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Winterbourne Monkton - National School, Winterbourne Monkton

In 1783 the vicar suggested that poor children from Winterbourne Monkton attend Avebury School. There was no school in existence in Winterbourne Monkton in 1818.

By 1847 a National School was established consisting of a stone schoolroom and a teacher's house. A conveyance exists dating from 1845, signed by F.L. Popham providing land for the school. The school log books held at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre date from 1875 and provide a great deal of information about the day to day running of the school.

In 1854, £360 was invested for the school from the will of William Hitchcock. It was then known as Hitchcock's School for a while. In 1905 the school received £9 per year from this investment. Through the latter part of the 19th century the numbers attending the school rose from 18 in 1871 to 30, sometimes rising to 40, which was the average attendance in 1906. An additional classroom was built in 1907 and from 1922/23 after the closure of the Berwick Bassett School there was an increase in numbers, producing an average of about 45 pupils in the 1930s. In 1948 land close by was leased, possibly for the provision of an exercise space for the school and in 1953 the drainage of the school was improved. The school closed in 1971 and the local children then travelled to Avebury or Broad Hinton.

The original schoolroom dimensions measured 19 feet long by 15 feet wide and the room was 11 feet 6 inches high; there are a number of comments about the rather cramped conditions, particularly from the School Inspectors' reports. The school was enlarged in 1907, providing one classroom measuring 15 feet by just over 19 feet and a second measuring 15 feet by 16 feet. There was also a cloakroom measuring 15 feet by 7 feet and 885 square feet of playground space.

The school became a primary school in 1949 and children over the age of 11 years would then travel to the Marlborough Secondary Modern or Grammar Schools. In 1954 the school was known as Winterbourne Monkton Church of England Controlled School.

An early report by Her Majesty's Inspectors says the children are 'taught with much skill and patience,' but are 'backward in spelling and arithmetic', and that the 'offices (toilets) need to be completed and made more private' and 'more books and apparatus' are needed.

The regular visits of the Reverend Bingham are mentioned and he frequently presided over the routine scripture examinations, as did subsequent vicars.

The 1876 report reduced the grant due to the failure in arithmetic (a school lost 2/8d for a child failing one of three exams from a total award of 8 shillings per child) and remarked that the children were not very intelligent; 'typical of a rural place.' The 1879 Diocese report mentions that more attention should be paid to the catechism.

In the early 1880s the teacher writes of her anxiety at the impending examination by HMI Inspectors and then her relief as the children are treated kindly and perform reasonably; she mentions being 'ashamed' when she has two visiting children who are well ahead in their numbers, being able to deal with hundreds and thousands, when those in her school cannot.

The 1885 report says reading is 'fair' but arithmetic and spelling are below par and discipline is unsteady. By 1896 things have improved; 'This school is nicely taught. The children show interest and some intelligence' and the diocese report says 'the children seem interested in their work.' In 1899 the good report shows continuing improvement but highlights the fact that the accommodation is still too small and suggests that the managers must address this. It also recognises the lack of space for physical education. By the early 1900s the school is regularly receiving good reports and in 1903 the Inspector is astonished that the mistress manages to do so well with no help. A varied range of teaching skills is required, at different levels.

In 1875 simple arithmetic is taught including multiplication and subtraction, then by 1878 long division is mentioned. Classes are given exercise books for dictation and arithmetic, but if there is a shortage, slates are also in use. In 1880 a pupil is mentioned who has made herself two pinafores and another who has sewn flannel petticoats, all necessary skills at the time. 'Money' sums are taught and the equipment used includes copy books, for practising handwriting, foolscap paper, reading cards, coloured card and 'Royal Readers' for Standard III. In 1886, object lessons include subjects such as milk, tea, sugar, chalk, slate, pencil, wood and coal. Songs are learnt, often in a patriotic vein, such as 'Heart of Oak' and repetition is a tool used to improve speech and aid learning. For example in Standard I the children might learn 'The child's first grief' and in Standard II and III 'We are seven.' Older children would learn songs like 'Johnny was a soldier bold' and 'Before all land in east and west.' History and geography were also taught and subjects might include the ancient Britons, the Roman invasion, the gunpowder plot and King Charles in the oak tree.

By 1914 the books being read included 'The Water Babies' and 'David Copperfield' and the lessons were becoming more varied. It would be quite usual to take a nature walk to observe hedgerow plants, for example. Sewing was important for the girls and as well as making clothes they would be taught how to make a pillowcase or other simple household items. Materials like calico would make up part of the school order from Arnold's, the usual school supplier. Books could be exchanged with other schools on a regular basis and the teacher now had an assistant who would concentrate on the infants.

The scripture exam of 1917 mentions the sale of properties in the village as the estate was broken up, causing an unsettled feeling in the school as people moved away. By 1921 a child had obtained a scholarship at Marlborough Grammar School, an indication of improving education for the local children.

In 1932 a 'museum case' was made by the boys, with the help of Mr. Hoddinot, who had previously helped them make two large storage cupboards for the school. In December of that year there was a sale of handmade items and these included garments, raffia mats, baskets, calendars, Christmas trimmings; and after the sale of work at the school the children performed an entertainment for their parents.

Staffing at Winterbourne Monkton School was unsettled for a period in the late 19th century. Miss Emily Spackman stayed from 1879 to 1880 and was followed by Mrs. Susan West until 1885. She lost her job due to 'increasing eccentricity and a ferocity of temper,' and was replaced briefly by Margaret Reynolds. Alice Maud Heap lasted until 1887 and was followed by Charles Bond until 1888, then Mary Carne until the following February followed by Mary Lewis and Margaret Chivers in quick succession. Monitors at this time included Georgina Atkins who followed Rosie Little, and needlework was often taught by the Misses Parsons who also heard the children read. The head teacher in July was seized with paralysis and later died, so as an emergency measure the Vicar and his wife and son took over the running of the school for a short period. Mary Anne Tyzack was the mistress until 1892 and was followed by Mrs. Spackman who gave some stability to the school and stayed until July 1916. Her wages in 1899 were raised by £10 to £65 per year.
Mary Wood took over in 1918 after the previous head, Amy Record, had been injured by a 'flying machine' accident. She remained in post until 1925 and was succeeded by the competent Margaret Escott.
By 1931 the school staff received excellent reports commending their efforts and it is interesting to note that they were then receiving more training, such as a refresher course and in 1935 a lecture, given in Trowbridge on 'mentally retarded children.'

On 15th December 1931 three pictures were presented to the school by Mrs Spackman, 'The light of the world' 'The boyhood of Raleigh' and 'All things bright & beautiful'


In rural areas the weather played a large part in school attendances, often restricting access over flooded roads and lanes. In the 1870s the average attendance was 24 pupils and this rose to between 33 and 39 pupils in the late 1880s. Winter months and the accompanying weather such as the deep snow in March 1891 might even cause the closure of the school. The number on the school register rose from 37 in 1902 to 51 in 1910. In May of 1911 one girl aged 13 years left under the Agricultural Act which was relatively unusual at that time. By 1915 boys could also leave under the War Act in order to support the First World War effort. The school received an influx of pupils in 1923 after the school at Berwick Bassett closed, increasing the number on the register to 60. The children would receive occasional treats from local people, often in the form of entertainment, teas, including cakes or small gifts, such as those received from Mr. And Mrs. Tucker in January 1924. Prizes would also be awarded for good attendance and in 1935 a letter of congratulations was received praising the 96.9% average achieved. Prizes were also awarded for the best local maps produced by the children, showing churches, farms, houses, roads and footpaths and the downs. There was also a prize for the best essay, the subject being 'Jubilee Day.' At the start of the Second World War in 1939 two evacuees joined the school, but only remained for a short time.


Regular holidays were, much as today, at Christmas, Easter, Whitsuntide and in the summer. The annual Harvest Holiday could last up to 5 weeks and the return to school could be delayed if the children were required in the fields or as support at home to their parents because of a late harvest. In September 1881 only 6 children turned up for school at the beginning of the school year but this increased to 30 when the harvest was finally gathered in by the beginning of October. On May 28th each year there was a holiday for the church festival and in May it was usual to celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday on the 24th of the month. The coronation of Edward VII was celebrated in 1902 with one week's holiday from school and again in 1911 for George V. The Avebury Fete was another holiday, as well as the signing of the Peace Treaty after the First World War and royal events such as a royal wedding or the funeral of a monarch, such as that of King George V's in 1936.


Absences occurred for a variety of reasons; in 1875 a boy was needed for ploughing, and other excuses were a 'mother could not get him ready in time' or 'gone to Swindon to visit an aunt' or 'gone to Avebury for medicine for a sick boy' or simply 'wanted at home', 'minding the baby' and 'planting potatoes'. Other valid reasons for absence include illness and one unlucky boy was off for a number of weeks due to a 'face scalding'. The effects of an illness could quickly spread in a small community and in the 1870s the school was fumigated and thoroughly cleaned after an outbreak of fever. Measles occurred in 1880, chicken pox in 1891 and again in 1897 when only 8 children were well enough to attend the school. In 1900 a young girl broke her leg and was off school for over 15 weeks, and there were regular cases of measles (1916), whooping cough (1906 & 1923) and ringworm (1905 and 1909). A child was also run over by a van outside the school and received a crushed arm and a bruised side. The welfare of the children was improving by the end of the First World War; they were regularly being weighed and measured, dental treatment and visits by the school doctor became the norm and any epidemic, such as influenza or ringworm was administered to immediately. In 1919 soap, lotion and ointment was given out by the Medical Officer along with instructions on how to use this medication. By 1921 there were cases of scabies, diphtheria and scarlet fever, all resulting in extreme disinfection of the village school. The teacher was instrumental in obtaining medical attention for the children and looking after their wellbeing. Nature walks were being taken by 1918 ensuring a breath of fresh air but there were still cases of illness such as diphtheria which resulted in the death of a child in 1925. By 1926 there is more mention of children receiving complex medical care such as a surgical operation at Savernake Hospital at Marlborough, for example after a child fell in the playground and fractured his wrist. In 1936 a family was allocated 'Horlicks' free of charge.

Special events might take place for visits and treats. In 1877 there was a half day visit to Berwick Bassett church and in the 1880s the vicar came in to present the certificates followed by tea at the vicarage with presents of toys. In 1891 the Misses Viveash visited and gave each child a bun and an apple as well as a flannel petticoat, cap, scarf or stockings. Sometimes the children were taken out on a visit, as to the circus at Marlborough in 1899 or to a ploughing match in October 1921. The Wiltshire Music Festival was usually attended and there was also a visit to the Wembley Exhibition in 1924 as well as an outing to Bournemouth. In the early 1920s the children heard the sound of a gramophone brought in by the vicar and they heard a message recorded by the King and Queen to the 'children of the Empire.' In 1930 there was a visit to the top of Silbury Hill and Stonehenge and later in the 1930s visits are recorded to Salisbury, Swindon and Coate Water, to Bristol, visiting the city museum, Cabot tower, the zoo and the docks and also to the museum at Avebury.

Discipline was important and punishments were sometimes recorded for truancy, disobedience in class, vandalism and lateness. Some parents could also be difficult and the head teacher was assaulted in 1901 by the mother of two female pupils who was subsequently brought before the local magistrate. In contrast acts of great kindness are also demonstrated, as one family who were extremely poor received food and items of warm clothing from some of the other parents, typical examples of life in a small rural community.
 

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National School, Winterbourne Monkton
 
National School, Winterbourne MonktonImage Date: 2012
Image Details: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre
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National School, Winterbourne Monkton
 
National School, Winterbourne MonktonImage Date: c. 1906
Image Details: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre
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