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Chilmark - Chilmark & Fonthill Bishop C. of E. Aided Primary

The first school in Chilmark was a small day school in 1783. A day school in Chilmark was also recorded in 1818, which at that point taught 35 children; these may well have been the same school. Between 1824 and 1826 the Rector built a new day school in The Street and in 1833 there was said to be 136 children at the school. As this was a quarter of the parish population it would seem that a mistake had been made. Warburton's Census Report of 1859 says, 'Stone building, roof and windows low, floor of stone, area insufficient. 40 to 50 children, mixed, are under instruction. Hitherto the organist has been master, assisted by his wife, but a trained master and mistress have just been appointed, and the clergyman is just about to build a class-room and teacher's residence.'

A new classroom and adjoining teacher's house was built at Chilmark in 1860 with the aid of a building grant of £1,000. The land given for the building of the National School was from the Earl of Pembroke and was donated on the understanding that the school would conduct itself in accordance with the principles of the Church of England. To this end it followed the principles of the National Society. The school was designed by W. Robson and built by Mr F. Harvey from Teffont and is constructed out of Chilmark Stone. It was enlarged in 1895 at a cost of £200. In 1902, there were 95 pupils and three teachers at the school.

We do not have school log books for the Victorian period but the following will give an idea of what life was like in a village school at the time.

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) a week and the 'school pence' were collected by the schoolteacher. There would have been a schoolmaster, or schoolmistress, with an assistant teacher and perhaps a pupil teacher. The pupil teacher was taught by the head before lessons started, took exams, sometimes went to the Diocesan Training College eventually becoming a teacher themselves. They mainly taught the younger children.

School holidays were at similar times to those of today but often there was only 2 days at Easter but a week at Whitsun. The summer holidays were of four, 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 and boots. 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.

In 1906 overall control of the school passed to Wiltshire County Council although a local board of managers remained. In 1907 there were 90 children on roll; this had decreased to 52 by 1924.

As with all schools at that time, there were many illnesses that kept children away from their education. A plethora of illnesses attacked youngsters in the early 20th century; chicken pox, scarlet fever, measles, mumps and whooping cough to name just a few. Chilmark School seems to have been affected more than most and was often ordered to close because of the severity of an outbreak. For example, in February 1911, the school was closed for three weeks because of measles and influenza, in September 1911 it was closed for a month because of whooping cough, and in the summer of 1929 it was shut for six weeks because of diphtheria in the village. Snow and rainfall also kept children away from school, especially if they lived on the outlying portions of the parish. Attendance was of course encouraged; Lady Pembroke gave prizes for regular attendance and it hoped that this acted as an incentive.

The rooms and entire school seemed to be cleaned and white washed every summer, especially during the 1920s and 1930s. The boys in the school attended gardening classes and kept a garden in the school grounds; this was highly regarded by all visiting inspectors. Interestingly, we can note that in October 1913 the boys harvested their tobacco plants from the garden. In 1913 the school purchased a piano at a cost of £90.

When World War I broke out in 1914, there was a decline in boys attending the school, as they had been tasked to work in the fields because of a loss of manual labour. On 7 December 1914 Private A. Grangher of the 3rd Battalion Royal Worcestershire Regiment attended the school to tell the children of his time in the army and when he was wounded in the trenches at the Battle of Aisne.
The head master of the time wrote the following in the school log books, including the rather eye raising last sentence: 'He visited the school this afternoon and gave the children a lecture upon the war and his personal experiences. The children were evidently delighted with the lecture.'

The reports from various Inspectors over the years were a little varied.
In December 1920 His Majesty's Inspector wrote: 'The order has been found good on the whole and the lessons have been given methodically and generally with a fair amount of skill, but on investigation the attainments of the children give abundant evidence that the teaching needs to be more effective.'

The Diocesan Inspector of 1925 wrote: 'This school, considered as a whole, is doing good work in religious instruction. The children of the senior group have a very good knowledge of the text. They also know the details of the selected Bible stories and are able to translate the lessons taught into terms of daily life.'

In September 1939, despite the school opening a week later than planned and being prepared to receive them, no evacuees arrived. This seems a little unusual; most rural schools in Wiltshire began taking in evacuees immediately. The school had to wait until 14 June 1944, when 14 evacuees arrived in Chilmark from Rayleigh, in Essex.
By August 1941 only three of these evacuees remained, but 12 more arrived in February 1942 from the east end of London. Three more arrived a month later.

The school was shut for two days in May 1945, to 'celebrate our great victory against the Germans.' When the children returned to the school on May 10 they were given a Victory Tea and played games.

The school celebrated its centenary on 20 July 1960; there was a tea party for the children and then a service at St Margaret's Church.

In 1971 the school at Fonthill Bishop closed and merged with Chilmark to form Chilmark and Fonthill Bishop Primary School. To allow for the extra children, more space was needed. A parcel of land was bought by Wiltshire County Council and the School Hall was built upon it. The playing field at Kent's Hill was given in 1960 by the owners of Manor Farm.

In 2010 the school has 118 pupils in five classes, two for Reception and Key Stage 1 and three in Key Stage 2.

Note: School Still Open - Current Details:

The Street
Telephone No.01722 716348
Fax01722 716348
Age Range4 to 11
District Council Area
Special Facilities AvailableNo
Web Sitewww.chilmarkfonthill.ik.org

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Chilmark & Fonthill Bishop C. of E. Aided Primary
Chilmark & Fonthill Bishop C. of E. Aided PrimaryImage Date: 1981
Image Details: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre
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