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Wiltshire Community History

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Upton Scudamore

Church School, Upton Scudamore

Church School, Upton Scudamore Date Photo Taken 2009
Uploaded 03/09/2009 17:27:31
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Map Latitude 51.22827367620329 : Longitude -2.194696068763733
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


This school was built in 1839. It was one room measuring 24 feet by 15 feet, where a mistress taught approximately 40 children. The pupils attended up to the age of 11. Most of them left school to go out to work at this age, but older boys from affluent families attended the school in Warminster.

The school was enlarged in 1871 following government regulations stating how much space the children should have. A second room was built, measuring 24 feet by 18 feet, which meant the infants & juniors could be separated. The school log books start in 1872 when the 'new school' opened. Families had to pay 1d a week for each child.

In 1875 the schoolmistress was Mrs. Emily Binning, & she had a monitor to help her. Unfortunately she fell ill in 1881 & had to give in her notice. For the next few years teachers came & went, & the standard of achievement inevitably dropped. Each new mistress commented in the log book on the lack of discipline & ability. The Inspectors were also critical. In 1883 it was obvious that the school was struggling, as the advice was to cut down on the number of subjects & to get the basics right. The situation was not helped by the death of the rector Dr. Baron in 1886 & the subsequent loss of his family when they left the area. The rector, his wife & his daughters all visited the school regularly. The rector monitored lessons & helped maintain discipline, while his family listened to the children read & helped with needlework. The headmistress obviously appreciated this support. In particular the presence of a man helped to control the children's behaviour. The 1886 report was particularly bad. It acknowledged the death of the rector, but said this was no excuse for such poor achievement. Staffing problems sometimes left the school without a monitor. One of the temporary teachers resigned because she couldn't cope with one particular class on her own.

The situation improved greatly with the arrival of Mrs Annie Daniells in 1888. She stayed at the school until her retirement in 1923, two years before the school closed. At last the children had some stability, to which they responded well. The school provided basic education in 'the 3Rs'. There was also a scripture lesson once a week, & occasionally the children attended a church service. Some history & geography were taught, the girls had sewing lessons, & everyone learned songs & poems. Each year the mistress set a poem for the children to learn. In 1890 Standard 1 learnt 'Which loved best', Standards 2 & 3 'We are Seven' & Standards 4 & 5 'Casablanca & the Village Blacksmith'.

In general the achievement level was quite good. The Inspectors seemed to accept that a small village school would have its limitations. In 1859 the School Census described Upton as 'good of its kind'. Standards in English were consistently good, but those in arithmetic equally poor. In 1873 one class was kept in every day to receive extra lessons. In the same year the more advanced children began 'writing from books for the first time….(and) seem to take to it very well'.

Attendance was always a problem at this school. There are constant references in the log books to children turning up late or not at all. The weather was a frequent excuse. During the winter, heavy rain or snow kept children away or made them late, mainly because they had no protective clothing to wear. In the winter of 1915 the snow was so heavy that the school shut for a week.

It seems that there was very little encouragement from parents regarding attendance. Children stayed away to help gather wood, carry home coal, or to help with the haymaking & potato picking. There was even one occasion when children were late arriving because the school bell had broken! There were no clocks & watches to tell them the time, so they relied on the bell. In 1874 general attendance was so poor that the mistress offered to reward good attendance.

As well as the usual coughs & colds, the school was occasionally struck down by illness. In July 1889 there was a serious outbreak of measles; it was so bad that the Medical Officer shut the school for three weeks. It opened again after the holidays on September 9th, & most children were back by the 20th. The mistress noted that after nine weeks off the children seemed to have forgotten a lot of what they had been taught. In 1892 the school was again closed for two weeks due to scarlet fever. The building had to be cleaned & fumigated before opening. The children lost one week of their Christmas holiday to make up the time. The school closed again in 1919 for three weeks due to measles, & this time the children lost the whole of their Easter holiday.

Discipline was sometimes a problem, particularly with the older boys who probably did not want to be at school at all. The mistress often turned to the vicar for help with behaviour. Punishment, when required, was usually in the form of detention. One boy was kept in to learn the collect, but escaped through an open window when the teacher was absent! One winter afternoon the whole school was back late from lunch because they had been sliding! They were kept in after school as punishment.

Annual holidays were normally a week each for Christmas, Easter & Whitsun, with five weeks at harvest time. A day off was given for the annual school treat & the visit of the fair to Warminster in October. Occasionally a half day was given after the annual visit by Her Majesty's Inspector. In 1872 the children were given a day off as a thanksgiving for the recovery of the Prince of Wales. Each child was given a bun & an orange, given by the farmers & the ladies of the parish.

In 1909 the number on the roll was 48, but by 1913 it had dropped to 37. During the First World War the logbook makes constant references to both the number of absences, and the health of the children. The absence of so many of the men meant a shortage of labour, and the older boys were often expected to help on the farms. General health was poor during the winter months, with many absences due to colds and flu. There were occasions when so many children were away that the school was closed. In 1907 the School Medical Service began. Schools were visited by a medical officer who inspected the children, weighed and measured them. Later an oculist and dentist also visited, and the school nurse came every month.

By 1921 school numbers had dropped to 30. In 1923 Mrs. Daniells retired, and the school closed in December 1925. Since then, children from Upton Scudamore have attended school in Warminster.


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