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Earl Danby's School, Dauntsey

Earl Danby's School, Dauntsey Date Photo Taken 2011
Uploaded 29/09/2011 15:09:13
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Map Latitude 51.536696229156306 : Longitude -2.008448839187622
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

The Earl of Danby, Sir Henry Danvers, in his will of 1645 gave land for a school and almshouse, with the accommodation on the ground floor and the school on the first floor. It was built by 1667 and rent from land in Market Lavington was allocated to maintain the new building. This school seemed to do well, and in 1818 it was still practicing and was attended by 40 children. The Warburton report of 1858 says, 'The schoolroom is upstairs, a low (seven feet high) room, with rough board floor, and a few fixed desks, not very suitable for its purpose. The master is an intelligent man, of middle age. The buildings are in moderate repair; the number of scholars is about 30, but very variable. The master received £25 a tear for looking after the almshouses for six poor men and running, and teaching at, the school.

By 1864 a National School was built, complete with a house for the master or mistress, and this new school could accommodate 100 children and retained the name of Earl Danby. There were 70 pupils by 1907, although this reduced quite a lot in the next 20 years. Between 1865 and 1905, the school actually received little money from Lord Danby's endowment and in 1905, the charity commissioners ordered that some money was directed towards the school.

As with many schools of the 19th and early 20th centuries, Earl Danby's School was prone to closure after illness. For example, in 1933 an outbreak of impetigo kept many children away from school for a period of months and then in February 1937 the school was shut due to a prevalence of influenza and then again when there was a measles outbreak in spring 1940. Most of January 1942 was affected by severe snow and ice preventing children travelling to school and prompting further closure. Other closures included the funeral of Mr. Stanton on 27th March 1934, headmaster for 30 years and then in 1936 closure due to the funeral of George V.Attendance was almost obsessively recorded by the various head teachers, and several days of perfect attendance in the early 1930s was recorded proudly by the then head mistress.

The diocesan inspections over the years were positive, in contrast with His Majesty's Inspectorate reports. The diocesan report of 1934 reads: "The infants responded well and knew the work. The senior group knew the main facts of the syllabus quite well but the implication of the facts were not clear to many of the children."

The HMI report of 1936 was fairly critical; "The standard attainment and written English and arithmetic, and the results of the instruction in such subjects as history and geography still fall considerably below a satisfactory level. The older girls continue to be extremely reticent. It should be added that there is a much brighter atmosphere in the school and that the children were well behaved." The report from 1944 was not much more complimentary; "In class I, the level of attainment is low, particularly in arithmetic and written English. The schemes of work should be clearly reviewed and amplified. The children are receiving some training in the use of text books, and note making might profitably be associated with this in the case of the seniors. A variety of interesting handwork has been completed and the needlework is satisfactory."

A large number of evacuees arrived in the school at the outbreak of World War Two, and the head mistress chronicles how she had to borrow chairs and desks for the evacuees in order for them to be able to work in the school. By the October of 1939, there were 34 evacuees, something of a high number for such a small rural school.
Evacuees seemed to come and go fairly often, and by the following January, there were only 11 but the following November the numbers rose to 16. They were from London and many were Jewish; they were given holidays for the Jewish holidays of the Passover and Rosh Hashanah. The school was also used as a meeting place for the Home Guard during the war, which was not always appreciated by the headmistress. On 17 October 1941 she wrote: "The school was in a most deplorable condition this morning after a meeting of the Home Guard the previous evening. I have sent a complaint to the managers today."

Pupil numbers began to decline in the 1980s. In 1981 there were 43 children on the register but this had dropped to 29 in 1986. In January 1992 the school was amalgamated with Brinkworth Primary School to become Brinkworth Earl Danby's School. The school is now run as a successful split site school, using both of the original school buildings, with the Lower School at Dauntsey. Christine Ramsay, the headmistress at the time of the merger, wrote on the last day of 17 July 1992: "An Earl Danby's school commemorative service was held in St. James Church at 9.15 a.m. The children displayed work and were presented with commemorative bibles and also porcelain mugs they had decorated themselves. Members of staff were presented with beautiful bouquets and other generous gifts. This is my last entry, as Earl Danby's School and Brinkworth both officially close on August 31st to reopen on September 1st as one federated school to be known as Brinkworth Earl Danby's Voluntary Controlled Primary School…."

See also: Brinkworth Earl Danby's C. of E. Primary School

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