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Lydiard Millicent

Lydiard Millicent C. of E. Primary School

Lydiard Millicent C. of E. Primary School Date Photo Taken 2009
Uploaded 25/03/2009 17:16:28
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Map Latitude 51.57172184177177 : Longitude -1.8709909915924072
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

Dame schools were operating in the parish before the national school was built; in 1818 twenty four children attended. A treasury building grant of £63 was given and the school was built by 1846 when 42 children were taught by a mistress being paid £20 a year. Warburton's Census of Schools (1858) had an entry for Lydiard Millicent: 'The school-room is (30x15); it is too low. The floor is of large flags, and the desks are at the wall. 40 to 50 children are taught, mixed, by an uncertified mistress and monitor. Many more children used to attend this school, but the out-parishioners have been struck off, as the work they gave was much too much for the mistress's strength. The instruction and discipline are fair, and improved latterly, owing principally to the exertions of an active parishioner. There is an endowment of the value of 25s. a year. Building grants of 63l. from Committee of Council in 1843-46'.

A new school building was built in 1864 on a site provided by the Reverend Street. In November 1870, twenty three boys and nineteen girls attended the school during the day. There was an evening school three nights a week which took twelve young men and boys - the fees were 2d weekly. The children had to pay school fees of 1d weekly (the fourth child from each individual family was allowed in free). This was changed in February 1870 to every third child. Some parents paid higher fees than usual for which their children received extra tuition at home. In August 1891 the managers decided to accept the 'Fee Grant' so that all the children could attend school for free. By June 1871 the numbers of children attending had risen to 86 and so notice was given that no more children could be admitted until the school was enlarged. In December the mistress decided to send a class into one of the rooms of the school house which meant more desks and space for the other classes to work in.

In September 1872 a new room for infants had been built; it had taken only five weeks and created a separate schoolroom for the infants with low desks. The new dimensions were: schoolroom length 43', breadth 15'1"; classroom length 24', breadth 15'1". The HM Inspector reported in 1885 that another classroom was 'imperatively' required. The mixed school was using the lobby as a schoolroom! The 1886 HMI report again called for a separate space being needed 'imperatively' as the lobby was still being used. A letter had already been sent to the managers and no further concessions could be given. Another classroom was added to the school over the holidays in August 1886 to accommodate 150 children; 105 were present at the school with more on the books. The school was due to be altered again during the 'harvest' or summer holidays of 1895 but the holidays had to be delayed because the Education Department which had to approve them had not sent them back.

The new mistress in November 1870 thought that attainment was low, reading was 'not bad' and arithmetic the best in the younger children's class. By March 1871 writing had improved in the first standard and now 'all children above nine years of age can now write down their letters and read words of any one syllable - many of them a few weeks ago did not know the alphabet'!

Her Majesty's Inspectors visited all schools in the country periodically to officiate on examinations and ensure that standards of teaching were good. The Inspection in November 1871 showed how the new headmistress had been working: 'The instruction is careful and sound but the children are not yet very forward in their work. Discipline good'. Of the 43 children presented for the examination, all passed in reading, 41 in writing and 36 in arithmetic. The situation had improved in 1874 when 'The children present passed fairly well in the elementary subjects and are in good order'. The same could be said in 1878 and by 1879 when 142 were present. 'The discipline of the school is very good and the children have passed a good elementary examination. Geography, grammar, singing good, needlework fairly good'. Results were lower in 1881 and were put down to the 'very difficult circumstances during the year' (the school had been closed by illness and one teacher had died the previous autumn). By 1884 results were excellent. 'Not a single failure in any of the subjects of the examinations. The infants are most ably taught'. Results continued to remain high into 1888 and 1889. It was requested in 1890 that 'pains must be taken to see that they understand fully what they read'. In 1894 it was noted that staffing levels must be increased and that a new window should be provided to give more light; 'on dull days the school must be very dark'. By 1897 the school was teaching far more scholars than was allowed by the Education Department.

The report for 1900 tells us that 'More reading books are required for the upper standards. The rooms are not well adapted for teaching, and when this is the case, it is all the more important that the assistants should be highly qualified for their duties' (this did not seem to be the case). 'The class room to the mixed school is still overcrowded. The Inspector will inquire with the Managers' as to what steps need to be taken to remedy the situation'. An unannounced inspection in September 1901 given an impression of conditions at the school: 'Although it is a bright morning I find the room to be so dark that it must injure the eyesight of those who have to work in it. The middle tree in the fence at the back of the school should be cut down and the limbs of the others should be lopped so as not to interfere with the lighting and not cover any part of the school property'.

The main subjects taught in Victorian schools are very similar to today, being reading, arithmetic, writing, grammar and geography. A large emphasis was also placed on scripture and religious education (often taken by the vicar who visited frequently). In October 1872 the older children contributed and bought four scripture prints for the school. The girls were taught needlework and the boys drawing, and there was also dictation. Singing was important; the children learnt songs and did repetitions. Songs included 'The Canadian Boat Song', written by Thomas Moore ( who lived at Bromham in Wiltshire) following his year long trip to America, Bermuda and the West Indies. It was published in 1805 and begins:

"Faintly as tolls the evening chime
Our voices keep tune and our oars keep time
Our voices keep tune and our oars keep time
Soon as the woods on shore look dim
We'll sing at St. Ann's our parting hymn
Row, brothers, row, the stream runs fast,
The rapids are near and the daylight's past
The rapids are near and the daylight's past"

The infants had 'object' lessons in which they were taught about objects such as elephant, coal, needle, snow, cotton plant, chalk, glass, coffee tree, brick maker etc... In May 1881 two of the exam questions for Standard II were 56.804 x 57 and the subtraction of 25.648 and 2.739 (only 5 children worked it out correctly which was deemed poor). In May 1884 Standard V commenced their new reading book 'Robinson Crusoe'.

Schools in the 19th Century suffered a lot with low attendance by the children .There were only 79 out of 103 on the books attending in March 1872. In February 1872 the older children were beginning to leave to work in the fields. By July 1876 attendance was good although five of the students in the upper classes had left. The mistress seems disappointed that none of the children on the books are more than 12 and a half years old. This fact can also be seen on the 1861 Census which records that there are 7 boys aged 12 to 14 with the occupation of 'plough boy'. In 1881 average attendance in June was at 132.1. In May 1883 'Enquiry Absence Sheets' were sent out and only two parents refused to fill them in (they were reported to the School Attendance Committee). Attendance was much better with an average of 139.7 after this. During November 1885 the average was down to 102 but it is not known how many children were registered to attend. The school reopened after the Christmas holidays in 1895 with 52 out of 161 present, and in November 1897 average attendance was 131.3. Of course there were many reasons for poor attendance other than working in the fields, for which children were absent for periods to do potato planting, hay making, gleaning, potato picking, pea picking and collecting holly to sell.

Bad weather proved a major obstacle for children getting to school, wet and snowy weather being the worst. The parish of Lydiard Millicent had a scattered community and many children had quite a distance to walk to school. When the weather was bad, as in January 1871 when snow fell, many could not walk the distance to school and so attendance was low. Snow also had an effect over two days in March 1872. In January 1881 the roads were completely blocked and it took 5 days before they could return to school. Heavy snow in February 1873 meant there was only 66.3% attendance. Floods prevented the school opening in October 1882 and there was heavy snow again the following month. Throughout January 1886 heavy snow fell. Seven children turned up on the first day but were immediately sent home again. A similar situation occurred in the early part of January the following year and in March 1887 the children were sent home at lunchtime. There was no school the following day. In February 1888 the roads were blocked by snow so 'no children presented themselves' and the following week the school was closed because attendance had been so poor. During March 1891 heavy snow closed the school for two days. In November 1894 only 56 children made it to school and these were fetched home in carts at 12 o'clock owing to the floods. Heavy rain prevented the children from returning to school the following day. February 1900 saw heavy snow followed by heavy rain resulting in flooded roads thus reducing attendance. Wet weather also increased the likelihood of illness; the children would remain damp all day with no heating except a small stove in the classroom and could easily catch chills or worse.

January 1872 saw very low attendance due to a case of small pox occurring near the school. Scarletina occurred in May 1872 and again in 1881, 1886 and 1897. In February1872 the younger children started coming back into school having been away during the winter and in March 1873 after school hours the children attended the funeral of one of the scholars. There was a measles outbreak which closed the school for a week in June 1874. This affected the children taking the HMI examination; only 16 were present for this and they looked weak and ill. There were further outbreaks in 1881, 1888, 1897, 1899 and 1900. Measles closed the school for three weeks in December 1888, and for around 4 weeks in October 1893. The school was again closed by measles and scarletina for three weeks initially and then until after the Christmas holidays in November 1897. This happened again near to the Easter holidays in February 1899. Measles again closed the school in October 1900 for three weeks.

In July 1875 the head mistress stated that 'another child has died of the fever' (scarlet fever). In June 1880 two more children had died of scarlet fever and others were infected; teachers were sent 'in all directions this morning to prevent the children assembling'. The school was closed for a week but following this attendance was poor and another child had died. In November 1880 one of the staff felt unwell and had to go home. She unfortunately died a week later. The school was closed for a week after her death and a temporary teacher was taken on. In August 1881 the school was closed again under Medical Authority for Scarlet Fever and reopened six weeks later. Three children died of the fever this time. In December of the same year the school was closed again for a week - only 40 out of the 147 attended school. When it reopened there were 70 present. Scarlet fever again closed the school for four weeks in November 1886. When it reopened only 49 children were present. Attendance was so poor up until December even though no more cases had occurred that the Managers decided not to give holidays at Christmas. In January 1892 the school was closed because the monitor had influenza, another teacher was ill and another had to attend a funeral. Mumps also affected the children this year. The children suffered from other diseases: whooping cough (1884, 1887 and 1897), chickenpox (1888) and diphtheria (1888). A medical certificate was required for children who were ill at the time of inspection or who were absent for long periods. Other common conditions were head lice and ring worm, for which the children would have been sent home until they were 'clean' when checked by teachers.

During the first week in April 1875 there were fairs at Swindon and Wootton Bassett and races at Hook. Many children did not attend school and many of the children who were ill and are now quite better went there instead! In March 1888 the Managers decided to offer prizes for all children who make over 400 attendances for the year ending February 1889. In April 1889 attendance prizes were given to 10 pupils attending more than 390 times for the school year (to February 1889).

The children were allowed two weeks holiday for Easter, two weeks for Christmas and four to six weeks for the harvest holidays in the later Victorian period. The children did get more time off too. A half day was given in April 1871 to attend the Wootton Bassett Fair. A day was always given for the annual Club Feast. In 1872 there was also time off for the Harvest Festival and Thanksgiving (parents were given tea in the new schoolroom in 1873). The children always received a half day's holiday following the HM Inspection. Time off was also given for days when the school room was needed for polling purposes or managers' meetings. In June 1897 the school was closed for two days because of the Diamond Jubilee Day of Queen Victoria. There was a visit to Barnum Bailey's show in Swindon in April, 1899. There was also no school on the annual GWR 'Trip'day.

Some children also took time off when they shouldn't. Absences were noticed when the GWR works in Swindon closed for their holiday; many parents from the parish worked there. In April 1891 one child was absent for part of the day collecting the Census Returns in part of the parish.

Punishment in the Victorian period was harsh compared to today, with punishment being given for offences such as disobedience, being late, swearing, stealing, and playing truant in1870. The boys were not allowed out to play for one week during June 1873 because they had been breaking through the (school) fence. In July 1870 three boys were caned. It was not known why but the head noted that it was an unusual event. The HM Inspectors had always noted that order and discipline were very good at school; maybe teachers had no need to use the cane often here! By December 1880 this situation may have changed. Two boys were 'severely' caned for lighting sticks at the fire and smoking them in the Infant's room at dinner time. Two boys were punished for destroying part of Mrs Wheeler's workshop in January 1899; 'so many complaints have been made lately about the damage being done by the school children that I was obliged to punish as an example to others'. During June 1899 two boys were punished for setting traps to catch birds. In October 1880 even the monitor was cautioned for forgetting her duties and playing with the older boys at play time.

Not only the pupils caused trouble, though! In January 1874 a new assistant was employed but was 'giving trouble'. She had asked to be spared the morning duties for which she was given leave, but she did not appear in the afternoon until a message was sent to her at 3.30pm. A new teacher began the following month. There were still problems with an assistant teacher in March as she had 'scarcely been paying all the attention she ought to her class, certainly not trying to win the children or gain their confidence'. In February 1879 the head mistress had to speak with one teacher 'who is very deaf' about the bad order in her class. Another teacher left in December, causing school to break up early. Another teacher was duly appointed. During the first half of 1884 certain teachers had three complaints against them for striking children with their hands. This was against the school rules and they were cautioned. 'If any more complaints are received (one was from the vicar who helped with Scripture lessons) they will be instantly dismissed'. In 1890 the school staff was made up of a headmaster, with two teachers and an assistant. The headmaster left to take charge of Purton School in June 1896.

The school house and schoolrooms were broken into in June 1897. Various articles had been 'carried off' from the house and the master's desk in the schoolroom had been forced open with papers strewn all over the floor. Luckily none of the school books were damaged.

Another new classroom had been built on to the school in 1886 and pupil numbers were at 140 in 1907.

In 1929-30 the average attendance was 98 but from 1930 children over the age of 11 were transferred to secondary school at Purton. By 1937-8 there were only 54 children at the school.

Numbers at the voluntary controlled school in 1955 had declined to 67 but when Lydiard Tregoze School closed in 1965 numbers increased with children from that parish attending the Lydiard Millicent School. By 1997 pupil numbers had increased to 110. New houses built in the parish further increased the number of children of primary school age and new pre-fabricated classrooms were built on the other side of the road from the school building of 1864. More recently a fine brick building has been erected in that area. In 2007 there were 208 children at the school.

In the late 20th to early 21st century the Lydiard Millicent Church of England Voluntary Controlled School serves the village of Lydiard Millicent and the outlying hamlets of Greenhill, Greatfield and Hook

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