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Wiltshire Community History

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Longbridge Deverill - Church of England Controlled School, Longbridge De

There was a National School here in the 1840s and a new school was provided in 1851 to accommodate 100 children. Henry Hicks became master in 1852 and remained at the school for 41 years. He seemed innovative in his teaching methods, recorded success and failures of different teaching methods and taught very successfully.

During his tenure the school had a good reputation. In 1858 there were 60 to 70 children in the mixed school and the master had a pupil teacher to assist him. The schoolroom measured 48 feet by 17 feet and the classroom 14 feet by 10 feet, with boarded floors and parellel desks. A report stated that 'Discipline is very good, and the instruction sound and judicious, though elementary.' It was the only school in the area under a master and was therefore attended by some of the older children from the other Deverill villages and Crockerton.

Logbooks start in 1863 and present an interesting picture of the Victorian school. The school was well staffed; apart from Henry Hicks there was an assistant master, Sydney Horlock, an assistant mistress and seamstress, Mrs Susan Dudden, and monitors or pupil teachers. A night school for older children, who worked during the day, ran from October to April and home lessons were given to children from the mixed school. The school day was from 9.00 a.m. to 12 noon and from 1.30 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. The period between 12 noon and 12.45 p.m. was used for coaching children whose attendance at school was irregular. Some mothers were concerned that their children were spending too much time learning multiplication tables and it was reported that one boy walked in his sleep repeating tables. It would appear that the Sunday School was more integrated with the day school than in some villages; the master took both schools and reviewed work from the Sunday School during the week.

The school was heated by coal, coke and wood fires in a stove and 4 fireplaces. These were normally lit in October, sometimes earlier for the infants if it was cold in September, and were discontinued in April or May. From 1863 the vicar provided a Christmas tree for the school and by the 1880s there was a Christmas treat of a tea and the school day ended early. There was a club whereby mothers could pay in so much a week and a man brought out clothes from Warminster every few months that could be bought with money saved. Some parents could not afford the penny (0.4p) a week needed for schooling and in 1865 Mr Hicks sadly recorded that one of the best boys in the school had left because his mother could not afford to pay. Older children were entered for examinations in the Salisbury Prize scheme and in 1865 12 pupils from Longbridge Deverill and 8 from Crockerton took the exams in the school. They did very well and Charles Perry was 1st on the county list of Division One pupils. In 1866 he left to become a pupil teacher at St Martins' School, Salisbury.

The school building often needed minor repairs and redecoration. In January 1864 the older boys were sent to collect stones for the repair of the playground wall, which they later repaired themselves. In 1865 the ceiling was replastered and some windows reglazed while a new chimney pot was needed in 1869. New toilets were provided in 1870, while in 1872 the windows were reglazed with larger panes of green glass, which was a great improvement. Also in 1872 work began to replace the small classroom with a larger one. Part of the roof of the main building had to be demolished during this work, which made teaching difficult but the new classroom was finished by 14th February 1873. The school was cleaned and fires lit by the older girls before school started for the day.

For many years there was great concentration on the elementary subjects of reading, writing and arithmetic while only the older children studied subjects such as history and geography. Children undertook practical lessons, such as land measuring to understand square measure and a lot of time was on memory lessons whereby they memorised passages and lessons at both school and home. Scripture lessons were fairly frequent and children learned the catechism and the collect, sang hymns and practised for reading in church. Many saints' days were celebrated with special lessons on that saint and a church service in the morning. Some lessons were given by the vicar. By the 1880s there were object lessons, when children learned all about just one item, with subjects including a snowdrop, steam, leather, clay, bee keeping, silk worms and a baby. Different ages had different poems to learn, including 'Wreck of the Hesperus', 'The Deserted Village' and 'The Pied Piper of Hamelin'. Girls and boys were taught together and both slates and copybooks were used for writing. The master complained that the poor quality of paper affected the writing of the children.

Attendances were fairly steady with an average of 72 for the day school and 52 for the night school in 1866 compared with 81 day and 31 night school pupils in 1870. By 1887 27 of the 80 pupils were infants under 6 years and by 1893 the school roll was 79 pupils. There was much irregular attendance and sometimes older girls would take employment in the Crockerton Silk Factory for a few weeks. The school consistently received good reports on the teaching offered and the good order that was kept.

Annual holidays were one week or 10 days at Christmas, one week at Easter (Good Friday was treated as a Sunday School), one week at Whitsun and 4 weeks Harvest Holiday in the summer. In 1866 junior classes for the younger children were continued through the summer and Mr Hicks noted. 'School having been held for the children of parents who are glad to be thus rid of them'. Special holidays included half-day holiday on religious festival days, one for the annual meeting of local teachers and in June 1889 the school closed for a day as it was used as a polling station for the first election to the new Wiltshire County Council.

Children were absent from school for many reasons including being kept at home for seasonal work. This included; March, older boys gardening; April/May, potato planting, June, older children off as mothers were at work in the fields; July, bird scaring; August, absences before Harvest Holiday for reaping - ' classes growing smaller by degrees and beautifully less' (Mr Hicks); September, late harvest work, potato picking, acorn gathering; October, potato picking. Children also missed school to see a circus at Warminster, a military review at Warminster and General Tom Thumb (January 1866). Girls might be nursing baby sisters or brothers at home and sometimes children were used to fetch wood from the forest.
Bad weather could affect the number of children at school and wet, cold or frosty weather normally meant a small attendance. One day in January 1865 heavy snow caused an attendance of only 10 and in the following year only 6 came to morning school. Despite deep snow again in 1867 and 1873 the school does not seemed to have closed because of bad weather. There were frequent illness with coughs and colds common. In 1804 it was said that the coughing in school made it difficult for the teacher to be heard. Often when smaller children were sick their parents waited for warmer weather before they were returned to school. More serious illnesses noted were scarletina (1865,1870,1872 and 1873), mumps (1865), scarlet fever - one infant died (1865), measles - one infant died (1870). There was an outbreak of small pox in 1879, mainly at Hill Deverill, in April and May and the school closed for one day while parishioners were inoculated in the schoolroom.

There are various examples of misbehaviour but severe punishments of caning do not seem to have been used too frequently. Other punishments included being kept in after school or kept in at dinnertime. Misbehaviour included telling lies to go skating on the lake, bad behaviour in the street and impertinence to women, sliding on the ice instead of attending in school, stone throwing and fighting out of school. One girl stole a dinner and Mr Hicks commented that her mother was often absent from home while he asked an older sister to escort her brother to school as he frequently played truant.

There were special events at school and the building was sometimes used for evening meetings. Children enjoyed choir suppers at school and magic lantern shows, while football practise took place on Saturdays from 1866. On Ascension Day (25 May) 1865 cricket was played on the downs in the afternoon. From 1867 penny lectures were given by teachers of the night school, evening concerts were held and talks given by travelling lecturers. In 1884 an attached reading room was opened while the school had received a new harmonium in 1867. It arrived on 2nd January amid deep snow.

There are several instances of children from London, Bristol, Trowbridge and other places, being entered at the school for short periods. Their parents may have been working in the area or they could have been staying with local relations. When schooling was finished most boys went to work on the farm while the girls went into service. Quite a few girls went to the silk mill at Crockerton, while others became apprentices or followed their father's trade.

In 1897 the school received new desks that were 10 feet long, so that 5 children could sit at each. Further information will be found under Longbridge Deverill C. E. Controlled Primary School.The school was taken over by Wiltshire County Council around 1907 and in 1930 it became a school for infants and juniors only instead of an elementary (all age school). The older children (11+) went to Secondary School in Warminster. In 1940 a school canteen was opened. Pupil numbers decreased as the village population dropped and by 1955 there were only 35 children. In that year it was noted that there were still no flush toilets at the school and that some of the iron desks of the late 19th century were still in use. The playground was said to be in a bad condition and there was no playing field. Attendances continued to fall during the 1960s, from 35 in 1965 to 29 in 1968. There was a proposal to close Sutton Veny school and transfer the pupils to Longbridge Deverill but this did not happen as the school at Sutton Veny had fairly good premises. At this time there were three classrooms (of 440, 375 and 240 square feet respectively) and a kitchen that served school dinners. It was felt however that the school roll was unlikely to rise above 30 and that the best option was o close the school. After several stormy meetings locally the school was closed at the end of the spring term, 24th March 1970 and the pupils were transferred to Sutton Veny school, where an additional classroom was provided.

School Photos/Plans

Church of England Controlled School, Longbridge Deverill
Church of England Controlled School, Longbridge DeverillImage Date: 1982
Image Details: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham
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Church of England Controlled School, Longbridge Deverill
Church of England Controlled School, Longbridge DeverillImage Date: 1982
Image Details: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham
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