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Wiltshire Community History

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Easton Royal

Easton Royal Academy

Easton Royal Academy Date Photo Taken 2014
Uploaded 05/11/2014 11:28:01
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Map Latitude 51.34323790229231 : Longitude -1.7031356692314148
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

By 1833 there was a National School in the village with 20 pupils and an infants' school with 12 pupils. By 1846 these had combined into a single school with 72 pupils. In 1859 between 60 and 70 pupils were taught by a master trained at Winchester, who was assisted by a young woman teaching needlework to the girls. The school was apparently an adapted cottage with a thatched roof and the schoolroom was large but with a low ceiling (31 feet long by 15 feet wide and with a height of 7 feet 6 inches). It had a brick floor and desks fixed to the wall; the cottage was owned by Lord Ailesbury. In 1871 there one master, two assistants and a sewing teacher. At this time the average attendance was 56 and was said that the children were backward and the discipline was bad. The building was heated by a stove, which was often insufficient to heat the room; on occasions the chimney caught fire. In 1872 it was noted that rain was coming through the thatch of the roof.

In 1882 deeds for a new school were drawn up and this was built in 1883 at a cost of about £500 and could accommodate 90 children. On Monday 13th October the children were given a Treat in the new school building but the school did not open there until January 2nd 1874 when the teacher commented that he was able to now work the children properly. However parents were reluctant to buy slates and copy books for their children. The schoolmaster was James Pearce, who was also the local collector of rates and taxes. By 1876, 78 children were attending. The fees at this time were 1/6d per quarter for the first child and 1/- per quarter for each other child in the family. A local voluntary rate of 2d in the pound, decreased to 2d in 1879 was also collected from parishioners; this rate varied from year to year. Education became free in 1891 when parents no longer had to pay the 'school pence'. Water was eventually piped into the school in 1889. In 1902 there was a fire in the girls' toilets caused by the caretaker emptying hot ashes into the container the previous evening. In 1914 it was noted, in a report, that proper lavatory accommodation was required. In January 1928 the spire of the school belfry was blown down during a storm.

The school log books survive from 1871 and much of the following information is taken from them. Improvements were made to the school building over the years. Over the Christmas Holidays in 1875/6 the schoolroom was painted and the fireplace altered while a new corner cupboard and a blackboard were provided by the vicar. Fires for heating the school were usually lighted from mid October. On 8th January 1895 the master wrote that he had kept up good fires and exercised the children during the week because of the intense cold. On 28th October he wrote "the new stoves answer well, the rooms being quite warm and comfortable. In August 1892 three desks arrived for the infants, who had not had any before this. At the end of November in 1886 it was too dark for writing in the last lesson of the afternoon but by November 1897 there were lamps that were lit at 2.30 on a similar occasion.

The vicar was much involved with the school. On Christmas Eve 1895 he tested the children and awarded them a penny each for every subject passed (this was an annual occurrence for a few years) and in February the following year gave money prizes in a Spelling Bee. The school master later wrote that the vicar attending the school so often had improved the behaviour of the children. In January 1878 the Rev. Wade Smith presented the boys with a football and gave them permission to play in his meadow. In an early example of health and safety in January 1897 the school managers expressed a wish that the children should know what to do if their clothing caught fire and the teacher instructed them. This action have been as a result of a boy falling into the fire at home at the end of the previous year - he survived an returned to school. On 23rd December 1897 each child was presented with an orange when they broke up for Christmas. In 1906, on their return from the Christmas holidays the children were given an after school tea by some ladies of the parish and a present each from Mr Horner dressed as Santa Claus.

For much of the time the general standard of education at the school was satisfactory to good and, when staff remained for a good number of years, the reports tend to be very good. At other times there were frequent changes in staff at the school, sometimes one person, possibly unqualified, would be in charge of around 70 pupils. This had an adverse effect on education, a fact often commented upon in H.M. Inspectors Reports. In October 1890 a new teacher introduced drawing to a curriculum that was dominated by the 3 'Rs' and religious instruction. In the late 19th century much use was made of object lessons - as much information as possible about one item or subject. In 1891-2 these were, tea, slate, birds, sugar cane, coal, the cuckoo, the cork tree, iron, the camel a rice plant, lead, a bear, a straw bonnet, glass, teeth, spiders, needles, mushroom, and chalk. In October 1898 the HMI report stated, "Mixed School. This school gives a good example of what may be done with village children. They are taught to think and enjoy their lessons. While teaching is both thorough and spirited. The school is in every way highly efficient. Infants Class. The infants are bright and well taught. They form a good class."

In 1899 a 9 year old child was admitted who did not know his letters or his name; in the same year a 3 year old girl was admitted to the infants' class. In the early 20th century complaint was made about children's families taking their summer holidays before the appointed time, while some summers were so hot that children did lessons outdoors under the shade of trees; on 27th July 1906 the girls did their knitting under the shade of the walnut tree.

Children were punished for misbehaviour by 'stripes', as many as 4 on each hand on some occasions. It was also possible that pupils were kept behind after school as punishments. Misdemeanours included, a girl stealing galoshes from the girls' lobby, another girl cut the buttons off the other children's clothes during dinner hour, throwing stones and injuring other children in the playground, disobedience, putting erasers in the ink, etc.

Children were frequently absent for various reasons, often connected with gardening or farming. Framing work, for which they would be paid a little, included, helping with the harvest, looking after younger siblings during haymaking time to enable parents to work in the fields, and helping with potato picking. Other jobs included pulling bean stumps, pea hacking, fruit picking, and potato planting, During harvest time the school would close early to enable children to carry tea to the fields for parents. The summer - harvest - holidays were planned to cover the main harvest period. In early November 1884 children were absent gathering acorns, presumably for the family pig.

Sometimes the snow was too deep for children to walk to school, or the roads flooded because of heavy rain. On 19th January 1881 the roads were so blocked with snow it was impossible for the children to get to school and only 14 managed to by the afternoon of the next day. Snow was blown under the tiles of the school and when the thaw came a week later water dripped on to the children's heads. On St. Valentine's Day in 1888 there was no school then or on the next day owing to heavy snow and very poor attendance for over a week. In January 1891 the teacher wrote, "The protracted inclement weather is making itself severely felt among those scholars who, in addition to being badly fed, are thinly clothed."

The attendance officer visited the school frequently; in 1882 the parents of 2 children were summoned and fined for not sending their children to school regularly. In the early 20th century the worst offenders were the two daughters of the village constable. . When one child regularly played truant his parents were fined 2/6d.

If the hunt was in the area children would follow the hunt rather thnt attend school; a holiday was given for Easton Feast, Burbage Feast, the agricultural show at Pewsey, the annual school treat, choir outings, a circus at Marlborough (1898), and Pewsey Carnival. Sometimes a day off was granted when a local dignitary was to be married, as on one occasion the marriage of the master's daughter Holidays were given for royal occasions, such as the Queen's birthday or a royal wedding, and at such times the Union Jack, presented to the school in 1897, was raised and saluted. The flag was raised to celebrate the capture of Bloemfontein. When the flag was raised the children would perhaps sing patriotic songs and give three cheers.

Children were often sent home when they were dirty, or had head lice. The school nurse was a frequent visitor, inspecting children's heads. The school was often closed, sometimes for several weeks, when measles, whooping cough, diphtheria, chicken pox and something known as 'the itch' were present in the village. In October 1878 more than half the children were absent with measles and bronchitis and the Medical Officer closed the school for 12 days. One child was noted as absent for 8 weeks, a second for 13 weeks and a third for 28 weeks. The deaths of young children are reported, often the cause of death given as 'brain fever', one in 1899 and anotherin 1904. Children were often badly injured working on the farms, one had a hand crushed in steam ploughing machinery, and another had three fingers crushed in machinery. The first time influenza was mentioned in the village was 4th January 1892 when 21 children were absent with it on the reopening of school after the Christmas holidays; this number increased over the next week. On 24th January 1900 the Medical Officer closed the school for two weeks as nearly all the children had influenza.

In 1874 prizes were first awarded for the best boy and girl. Local dignitaries gave treats perhaps buns or fruit, and books as prizes. In November 1779 the Marquis and Marchioness of Ailesbury gave the children a good tea at 4.00 p.m. at which both were present and were well pleased with the children's behaviour and appearance. Lady Ailesbury also provided books and other items as prizes, while on 21st May 1894 the Marquis gave a school treat to celebrate the coming of age (21 years) of his son. To celebrate the Queen's Jubilee a trip to Savernake Forest was organised, the journey made by wagon. In 1884 and 1886 a photographer visited the school and the head noted that this was a disturbance to lessons. The school operated a clothing club and on 10th December 1885 several children were absent as they'd gone shopping for clothes with their parents.

July 1899 saw an excursion to Southsea. The journey was by train to Portsmouth, then onwards by boat. The cost was 3 shillings for each child, which they had saved by bringing in pennies to school over a period of time. In the early 20th century there were summer evening outings to Savernake Forest and after tea, games and races they returned to Easton around 8.00 p.m. Towards the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century a former pupil of the school, Mr Bright, sent toys for distribution each Christmas. The school had outdoor play equipment and on 6th April 1900 the master wrote, "The 'Giants Stride' has now been re-opened after being useless some time. The Marquis of Ailesbury has given a new pole which has been erected and the apparatus put in thorough going order, to the great delight of the boys. The girls swing has also been lately repaired so now both boys and girls can enjoy their recreation." The Giant's Stride was a stout tall pole with a horizontal wheel to which ropes were attached. Boys would take a rope, run to gain momentum and then swing round, thus taking a giant stride. It was generally found in preparatory school and the Marquis may have installed it in the local National School with memories of his own younger days.

The school room was sometimes used for other purposes in the evenings such as suppers and other entertainments. Sometimes it was left in a state of disorder from the previous night! However on 23rd November 1885 there was no afternoon school from 1.30 to 3.30 as the room was wanted at 5,30 for political meeting by Walter Long, the Conservative candidate for east Wiltshire.

In 1894 Night School Classes were organised, classes in Agriculture and Music each had 20 students. By 1897 26 students were attending night school for Arithmetic. These were of great benefit to older children - the school leaving age was 11 at this time - who had received little education or who wished to improve themselves.

Around 1906 the school came under the overall authority of Wiltshire County Council. Attendance at the school declined during the 20th century as the village population declined from the 1920s. Average attendance was 59 in 1903-3, 51 in 1926-7, and 33 in 1937-8. In 1995 there were 37 pupils on the register, the removal of children aged over 11 to secondary schools in Pewsey and Marlborough being compensated by increased car ownership from the 1970s meaning a wider range of families could live in the village.

In 2009 the school developed a partnership with St. John's Marlborough and from 1st September 2012 both schools opened as Academies within the Excalibur Academies Trust. On 1st April 2013 they were joined by Burbage Primary School. Staff are shared between the schools, increasing the range of subjects taught, and after year 6 children either go to St. John's, where they already know some members of staff, or to Pewsey Vale Secondary School.

In 2013 there were 40 children at Easton Royal School and the Victorian Schoolroom contained the Infants' classroom and cloakrooms, kitchen, office, and staff room. In 2005 a large hall was built for drama, music, and assemblies; it's also used for lunch and social occasions. A recent extension to this has provided the Juniors with a new classroom. A mobile classroom by the playground houses Junior cloakrooms and toilets. There's a playground, with wooden play shelter, and the sports field has adventure play equipment - the modern version of the early 20th century Giant Stride. Instead of being kept at home for gardening, as in Victorian times, the children have a school garden for growing flowers, raised beds for vegetables, and a wildlife area and pond.

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