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Wiltshire Community History

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Odstock

National School, Nunton

National School, Nunton Date Photo Taken 2011
Uploaded 15/03/2012 11:13:36
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Map Latitude 51.03334877385751 : Longitude -1.7740774154663086
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


In 1846 the church Sunday School building was converted for use as an elementary school, to become the Nunton National School. In June 1857 HM Inspector William Warburton found, in his inspection of Wiltshire schools, that at Nunton 30 scholars, both boys and girls, were taught by a schoolmistress in "a comfortable little schoolroom…with boarded floor, and well furnished" by a trained but uncertificated mistress.

The first school log book dates from December 1st 1862, with the entry "School comes under New Code". This refers to the introduction of the Revised Code by which 4 shillings per annum would be paid to the school for the satisfactory attendance of each pupil and an extra 8 shillings (2/8d was deducted for failure in any subject) per annum per pupil succeeding in examinations for reading, writing and arithmetic. The schoolmistress at this time was assisted by a pupil teacher. It is clear from an entry dated 22nd March 1872 that a Night, or Evening, School was also in existence at this time, although little other information survives: "The Night School closed for the Season on 21st April having been open for 60 nights. The Night School was not qualified for a separate Inspection from the Day School". In 1877 and 1878 returns were made to the Government Department of Education to indicate the non-compulsory attendances and attainments of the Evening School pupils, aged 12 to 19, in order to receive appropriate grants.


The school was attended by children from Nunton and Bodenham but, interestingly, on 22nd December 1871 a log-book entry states that "The children who have attended this school from Odstock will not return after the holidays; the new school for that Parish being ready for them".


Log book entries for the 19th century are not as informative as those to be found in many other school log books. Notes concerning attendance refer only imprecisely to "good attendance", or "small attendance" with no specific information as to the number of children on the school roll, who were from both Nunton and Bodenham, or the numbers attending. However, it is clear that in common with all rural schools at the time attendance levels were dependant on a number of factors: Firstly, severel` wet or snowy conditions could affect the ability of those children who would have to walk considerable distances from being able to attend school; this situation was exacerbated by the fact that pupils would return home for lunch and walk back to school for the afternoon session. In January 1865, for example, it is noted that snow is affecting attendance badly and "Only about 20 children in attendance today owing to bad weather". A further example of weather affecting the children's ability to attend - and learn -was recorded in January 1891. "V. cold. Dangerous state of roads prevents little ones attending…. - we stopped our usual lessons several times to have marching exercises, etc."


Ill-health could also be a significant factor in attendance - sometimes but not always as a result of weather conditions. Colds, influenza and, more seriously, whooping cough, chicken-pox, mumps, measles, scarlet fever or even the very serious illness of diphtheria could afflict some, or many, of the pupils. Official monitoring by the County Medical Officer, School Nurse and Dentist increased by the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. The Nurse would make regular visits to check the children's health and hygiene and on occasion individual children were excluded temporarily. A weighing machine was sent from school to school on a rota basis and there would be weighing and measuring sessions. At times of epidemic of a contagious disease the County Medical Officer would order temporary closure of the school. For example, in 1889 the school was closed from 9th to 30th December as a result of scarlet fever in the locality; in 1891 the school was ordered to be closed because of a measles epidemic among the children and it remained closed from March 2nd to April 10th.


The third reason for absence from school in this rural area occurred when the children helped with agricultural work in the fields. Hay-making resulted in the absence of several boys in June 1889, for example, and in March 1901 one boy was away from school "drawing straw for thatch on two occasions".


Finally, there might also be the simple matter of truancy. By the later years of the 19th century the Attendance Officer was active in pursuing cases of repeated non-attendance with the families of pupils.


The subjects taught to the children in the late 19th century were primarily Arithmetic, Reading, Writing and Spelling and Dictation. Object lessons were given to the Infants on a wide variety of subjects: In the three months from January 1884 the topics included:


The School Room; a Tea Kettle; a Street; a Tumbler; Milk; Knife and Fork, Dove; Spoon; Dog; Rain; Chalk. In 1897 and 1898 they were The Cow; Sheep; Horse; Hen's Egg; Farmyard; Hares and Rabbits; Turkeys; Pigeons; Deer; Camel; Candles; Feathers; Potatoes; Apple; Railway Station.

Recitation was also part of the curriculum at this time with the following list of poetry or prose to be recited:

Standards IV, V, VI: The Homes of England. Excelsior.
Standard III Napoleon and the Sailor
Standard II The Shepherd's Dog
Standard I Santa Claus


However, in Nunton School in the late 19th century the importance of the children's learning of scripture and liturgy was reflected in the daily, or almost daily, lessons from the local rector or another clergyman who also regularly tested the pupils on their knowledge.


Punishments imposed on the children were usually for such transgressions as fighting, bad behaviour, playing truant, talking, "untruthfulness", disobedience, throwing stones; bringing pipes and matches to school (three boys on one occasion); irreverence during prayers. The punishments appear usually to have involved being "kept in" at playtime or after school. Sometimes the children were also kept in to finish their work or to improve their work, for example learning their spellings. On one occasion the teacher notes "Second class very careless in their Scripture Lesson. Was obliged to make them learn part of a chapter in St. Matthew for a punishment".


The school was inspected periodically by HM Inspector and by the Diocesan Inspector and their comments copied into the school logbooks. With very few exceptions the Inspections provided satisfactory results, although where there were areas for improvement these rarely went unidentified. At last, a specific number of pupils is given when, in October 1897 HM Inspector states that he found the School "very full (52 present).


In addition to the Harvest Holiday (some 5 weeks) and shorter breaks at Christmas and Easter, the children enjoyed periodic treats and special day or half-day holidays. Festivities to mark Royal occasions such as the Golden Jubilee in June 1887 and the Diamond Jubilee in 1897 of Queen Victoria brought holidays from school for the children. Other, local, events also resulted in half-day or day holidays, such as in July 1887 when the school closed in the afternoon to enable the children to take wild flowers for a competition at a Flower Show at Charlton. Holidays were also given on the annual occasion of the Salisbury Fair.


Empire Day was celebrated on May 24th from the early years of the 20th century. In 1916 the Rector gave an address on "Empire and how children can show their loyalty to it and to home". Songs sung included "What can I do for England?" and "Hearts of Oak!". The Union Flag was saluted in a march-past by the children, who sang the National Anthem and cheered.


The major event of the second decade of the 20th century, the First World War, is barely mentioned, except when, in November 1916, a boy under leaving age (14 at this date) is allowed to leave school for "War work" because of a scarcity of agricultural labour. Also, in December 1917, a 12 year-old girl is absent for a week owing to the illness of her mother: her father had been reported killed in France. At this date there was a total of 39 children on roll.


At the Armistice on 11th November 1918 Nunton School, like numerous others, was closed due to an outbreak of the influenza which would be responsible for many deaths nationally. It had been closed on October 28th and would remain so until November 18th. Nevertheless, school life, work and treats resumed normally. Annual remembrance of the War, however, began on November 11th 1919 when the school observed the two minutes' silence for silent prayer at 11 o'clock; this act of remembrance had been requested by the King, George V.

When school closed for the Christmas holidays on December 23rd of the same year, the children arranged a short programme of entertainment as a surprise for the younger pupils. The Head and Assistant Teachers gave out oranges, pocket handkerchiefs, toys and prizes.

In January 1922 there were 25 children on roll, and the following month notice was given that the school would close the following July, the Nunton children merging with those at Odstock after the summer holidays, to become Odstock Council School. Some 88 years later the children of Nunton and Bodenham would join those of Odstock in the new Longford Church of England School.


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