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Wiltshire Community History

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National School, Alvediston

National School, Alvediston Date Photo Taken c.1906
Uploaded 26/06/2015 17:05:53
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Map Latitude 51.01018383664694 : Longitude -2.0344555377960205
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

Plan of the school

There was a day school in existence in 1818 with around 20 children attending in 1833. In 1859 there were 30 infants being taught in a cottage by Miss Kate Carley.

The National School as built in 1872 and log books dating from 1872-1922 are held by the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. The size of the school is recorded as 28 feet long, 16 feet wide and 15 feet at the highest point of the ceiling arch. The first entry for October 1874 records 'very good attendance'. Average attendance for the school was frequently over 30, generally dipping lower due to bad weather, illness and at harvest and planting time. Miss Louisa Hancock took over duties of school mistress from K. House on February 1st 1875. She stayed at the school for 7 years and received good inspection reports from HMI. The teacher was responsible for the school during the week and additionally for Sunday school discipline - evidenced by punishments recorded for misbehaviour during Sunday school with 3 boys being kept for a lesson after school on December 4th 1874 as a punishment for bad behaviour in church.

The Revered P. Desprez was a frequent visitor to the school visiting Monday, Tuesday and Friday of the first week recorded in the log book.

The log books give a good insight into village life revealing events and traditions, the church and agricultural calendars, as well as the kinds of lessons being taught with object lessons a regular feature (for example about tin, cocoa and coffee). They also show the importance of the school to the community more broadly through providing a location for meetings, social gatherings and an evening school for older members of the community (particularly during the winter months).

As well as regular inspection reports giving insight into the running of the school and progress of the pupils, the log books provide a few incidental details of daily school life. The boys, for example, were kept back for a singing lesson on August 3rd 1877 for not joining in the singing lesson with the girls.

The school occasionally had to close due to outbreaks of illness. June 23rd 1877 saw an inspection by Diocesan inspectors and then the school closed the following day owing to a measles outbreak. The school was closed on 22nd June until 5 July, but then the children were sent home again for a few more days to more fully recover. The school closed again on 12th July as 'the few children who were present were very dull'. Another measles outbreak in July 1887 closed the school from 11th to the18th. The school also closed in January 1922 during an outbreak of whooping cough.

The standards of the school were not always high; an inspector's report of November 1890 reported that it did not reach standards in writing and arithmetic, though reading was fair. The infants are reported as 'very backwards' and a warning was given to the managers of the school under article 86 that the grant made to the school might be withheld if it did not improve the following year. The report of September 30th 1892 was much better with a 'very different complexion on work at the school, particularly infants'.

Christmas entertainments in the village often used the school building; The Revered Charles Ousby Trew gave a magic lantern show in the school room in the evening of Christmas Day 1895.

This evidently went down well as the Rev Ousby Trew gave another magic lantern show on 7 January of the new year as a reward for the children who had 'acquitted themselves well at the previous night's concert'. The Revered Ousby Trew is often recorded as giving Christmas entertainment, whether magic lantern shows, or games and refreshments and the Kinematograph living picture show on December 31st 1897. This tradition was continued by the Rev. Baynham who is recorded giving a tea party on December 26th 1898 with as much tea, cake, biscuits, bread and butter or jam as could be eaten. Presents were also given from lighted up and ornamented Christmas tree on December 27th 1899.

Another December village tradition that was frequently recorded was St Thomas Day on the 21st. The children travelled around the parish singing carols and receiving doles. In 1904 the log book remarks that the custom is gradually dying out and that the school no longer gives a holiday for the occasion. However in 1908 the attendance was reduced to 19 due to the children taking part in the 'St Thomas Day tradition of going begging'. In 1915 the log book states that 'the majority of children absented themselves to go carol singing. It is a usual custom which seems impossible to break'.

Severe weather events such as floods or deep snow prevented children attending school on several occasions and in 1916 the children were prevented from their usual St Thomas' Day round of the village by flooding. On 24th May 1898 a man and one sheep were killed by lightening in a severe thunderstorm. There were also occasions when a lack of coal forced the school to close during periods of near freezing temperatures in November and December 1920.

The boys were often examined to leave school for agricultural work; for example on 26th October 1908 H. Wareham had his name removed from the register having gone to work at Norrington. Agriculture was obviously important within the school as a suggestion was made in 1909 that arithmetic work should be more practical with problems relating to farm and dairy work with current market prices where possible.

There was infrequent mention of the First World War despite school log books covering the period of the war. However in 1915 collection was made in aid of Private A. Simpkins a Prisoner of War in Gottingen Camp, Germany who was 'adopted' by the children. Money and a parcel of food, books and knitted items were sent along with letters written by the children. Several talks on the war were given to the school children, they drew maps of Europe showing countries of allies and enemies, and national anthems and songs were learnt and sung.

The children also contributed practically to the war effort responding to a request from the Education Committee to collect blackberries. They were sent in groups of four to collect the fruit, and on October 18th 1917 26 pounds were sent. On 22nd October they received a card of thanks and another request, and a further 46 pounds of fruit was sent on October 23rd.

The impact of war on small communities is revealed to a small degree by the fact that the school was unable to have its broken bell fixed for several months due to a shortage of men.
Following the announcement of the end of the war the children had a 'peace tea' on 14th November in the Reading Room followed by dancing and games.
The school closed on 27 July 1922 and the children were sent to schools in Ebbesbourne Wake and Berwick St. John.

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