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Shalbourne Church of England Primary School

Shalbourne Church of England Primary School Date Photo Taken 2014
Uploaded 08/12/2014 15:25:07
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Map Latitude 51.36723245872512 : Longitude -1.5489810705184937
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

The National School was built on land given by the Marquis of Ailesbury. The cost of the original build was met by voluntary subscription and the school housed 105 children but was enlarged in 1894 to accommodate infants and increased in size to house 140 children in total.

The new school opened on 2nd December 1872 and was known as 'the Shalbourne Church of England School.' A memo from HM Inspector of Schools laid down guidelines for the running of the school. Advice included that 'registers be marked positively in ink and balanced periodically, quarterly or preferably weekly' and that each class should have 'an intelligent grasp' of its reading books. Also that standards V and VI should be able to follow a 'blackboard led lesson on the metric system' and 'needlework should show a specimen of work, one foot long showing knowledge of stitches. In upper standards, darning, patching and buttonholes should be demonstrated.' The first Head Teacher was Mr. Charles James Humphries and he taught at the school until 1885.

There were 28 children attending school on that first day and they were divided into four classes, all requiring 'order & regularity'. All were unable to read and write and had little idea of basic arithmetic. By the middle of January there were 58 on the roll and numbers rose to 80 by the end of January 1873 with 'little room to spare'. The average attendance was 88 out of 99 on the register. Attendance was affected by the late harvest in 1873 and bad weather in March 1874. In July 3rd 1874 a holiday was granted as the Lord Bishop visited the village to consecrate the new part of the churchyard.

The entry for September 25th 1874 reads 'average attendance is still very small. Boys are minding pigs and the girls are keeping house while Mother is in the fields.' Attendance becomes a recurring problem, often influenced by bad weather conditions or sickness, such as the measles epidemic of 1876, and agricultural needs, such as helping with the harvest. However the HM Inspector's report of March 1875 shows satisfactory progress.1875 also saw a new school open at Ham, so some boys moved there, affecting the numbers on the school roll. The school observed the usual holidays of Michaelmas, Harvest Thanksgiving, Ash Wednesday and Ascension Day and also attended the Chapel Sunday School Outing which that year was at Chilton Park. Other events that closed the school included the Vegetable and Flower Show, committee meetings and the General Election; the latter two were held in the school.

The school was regularly visited by Lady Ailesbury who sometimes gave a tea for the school children. In 1886 there was a bout of bad weather and hot dinners were provided at a cost of one halfpenny at the Coffee House, for the poorer children. In the late 1880s object lessons were taught on the vegetable kingdom and then the animal kingdom. Also geographical readers were used and the boys were asked questions about icebergs and glaciers, obviously fascinated by these unseen natural phenomena. The girls were well instructed in sewing and learnt to cut out garments and knit. Arithmetic continued to be the weakest subject in the school and Object lessons covered subjects such as silk, coal, winter, wind and frost and occupations included paper plaiting and lighting a fire. A new 'tortoise stove' fitted in school in 1889, provided 'a great comfort.' Children often stayed away to watch local events and a favourite in the early 1890s was the stag hunt, particularly with the older boys. School was visited regularly by the vicar and friends, and sometimes sweets were given to the children. In 1889, 85 children took the government exam and the pass rate was 94%. From 1885 the school had a number of different heads and so standards perhaps slipped at times. The HM reports continued to underline arithmetic as the weakest subject in the higher standards but generally an average level of education was achieved with an average attendance of 80 pupils. In 1890 the school had an outing to Savernake Forest where they had a picnic. Equipment received included drawing materials, a music chart, table charts, citizen readers, kindergarten books, bricks, wool and beads.

The head teacher relied heavily on the pupil teacher for support in looking after and instructing the infants. If the pupil teacher was absent, such as for sickness as Miss Few was in 1895, then the time table was often abandoned. The school report in 1895 was very good, saying that 'the tone of the school seemed to be all that could be desired.' Despite this reasonable remark the following head teachers assessed the school as rather backward and dull. In February 1900 the head teacher says 'this is a most disappointing school, the weather having such a serious effect on the attendance.' And the HM Inspectors Report of 1901 was 'mediocre' saying that the children are 'allowed to be careless' and 'not enough work is done.'

In January 1902 the children attended the funeral of Mr. Kingston who was 96, and a local landowner and had been a great supporter of the school. The children sang a hymn at his graveside and later were visited at the school by the executors of his estate and presented with a sum of money, which amounted to 6d each. An influenza epidemic in March 1902 reduced the attendance to 19 children, resulting in school closure until the beginning of April.
In June of that year the peace declaration of the South African War is noted in the Log Book and on June 20th the children were all presented with coronation mugs to commemorate the crowning of King Edward VII. Patriotic songs and the national anthem were sung.

A new head, John Morris, was appointed in November 1902 and the 1903 HM report mentions 'a different state of things prevailing, order is secured' and in the infants the 'children are fairly forward.' A new song was learnt, called 'Foresters, sound the cheerful horn,' and new stock included compasses and books for square paper drawing as geometry and scale drawing were introduced. Standards IV and V learnt a new piece of poetry called 'From India', intended to bring more expression into the reading and the infants were furnished with new desks. Dr. Ball, one of the HM Inspectors, awarded prizes of 6d.for the best attendance in each class. At this time the Head Teacher, Mr. Morris was helped by an assistant teacher and a pupil teacher. Attendances continued to be blighted by epidemics and in 1904 the school closed early for the summer holidays due to chicken pox. The next report comments on 'the deserved success of the master' and in that year he gave a talk on Empire Day, about the colonization and value of the colonies, both in times of peace and war, which was followed by the singing of patriotic songs and an early finish for school.

Punishments were often necessary and two strokes of the cane were given to a pupil for 'continued disobedience, inattention to lessons and playing.' Another boy was punished for breaking through a hedge into a farmer's field.

An evening school was now in operation with about 18 pupils attending, and a report by the school inspector said satisfactory progress was being made in arithmetic, reading, writing and drawing. This finished in November 1907 as there were not enough numbers for the average attendance as required by Wiltshire County Council.

Overall control of the school had passed to the County Council in 1906, although the local board of managers remained. Further information will be found under Shalbourne Church of England Primary School.

Equipment used included 'Royal Prince Readers,' and Palmerston reading sheets for the infants. Ten animal pictures were put on the wall which improved the look of the infant teaching area. The older boys began to learn gardening techniques and were given a demonstration of grafting fruit trees. Outside events, such as the Hungerford Fair and military manoeuvres reduced the attendance, as did the marriage of Lady Marjorie Bruce at Great Bedwyn, which 17 school children attended. Weather conditions were often noted, and in 1907 'a thunderstorm of very exceptional severity visited the district. Two cottages were struck by lightning at Bagshot Oak and some children who attend this school were among those slightly injured.' Measles in September 1907, followed by ringworm in 1908, then whooping cough and chicken pox all reduced the numbers of children attending school. In order to improve the attendance, children could earn tickets for a complete weeks' attendance, resulting ultimately in a prize.

The health of the children was monitored and a weighing and height measuring device would arrive at school to record these statistics, before moving on to the next school. Lord Frederick Bruce paid for new gravel for the school playground after seeing the state of the school on a school visit. The older boys began work on the school gardens in 1909, after receiving a delivery of 6 draw hoes, 6 dutch hoes, 6 rakes, 6 forks and 12 spades. Fifty paradise stocks were planted in the garden to be grafted with apple scions in the following year, and broad beans, followed by onions, potatoes, carrots and lettuce were all sown. The girls attended the Kingston Room for domestic science instruction and the younger teachers attended needlework lectures at Marlborough to aid their instruction in this important skill. National events were observed and the children were told of the death of King Edward VII on May 6th 1910.

By 1912 the average attendance was 100 and new timetables included nature study, singing, grammar, drawing for boys and girls, and even a lesson on the care of teeth. A school library box increased the number of reading books on offer, and this was regularly moved on to the neighbouring school. Improvements to the interior included repainting using distemper, and new curtains of red serge fitted to separate the classes. The Diocesan report was good describing the tone of the lessons as 'reverent' through the school.

By 1914 the school garden plots were well established and by 1915 the school was able to sell apple trees grafted 2-3 years previously for between 3d.and 6d.each. Occasionally pupils were entered for scholarships, and two students won places at Dauntsey Agricultural School and Marlborough Grammar School in 1916. New books included, 'Old Norse Tales,' 'Little Folk in many Lands,' 'King Arthur and his Knights,' 'Legends of early Scotland, and 'Tales from History.'

At the beginning of the First World War there was more troop activity in the area and school was closed for two weeks in June 1915 to help with the harvest and also the war effort. The troops were watched as they marched through the village in September of that year. In November the children were sent home early so they could be fed before the arrival of the troops for billeting purposes, most houses in the village were used. The children helped the war effort by gathering acorns for munitions and picking blackberries. More emphasis was placed on gardening in order to provide as much foodstuff as possible. In July 1918 the Head Teacher was called up to HM forces and the senior assistant was then placed in charge. Later a new head was installed until the return of the Head, Mr. Morris, in February 1919. The school was closed for a half day on November 11th 1918, after the signing of the armistice at the end of the First World War and there was a week's holiday awarded by the King, the following October to celebrate peace. In 1920 the village memorial to the men who had been killed in the Great War was dedicated and the schoolchildren attended.

In 1921 the head teacher acted as an enumerator for the census and the assistant took control of the school for that period. The numbers on the roll had fallen slightly and illness, such as ringworm and impetigo, still caused low attendance in 1921. Holidays were given for royal weddings, such as that of the Duke of York to Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in May 1923 and a gramophone message was heard from the King and Queen on Empire Day in 1924. The jubilee of the school was also celebrated in that year and games such as cricket and baseball were played in the adjoining field.

By 1923 there were 93 children on the register and a new female head teacher was appointed. Maggie Thomas soon established greater discipline. A school concert was held to help raise funds for a new school piano that arrived in 1925. Nature rambles were taken regularly resulting in collections of specimens that were then drawn or painted. A national savings scheme was started and in 1924 a few of the senior children attended the Wembley exhibition. Organised games were introduced and a charabanc outing to Bournemouth meant that some of the children saw the sea for the very first time. This then became an annual event. Gardening classes had to be abandoned as the land leased by the school was no longer available due to the sale of the estate of the Marquis of Ailesbury. In 1927 school caps were introduced which sported the school badge and the girls were given a talk on the girl guiding movement. Regular reports were now sent out to the parents, and in 1928 a singer sewing machine arrived, followed by a demonstration on how to use it. A five valve wireless set was introduced into the classroom, costing about £8 and nature studies were listened to. The numbers attending the school had reduced partly due to the sale of the Savernake estate and standards also dropped slightly. Punishments were often given for such misdemeanours as blocking the toilets with stones, chattering, disobedience and insolence, lying, stealing, smoking and playing truant. The log books conclude in 1933.

This voluntary controlled school had 57 pupils in 1955. The lower numbers were due to the closure of St. Michael's Home for Motherless Girls and also the attendance of the Bagshot children at the Hungerford schools, and from 1947 older pupils going to the Secondary School at Hungerford.

In February 2008 the Ofsted report found this to be a good school with outstanding features. In May 2010 the number of children on the register was 33.

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