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Wiltshire Community History

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Ham - Parochial School, Ham

In 1808 a 'petty' school existed and there was possibly a private school in Ham in 1818.
By 1833, 20 children were taught at a daily school. In 1858, about 35 children were taught by a mistress in a small schoolroom and the school was supported by the rector; this was known as a parochial school and the first schoolmistress was Sophie Whale and then May Pithouse.
By 1871, 24 boys and 37 girls attended the national school. The building had cost £400 to build and the schoolroom measured 29' 11" long by 16' wide and 15' high, with separate outside toilets. A suspended blanket later divided the room into two to accommodate the infants. A new school building with adjoining teacher's house was provided by 1874 on the south west side of the green.

The HMI reports track the progress of the school and in 1887 states that both discipline and instruction need the 'gravest attention', remarking on the control of the children and the organisation. By 1892 the school is 'going on properly' and by 1900 progress has been made and the children are 'attentive.' In 1924 'order is good and the children work happily with their teachers,' but the report also comments on weak arithmetic, faulty composition and more positively, on good singing and reading. The 1944 report mentions that Class 2 has been accommodated in the Village Hall and the extra space has offered an opportunity to develop the self confidence and initiative of the children. Diocese reports are generally good and praise the children for their singing as well.

Subjects taught concentrate on the 3 R's, reading, writing and arithmetic and in 1891 mention long division, annunciation, multiplication of weights and measures as well as 'vulgar fractions,' often called common fractions. The infants were taught figures and letters in a uniform style and there was emphasis placed on mental arithmetic. A drawing exhibition was held in Shalbourne School in the 1890s which Ham School participated in.
Object lessons for infants in 1896 included the following subjects: the elephant, silk, a candle and rain and poetry included 'Minding baby' for the infants ; 'The child and the wind' for standard II, 'Saying and doing' for standard III ; and 'Children in the wood' for standard IV. Object lessons for the higher standards included coal, iron, the four seasons and salt.
In 1901 the recitations for the upper group included 'The charge of the light brigade' and for the lower group 'The children's hour' by Longfellow. By the late 19th and early 20th century the lessons taught were becoming more varied; Geography included the British Isles and History covered the period from 1154-1485.Grammar taught included names as nouns, what is a pronoun, the nature and use of verbs, division of sentences into parts and the use of adjectives. In January 1910 some boys were taught to prune an apple tree and older girls were taught domestic subjects at Shalbourne. By July 1910 the children were taken for a 'long ramble' to identify wild flowers and in 1918 while the older boys were helping with the harvest the younger children were taken blackberrying and paid 3d. per lb. and the total fruit picked was just over 196 lbs so it must have been a good year for blackberries!
By 1944 garden plots were cultivated adjacent to the school and a nearby meadow was used for games. Dancing was introduced by 1944 and in 1946 the children listened to a BBC radio programme about Empire Day.

The first master in 1875 was called William Alexander, and he stayed until his death in 1884. His replacement was Mrs. Isles who stayed until 1887 when she was replaced by Samuel Hodgkiss who also died in 1889. J. Mahony was followed by James Kavanagh in 1891, then Mrs. Louisa Hodgkins until 1896, followed by Miss Gertrude Claridge. By 1897 the school had an assistant which aided efficiency.
In 1899 Kate Agnes Poole began work as mistress and was assisted by Maria Louise Poole until her licence expired; she was then helped by the monitress Ellen Cummings aged 14 who sadly died in 1901. Florence Grist then began as infant teacher and in 1902 Agnes Couling began as an assistant. Miss Kate Poole stayed in post until 1919 and she mentions attending various training courses at Salisbury including one on nature study. Miss Poole was much missed after her death as she had taught a lot of the local children and adults. The next mistress was Marion Gold. More recent teachers include Kathleen May Baker and Mrs. Walter who left in April 1946.
Elsie Kemp was school mistress from 1946 until April 1952 and was then followed by Ian Cready. Miss Groves began in September 1956 and Miss Lilley was long serving, retiring in July 1974. Mrs. Taulbut stayed until 1978 and in that same year Miss Millicent Strange was showered with gifts after having worked with the infants for 27 years. The last teacher was Dorothy Westcott.

There were 33 children on the register when the school opened and these registers were regularly inspected by Henry Woodman. By 1887 the number had increased to 53 children. The average attendance was 45-48 children, dipping to 40 in 1899. A child was admitted in 1900, aged 7, who had never attended school before. In 1906 attendance dropped to 21 as many children were ill with whooping cough or hampered by the snow which prevented them travelling to school. By February 1920 the children had a 100% attendance record and were rewarded with organised games as a treat. By 1924 there were 38 on the roll and by 1944, 32 children attended. This number was swelled by the influx of the Buttermere children after the closure of their school. By March 1949, 13 children had been transferred to Hungerford County School and by 1980 the time of the school closure, there were only 17 children on the register.

The usual school holidays included two weeks at Christmas, a day or two at Easter and a week at Whitsuntide; 5-6 weeks were taken in the summer, sometimes extended if help was needed to gather in the harvest. There is a day's holiday mentioned regularly in early May for the Ham Club, perhaps coinciding with May Day and there were other regular events such as the annual treat at the rectory in September, often after the harvest.
Special holidays were allowed to celebrate local and national events such as the Queen's Jubilee in1887 and 1897, or Hungerford Fair in October 1891 and 1897. It was also a tradition in Ham for children to arrive late on Shrove Tuesday after knocking on doors and singing for pennies so school would start on that day at 9.45am.The King's coronation was celebrated with a tea at Shalbourne on July 3rd in 1902 and later that month Miss Woodman's wedding prompted a half day holiday with a tea party at the school. After the First World War in September 1919 the King awarded a peace week holiday and from then on the Armistice was celebrated annually. Empire Day was also observed on May 24th.

Usual reasons for absence included gathering in the harvest, childhood illnesses such as whooping cough, colds and mumps in 1900, chicken pox in 1901, and sometimes the younger children were allowed to remain at home during the dark winter months to protect their health. In January 1878 a child was kicked by a horse and another child could not attend school as she had no shoes and in 1901 a child fell off a roundabout horse at the local fair. In 1910 a girl was absent after using paraffin on her hair which then caught fire, and was put out by her grandmother but she suffered burns to her head and hands.
Snow was common in the early months of the year, usually in January and February and this made mobility difficult; in January 1915 the head teacher remarks that no children from 'over the hill' or Ham Spray could attend for this reason. In July 1887 the school was closed due to the illness of the school mistress who had measles.
By the early 20th century health provision included the inspection of the children on a regular basis so a doctor, dentist or school nurse would visit. This might result in treatment such as dental work for 24 of the children in the early 1920s; only 5 did not need work, but 11 children were refused the treatment by their parents.

Local festivals and outings were provided, such as a trip to see 'Goldilocks and the three bears' in 1949. Punishments were occasionally required, usually for insolent behaviour or late arrival but there is little mention of these in the school log books.

Equipment provided is often recorded by the teacher, such as slates with columns to help the younger children set out sums correctly. Other items included readers, ink, pen holders and nibs, dictation books and drawing cards for use by all of the different standards. Items to help run the school like coal and faggots for the schoolroom fire and new tools such as tongs, or a new doormat in 1910 were also delivered to the school. All this is recorded and the entry often mentions the supplier, such as 'Arnold's of Leeds' for example, when referring to exercise books.

No log book exists from 1924-1944 and the next entry in February 1943 states that the previous log book was missed from its usual place in the school and to date has not been found. The later log book, beginning in 1944, tells us that repairs were made to the playground and the workmen employed stayed in the school itself in 1946 while the children worked in the village hall; electric wiring was installed at this time for lighting.
In April 1980 a letter was posted by Lady Jameson, Chairman of Managers, on the village notice board from the Secretary of State for Education who had agreed to the closure of Ham School; there were 17 on the roll at that time. The school was gradually dismantled and items given or sent to other schools and the village hall received some of the furniture.
The final assembly was held July 11th 1980 at 2.30 pm and local people, such as school governors, parents and pupils past and present, attended and the service was led by the children.
Four children went to Marlborough comprehensive, and thirteen to Shalbourne Primary School with transport provided. The final entry in the school log book was made by Dorothy B. Westcott on 12th October 1980, who oversaw the closure of the school.
 

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Parochial School, Ham
 
Parochial School, HamImage Date: 2014
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Parochial School, Ham
 
Parochial School, HamImage Date: 2014
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Parochial School, Ham
 
Parochial School, HamImage Date: c,1906
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Parochial School, Ham
 
Parochial School, HamImage Date: c,1906
Image Details: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre
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