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Codford - Codford St. Peter School, Codford

In 1818 thirty children attended a Sunday school at St. Peter's church and this seems to have been the forerunner of the day school. This was built alongside the road, near Ashton Gifford House, at the expense of Wadham Locke, the owner of Ashton Gifford House, and opened in 1841. It was both a Sunday school and a day school with a total of 75 children, 58 of whom attended the day school. Two masters at the school were each paid £3 a year.

By 1859 the Ravenhill family owned Ashton Gifford House and carefully looked after the school. The school consisted of two rooms, each were 20 feet by 16 feet by 15 feet high, with wooden boarded floors. There was a certified mistress, two pupil teachers and a good supply of books and equipment. The inspector noted that both discipline and instruction were very good and he was very pleased with the school. There were said to be about 100 pupils.

The school logbooks survive from 1863 and provide some interesting information on the school in the Victorian period. School hours were 9.00 to 12.00 noon and 2.00 to 4.00 or 4.30 and by 1868/9 there was an evening school, where older children, who were at work during the day, had lessons during the winter months. The schoolmistress was Miss Eliza Bray and the pupil teachers were Julia Turner and Georgina Churchill. Both pupil teachers left to go to teacher training college in December 1865 and an assistant mistress, Miss E. Halle, and two monitors were appointed in January 1866. Later changes in the post of schoolmistress were, Miss Hedges took over from Miss Bray in May 1876. Leah Crouch took charge in January 1877, and Emma Bellows became schoolmistress in February 1889.

School attendance seems to have dropped from that recorded in 1859 and during the mid 1860's a full school was about 65 pupils and a poor attendance was in the 30s. On one day in June 1869 however there were 105 children present. Children were often away from school on a regular basis, sometimes for seasonal work, including carrying dinner and tea to their parents working in the hayfields in July, harvest work in August and potato picking in September and October. Some boys were employed scaring birds away from the cornfields and one boy was away for two months on this work, while another spent several weeks looking after pigs. Other regular absences were visiting Corton Club festivities in May and Warminster Fair in October. In July 1863 a cricket match in the village attracted several pupils while a foxhunt in the neighbourhood would make them late for school.

Bad weather also caused low attendances with heavy snow being the prime reason. In January 1865 only eleven children got through the snow to school, while in March 1867 there was a very low attendance for two weeks. Deep snow caused problems in February 1873 while snow and a severe frost in December 1890 and January 1891 kept many children at home. Wet weather also caused problems, often because younger children did not have boots and waterproof clothing.

Subjects taught were the elementary ones of reading, writing and arithmetic along with religious instruction. Small numbers of older pupils were taught more advanced arithmetic, as they became ready. Geography was taught, as was needlework for the girls, some of which was entered in competitions run by the Southern Counties Adult Society. Drill (physical exercises) had been introduced by the 1880s and object lessons were given to the infants. Topics in 1889 and 1890 included, an elephant, a mouse, an ant, reindeer, chalk, leather, tea, a railway train, a grocer's shop and parts of the body. Each standard learned a different song and in 1890, these included, 'Meddlesome Mattie', British Soldiers', and 'The Fox and the Goose'. The Rev. Ravenhill was school manager and paid frequent visits to the school, while the daughters of John Ravenhill of Ashton Gifford House, took a great interest in it. They took many lessons of reading, dictation and singing and other ladies of the village, especially Miss Wightwick of the Rectory, also helped in the school. The Rev. Ravenhill also gave some scripture lessons.

Apart from a couple of years in the 1870s and 1880s, when there were changes of teachers, and secondly when the mistress was in poor health, the H.M.I. reports on the school are uniformly good. Typical is 'School is in every respect going on very satisfactorily' (1864) and 'Children are very well behaved and have passed a very fair examination' (1865). In 1865 the inspector noted that one pupil was aged 26, children could leave at 11 years, and that as he was capable of earning a living no grant would be paid for him. It was noted in 1871 that the managers should ensure that a 'steady man' was present when the night scholars were receiving instruction. In 1890 it was said that the boys' playground should be covered in gravel or small stones as it got muddy when wet. Evidently the girls' playground was in a better state.

The length of school holidays tended to vary from year to year. Christmas was about ten or eleven days but was only one week in 1865 although it extended to two weeks in 1864, 1867 and 1875. Easter holiday was only Good Friday and Easter Monday but there was a week off school at Whitsun. The Harvest Holidays in the summer were five or six weeks but were only one month in 1878. Various half day and whole day holidays were given to the children including regular ones for Codford Club Day in May; Mrs Ravenhill's Singers' Treat and the annual School Treat in July or early August. Half-day holidays were given annually after the H.M.I. and Diocesan inspection. On Ash Wednesday and Ascension Day the children went to church in the afternoon and children in the church choir had occasional outings to choral competitions at such places as Fonthill and Clifton.

When children left school, aged 11 or 12, the girls often went into service and the boys normally went to work on the farm or became apprentices. In 1864 however one boy left to enter service as a pageboy. The school had a Penny Bank, where small savings could be deposited.

In June 1876 a school was opened in Codford St. Mary and some children from that village left to go to school in their own parish. After the 1905 Education Act the school was taken over by Wiltshire County Council and there were 60 pupils in 1907, by which time many other subjects such as history and drawing had been introduced and the syllabus included nature walks. In the late 1940s the school achieved voluntary aided status and in 1955 there were 51 pupils. One long serving headmistress, Mrs Cuff took up her post in October 1937 and retired in 1960 when Mrs McNeil took over. She retired from the post at Easter 1966, by which time it had been decided to close the school and have all children at St. Mary's School, which could accommodate the smaller number of children now in both villages. The school finally closed on 20 July 1966 and the children were transferred to St. Mary's at the start of the new term in September.



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