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Wiltshire Community History

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Horningsham - Horningsham Primary School

Harriet, 3rd Marchioness of Bath, built Lord Bath's School in 1844. Prior to this children had attended one of the four dame schools in the village that had been set up under Jeremiah Crey's bequest.

The first report of the school is in1858. There were 40 children attending, taught by a master and a mistress in a room with a flagged floor. Numbers increased quickly, and in 1892 the school was enlarged to cater for 200 children. In 1904 Lord Bath authorised extensive alterations. A new floor was laid and offices built. A 1905 plan of the building shows three classrooms. There was one each for the infants and seniors, plus a third smaller room. Outside was a rough playground. It was so rough that the Inspectors constantly commented on its suitability.

In 1907, by which time education was free, there were 140 pupils. When the Inspectors visited the school in 1921 Mr. Welborn was headmaster. They found him to be a pleasant man and a good musician, but he was not a good teacher and discipline was poor. The school also suffered from constant changes of staff teaching the younger children. The situation improved with the arrival of Mr. Sutton in 1921 and Miss Anderson a year later, but the former only stayed until 1928.

The logbooks give a clear picture of life in this school at the turn of the 20th century. The children had a syllabus to follow, for example, geography, grammar and elementary science. They were also expected to learn a poem. The infants in 1900 had a 40 line poem called 'Somebody's Darling'. The middle standards learned 'The Colour Bearer' which contained 80 lines. The eldest group had to remember 140 lines of 'Faithful unto Death'. The infants were also given object lessons. They were expected to recognise simple colours, plants such as buttercups and daisies, objects like an apple and a chair and parts of the body. All the children were tested monthly by their own teachers and annually by an Inspector. An Inspector from the Diocese tested scripture.

The school was visited regularly by Lady Bath or the vicar to give out prizes for examinations and certificates of attendance. In general attendance was good. During the summer the numbers dropped when children helped with the harvest. They also stayed away when the weather was bad, as most families could not afford to buy their children wet weather clothing. The standard holidays were five weeks in the summer, one at Christmas and one at Easter. Half days off were given regularly. Sometimes the school was used for a concert and sometimes the children attended a special church service. If Lady Bath was particularly pleased with them during one of her visits, she would authorise a half day off as a reward. Every August a half day was given for the annual school treat, which was held at the vicarage. After tea on the lawn, the children enjoyed swings and other amusements in a nearby field. They then played a game of cricket, finally going home at 8:00pm. Like all schools, there were the usual illnesses, mainly coughs and colds. In 1896 a lot of children were away with mumps. In 1897 the school remained closed for an extra week at the end of the summer holiday due to a measles epidemic.

The 1920s were a period of change for the school. There were four different head teachers and in 1926 the school was taken over by Wiltshire County Council. It became a junior department in 1931, and Miss Anderson was the headmistress. This suited her well, as she found it difficult to cope with the older children. The arrival of Mrs Holly in 1937 was the beginning of 28 years of stability and happiness.

During the mid 20th century numbers steadily declined. In 1986, when Mrs Wadsworth became head teacher, there were fewer than 40 children on the roll. Gradually the school's reputation increased and parents from the surrounding community sent their children to Horningsham. In 1993 a nursery school opened in the school house next door. In 1998 a mobile classroom was placed in the field next to the school for teaching the reception class. Today the school is still flourishing, with approximately 70 pupils.