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Erlestoke - Erlestoke Church of England School

In Warburton's Census of Schools the report for Erlestoke, dated March 1859, states; 'An adapted cottage, with flagged floor and imperfect desks, formerly a laundry, and rather too low and dark for school purposes. 30 to 40 children, mixed, are taught by a middle-aged woman, untrained. - I am given to understand, that had it not been for the unhappy accident which befell Mr. Watson Taylor last autumn, an extended system of parochial education would, ere this, have been carried out in this neighbourhood.'

In 1872 there was a room used to teach children, and although it was considered too small to cope with the children, it took until1893 before the school building was extended to serve 70 pupils. It was owned by S. Watson-Taylor, whose family at that time lived at Erlestoke House. The initial arrangement was for a rent of £7 per annum to be paid to the Watson-Taylor estate. In 1920, when the estate was sold, the school managers bought the school for £350. It was in the trust of the Salisbury Diocesan Board of Finance.

We do not have Victorian log books for the school but those for the first part of the 20th century provide an interesting portrait of the school, by which time the school was in the overall control of Wiltshire County Council.

The signing of the Armistice was marked by the school on 11th November 1918.The head teacher wrote: "On hearing the news that the Armistice had been signed, the Union Jack was hoisted and the National Anthem was sung."

Various inspectors seemed generally happy with the standard of teaching in the school over the years. His Majesty's Inspector wrote in 1919: 'At successive visits of Inspectors during recent years, evidence of careful and methodical preparations of work and much skilful and effective teaching has been forthcoming. The tone of the school is pleasing, the children are interested in their lessons and work steadily. All written exercises are carefully supervised and systematically corrected. The general condition of the school is very satisfactory.'

In 1922, the diocesan inspector wrote: 'This school is doing good work in religious instruction. The lessons I heard given were well suited to the capacities of the children and were designed to teach some practical religious truths. The children of both groups showed themselves well informed on all parts of the work specified in the syllabus.'

His Majesty's Inspector of 1933 wrote: 'There is much to commend in the way this small village school is managed, in the general standard of attainment and in the training which is given. The children in the first class are alert and industrious and show keen interest in their work. They read and recite well and reach a good standard in arithmetic.'

Various holidays were given to the children, sometimes for national reasons - such as the marriage of Princess Mary to Viscount Lascelles in February 1922- or to give the children a chance to work in the fields, to pick potatoes or to go blackberrying. Attendance was often low because of illness, work or weather. On 14th September 1923, the head wrote: 'A very wet morning. 18 children from Coulston arrived at school so wet that staying in their wet clothes would have been injurious to their health.'

The log books occasionally have very interesting insights into the lives of children.
Attitudes were certainly very different. In April 1922 the head teacher wrote: 'Record of backward children: [One boy], aged 10, in Standard II, mentally dull. Doctor attributes general delicacy to malnutrition.'

On 10 December 1934 the milk scheme began in the school.

In 1922 there were 65 children on roll at the school but the school was reorganised in 1935 with older children (11+) being sent to Bradford on Avon.. This left only 22 junior children at the school; by 1939 there were 32.

.On 11th September 1939, 10 evacuees arrived at the school. The following week, the Air Warden visited the school and taught the children how to use and adjust their gas marks and a fire drill was held every day. Miss Woodgate, the teacher who had come from Essex with her pupils in 1939, went home in December 1941. As part of the War Effort, school children were encourage to collect horse chestnuts, the reason being that they could be used as a way of producing acetone, which was used in the production of cordite, a propellant used in bombs. The children collected 28 bags and they were collected from the school on 11th November 1942. In March 1944 the police came into the school to talk to the children about bombs. The school was shut for two days at the end of World War Two to allow for V.E. celebrations.

On 15 January 1940, a savings scheme began in the school. The headmistress was the honorary secretary. Nellie Cook resigned as headmistress in 25 July 1947 after 26 years of service at the school. She died in 1961. The school was granted voluntary controlled status in 1948. In 1950 there were 39 children attending the school but by 1957 this had dropped to 33.

Youngsters at the school were treated to a taste of fame in 1966 when their singing was recorded by the BBC and then broadcast. The recording process took an hour and the children sang "Why doesn't my goose?", "What shall we do with the drunken sailor" and "The handsome butcher." It was broadcast on 22nd June 1966 as part of "Today in the West" and the head teacher wrote in the school log book that "It came over clearly and brightly."

A new school was built in Great Cheverell in 1980 to teach children from Great Cheverell, Little Cheverell, Erlestoke and Coulston. This meant that Erlestoke School shut down in the spring of 1980. The last head teacher of Erlestoke School wrote in March 1980 that: 'Phillips Removals came today to take furniture and equipment to the new school and any other back to the county store. The school looks very deserted without its furniture. And so the school life comes to an end.'

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Erlestoke Church of England School
Erlestoke Church of England SchoolImage Date: 2010
Image Details: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre
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