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Wiltshire Community History

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Limpley Stoke - Church School, Limpley Stoke

In 1844 land was conveyed in trust for a Church School in union with the National Society. This was built quickly and opened in 1845. The land had previously been used for a priest's house but had been demolished to make way for the school. It is recorded in the Church inventory of 1608 and also on the tithe map of 1841. The £200 cost of the building of the school was partly met with a Treasury grant of £75. However the school was poorly attended and closed within in a few years; Freshford being the preferred choice of school in the area. It re-opened in 1856 with 25 pupils on the roll, increasing to 61 by 1870 and in 1893 had 51 pupils
Unfortunately there are no Victorian school log books in Wiltshire & Swindon Archives, but the following general information would be relevant to the school for the latter part of the 19th century. Fees were paid for each child until 1891, normally at the rate of one penny (0.4p) or twopence a week and the 'school pence' were collected by the schoolteacher. There would have been a schoolmaster, or schoolmistress, with assistant teachers, pupil teachers and monitors. The pupil teachers were taught by the head before lessons started, took exams, sometimes went to the Diocesan Training College and eventually became teachers themselves. They mainly taught the younger children. Monitors were also paid but tended to be younger and helped to look after the younger children or teach the infants.

School holidays were at similar times to those of today but often there was only two days at Easter but a week at Whitsun. The summer holidays were of five or six weeks and were called the Harvest Holidays as the children either helped with the harvest or carried food and drink to their parents, who were working in the fields. There were more half-day and whole day holidays for special events. Half a day would be given after the annual H.M.I. or Diocesan inspections and there were holidays for school treats, choir outings, chapel teas, Christmas parties and at times when the school was needed for other purposes.

There were also many unauthorised absences. These would be for seasonal work, such as haymaking (June) and early or late harvest (July or September), being kept at home to help their parents, and working when they should have been at school. Bad weather such as heavy rain, cold weather, or snow kept children away from school, often because their parents couldn't afford to buy them suitable clothes. Apart from the usual colds and coughs there were more serious illnesses than today and these included, mumps, measles, whooping cough, scarletina and diphtheria.

The elementary subjects were the '3 Rs' - reading writing and arithmetic. Scripture was often taught by the vicar and children would have attended church for services on some days. Older children were taught history and geography and there may have been some study of natural history. Singing was taught to all ages and all the girls and some of the boys would have done needlework. Drawing had been introduced by the 1890s.

The school log book dated 1921 records the size of the schoolroom as 30 feet long by 18 feet wide and 20 feet high. The Diocese reports often commented on the quality of the singing, in 1926 stating that 'the singing of hymns is joyous and full of meaning.'
In 1925 the School Inspector gave an average report, making reference to low standards in arithmetic, geography and history, but again commenting on the high quality of the singing. By 1927 standards were poor, perhaps due to a number of changes in the staff.

Concerns were expressed by the teacher in 1928 about the standard of reading books supplied by the Education Department. She comments that they would 'prove too difficult for girls of eleven, twelve and thirteen.' The titles in question were 'Rob Roy,' 'Red Gauntlet,' 'Captain Cook's Second Voyage' and 'The Last of the Mohicans.'

The school was given a days holiday in 1922 for the Marriage of Princess Mary and then again in 1923 for the marriage of Prince Albert, Duke of York, and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. Like many other schools, it was also closed for use as a Polling Station, as in October 1924, while Empire Day was celebrated regularly.

Influenza caused the school to close in 1924 and scarlet fever and mumps in 1926, followed by chicken pox. Often the attendance would halve when an epidemic or bad weather struck and closure became inevitable.

In 1925 the school was 'ransacked' during the night and lead pencils, thimbles, reels of cotton and sewing needles were stolen.

Attendance dropped to 25 by 1920 and went even lower to just six by 1930 and as the attendance dropped it was no longer considered viable to run the school and it faced closure in 1932 despite the concern of some of the parents about the walk up the hill to Winsley School. The last day at Limpley Stoke School was 29th July 1932. Children then attended either Freshford or Winsley School.

The building returned to the Diocese and was used as a church hall by the Women's Institute, Girl Guides and the Parish Council. By 1960 the Diocese persuaded the Parochial Church Council to buy the property and it was then leased to the village as a village hall.



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