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Wiltshire Community History

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British School, Bratton

British School, Bratton Date Photo Taken 2011
Uploaded 18/01/2011 17:09:32
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Map Latitude 51.27208832447696 : Longitude -2.124926447868347
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Original Media Location: Michael Marshman

Built in approximately 1846 by means of a government grant of £95. 19s. 6d and funds from the British Society, the school taught 100 to 120 boys and girls when it was inspected in April 1857. These children were taught by one master and in addition 50 to 60 infants were taught by a schoolmistress. The inspector commented that "in point of order and instruction (proportionately to the teaching power) [the school was] decidedly cheering in comparison with others in this district".

Attendance was not always as high as the numbers quoted in the 1857 report, however, and one entry in the School Log Book for 10 - 14 December1866 records that attendance during the week was "particularly good", reaching 80. In October of the following year the master's concern over attendance led him to make enquiries in the village and found that children were gathering in potatoes directly after the wheat harvest this year because of the prevalence of the "potato disease". In March 1883 a "wild beasts show" at Westbury was assumed to be responsible for low attendance. The weather could also result in great difficulties in the children reaching school: in March 1867 for example a thaw of snow made the local roads almost impassable. The inspection report of 1873, however, noted that average attendance, at 106.8, had reached its maximum limit.

A note in the log book dated 8 January 1875 records that five new scholars were "forced" into school as a result of the provisions of the Agricultural Children's Act of 1873 which stated that children between the ages of 8 and 10 years could be employed in agriculture only if the parent signed a certificate stating that the child had completed 250 school attendances; if the child were over 10 years old then there had to have been 150 attendances in the preceding 12 months. The five reluctant scholars had "very scanty knowledge of the three Rs"

The subjects taught to the children included Arithmetic and Algebra, Geography, Grammar, Scripture, Reading, Ciphering, History and Drill. Other lessons, known as "object lessons" included the study of the camel, glass, the heart, kinds of wood, the thermometer, the pig's eye and iron casting. That lessons were based on subjects concerned with the world far away from their Wiltshire village is indicated again by an entry in the school log book for May 1879 stating that the pupil teacher's lessons were satisfactory with the exception of that whose subject had been the geography of Hindustan!

Activities outside the classroom included being taken up onto the downs for games and recreation. The children were encouraged, too, to plant flowers on the bank around the playground which they had damaged by playing on it. By the following year there was a fine show of flowers and the problem of damage was solved as the children did not trample on the plants which they had grown themselves. Prizes for the children's gardening skills were awarded by Mr. R. Reeves of the local iron works and a prominent member of the Baptist chapel.
As the school moved into the twentieth century and the control of the county council the physical condition of the school building was a cause for concern to the education authorities both in Trowbridge and London. Following an inspection in November 1913 describing precisely the layout and facilities of the school building, the Board of Education in Whitehall required further details and as a result improvements to the premises were carried out the following year.

That the new century also brought increased vigilance over the children's health is indicated in the log books by reference to the regular visits made by the school nurse, doctor and dentist. Certainly in the post-war years references are made to outbreaks of whooping cough, measles and influenza. On 6 December 1918 the school was instructed by the Education Department in Trowbridge to close until 20 December. Of the Great War itself, the log books make no mention - although on 25 October 1918 it is noted that a total of 463.25 lbs. of blackberries have been picked "for the government" in the course of the season.

In her book of reminiscences of her childhood in Bratton, Maisie and Me, Stella Ashton recalls how she and her sister had to walk approximately a mile to school every day. Stella and Maisie's father was a farmer on the downs above Bratton. She describes how every hundred yards or so they were joined by children running out of cottages and farms so that eventually they all arrived in school in a large group. On rainy days, her father would take the sisters to school on the milk cart which, again, at frequent intervals their pupil colleagues also climbed into.

The year 1928 brought an end to the British School whose pupils along with those from Bratton National School moved to the newly built Council School. An entry in the log book twelve years earlier, in 1916, is worthy of recording. It was made by a Manager of the School, Charles Hobbs, who wrote,
"Visited School for last time as Manager. Regret to say 'Goodbye' to teachers I so highly esteem and children I love so well."


Sophie Annetts said:

I am so glad that Terry Ransome drew attention to the Stadbrook building. In the post war period it was certainly used by the British Legion as a social club. My grandfather was always talking of going down there for a game of snooker. And I think my husband said he was entitled to go there having served his conscription time in the RAF, but he thought it was too full of old men!
Posted 28/06/2013
Terry Ransome said:

The British School referred to in the text here, and the one built in 1844, opened 1846, is in Stradbrook, Bratton. It has (2011-12) been converted to a residence after some time, apparently, as a youth club or social club. The stone reading "British School 1844" is proudly still there on the frontage. An earlier (1833) British School was in the grounds of the Baptist Church pictured here, but long since demolished. See www.bratton.wilts.sch.uk/history.htm.
Posted 22/04/2012
Dave Hall said:

Hi! The photograph shown above is of Bratton Baptist Church,which this year, 2012, is celebrating its 350th Anniversary!
Posted 23/02/2012

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