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Donhead St. Andrew - National School, Donhead St. Andrew

The Bowles' Charity was used to establish and help run the village national school. It was built north east of the church in 1835. Warburton's Census of schools in 1859 stated the school was a 'Good substantial school-room, stone-built in 1835. A comfortable room, with wooden floor, desks at wall, and good furniture. 45 boys and 35 girls, mixed, are taught by a self-taught master (the parish clerk), and a sewing mistress in the afternoons'. There was also a separate infants' school, built in 1870 by the Revered Robert Burr Bourne for 50 children. The National School buildings were replaced in 1880 and had places for 100 children. In September of that year it was noted in the school log book: 'Commenced work in the new school with 65 scholars. Find the classroom very useful indeed....'

In 1874 a night school was operating, running from 7 p.m. The day school started at 9.30 a.m. The subjects taught at the school were similar to those today; writing, spelling, reading and arithmetic. Scripture lessons, usually taught by the Rector, were of great importance.

In 1872 the school received a large parcel of books and slates from the National Society's Depository. In 1874 some exercise books arrived which were 'especially good for reading and spelling'. Weights and measures, long division and the reduction of money were taught. Dictation was also included. In May 1884 'Duplex' arithmetic test cards were used. I have no idea what they are but the teacher found them very useful! The children often worked out sums on their slates, as mentioned in June 1884.

In January 1875 the children took books home to help them learn their spellings while geography was added as an extra subject (the children had been looking at the new maps since October 1873). In March 1878 the geography of Wiltshire was taught after the students did poorly on the subject in their examinations. In June 1875 Mr Chapman and Lady Fletcher heard the children sing and visitors also heard the class read. Singing by rote was regularly used in the Victorian era; songs from 1889 include: The Pet Lamb, The Miller, Don't Kill the Birds, To Be In Good Time and The Calendar. In 1886 two others were The Blacksmith and The Robin. Poetry was also memorised by rote; those used for 1887-8 included: The Lost Baby, The Last Minstrel, Prince Harry & His Father's Crown.

Drawing was a subject for boys only, and in June 1903 the equipment which was provided for the class was: 2 foot rule, dividers, set squares, t-square, short rules, 10 drawing books and free arm drawing boards. The girls took needlework classes instead.

Physical exercise was also undertaken at school. In February 1902 Mr Smith Esq. presented the school with a cricket set and began teaching the boys how to play cricket under the head teacher's supervision. A club was then formed to which every member had to contribute one half penny per month. In May 1903 drill was taken when the weather was fine and warm but in March of the same year physical exercises were taken in the school yard as the meadow was very wet. In fact the weather played an important role in the lives of Victorian school children .......

The worst weather appears to be the wet; children with inadequate clothing for bad weather would not be able to get dry if they were wet when they reached school and this could cause illness. In February 1872, many children were absent due to wet weather. In June a very heavy thunderstorm occurred in the morning and only 10 children were present. Flooding prevented many of the smaller children getting to school in October; the situation continued during that same month. The school was closed in September 1874 for two days due to rain. This happened again in 1875, 1877 and 1880. There was a very wet and windy morning in March 1903 and many children had become wet. They 'sit around the fire to dry their wet garments'. Snow also caused low attendance, as in January 1873, February 1875 and November 1880. The school was closed due to heavy snowfalls in February 1873 (for one week), March 1878 (one day). In April 1881 there was a day off for Good Friday but no other Easter holidays were given as the school had been closed 18 times in January due to the snow. In January 1879 the roads were very slippery and no school was held.

Illness was a constant peril for children, and those attending school in Donhead St. Andrew had their fair share of it. In March 1872 several children fell ill with scarletina; one girl died in April. There was also sickness in May of that year. In February 1874 two boys became sick with a fever, and in May measles made an appearance. Chicken pox arrived in January 1878, while in March, 11 children were away with 'severe colds'. During March 1879 coughs and colds meant the lowest attendance figures for a long time. Measles arrived in December 1885 and in January 1886 the school was closed for a week due to diphtheria. Four boys suffered from typhoid in September 1899. It was attributed to the fact that the children had no other water supply than that of the river. Diphtheria came back in November 1901 and Chickenpox in July 1904.

Other sources of illness came from ringworm in July 1889 and one little boy was knocked down by a bicycle when coming to school in November 1903 - he suffered a broken thigh.

The new school buildings which had begun to be used in January 1880 were reported to be 'very cold indeed' due to having too much ventilation. This cannot have helped keep the children healthy.

Holidays were similar to those we have now, if only a bit shorter. There were two weeks for Christmas, one week for Easter, one for Whitsun, and the Harvest or Summer Holidays lasted about a month. The children also got additional days off for various reasons; as in February 1874 when the schoolmaster had to fill the office of Poll Clerk in Berwick St. John. In July 1876 there was a meeting in the parish church which closed the school too. November 1876 was a half day holiday for the Shaftesbury Fair. A day off was given in May 1884 as the Choral Festival Day was taking place in Salisbury and in August 1883 a half day holiday was given owing to the holding of a cricket match in the village (married couples versus singles!). In July 1875 a half day holiday was allowed due to the Country Club being held at Frome. In July 1901 there was a choir trip to Weymouth.

In July 1883 there was a fete day at Gillingham and a treat at Birdbush (the treat appears to be annual as it also occurred in May 1897). There seemed to be an annual half day off in the afternoon after visiting the church for Ash Wednesday, and again for Holy Thursday. In August 1874 a 'treat' was given by the Reverend for the last day of term. Interestingly enough it was noted in July 1873 that the week before the school treat attendance was very good - I'm sure none of the children wanted to miss out! The school was also closed in July 1907 because of to the Forester's Fete.

More unusual events include a half day in March 1872 which was a day of "thanksgiving" for the recovery of the Prince of Wales. In July 1877 many children were absent to see the foundation stone of the chapel being laid. In June 1897 the children got three days off for 'Jubilee Week'.

The children also took their own unauthorised holidays! In June 1881 the children were absent as the Hants and Berks show was being held and in October 1886 they were absent for 'nutting' in the Chase at Handley (presumably that was where they were being gathered). In November 1881 and 1882 some children were missing from school for two days for the Shaftesbury Fair; hey had not been allowed time off school as in the past. In March 1872 some of the children visited a fete which had been occasioned by the 'termination of the Titchbourne case' - the conclusion of the affair of the Titchborne Claimant who averred that he was the lost son of the weathy Hampshire family of Titchbourne.

Children were also absent through necessity, helping their parents in the fields at certain times of the year. April was potato planting, gardening and farm work (the older children only). Early July was hay harvesting, September potato picking and barley gathering (for which some children were absent until November if the weather had been bad and the harvesting delayed). November was also the month for acorn gathering. A complaint was made to the School Attendance Officer in November 1901 that the Reverend 'has twice this week kept four boys under 11 years away from school by employing them as beaters during shooting'. A similar complaint had been made the year before.

The school Attendance Officer would be called in if children were persistently absent; their names were noted and they visited the child's parents. Children also received punishment at school for bad behaviour. In February 1872 a boy was punished with the cane for insulting a stranger as he passed by the school. In February 1873 the school teacher tried the cane as a punishment for lateness (it may have worked as it was used again for this purpose in December 1874!). Other bad behaviour which necessitated punishment included climbing the walls of Mrs. Mair (they had been warned before) and lying (October 1873), lighting a fire near Mr James' hay ricks and insulting the girls (Nov 1873), another caution for wall climbing, stone throwing, playing truant and breaking a window (May-July1874). All late comers except those living over two miles away were punished in February 1875 and there was a caution for stealing apples from Mr Mark's orchard in August. Two boys were punished for truancy in February 1876; hare coursing was taking place in the neighbourhood.

The Her Majesty's Inspector visited the school frequently to note the progress of the children and see how they were being taught. There were tests and exams. In 1872 the children were found to be backwards in attainment. The new schoolmaster even noted that 'not one boy' could say the multiplication table. The following year it was noted that 'The present master is doing his work with spirit and ability and is bringing the children forward in their work. At present they are backward as more than three fourths of them were presented in the two lowest standards, they are however, very fairly sound and accurate as far as they go'. In 1874 the school was examined and fair progress was being made but arithmetic was still only 'moderate'. The visit in October 1875 told us that discipline was fairly good and the children passed fairly well in standards work, with some weak reading and arithmetic. 'The offices (toilets) need attending'. The report of November 1877 reads 'The discipline of the school seems to be conducted with a firm and even hand and the children have passed a very satisfactory examination in all respects except the third and fourth standards in Geography..... '. The school achieved 'considerable success' during 1884, although it does sound as if the teacher became stricter. (March 1884) 'Examined standards 3 to 7 in arithmetic. Standards 3 and 5 very careless. Punished 6 in the 3rd who had every sum wrong and kept all standard 5 with the exception of two girls. Three improved but 5 still careless when re-examined the following week.' In August 1883 Standards 2 and 3 did badly in arithmetic. They were punished because they 'were and always have been so very careless'.

In November 1877 the report of the evening school stated that 'The night scholars acquitted themselves pretty fairly on the whole'.

The children did receive prizes too. In December 1880 a girl successfully competed for an apprenticeship and passed the scholarship examination at Salisbury. She was presented with a 'handsome work box and bible'. In June 1897, 12 children were given jubilee medals for the highest attendance levels. In April 1900 a gentleman presented walking sticks to the school. Another man was in the country from Canada (he'd lived there for 31 years) and was visiting his native village; he gave one sovereign to be distributed amongst the children. In December 1903 prizes were given by the committee for regular attendance.

The school was closed in 1970 and since 1977 has been owned by the Henrietta Barnett School for Girls, Hampstead, who use it as a rural studies centre.
 

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National School, Donhead St. Andrew
 
National School, Donhead St. AndrewImage Date: 2009
Image Details: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre
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National School, Donhead St. Andrew
 
National School, Donhead St. AndrewImage Date: 2009
Image Details: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre
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