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Wiltshire Community History

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Rowde Church of England V.A. Primary School, Rowde

Rowde Church of England V.A. Primary School, Rowde Date Photo Taken 2006
Uploaded 20/07/2006 16:42:02
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Original Media Location: Michael Marshman

The parish or church school was built around 1821 and was conveyed to a board of trustees by J. Ayliffe in 1830. In 1831 it received a grant of £100 from the National Society and presumably was linked with the Society from that date. In a survey of 1833 it was said to be supported by a lady; there was also another school in the village at that date. In 1841 a second site, on the other side of the road was conveyed in trust by R. Sutton to provide 'a day and Sunday School for teaching the poor to read .'. A schoolroom was built on this land and was used for teaching the girls. By 1846 there were 98 pupils with a master and mistress each paid £25. These were probably Paget Smith and Miss Rebecca Read, who are listed in a directory for 1848. The total expenses of the school were £60, which was obtained by subscription and fees, and the school was associated with both the Sarum Diocesan Board and the National Society.

We have a description of the school from a survey and inspection report of 1851. 'Two ancient [they were 30 and 10 years old respectively] brick buildings, standing on either side of the main street of the village.' Between 30 and 40 boys were taught by an uncertified master in a 'fair room with a stone floor'. During the morning both boys and girls were taught by the master in this schoolroom but in the afternoon they used their own room for needlework. This was a 'fair room', with a boarded floor and wall desks. Between 20 and 30 girls were taught by an uncertified mistress. This arrangement later changed, probably in the late 1850s or early 1860s, and by 1872 there were 52 boys and girls in a mixed school on one side of the street, and 56 infants in a schoolroom on the other.

School logbooks have survived from 1863 and from these we gain a picture of Victorian life in this village school. Older children were sometimes used for cleaning the school and in July 1863 two boys from the first class were appointed to sweep the school, for which they were paid. Fees were charged for each pupil until 1891 and these were increased in September 1864. Each child of the 'poorer classes' had been paying one penny (0.4p) a week for their education. This was raised to twopence (0.8p) for the first child, but remained at one penny for the second child in each family but the third and subsequent children were free. Children 'of the better class' were to continue to pay twopence each.

A night school for pupils over 15 years was opened on 28 November 1864. Hours were from 7.00 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. and young people paid to attend after working all day in the fields or in a local industry. In the day school the H.M.I. reports are good up to 1869 but a change of head teacher in May 1870 brought about a situation where two new head teachers came and went in 18 months causing a decline in standards, particularly in arithmetic with over three quarters of the children failing in this subject in 1872. Matters improved a little under the new headmistress but arithmetic remained poor.

Improvements to the schoolrooms were also a matter of concern and in April 1866 blinds had been put up in two windows on the southern side of the building. In February 1869 the vicar lent his harmonium for use in the school, to accompany the singing. Either the vicar had left and taken his harmonium, or it had ceased to function by 1880 as on 1 October that year a harmonium was received from Bath. By 1878 the inspectors were reporting that the school was under fairly good control but the lack of accommodation made both keeping discipline and teaching a tiring business. Attendances in both infants and the mixed school were higher than the maximum permitted, 51 and 49 respectively, and the ceilings were only ten feet high, meaning that there was insufficient cubic space for each child. The infants and mixed schools had already switched buildings in 1877 but this had not provided sufficient space for either. On 1 August the builders arrived to alter and extend the schools and with this work taking place the summer holidays were extended to eight weeks. When members of the school management committee visited on 4 October to inspect the alterations it was pointed out to them that more desks were now needed. By May 1883 the school managers had decided that another classroom was needed to accommodate the increasing number of pupils. The inspectors had also commented on this earlier in the year.

By 1886 the inspectors were suggesting that windows in the end gables should be opened to provide better ventilation and calling for new, more private toilets for the girls and a urinal for the boys. A ventilator was installed at Easter 1887 when the school was thoroughly cleaned. Later in the 1880s it was noted that the pupils' work was fair but not done with much care and the quality was poor. In 1890 it was noted that the children were backward when Mr. J. Veale took over the school in June 1889, but this was partly due to sickness, including scarlet fever.

Apart from the 3 'Rs' of reading, writing and arithmetic the children learned, scripture (often from the vicar or curate), geography, history, needlework (for the infants and girls) and drill (physical education). They had singing, learning hymns and 'school songs', and used reading books and slates for writing. In the 1860s there was one week's holiday at Christmas but by 1875 this had been increased to two weeks. There was normally a week for Easter but in some years, such as 1866 there was a week at Whitsun and the children came to school on Easter Monday when they received a bun and a packet of sweets from the vicar, attended morning service and had a half-day holiday in the afternoon. Summer, or Harvest Holidays were three weeks in 1863 but this gradually increased. In 1882 the school managers decided that all children over eight years (they could leave when they were ten) need not attend school for six weeks from 12 August so that they could help in the harvest.

Various holidays were given for special events. In the 1860s and 1870s there was church service in the morning and a half holiday in the afternoon on various saints' days. A full or half-day holiday was given in late September for Rowde Feast and holidays were also given when the school was needed as a polling station. Holidays were given for events in nearly Devizes, such as a visit by Sanger's Circus in May 1876, a day for unveiling the statue of Sir Southeron Estcourt in the Market Place on 16 September 1879, and a holiday when the Duke of Cambridge visited the town. On 18 July 1890 most of the children attended a Temperance Tea given by Mrs Harris at the Coffee Tavern. On 9 November 1880 there was no school in the afternoon as the school was prepared for an evening concert to raise money for the harmonium bought in Bath. On Bank Holiday Monday, 8 August, in 1890 a Friendly Societies Fete was held in the village and as the children were given a holiday for this it would seem that they did not normally get a day off school on this Bank Holiday.

There were often unauthorised absences connected with farming. These included potato planting, haymaking, pea picking, carrying food and drink to the harvesters, gleaning, potato picking, gathering acorns, and picking stones out of the ploughed fields. Girls were sometimes kept at home to look after a baby brother or sister while boys were sometimes absent when there was a fox hunt in the neighbourhood. In June 1875 a pupil was unable to remain in school because they had taken too much cider in the hayfields - shades of Cider with Rosie from across the border in Gloucestershire. 'Masking' was given as a reason for absence and this may have been collecting beech mast, or nuts.

Bad weather could be a reason for low attendance, as when heavy snow lasted from 24 January to 6 February in 1868. In 1881 morning school began amid wind and snow with few children present. This proved to be the start of a terrible snow storm and the children were sent home at noon. There was no school between 18 and 24 January and snow on the roads was between seven and nine feet deep making travel by cart, horse, or even on foot impossible. In contrast, from 24-26 June 1878, it was extremely hot and the atmosphere in the schoolroom was very oppressive. Children were given water to drink in the afternoons and school discipline was relaxed.

Serious illnesses were more common in the 19th century than today and often affected school attendance to a great degree, while on occasions children died from serious illnesses. Illnesses noted in the logbook include scarlatina, measles, whooping cough, smallpox (40 children were vaccinated on 14 October 1869 in the schoolroom) and scarlet fever. The school was closed for four weeks in July and August 1889 because of a serious outbreak of scarlet fever while in January 1883 a child died from measles. Two infants had died in July 1870 but the cause was not noted. On a lighter note it was discovered that when a child was sent home suffering from headaches his mother was in the habit of giving him gin as a remedy. She was cautioned against this and advised of a better medicine. On 2 July 1863 some children reported sick and the teacher noted that the cause was probably eating too much cake and too many sweets at the Annual Treat the previous day.

Discipline was strict and both the cane and the dangerous practice of 'boxing their ears' were used as punishments. Misbehaviour included truancy, use of bad language, insubordination, window breaking, whistling during lessons and annoying girls in the playground. In June 1877 two boys had to sharpen pencils, using knives, during their dinner time as a punishment while back in 1863 two boys were made to stand at the front of the class because they had dirty faces - all children were reminded that cleanliness was a part of their duty. Also in 1863 some boys were cautioned as they had absented themselves from school to attend temperance meetings. In October 1864 it was noted that many of the older boys were absent working in the brickyards and this occurred in many subsequent years.

On 16 February 1870 St. Peter's School had opened on the western edge of Devizes and this may have taken some Rowde children living nearby. The Rowde schoolroom continued to prove inadequate in the later 19 century and in 1905 it was condemned and closed and the parish room was used for a school while a new building was erected. Land was conveyed by the Rev. T. H. Jervis and five others and the 1841 building was extended at a cost of £1,229.18.8d (£1,229.93p). Money was raised by subscription and the building completed in 1907. It could now accommodation 128 older children and 63 infants. Around this time Wiltshire County Council took over responsibility for Rowde, and most other schools in the county.

In 1944 the voluntary aided status of the school was confirmed. The Misses Butler and others conveyed one acre of land to Wiltshire County Council in 1948 for use as a school playground. By 1950 there were 56 older children with four teachers and 29 infants with two teachers and similar numbers were maintained during the 1950s despite a fall in the village population. New houses and an increasing number of people living in the village in the 1960s brought about a larger number of children on the school roll. In 1974 the school in the adjacent village of Poulshot closed and the children of both villages went to a remodeled school in Marsh Lane. There were six classrooms, a hall and a kitchen and the 1907 foundation stone from the earlier school was incorporated in the south wall. By 1989 a mobile classroom had been provided to house increasing numbers of pupils and by 2000 there were 181, aged from 4 to 11, children from Rowde and surrounding villages at the school. In September 2005 pupils at the school had increased to 216 and in 2006 a new school is being built, pictured here, on Devizes Road.

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