the arrival of evacuees. When school re-opened on 11 September 1939 there were 25 Kilmington children, one from Sutton in Surrey, 48 evacuees from Portsmouth and five other evacuees. Two extra teachers had to be taken on, one of these from Portsmouth. In 1943 there was a problem with the school's water supply, which was red from rust, and had also been oily for some months. During this time all drinking water for the school had been brought from the rectory. By 17 November 1943 the water supply had been condemned and a fresh source was sought.

After the war the school trips resumed with an historical excursion to Stonehenge, Salisbury, the New Forest and Beaulieu. On 9 January 1956 a youth club started fortnightly meetings in the school and in June 1956 they began weekly trips to the Frome swimming pool. In that year the school fete, held on the last day of term, 26 July, raised £108. By this time the school had been granted voluntary aided status and had 38 pupils. In 1957 the children went to Warminster, on 14 December, for the county carol service.

David Marriott, an H.M.I. from Nigeria spent the morning at the school on 22 April 1959 and the children were so interested in questioning him that the session continued through their dinner hour. During the Easter holidays that year a schoolmaster from a Swedish village wrote asking for English pen friends and two girls began a correspondence with two Swedish girls. Work began on building new cloakrooms on 4 May 1959 and continued into July as the builders were among the parents and ex-pupils at the school sports day on 24 July.

The school was remodelled and enlarged in 1967. Maiden Bradley school closed on 15 November 1968 and the pupils were transferred to Kilmington. This increase in pupils led to the highest number of children on the school books, since the War, when 56 children started the new term on 6 January 1970.

Kilmington First School

At the end of the summer term 1972 education in the area was re-organised to a three-tier system. Kilmington changed from a Junior and Infants' school to a First School taking pupils aged from five to nine years. Children aged from 9 to 13 went to the Duchy Manor Middle School in Mere and then transferred to the comprehensive school in Gillingham, Dorset. The school took children from Maiden Bradley, Stourton and Norton Ferris, as well as Kilmington and there were two teachers. There were 30 pupils in 2002 aged between four and nine years.

In 2003 the education system came back into line with the rest of the county and the school became a primary school, combining with the school at Zeals as Whitestreet Church of England VA Primary School, retaining the two sites at Kilmington and Zeals.

Kilmington amalgamated with Zeals school for the autumn term of 2003 when schools in the area to the west of Salisbury reverted to a two tier system. The new school is on two sites under one headmistress and this allows two small villages to retain their village schools. At 11 years the children move to Gillingham in Dorset for secondary education. In 2004 there were 77 pupils on the two sites.

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