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Lydiard Tregoze - Lydiard Park C.ofE. VC Junior and Infants School

In 1835 a report on education received by the House of Commons recorded the following:

'One Daily School, wherein are about 50 children of both sexes, of whom 26 females are paid for by Lord Bolingbroke, who allows a salary of £14 per annum; the rest are instructed at the expense of their parents.'

There was a one and a half storey thatched school and cottage, with the school built as a cross wing to the cottage. Both were vernacular buildings and the school is described as being added on to old Gate Lodge to the Bolingbroke Estate in the early 1800s. It was built with a rounded end to the north east wall, a stone flagged floor, a beamed ceiling and plastered interior walls. It had four Gothic style windows and a fireplace in the centre of the south east wall. The tithe map and schedule show that George Swyer was the occupant in 1841, and probably earlier, and he and his wife Jael were paid £48 a year as master and mistress of the school the money coming from subscriptions and the weekly fee of one penny or twopence. In 1848 Jael died, aged 51 and was succeeded by her daughter, Eliza, who then taught alongside her father.

The school was surveyed for the Warburton census of day schools in March 1858 and the report stated, 'A school-house and dwelling; the former added on to the latter, which was a cottage. The school is a small room (say 15 x 22 [feet]), with a round end, flagged floor, bare walls and no parallel desks. About 30 scholars (mixed) are taught by an elderly man and his daughter. The school is situated on the edge of Lord Bolingbroke's Park.' George Swyer was aged 59. However the unmarried Eliza became pregnant towards the end of 1858 and early in 1859 was replaced as schoolmistress by her sister, Mrs Mary Perry.

On 8th August 1860 Lord Bolingbroke conveyed two roods ( 1/2 acre) of land on the south side of Hook Street; this was part of two fields called Cockroads and Lower Marsh. With the aid of National Society funding and a Treasury grant a school was built and opened in 1866, being known as the National School. The school room had a lean to entrance lobby to the right and a second classroom to the rear of the master's house. Presumably Lydiard Park Cottage School closed at this time although George Swyer remained living in the school house filling the role of various local officials such as tax collector and census enumerator. However it is most likely that the new school opened with a new trained teacher, Eli Grimsley with Mrs Caroline Grimsley as schoolmistress; they are certainly recorded in the Kelly's Directory of Wiltshire for 1867. The same directory reported, 'The National school-house is a neat modern building; the school is supported by landowners and occupiers generally.

Thomas Gleed was the first new pupil registered at the school and a further five followed that year. Numbers rose and in the year 1899 average attendance was 90; in1906/7 this had dropped to 75 and the fall continued with only 30 children at the school in 1930. In 1955, it became a voluntary controlled school and had 17 children in attendance. In October 1964 a meeting was held to discuss the closure of the school and again in February 1965. The school closed in July 1965 when only 23 remained at the school, some of whom were going to secondary school after the summer holidays. The remaining pupils moved to the school at Lydiard Millicent.

We do not hold any log books for this school, although some may still exist, but the following general points probably applied to this school in the latter decades of the 19th century:

Fees were paid for each child until 1891, normally at the rate of one penny (0.4p) or twopence a week and the 'school pence' were collected by the schoolteacher. There would have been a schoolmaster, or schoolmistress, with assistant teachers, pupil teachers and monitors. The pupil teachers were taught by the head before lessons started, took exams, sometimes went to the Diocesan Training College and eventually became teachers themselves. They mainly taught the younger children. Monitors were also paid but tended to be younger and helped to look after the younger children or teach the infants.

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 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. 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.
 

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Lydiard Park C.ofE. VC Junior and Infants School
 
Lydiard Park C.ofE. VC Junior and Infants SchoolImage Date: 1980s
Image Details: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre
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