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Wiltshire Community History

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Bower Chalke - The Chase School, Bower Chalke

The tiny Chase School was established by the Earl of Pembroke in 1869 as a dame school to provide a basic education for the children of the labourers living in fifteen isolated cottages at East, Middle and West Chase Farms and Stermal Gate near Handley. Twelve pupils attended the opening of the school, each of whom paid a fee of one penny a week. The first mistress was Mrs. Jane Wilkins, wife of the Bower Chalke Parish Clerk. They lived at Quidham Street, which meant a walk of three miles to school each day. By 1881 her daughter Jane had taken over. She stayed until 1890 when she resigned to start a small orphanage. An advert appeared in the Church Times, offering a salary of £10 a year and an unfurnished cottage.

Both Mrs. Wilkins and her daughter were highly regarded for their dedication. Not only did they face the long walk in all winds and weathers, they were prepared to work without complaint in cramped conditions and with few facilities. In 1885 Lord Pembroke gave a donation of £3 to the school. A further £1. 7s. 7d. was raised from a village event, and this was used to buy books and furniture as well as to carry out urgent repairs.

When Miss Wilkins resigned, the school was without a headmistress for four months; during this time the school was redecorated ready for the new teacher. It is presumed that the Chase children had to walk to the National School in the village. Mrs. Inez Muller was appointed in December 1890 and stayed for two years. Her successor was Miss Clara Patten, who unfortunately had no teaching experience. Rev. Collett had doubts about her suitability, but he was under pressure from Lord Pembroke to appoint a lady who lived at the Chase. She must have settled into the post, as Clara stayed until the school closed in 1897. From this time all children had to attend the National School, even though this meant a journey of over three miles for some of them.
 

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