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Mere - National School, Mere

The school, which now houses the library and museum, was built in 1839 and opened in 1840. Being a Church of England school it was sited close to the Church of St. Michael and the vicar was a frequent visitor, often calling in several times a week. By the mid 19th century the children were regularly taken to services in the church and they also received a fair number of half day holidays when the school building was required for other purposes. A more specific holiday occurred on Tuesday 10 March 1863 in honour of the marriage of the Prince of Wales. They boys and girls assembled in their respective schoolrooms and were entertained to a tea that included cakes and oranges. Afterwards they enjoyed playing organised games.

Children were frequently absent when they were needed to help at home, as in July 1863 when they were working at the hay harvest and fruit picking. At other times the whole school was closed when disease was epidemic, as in October 1863, in November and December 1880 when many were suffering from mumps and measles, and for three weeks in November 1881 to try to prevent the spread of scarlet fever. In January 1885 one girl was withdrawn from school on account of a case of smallpox in the family. Disease in animals also affected the school, as when the whole school attended a church service on account of the cattle plague.

The school was expanding in the mid 19th century and a new classroom was added to the north side of the school in 1864. Later in the 1860s the average attendance was around 112 but on occasions school was cancelled because of severe weather, as on Friday 27 January 1865 when there was deep snow.

Besides the usual subjects of reading, writing, arithmetic, Bible studies, drawing, needlework, history, geography and grammar, object lessons were given. These included ones on soap and the cow. In December 1876 an HMI report stated, 'The girls read fairly except the Sixth Standard, spell very fairly except the First and Fourth Standards. Composition in the Sixth Standard fair. Discipline fair. The Infants have been very well taught and have passed very well in their elementary subjects.'

Holidays in the 19th century were, around 2 weeks at Christmas and Easter, a day or two at Whitsun and four weeks harvest holiday in August. A frequent visitor to the school was Miss Julia Chafyn Grove of Zeals House, who was a great benefactor to both Zeals and Mere, and who gave a new stove for heating the school. She provided £2,400 to build the Grove Buildings in 1892, which provided a substantial extension to the school. She also gave land on the opposite side of the road, the site of the Church House, as a playground and site for toilets for the children.

In 1897 the Grove Building was used for both the Infants' School and a Technical School. During the First World War the Grove Building was requisitioned for use as a military convalescent hospital, staffed entirely by volunteers. The amalgamation of the National Church of England School and the British Non-conformist School occurred in 1922 and the church school became the Mere Senior School.
 

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National School, Mere
 
National School, MereImage Date: 2003
Image Details: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham
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National School, Mere
 
National School, MereImage Date: 2003
Image Details: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham
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National School, Mere
 
National School, MereImage Date: c.1907
Image Details: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham
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National School, Mere
 
National School, MereImage Date: c.1907
Image Details: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham
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