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Wiltshire Community History

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Boyton - National School, Boyton

In his report dated 1859, the Inspector recorded a 'school in a cottage, under a dame, said to be of doubtful competency'. At this time some children were already attending a National School at Chicklade. The squire at Boyton was anxious to build a proper school. It was hoped that a school could be built that would serve Boyton, Corton and Upton Lovell. A wooden school-house large enough for 85 children was opened in 1859. There were 66 children registered, looked after by two teachers, a sewing mistress and a young man trained at the Warminster School. The report stated that 'the building is well contrived, and properly fitted up. All promises well.'

The National School was built in 1874 for 66 children, probably on the same site as the church school. Unfortunately no logbooks from the Victorian period survive in the public domain but we know in general terms what school life would have entailed. By 1880 children were educated up to the age of ten, although they could stay longer. The learning age was raised to eleven in 1893, when children normally started as infants, aged four or five. School fees, one penny or twopence a week, had been removed in 1891. The school day was likely to have been from 9.00 to 12.00 noon and from 2.00pm to 4.00pm. Children either brought their lunch and ate it in the schoolroom or went home to eat. The teacher was assisted by paid monitors in their mid teens or by a pupil teacher, who was training to become a certified teacher.

Lessons were the elementary ones of reading, writing and arithmetic with scripture; some lessons in the latter subject were often taken by the vicar. The girls learned sewing and all had singing and recitation. Some geography and history would have been taught. School holidays were about a week or 10 days at Christmas and Easter, a week at Whitsun and five weeks Harvest Holiday in the summer. Full day and half day holidays were given for various reasons such as church or chapel teas or Sunday school outings, Royal and national occasions and the afternoon after the H.M.I. examinations. Unauthorised absences included seasonal work on the farm and in the garden for the older children and visits to local fairs, military events and other local happenings.

The surviving logbook begins on April 1st 1917. The first page describes the size of the school room, which was 35' long by 17' wide by 11' high. Although the children were divided into standards, they were all taught by the headmistress and a monitor in the one room. The school was divided into three groups. Group I was standards IV-VII (ages approximately 10-14), group II was standards II and III (ages 8 and 9) and group III was standard I and the Infants (ages 3-7). There were 30 children at this school.

The logbook gives a detailed description of the school syllabus. The children in standards II and III for example, were expected to be able to write simple sentences and original compositions on familiar subjects. Their geography lessons covered the definitions of land and water in England and Wales. History included famous people such as Richard the Lionheart and Joan of Arc. Arithmetic was the four simple rules and their application to money. Needlework and Drawing were important parts of the syllabus. Girls aged 8-10 were expected to practice hemming, seaming, back-stitching, pleating and button holes. The boys had to draw objects. A poem was learnt each year.

In general, later logbooks are not as interesting as those from the Victorian period. The majority of entries from 1900 onwards concentrate on attendance, the weather and the children's health. Attendance levels were largely dependent on the weather. Most children did not have any protective clothing and so stayed at home if the weather was very wet. They also stayed away if there was a heavy snowfall. In 1919 a new stove was fitted in January, when the temperature dropped to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. It took 24 hours to warm the school. There are also references in the logbook to extreme heat. In July 1922 it was noted that several pupils were overcome by the oppressive heat. The following year there were references to 'tropical' weather and a temperature of 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

The general health of the children was constantly referred to. The normal childhood illnesses occurred and the school would close if there was a severe outbreak. In July 1920 the school closed for three weeks owing to several cases of whooping cough. A nurse visited regularly to inspect the children, as did the County Dentist. In 1925 a lady dentist visited and every parent refused to allow their child to be treated by her. It was suggested that in future a man should visit!

The children were given occasional extra holidays and treats. In 1923 all schools were given a day off to celebrate the marriage of the Duke of York to Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon. At Christmas in 1922 the vicar visited the school with baskets of apples and pears and sweets as a Christmas treat.

Pupil numbers gradually dropped and by 1931 there were just 10 pupils. The school closed on 29th January 1932 and the remaining children attended the school at Codford St. Mary.
 

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