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Codford - Codford St. Mary School, Codford

In 1846 there was a church Sunday school with 71 boys and girls attending and a master, who was paid £5.4s.0d (£5.20) a year. The school survey of 1858 found that there was no parochial day school but that 12 children were taught in a cottage by a lane.

It was decided to provide an elementary school in 1873 and this was built in 1875/6. It opened on 26th June 1876 and we are fortunate in having the school logbooks from the opening day. The mistress, Anna Maria Mountjoy from Devon, admitted 38 children on the first day, some of whom had received little schooling. The pupils were not very good at sewing and spelling, and did not know their tables, but they improved over the first few weeks. It was noted that the children were very punctual at both morning school (9.00 a.m. to 12.00 noon) and afternoon school (2.00 p.m. to 4.00 p.m.). The new school received several regular visitors and the rector, who was also the school manager, gave religious instruction. Some local ladies helped with the sewing classes. After the rather short first term the children marched to the rectory, where they had tea, games and prizes from 2.30pm until the rector addressed them at 7.30pm.

On 23rd October the fires in the school were lit for the first time and the mistress noted that the schoolroom was very comfortable. By November a large iron guard had been fitted to the classroom fireplace. To enable families to save up for essentials clubs for clothing, boots and coal were set up and a School Saving Bank established. Schooling itself cost one penny (0.4p) a week per child until fees were abolished in 1891. In January 1877 a cupboard was provided for the school library, which already contained 140 books. A night school for older boys was set up in the winter of 1876/7 and in March they enjoyed a supper at the end of their courses.

Subjects taught included the elementary ones of reading, writing and arithmetic, with religious instruction. Other subjects were geography, history, sewing and needlework, singing and drill. There were lessons to learn at home and home lesson books were provided. The girls also took needlework home and it was noted that this was done well. Different songs and poems were learnt by each standard and the infants had objects lessons on such items as, a needle, a thimble, a teapot, coffee, a cat, a camel, a duck, and a pelican. Other themed lessons for the infants included, straight and curved lines, useful plants, a carpenter's shop, rain and clouds, beasts of burden, and a kitchen. The children had maps and pictures on the walls and the younger ones learned spelling with the use of spelling cards. Prizes were awarded for needlework.

The annual inspection reports show that the school improved steadily after its opening. In 1877 it was said to be in good order and that the children wrote fairly well on the whole. Repetition was good but arithmetic below par, but 'the school has made a very fair start'. In 1878, 'Mistress has effected a considerable improvement in the school during the past year, especially in arithmetic although both arithmetic and spelling still weak'. On October 6th 1879 a 'great many children', were admitted at the start of the new term, owing the closure of the Congregational School before the Harvest Holiday. The school still only had one mistress, with no pupil teacher or monitor.

Miss Mountjoy left in December 1879 and was replaced by Mary Howes Smith when the new term began on 30th December. The 1880 report said that the school was in good order and the children passed with improved results in the elementary subjects. The advances in arithmetic, especially considering the influx of new pupils, was noted. More staffing was needed for the higher numbers, and the infants were backward because not enough attention could be paid to them in the time available. In April 1880 an assistant mistress, Miss E. Sturgis was appointed. Miss Smith was ill for much of the latter part of the year and Miss Braine took over in January 1881. The 1881 report commented that it had been a bad year with staff illness but that, apart from arithmetic the work had not fallen off and the new mistress had established control well.

Miss Sturgis seems to have left the school for a year between March 1882 and April 1883, being replaced by a paid monitor. The 1883 report is good despite these difficulties and reports continued to be good through the 1880s. Attendance at the school seems to have been around 30 children in the late 1870s, but this had increased to around 50 by 1881 after the closure of the Congregational School.

The annual holidays were a week at Christmas and Easter, and normally five weeks Harvest Holiday in the summer, although there were only 4 weeks in 1884. The Harvest Holiday was determined by the finishing of the harvest and the length of it was not always known when the children left school at the end of the summer term. Sometimes a holiday week was given in late February. There were also half day holidays after H.M.I. and Diocesan inspections and on Ash Wednesday, St. Andrew's Day and Ascension Day, although the children went to church for part of the afternoon on these. There was a school treat in August, at the end of the summer term and on 10th June 1879 a day's holiday was given for the re-opening of the church after its restoration.

Unauthorised absences were sometimes connected with farming work. This included hay making in June, harvest work in July, gleaning (especially for barley after the wheat harvest had ended) in September, and potato picking and apple picking in October. In 1881 the school closed for an extra week after the Harvest Holidays as the harvest was not finished. It was normally the older children who were absent but others stayed away from school for the village Club Day in May and the Chapel Sunday School Treat in July. Bad weather caused low attendances, especially when children had some distance to travel to school.

In January 1877 the roads were flooded and children had to cross a temporary plank bridge to get into the school. When the floods subsided there was deep mud and many children could not get to school for several days. There was deep snow in January 1879 for two weeks and again in January 1880, resulting in low attendances. The severe Wiltshire snow storm in January 1881 caused the school to close for four days and there was no regular school for a further week as so few children could get to the school. The next month, February, saw the school closed for three weeks because of an outbreak of scarletina.

A few other points from the Victorian Log book.

There does not seem to have been too much bad behaviour, although children were sent home for uncleanliness and untidiness. Some boys were chastised by the vicar for apple scrumping and two boys were caned by the teacher for bullying another.

When parents had no money to pay school fees they kept their children at home.

In January 1877 a photograph was taken of the children in the playground. This is quite early for a rural school and would have caused great excitement.

By 1877 clothing, wool and shoe clubs had been established at the school, as well as a Saving Bank.

At harvest time in August the school hours were changed to 1.30 p.m. to 3.00 p.m. for afternoon school so that children could help in the fields.

The school had many visitors in 1879/80, especially local ladies who sometime gave lessons in singing and reading.

In hot weather the school was said to be very cool and there was good ventilation.

By 1885 Miss Mary Waldron was the mistress and in 1889, when the school was enlarged to take up to 120 children, the mistress was Miss Emily Waldron. There were two successive school masters in the 1890s with James Richardson and Adolphus Smith, when attendance at the school was 76. The school received a striking clock in 1891. By 1907 the school had been taken over by Wiltshire County Council and the average attendance was 60 pupils.

The school achieved voluntary assisted status in the late 1940s and had 54 pupils in 1955. In continued in the same building until a new school, Codford Church of England Primary School, opened in 1971


School Photos/Plans

Codford St. Mary School, Codford
Codford St. Mary School, CodfordImage Date: c.1907
Image Details: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham
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Codford St. Mary School, Codford
Codford St. Mary School, CodfordImage Date: 2011
Image Details: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre
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