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Wiltshire Community History

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Edington County School

Edington County School Date Photo Taken 1906
Uploaded 31/03/2010 16:47:48
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

Edington is one of the few villages in Wiltshire that did not have a church or National school in the first half of the 19th century. It was not until after Forster's Education Act of 1870 opened the way for school boards to be set up that the village had its own 'official' school.

In 1859, between 40 and 50 girls were taught to read and sew, but not write, in a cottage room. The Edington boys and both sexes from Tinhead attended the school at Bratton. The Edington school, in a cottage, is described in Warburton's Census of Schools of 1859 as a 'nice school room with a flagged floor and loose desks' and the children were taught by an untrained mistress. Discipline and instruction were moderate and the school was well supplied with books and apparatus.

Edington and East Coulston were made a united district and a school board was formed in 1875, the school was built in 1877 at Tinhead, at a cost of £1,000 and was capable of housing up to 120 pupils.

An Indenture dated 30th June 1876 shows a plan of the proposed school, which was instigated by the School Board of Edington and East Coulston under Simon Watson Taylor of Erlestoke Park, who oversaw the construction of the school. It included a platform for the desk and stool of the schoolmistress, a twenty four hour clock, three book shelves fixed to the wall, two fire grates, fire irons and coal scuttle, two desks attached to the wall fifteen feet, long with stools. Various desks and stools, a world map, an easel and blackboard, a door mat, hand bell and a framed movable partition. The Architect was William Smith of Church Walk in Trowbridge, and a mortgage was raised from a bank in the city of London, under a public works loan. The first entry for this dates from 23rd September 1876, and mentions the sum of £948 to be repaid over fifty years, final payment to be made on 23rd September 1926.

The school taught boys and girls of all ages and had a separate infants' department. In 1875 the Mistress was Miss Matilda Carr while the Infants' Mistress was Miss Fanny Drewith. From around 1880 the school seems to have had a schoolmaster in charge; the average attendance in 1885 was 106. By 1894 the school could accommodate 124 pupils and the average attendance was 119 pupils.

The Edington School log books date from 1919 and present a picture of a well ordered school with good attendance. The head teacher at this time was Mr. Edward Fletcher assisted by Mrs. Fletcher, Mr. Dunning and Mary and Eliza Barthard, as an uncertified teacher and supplementary teacher, that is teaching assistants. The report by the head suggests that 'more planning of work is required, better discipline and more consistent following up of errors, especially in composition.' Attendance in September 1919 was 91% with 97 children registered. 18 girls were qualified to attend a domestic science course given by Miss Bolwell and most pupils participated in the scripture examination. In commemoration of the First World War and the recent peace celebration, each child was presented with a china mug to mark the event. The two minutes silence on Armistice Day, November 11th, was observed annually.

Illness could prove to be a constant disruption to the life of the school. In 1920 there was an outbreak of impetigo, followed by cases of ringworm, mumps, scabies and whooping cough. These could spread quickly, so visits by the school nurse and recommendations by the County Medical Authority were put in place. This involved the cleaning of desks, floors, pencils and penholders, with a strong solution of Jeyes fluid to thoroughly disinfect the premises. By March 1920, sixty three separate individual cases were recorded and later in the year the school was closed from mid September to mid October due to a whooping cough epidemic. In order to keep the school warm in the winter, there were regular deliveries of coal, coke and peat blocks, usually from Colliers of Westbury. The average temperature in the two classrooms was recorded as 41 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Provision was also being made for midday school meals by November 1920 and cocoa was served to accompany this.

The sudden death of the headmaster in 1921 meant that a temporary teacher, Miss Rogers, was put in charge, until the installation of the new head, Mr. Stephen Dear, in March. He comments that 'Arithmetic tests are good in Standards II and III but poor in Standards IV, V and VI.'

Regular visits by the nurse and the dentist meant that the health of the children was carefully monitored with dental and health problems quickly dealt with, assuming the parents would allow it. The children were regularly weighed, usually in July, and the large weighing machine would travel around the area, usually sent on to Erlestoke School after its visit to Edington.

In 1921, the observation of the solar eclipse was noted on April 8th and Empire Day celebrated on May 24th, when the flag was saluted and 'There is a Land' was sung. The teachers attended a training day on physical education at Warminster, and a field close to the school was used to put this into practice. New equipment arrived, including double desks and 83 books, some noted as being unsuitable for children. The average attendance had dropped slightly to just over 89%, and this was attributed to the improved motor services to Trowbridge and Devizes on Market Days. Health problems in 1921 included goitre and unclean hair and smelly bodies, sometimes resulting in exclusion until the situation improved. By the end of the year, scarlet fever was prevalent, and the head and assistant teacher were both affected by illness. A supply teacher had to come from Dilton Marsh in order to keep the school operational. In January 1922, a senior schoolboy died after being admitted to the Isolation Hospital in Trowbridge, from complications resulting from scarlet fever. The problem of staffing persisted until February, with the whole school grouped in the senior room for tuition and the school had to be closed for a period of over ten weeks, from March to late May. Even then, there was only a slow rise in attendance, as the health of the children gradually improved.

The school was closed on February 28th 1922, in honour of a visit by Princess Mary to the area. In March 13 pupils had sat the annual County Examination, of which 5 passed. Only one of these five went on to sit the second part of that exam, which would give free admission to a secondary school in Trowbridge. Many parents felt that their child should be at work by this stage and so declined permission for the second part of the exam to be taken.

January 1923 saw a further closure due to measles, chicken pox, scarlet fever, mumps and general sickness. Attendance was about 80% when the school re-opened in February, gradually improving as things returned to normal. A holiday was awarded on April 26th 1923, to celebrate the wedding of the Duke of York. A representative from the County Architect's Department visited the school to determine what repairs were required, resulting in an overhaul of the stoves so that they worked more efficiently.

In February 1924 the school was closed all day in order to prepare for a school concert, performed on the 8th and 9th. Preparation and rehearsals had taken place over a four month period, and the concert consisted of performances of 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'. The aim was to instil confidence in the children and also to provide the beginnings of a fund that could later be used for a school outing. This outing took place in June. Two charabancs were hired and took the senior children, accompanied by teachers, through Devizes, to Silbury Hill, then to Avebury and Marlborough, through Savernake Forest to Stonehenge, past Old Sarum and through Salisbury and then home via the Wyle Valley.

Country dancing was being taught, and was performed at a display in Westbury in May 1924 and then at the Devizes Music Festival, with the junior team tying for first place in the competition. The Inspectors' Report of April 1924, mentions lack of confidence in speech and inability to explain lessons learnt. An occasional holiday was given on the day of the Wesleyan Church outing, as so many children would already be absent, and the main school outing in 1926, was to Bournemouth, with special lessons given in preparation for the trip, including studying the route and constructing a map. The charabancs arrived at Bournemouth by 11.00 a.m. and the return journey took three and a half hours, arriving back in Edington by 9.30 p.m.
Repairs to the school were normally carried out in the summer months. In 1923 this involved an overhaul of the stoves. In June 1925, the school bell fell on to the roof and walk way, after becoming dislodged from its framework, while the side of the coal store collapsed due to rotting wood at the joints. In the summer the bell was repaired and a new coal store constructed resulting in more space in a newly surfaced playground.

The roads were becoming busier and the approaches to and from school were watched carefully, with the children made aware of the dangers of traffic. A sign was painted on the school gate as a reminder, and an appeal was made to the Automobile Association to erect signs to warn approaching traffic of the danger of a concealed entrance.

By 1927 the school received its own Singer sewing machine and a demonstration was given by Miss Hill from the sewing machine company in Bath. A small number of girls regularly took a cooking course, usually held at the Lamb Inn, and these two areas helped with the domestic science education of the girls. The boys received gardening instruction by 1929. A globe was used to enhance the teaching of geography, and the elder children visited Edington Church and were instructed in Medieval and Tudor history.

Punishments were given for untruthfulness, obscene behaviour, idleness, disobedience and truancy, and were usually in the form of two strokes of the cane. One pupil, who was a persistent truant, had to attend the Police Court at Steeple Ashton with his Guardian, where a fine of five shillings was imposed. A Probation Officer was also involved.

The School Inspector's report for 1928 remarks on an improved oral response by the lower Standards, and praises the standard of teaching in history, geography and nature, as well as special needs. A new reading scheme was put in place at this time.
Regular dental examinations, carried out by Miss Smith in 1928, resulted in 44 recommendations for treatment at a cost of 6d. per child, ten children refused the treatment.

A new head teacher, Mr. Griffith, began in April 1929. The school had received a letter commending the good attendance of 97.6%, and he had this framed and displayed in the entrance hall.

Each yea, on November 11th, Remembrance Day, was observed, and in 1929, 'O Valiant hearts' was sung in front of the Roll of Honour. The Head Teacher used 'greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friend,' as his theme, and 'Oh God our help' and the National Anthem were also sung.

One child received a scholarship place at Dauntsey's Boarding School at West Lavington, after sitting an English and Arithmetic paper, and attending an interview. He was offered a place that was worth £75 per year for boarding plus £10 per year for tuition.

By 1931 electric light had been installed and the Head had been replaced, this time by Miss Scott who was the Assistant Teacher. At the same time the school became a mixed juniors with senior pupils (11 and over) going to Westbury, and in the September of that year the school re-opened as Edington and East Coulston Council Junior School. There were sixty two children on the roll, almost equally divided into three classes taken by the Head, an uncertified assistant and a supplementary assistant.
In 1932 a new piano was received from Price and Sons of Devizes, the senior children listened to a nature talk on the radio in the School House, and the Inspector's report was encouraging for that year. 'Horlicks' had been served to the younger children, but this was replaced with cow's milk drunk from small bottles with straws. A school holiday was given to celebrate the marriage of Princess Marina to the Duke of Kent, on November 29th 1934 and a further holiday was given on 7th May 1935 for the silver jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary. A brooch made of oxidised silver, with the heads of the King and Queen stamped on it, was given to all of the children. The Empire Day pageant raised funds for the school of £1 6s. 8d. and this would contribute to the cost of the summer outing. The Inspector's report mentioned 'a spirit of goodwill running through the school.'

On January 21st 1936, King George V died and the flag was flown at half mast. The older children were taken to the School House to listen to the proclamation of King Edward VIII from St. James Palace.

School numbers reduced to 45 in 1937 resulting in a reduction in teaching staff to two. The school outing in 1938 took twenty eight of the older children to Whipsnade Zoo, by train via Reading and Oxford.

In 1939 there was an extra week's closure due to the outbreak of the Second World War. Many evacuees came to the area, and this boosted the numbers on the roll to sixty two, twenty of them being evacuees.

By 1955 this school had 58 pupils but numbers were to decrease in the 1980s and by 1995 there were only 30 children at the school. The school closed in 1995/6 and children now attend schools in either Bratton or Great Cheverell. Secondary education is available at Trowbridge, Westbury or West Lavington.


Susan McKenzie (nee Horton) said:

I was truly thrilled to find this site, as Mr Edward Fletcher and his wife Henrietta are my Great Grandparents. Edward Fletcher was the Headmaster in the early 1900's. He and his wife and children lived in the attached school house. Their daughter Mignon is my Grandmother of whom sadly I never met as she passed away before I was born. I do have some lovely photos of Edward and his family with the building in the background. I live in Australia and have been trying to find information on my family, so thank you so much, I am over the moon finding this site. (I also have lovely poems and music that Mr Fletcher wrote passed to my by my Mother.) Cheers Susan McKenzie
Posted 02/11/2017

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