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Wiltshire Community History

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Lydiard Tregoze

Bassett Down School, Lydiard Tregoze

Bassett Down School, Lydiard Tregoze Date Photo Taken c.1906
Uploaded 05/02/2015 11:25:01
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

The deed of land for this school is dated 1857 but it was not built until 1864 with the aid of a Treasury grant. We have a description of the buildings in 1906, when it is likely that the school came under the overall management of Wiltshire County Council. The schoolroom was 25 feet by 18 feet with walls 9 feet 9 inches high and the collar beam roof 11 feet 10 inches from the floor. There were eight desks and four large windows; the room could accommodate 58 pupils. The classroom was 12 feet by 10 feet with walls the same height as those in the schoolroom, there were three small desks and one large window. A maximum of 12 pupils could be taught. From the picture it can be seen the schoolroom was of weatherboard timber with a tiled roof.

Although some log books are in the Wiltshire & Swindon Archives we have very little other information on the school. It is surprising to have two schools in existence in one small parish for 100 years but the fact that one was originally sponsored by the Bassett Down estate and the other by Lydiard Park estate in the south and north of the parish respectively may account for this. In 1950 children aged 11 and over at Bassett Down School moved to Wroughton Secondary School and in 1955 there were 22 pupils at what was then a Voluntary Controlled school. Number continued to fall and the school closed in March 1966 when only nine children remained at the school.

In 1893 the log books begin for the school and on September 15th there was an average attendance of 36 for the week. The attendance and numbers enrolled at the school fluctuated greatly over the years for many reasons. Most notable of these were illness, bad weather and also families moving from the district. The school attendance officer tended to call every couple of weeks and children who had missed a lot of school were reported to him. In November 1893 there were 55 children on the books and it was noted that there were great improvements in punctuality. On December 1st 1893 it is noted that attendance had been very good until Friday when the severe weather prevented many from attending. In August 1894 the attendance was not so good due to children bringing in the harvest. When school reopened after Christmas in 1896 there were 45 children on the books. In September 1898 the attendance was poor again owing to the late bringing in of the harvest. In October 1899 there were 32 children enrolled. In August of 1900, the attendance dropped as several boys were wanted for bringing in the harvest. At the beginning of 1904 there were 38 children on the books. On the 18th January 1906, it was a wet stormy day and only 13 children out of 49 were present. Due to a snowy morning on 18th January 1912, only 6 children were present so they were sent home. From 1913 onwards, many boys' names were removed from the register as they were being employed as agricultural labourers. The attendance changed a lot during the year and on October 17th there were 24 on roll, but by the 31st there were 34. This is due to many families leaving the parish but also others joining. In February 1916 there were 43 children on the roll, but owing to deep snow fall on the 25th only 11 children attended school.

There were 45 children on roll in May 1924 and this had increased to 53 by October. The number of children on the books did not change much over the years until 1931 when there were only 21 children enrolled. By October 1933, there were only 14 children on the books although by January 1934, this number had increased to 19. In January 1939 there were 21 children on the books. The start of the Second World War saw the school closed from September 1st until the 11th for a national emergency. When they reopened 4 evacuees were admitted. In January 1941 there were 19 children on the books and 5 evacuees. In September 1946 there were only 12 children on roll. By January 1956 the number had increased to 20 children. However, 4 years later there were again only 12 children attending school. The numbers fluctuated so greatly due to the largely agricultural neighbourhood of the school. In January of 1963 the school had to reopen late owing to heavy snow as neither the teacher nor any of the pupils could attend and in January of the following year there were 13 children on roll.

Illnesses were a great problem in schools and in 1894, owing to a prevalence of measles; the school was closed on the 13th December and didn't reopen until the 14th January 1895. In 1896, the children were given an extra week after their summer holiday due to an outbreak of whooping cough. It took until October for the attendance to begin to improve after this outbreak. In 1899, the school closed early for the Christmas holidays owing to the illness of the mistress. In November of 1901, the doctor is first recorded as visiting the school to check eyes and heads. This continued until the school closed. Also, from 1910 onwards, the children were often weighed and measured every few months by the headteacher. From 1917 the dentist began visiting the school as well. The school was closed early in 1904 for the Christmas holidays owing to an outbreak of influenza. In 1910 the school was closed from April 13th until May 2nd due to whooping cough. On May 21st 1915, 10 children were excluded as they were believed to be suffering from German measles. The school was subsequently closed from May 26th until June 14th because of this. It took until December of that year for all cases of measles to disappear. However, although the school wasn't closed, the beginning of 1916 saw a lot of cases of impetigo among the children. On June 8th 1916, the first pupil in the school is reported as having died. This was Henry Bishop who died of meningitis. Another child is reported in 1921 as having died of meningitis.

In January 1925, an outbreak of mumps occurred and it took until March for the epidemic to end. On December 4th 1925 a child died of pneumonia, following measles and on the 14th the school was closed because of the epidemic. The school didn't reopen until January 18th because of this. On April 27th there were 10 cases of chickenpox and the doctor ordered closure of the school until 22nd May. In April of 1939 there was an outbreak of German measles although the school didn't have to close. Measles was again a problem in 1941 and the school was closed from the 5th - 31st March. March of 1942 then saw cases of whooping cough and in June there was an epidemic of measles although the school didn't have to close. On August 14th the school had full attendance for the first time since November. During November 1943 there were cases of scarlet fever and the school was closed from the 16th - 22nd. The school was again closed due to measles in September 1947 from the 7th until the 22nd. In April 1957, there were 9 children away with measles out of 21 on roll.

Inspections were made twice yearly by either the government or the diocese. In October 1893, the children are described as orderly and "they have been carefully taught and have made satisfactory progress". However, the "classroom is considerably below the minimum size required" and "it should be enlarged by the end of the year". By November 1894 the "enlargement of room in which they are taught" was still needed and there is no record of any work being completed on the school for quite some time. The school is described as "very satisfactory" in June 1897 and "the amount of work presented by the infants and Standard I was above average". On the 6th September the H.M.I inspection reported that "during the early months of the school year many of the scholars were absent through whooping cough. It is therefore gratifying to notice that there has been no falling off in the general character of the children's attainment". In May 1907, the "behaviour was excellent and knowledge and intelligence very satisfactory". It took until May 1908, for building to be completed on the school and "the enlargement of the classroom is a great improvement". In November 1917 the "children are in very good order and well advanced in their work".

The school is described as being "pleasantly situated and pleasantly taught" in July 1924. On November 1st 1926, there were "cramped and inconvenient conditions" although there was "increased confidence and freedom with which children express themselves". In 1944 it was said that "this small school continues to work very well in religious instruction. A diocesan report in 1947 stated that "there can be few happier small village schools in the country" and "the youngest and eldest took part together with ease and naturalness". In 1951 the school is described as a "delightful country school". In 1961 the school is a "happy, hardworking little community".

From 1912 onwards improvements were made in the materials available in the school and books and other items were more readily available. On May 9th 1912, a teacher's desk and chair was received, and they had never had one before. The bottom windows of the school were provided with new glass in June of that year. In October of 1913 the first successfully nature study was carried out. In November a new school clock was received and the infant class given a new stove. In 1914 a new headmistress notes that there was a lack of materials, very little ink and no chalk. During 1914, in their needlework classes, the girls were making baby clothes for Belgian refugees in London. From November 27th, hot drinks were provided at the school for the winter months.

In December 1920, a concert was performed in the school by the children. Starting in February 1921, Mondays and Fridays would be used as library days as books were delivered from Trowbridge. In August 1921, the outside of the school was repainted. On December 5th the children were sending money to the Lord Roberts Memorial Fund for disabled soldiers and sailors. In 1928 curtains were recommended for windows in the south side of the school and in November a storm blew down the chimney and roof tiles. In November 1933, the assistant education officer had to call to the school regarding the behaviour of the senior children on the school bus. In 1945 the first photos were taken of the pupils and in April the children collected for United Aid to China. The first school dinners were provided in the school on April 5th 1949 and all the children stayed to have them. A lot of repair work was carried out on the school during 1954. November 1959 saw the delivery of outdoor play equipment for the school.

The summer vacation was very late in 1894, doubtless due to a late harvest, not starting until August 24th and school opening again on September 24th. In October a half holiday was also given for the Harvest Home. They didn't use to have an Easter holiday and the school was only closed for Good Friday and Easter Monday. 1899 is the first year that the students were given a week's holiday for Easter. However, they did close the school for a week for the Whitsun Vacation in May. By 1896, though the summer holiday had moved to what we would now recognise and started on July 24th. It was called the Harvest Holiday. This year the summer holiday was much earlier starting the end of June and the school reopening at the end of July. This continued until 1903 when the school reverted back to closing in July and opening in August/September. Bank Holidays were also given periodically throughout the year and especially in May and August. Occasionally holidays were given in February. Also from the late 1910s onwards a week's holiday was given in October. In July of 1940, the school was ordered to close every Friday and Monday although no reason is given for this closure. 1944 was the first year for a February half term and the school was also closed for Ascension Day. These additions continued until the school closed.

Special occasions were honoured and on July the 15th and 22nd in 1897 the school was closed for a Jubilee treat and then for the Jubilee holiday. In 1900, on May 21st, a half day was given for the Relief of Mafeking in the Boer War. A half holiday was then given on June 4th 1902 for the peace declaration at the end of the Boer War. In September of that year pictures were shown and a conversational lesson given on the coronation. From 1908, a half day was given for Empire Day, although it did not occur every year. In 1923 Empire Day celebrations were held at Bassett Down House and the Royal speeches were heard on the gramophone. In 1933 the Empire Day celebrations also included lessons on the Empire and the League of Nations. On September 1st 1909, the whole school went to Bassett Down to the see the sham fight in military manoeuvres and on the way back saw 8,000 soldiers march down the lane. They were then given a half day to go and watch the transport wagons go by. The school was closed on May 20th for the funeral of the late King Edward VII. February 21st 1912 was Ash Wednesday so the rector went into the school and took scripture. On June 30th 1914, lessons were discontinued so that the children could go outside and watch a fleet of army planes which were manoeuvring overhead. On July 21st 1919, a half day was given for "Peace" and on 6th November a pamphlet was received for the League of Nations Union suggesting celebrations of Armistice Day. The school was then closed on 10th November so the children could celebrate Armistice Day.

On February 28th 1922, the school was closed to celebrate HRH Princess Mary's wedding. The first school outing is recorded as being June 5th 1923 when the children, teacher and some parents went to Weston-Super-Mare for the day. The school was closed on September 19th 1924, as a party of children and teachers were going to Wembley for the Exhibition. This outing was repeated the following year but in August. On November 11th 1924, Armistice Day, a 2 minutes silence was observed by the whole school and further lessons in the afternoon on the subject of the day. On September 17th 1925, the children were entertained for tea at Bassett House, although no reason is given as to why this happened. In 1932, on Armistice Day there was a League of Nations lesson and writing on peace as well as the usual 2 minutes silence. On June 7th 1934 the school was given an occasional holiday and they children had an outing to Porthcawl. The Royal Wedding was on November 29th 1934 and the school was closed for the day. On May 6th 1935 the school was closed for the Silver Jubilee celebrations and on November 6th the school was closed for Royal Wedding Day. The school was closed in January 1936 for the Royal Funeral and talks were given on the death of King George V and the accession of King Edward VIII. The children were also able to listen the Royal Proclamation from St. James Palace. The school was again closed from May 11th -19th for the Coronation and also the Whitsun holiday.

On May 8th 1945 the school was closed for peace celebrations. The school was closed on November 20th 1947 for Princess Elizabeth's wedding and the following April to celebrate the King and Queen's silver wedding. The school was closed on November 15th 1950 to allow the children to see Princess Elizabeth visiting Swindon. In 1953 the school was closed from 22nd May for Whitsun and also for 3 days for the Coronation. On the June 18th the school was then closed as the pupils were taken to London to see the Coronation decorations. The school was again closed on 22nd July 1954 so that the children could go and see the Queen at Wroughton Aerodrome. On December 7th 1956 the school was closed to allow the children to go Christmas shopping. May 6th 1960, was a school holiday for the wedding of Princess Margaret. An occasional holiday was granted on June 5th 1964 so that the children could attend the Bath and West Show.

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