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Wiltshire Community History

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Sutton Veny

Sutton Veny Church of England School

Sutton Veny Church of England School Date Photo Taken 2005
Uploaded 03/02/2006 16:46:38
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The 'new' school at Sutton Veny was built in 1872 next to the church. The foundation stone was laid on 10th April 1872 by Mrs. Mary Everett, wife of Col. John Everett who lived at Greenhill House. The inscription under the stone read 'To the glory of God and for the education of the youth of this parish in the principles of the Church of England.' A service in church followed, at which the children sang. Each child was given a bun and two oranges. This would have been an important event for the whole village. The children in particular must have been very excited at the thought of moving into a new building.

Stone from the old Church of St. Leonard was used to build the school. The Gothic architectural style chosen was in keeping with the Early English style of St. John's Church, emphasising education as part of the church. The building erected is still visible today. It consisted of a large room, 44 feet by 19 feet 8 inches, with a small classroom adjoining on the south side. Two lobbies off the large room served as cloakrooms. Both the classrooms are still in use, but with considerable alterations. The original cloakrooms were in use until 1973. The privies at the rear of the school were in use until the end of the 19th century.

Pupil numbers rose sharply at the end of the 19th century, resulting in the building of another classroom in 1898. In 1873 there were 65 pupils and by 1890 this had risen to 113. Until the early 1880s the staffing was one mistress and a pupil teacher. Later there was a headmaster and two assistants. The headmaster tended to stay for six to ten years, but his assistants moved on after a much shorter time. The children were aged 3-13 years. The infants and Standard 1 were taught together, with the rest of the children divided into two groups.

Unfortunately the school log books do not survive before 1909. In 1913 there were 93 pupils. The usual subjects were taught, English, arithmetic, history, geography, scripture, needlework and cookery. In 1916 the boys started to receive gardening lessons at the headmaster's house. Games and music were added to the curriculum under the headship of Mr. Carr. The school choir won the shield at the Wiltshire Schools' Music Festival on five occasions. A football team was also formed in the 1920s. The school took part in a Folk Dancing Festival. Mr. Carr also started educational visits, for example to Stonehenge and the Roman Baths.

Like all country schools at this time, attendance was greatly affected by both the weather and illness. Snow kept children at home. On one occasion in 1916, 70 children were sent home having walked to school in the rain. They had no protective clothing and were soaked. This school had a constant problem with their heating system. In January 1918 the temperature in school never rose above 55 F. In March it dropped to 42 F. The headmaster noted in the log book many times that the flues needed cleaning. On one occasion he did this himself. A new heating apparatus was installed in 1925. By way of a complete contrast, in July 1910, it was noted that the 'babies' were taken onto the downs because it was so hot.

All the children suffered from the usual childhood illnesses. In 1910 the infant department was closed for a week by the doctor, when only eight out of thirty seven children were present. In 1912 the whole school shut for three weeks because of chicken pox. In 1916 it was closed for six weeks by the County Medical Officer following an outbreak of measles. When the school finally reopened there were still only a third of the children present. Occasionally children were kept away to work, although this was no longer legal. In 1909 the Attendance Officer was asked to visit a farmer who was employing children who should have been at school.

Discipline was strict. The headmaster used the cane on both boys and girls. Offences ranged from the fairly minor, such as tearing pages out of an exercise book, through to copying another's work and telling lies. One girl was actually sent home for 'constantly talking'. The master would also punish the children for offences committed outside school. In 1916 a boy received two strokes for stealing sweets from the village shop.

School holidays were the standard two weeks at Christmas, two at Easter and six for Harvest. Days off were given for the annual October fair in Warminster and the choir outing to the coast. A half day was given for the 'School Treat', which in 1910 was spent at Shearwater. Lessons were occasionally suspended for a special event. In 1912 there was an eclipse of the sun which the children were allowed to view through smoked glass.

In the 1920s the children were regularly examined by a nurse and the dentist. In later years eye examinations were introduced and the children were weighed.

In 1931 Sutton Veny ceased to be an all-age school and pupils aged over 11 years went to secondary school. The school then became a Junior and Infant School. Pupil numbers were reduced from 70 to 41 and staffing from three to two. The older children went to the Avenue School in Warminster. Transport was provided until 1935 after which the children were expected to cycle. The LEA supplied bicycles, leggings and capes; they paid 2s 6d (12 pence) a week for any child who used their own bike.

In 1939 children were evacuated from London to Sutton Veny. Small numbers attended the school all through the war years. The American GIs were another change to village life. Each Christmas they hosted a party for the children and gave them a box of goodies to take home. When marching down the street, the soldiers would throw chocolate bars to the children in the school playground.

By 1948 pupil numbers had dropped to 40. In 1968 serious thought was given to closing the school. Instead both Longbridge and Kingston Deverill lost their schools transferring their pupils to Sutton Veny. Pupil numbers rose to 95 and staffing to four. After a time with mobile classrooms, a further extension was built in 1974, and the school was modernised with the addition of sinks, kilns, curtains, carpets and electric heating. The village hall is very important to the school as the venue for lunch, music, drama and P.E. lessons, concerts and assemblies. There are currently 140 children at this school.

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