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Wiltshire Community History

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South Wraxall - Church of England School, South Wraxall

In 1831 a day school was held in one of the village cottages and attended by only 10 children. By 1841 a trust was created for a school in union with the National Society. The new school was started by Reverend Henry Harvey and built at a cost of £179 on land belonging to John Wiltshire. The school was financed with £20 from the National Society and £37.10s. from the Government as well as £99 from church collections. The large schoolroom measured 28 feet by 16 feet 6 inches and the smaller class room (built later) measured 17 feet 6 inches by 14 feet 3inches. The porch was flanked on either side by coat hooks and a toilet existed outside and was accessed from the playground.

In 1858 the Warburton Census of Schools reported, 'At Wraxall 40 to 50 children, mixed, are taught on the old system, by a dame. The condition of this little school is not satisfactory, but there is a deficiency of books and apparatus, and the instruction is of the most rudimentary kind. The floor of the school-room is of stone; the building good, though erected on the type of village schools 20 years ago; an oblong room (say 26 x 16) with wall desks.'

The first teacher was Eliza Collett and later Mrs. Adams, and then Miss Jane Bimary by 1880. By 1898 the Head Teacher was Mrs. E. M. Dovey who stayed at the school until 1929 and was succeeded by Winifred Magram. Assistants included Miss Rudman and Miss Amy Betteridge and later Miss Ethel Scott by 1922. By 1950 there were two teachers to cope with 29 children on the roll and Mrs. Evans remained as teacher until the school's closure in 1972.

During the latter part of the 19th century fees were paid for each child until 1891, one penny or twopence a week, collected by the school teacher. The head teacher was aided by assistant teachers, pupil teachers and monitors. The pupil teachers were usually taught by the head before the start of school and would often go on to become teachers themselves, perhaps going to the Diocesan Training College. Younger monitors were used to help look after the infant children. School holidays were similar to today with less time at Easter but more at Whitsun and summer holidays were often referred to as Harvest Holidays as the children would be expected to help with the harvest by supporting their parents; perhaps taking them food and drink in the fields for example. Other holidays included a half day after any inspections, and days off for school treats and choir outings. Seasonal work in these small agricultural areas also required time off school and bad weather prevented attendance due to lack of suitable clothing or blocked roads. Illnesses were more serious than today and sometimes these epidemics would close the school.

Subjects taught centred around the '3 R's - reading, writing and arithmetic and scripture was taught by the Vicar. Older children would also learn history, geography and natural history. Singing and recitation were considered part of the syllabus.

In 1859 the number of children on the register was between 40 and 50 and the school was described as 'not unsatisfactory.' The average attendance by 1893 was 45 out of 60 on the register rising to 70 by 1894.

Wiltshire County Council took overall management of the school in 1906, although a local board of managers remained. In 1910 the number of children on the school roll was divided into 28 infants and 46 senior schoolchildren making a total of 74 on the roll. The average attendance in 1913 was 44 out of a total of 52 and included, in 1914, a Belgian called Francisse Norbert. By 1931 the numbers had declined as the older children were now attending school in Bradford on Avon. The attendances in the early 1930s were considered excellent and remained at 96% of pupils on the register for some time.

Early HMI Inspectors describe a lack of equipment and the instruction as 'rudimentary.' A 1923 report mentions the 'steady & cheerful manner' of the children and that they 'find difficulty in solving simple problems.' Of 49 children on the register 33 were taught by the head teacher and the remaining 16 infants and Standard I, by the supplementary teacher. In1929, when the long standing head left the school, a good report was written both from HMI and the diocese.
By 1930 the reports highlighted the difficulties in teaching such an age range in a two classroom school with only two teachers. By 1935 the report mentions good progress and says that the children can 'converse freely and readily' about their work; good progress was made in handiwork and history and geography were being realistically taught.
The 1939 report mentions the installation of mains water and recommends decorating. The organisation of the school was competent with 'interesting pattern work being done', music is good and sight reading well above average. Handwriting is also good and 'the atmosphere of the school is very happy and the discipline is good. The children enjoy their school life and respond well to the efforts of the teacher.' The
Diocese report, also of 1939, says 'it is always a pleasure to visit this school.'

As well as the 3 R's and history, geography and nature studies, extra tuition was sometimes given. For example in 1913, eight girls went to Bradford on Avon for a lecture on consumption (tuberculosis) and five of the elder girls to Monkton Farleigh for a domestic science course which lasted one month. Gardening was on offer for the boys in 1913 but was weather dependent. In 1915, three boys and two girls were given instruction on milking and some of the boys were also taught thatching.

Regular testing took place, especially in scripture and by 1930 attempts were made to widen the children's interests with handiwork instruction. Equipment in the school included a new piano given by Lord Fitzmaurice in 1914 and a new teacher's desk and chair in 1934. New dual desks followed with accompanying chairs and new P.E. kit comprised green and red braids, as well as 24 rubber balls. By 1939 powder paints were used as well as india rubbers; cod liver oil was administered to specific pupils and the school received supplies of lint, cotton wool and iodine for the First Aid box. The milk scheme was begun in 1935 and 20 out of the 47 on the school roll were partaking of the scheme.

As well as a week for Whitsun, and five weeks for the summer holidays, there would be a short break at Easter and approximately two weeks at Christmas. Half term breaks are first mentioned in the Log Books in 1925. Special holidays included a treat at South Wraxall Manor in 1913, courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Richardson Cox, and three half day holidays in 1918 for blackberrying.

November 11th 1918 was marked as a half day owing to the end of the First World War and in October 1919 a full weeks' holiday was given for the signing of the peace treaty. Local fairs, like that at Kingsdown in 1919, also prompted a half day and royal weddings such as the Duke of York's in 1923 were celebrated. Elections also closed the school, as it was used for the local polling station, in 1922, 1923, 1924, 1927 and 1929. In 1925 the children visited Rood Ashton House courtesy of the Long family; it was usual to hold a concert and afternoon tea before the end of term break leading up to Christmas.

Absences due to weather conditions occurred in 1914 due to a heavy snowfall, and again in February 1916, while flooding in October 1916 prevented the attendance of children from Chalfield and Cumberwell. The fitting of a new stove in 1925 also closed the school for a half day but was probably much appreciated on the children's return.

Illnesses were prevalent and greatly affected attendance, such as the whooping cough epidemic of 1915, and influenza in 1917. This recurred in 1918 and the school was closed from mid October to mid November. Cases of ringworm were recorded in 1920; whooping cough again in 1921 with a closure from the end of September to early November, and then diphtheria in 1923 affected a local family, resulting in the death of Elsie Pierce in December after her admittance to the Isolation Hospital. The health and well being of the children was monitored by regular visits by the Nurse, Doctor and Dentist and the children were regularly weighed by a large weighing machine that did the rounds, moving from one school to another. More epidemics in the 1930s included measles in 1930, resulting in the school being closed for most of February, diphtheria again in 1931 when six children were taken to the fever hospital and influenza and scarlet fever in 1932.

Special events that the children took part in included the attendance at local choir festivals and the Wiltshire Music Festival as well as the choir outing to Weymouth in July 1914. The King's visit to Trowbridge in 1917 also prompted a trip to see him and other Royal events celebrated included Princess Mary's wedding in 1922 and the Coronation in 1937.

By 1939 and the outbreak of the Second World War the school had to accommodate extra pupils in the form of evacuees from the large industrial cities, usually London. Gas masks were issued and in 1939 the vicar instructed the first gas mask drill, encouraging the children to keep their masks on for 10 minutes. 30 evacuees were admitted making the total on the school roll 57. In 1940 there were regular air raid warnings and the children were frequently cleared from the school building into the air raid shelter.

The school log books for South Wraxall date from 1913-1972 and present a picture of a very happy school. The school closed its doors on July 20th 1972 and the children from South Wraxall now attend Monkton Farleigh School.

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Church of England School, South Wraxall
Church of England School, South WraxallImage Date: 2011
Image Details: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre
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Church of England School, South Wraxall
Church of England School, South WraxallImage Date: 2011
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Church of England School, South Wraxall
Church of England School, South WraxallImage Date: 2011
Image Details: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre
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