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Wiltshire Community History

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Great Cheverell - The Holy Trinity C. of E. V. A. School, Great Chev

James Townsend, who died in 1730, left a cottage to anyone willing to teach six poor children living in Great Cheverell. Anyone taking the post would also received the rent from one acre of land in Marston, and be allowed to take 100 willow or ash faggots for firewood a year from trees Townsend had planted on Great Cheverell Common. A schoolteacher was found and the school continued into the 19th century although it lapsed for some years late in the 18th century. The schoolhouse was repaired in 1783 when three charity children were sent there and the rector paid for another 20 children to be taught. In 1802 the rights to firewood for the teacher were exchanged for an acre of land in the marsh. By 1808 60 children, in addition to the charity children, were being taught. In 1818 34 children were attending the school and the teacher's income from the two acres of land was £3.10.0d (£3.50) a year. The school was in a cottage adjoining the western end of The Bell. It was let as a house in 1834 and the parish clerk was teaching reading, writing and the catechism to 40 boys and girls whose parents paid small fees, as well as the six charity children. The rector also helped with the upkeep of the school.

In 1844 the rector, R. M. Atkinson, conveyed a small area of glebe land for a school site. A school was built with the aid of a £50 grant and the income from Townsend's charity used to help run the school. The school was united with the National Society and managed by the rector and the archdeacon of Wiltshire. In 1858 the school was said to consist of two fair schoolrooms, one floored with brick, the other with wooden boards. The second room was only used for the day school, not for the Sunday school. There were between 50 and 60 children, who were taught by a former pupil teacher from Devizes. Instruction was said to be very rudimentary but the discipline was fair. A school board was formed in the village in 1876 and the school was let to the board. The rector continued as school manager of the board.

The school logbooks exist from 1877 and paint an interesting picture of the school in the last quarter of the 19th century. During the 1880s the school seems to have been very noisy, probably because there was only one schoolmistress, and often no other help with six classes of different ages. There seems to have been more frequent use of the cane than in many village schools at this period. In 1877 the schoolroom measured 36 feet by 18 feet and the classroom 14 feet by 14 feet. Both were 13 feet high. The school was heated by coal fires and there was a coal house attached to the school. In early December 1877 the teacher had to speak to the rector as no coal had been provided and they had not been able to light any fires. There are reports of minor building problems, such as damaged roof tiles causing rainwater to leak into the schoolroom (February 1881); the bell rope was broken and the bell could not be rung at start and close of school (June 1881); a new school clock was installed on 10 November 1882; while in 1885 both floorboards and ventilators were repaired. With reference to the clock an inspector noted that Great Cheverell time was behind Devizes time.

The school had a succession of teachers in these early years and only one stayed for any length of time. In 1877/8 the schoolmistress found the smokey conditions in her house intolerable and, although some repairs were made she left in May 1878. She was succeeded by Rosabella James, who was assisted by a monitress, but she fell sick in September and a temporary teacher, Helen Warner, ran the school until December. In January 1879 J. W. James took over with his sister, Lydia, teaching needlework to the girls until January 1881. He found the children very backward at first and continued with them until April 1881.

Mary Thrift then became teacher and she too found the infants very backward and the other standards poor. In November her sister, Agnes, was appointed to help her, at the salary of five shillings (25p) a week. In the mid 1880s there was no one to help in the teaching of five standards and a class of infants - 'no child in the school fit to help.' In 1888 it was reported that a second adult teacher was needed to comply with the regulations but no one was appointed. Mary Thrift fell ill at the end of January 1889, the school was closed until 12 February and temporary teachers were used until 3 April. When Mary Thrift returned the temporary teacher was still there and after some dispute both eventually left.

Caroline Fulett took over in April. She also found the children very backward and the discipline very bad, although the children seemed obedient. She soon handed in her resignation and left in August. The children were then taught for a few years by Emily Gee, who had a monitress, May Price, appointed to help her with the infants at two shillings (10p) a week from July 1890. By 1895 Mrs H. Durnford was the teacher and by 1899, Gertrude Young. Teaching was supplemented by the rector giving scripture lessons up to three times a week.

A good idea of conditions at the school can be obtained from the annual H.M.I reports. In 1878 the order was fair but the children very backward and several older children failed tests. More books were needed and the state of the closets (toilets) was very unsatisfactory. In 1879 the children were said to be at a great disadvantage because of the changes in teachers during the past year; reading and spelling were fair but arithmetic only moderate and the infants were backward. Things had improved by 1880 when the order was good and there was a very considerable improvement in arithmetic. The rest of the elementary (reading, writing and arithmetic) subjects were fairly good but geography was a failure. Better instruction for the infants was needed. For the next few years the reports are fairly good although the infants were very backward in their writing in 1881 and in 1883 it was said that the method of discipline was inclined to be noisy. The school was in good order in 1884 and 1885 but in 1887 there had been much sickness in the school and this lowered the children's attainments. Real improvement seems to have been effected by 1889, 'good order and much improved under a new teacher but the children's intelligence needs to be developed.' In 1891 the school was orderly and making good progress in elementary subjects. There was a very fair knowledge of grammar and the singing and needlework were good. The infants were making fair progress but needed a proper course of object lessons and some pictures for their classroom walls. The number of staff was insufficient for the payment of a grant.

Parents paid one-penny (0.4p) a week to send their children to school. This was slightly increased in July 1886 when raised to two pence (0.8p) for the first child in a family but left at a penny each for brothers and sisters. In 1890 an average attendance of 43 in a week brought in five shillings and four pence (27p) in school pence collected by the schoolteacher. School became free in 1891. School hours were 9.00 a.m. to 12.00 noon and 2.00 p.m. to 4.00 p.m. Some children brought their lunch to school while others went home. In 1883 the school clerk, Mr. Lush, gave a sovereign (£1) for good attendance prizes. In May 1884 eight boys and twelve girls received a shilling (5p) each for their good records. In October 1885 prizes of 2/6d (12 1/2 p) were awarded to two children and two shillings (10p) to another eight. In 1888 prizes of 1/6d to 3/6d (7 1/2 p to 17 1/2 p) were awarded.

Up to the late 1870s numbers of children attending school were low and many children only came occasionally. However by early 1879 the average attendance was 60+, although this had dropped to around 50 in 1880. In 1881 and 1882 there were weekly variations from 54 to 71 but later in the decade only just over 40 children were present at any time. The average for 1889 was 42 but this had increased to 70 in 1895 and was at 74 in 1899.

There were many reasons why children did not go to school. There was much seasonal work for older children including, pea and bean planting in February, potato planting in April, haymaking in June, fruit picking in July, harvest work in early August, and potato lifting in September, October and November. Devizes fair in April and the Great Cheverell feast and fair on 1st and 2nd July were the cause of much absence and eventually a holiday was given for the latter. In January the squire distributed free coal and often children stayed at home to get this stored away.

The weather affected attendance and severe or stormy weather often cut down numbers, especially in poorer families where children did not have suitable clothes or footwear for bad weather. There was very severe or stormy weather in January 1880 and 1881, October 1882 when the school closed, January 1887 and November 1887. Snow sometimes caused the school to close as it did in March 1888 when there was much snow and hard frosts for most of the month.
Illness caused much absence, although in the 1870s and 1880s it is mainly recorded as bad colds and coughs. There was an outbreak of scarlet fever in October 1886 and some children were sick for many weeks. The first record for measles and chicken pox is in January 1890 but these must have been common before then.

The annual holidays were; Christmas, two weeks but one only from 1883 for several years; Easter, originally only Good Friday and Easter Monday but one week from 1884; Whitsun, one week; summer, the Harvest Holidays of six weeks, although there was only four in 1881 and five in 1883. There were also special holidays. The school always closed for Accession Day (22 May) and, from 1880, for the first week in July for the village feast. Also from 1880 August Bank Holiday was given. There were regular local events such as, a treat at Erlestoke Park in August or September, the school board Christmas treat and tea at the rectory. Time off was given for the Golden Jubilee in June 1887 and there is a comment that the children were rather lively after it. In April 1885 a half-day holiday was given for the children to visit a circus in Devizes. In 1884 G. Watson Taylor of Erlestoke Park paid for admission of all children to a special Entertainment.

The elementary subjects were the '3R's' - reading, writing and arithmetic. These included dictation, repetition, grammar, spelling, poetry, composition and using copybooks. In arithmetic there were, sums, tables, adding amounts of money, compound addition, long division, weights and measures, and decimals from 1884. Geography was taught, but drawing was not introduced until 1881 and history until about 1890. Singing was popular with children learning new songs, such as 'The Months' and 'Merry Christmas' in 1878. A lot of time was taken up with sewing, with the infants also working at this. Older girls did marking, cutting out, making pleats and buttonholes, over seaming, darning and making clothes. Knitting was introduced in 1884.
The schoolteacher received educational supplies via the school manager and board. These included slates and slate pencils, paper, ink, pens, blotting paper, exercise books and needlework materials. Books included Royal Readers, Gill's Geographies and Grammar (which were found to be too advanced for the school in 1878), a wall map of Europe, geographies of Europe and arithmetic test cards.

There seems to have been a fair amount of misbehaviour, much noise in the school and a lot of indiscipline. The cane was used a fair amount; in December 1881 Mary Thrift asked the school board for a cane for children under seven years and one for children over 7 years, to be used on the hand. Other punishments were, being sent home, kept in after school, standing up for lessons (this was stopped in February 1886), and repeating lessons. In May 1884 one boy appeared to be drunk in school and it was found that a boy had been sharing out his mother's home-made wine. In September 1887 the village cider making led to misbehaviour by some boys who sampled it, while older children were found smoking and chewing tobacco.

In 1903 the school board relinquished control of the school and it was returned to the vicar under the auspices of Wiltshire County Council. Alterations were made to the school in 1904, increasing the size of the classroom to 20 feet 7 inches by 14 feet 7 inches and reducing the schoolroom to 35 feet 4 inches by 14 feet 1 inch. Accommodation was 36 and 62 children respectively. In 1906 the average attendance was 74 while in 1914 it was 51 children when, because of new standards, there was only space for 30 infants and 49 older children. Attendance declined until the late 1920s when numbers rose and there were 53 children in 1938. Attendance dropped after the Second World War and there were only 35 children in 1955, when children spent their final year at West Lavington School, where the boys could try for scholarships to Dauntseys. Two trusts were set up in 1958 and 1970 to provide additional income for the school. A temporary wooden classroom had been built behind the school in 1969 and in 1973 there were 51 children taught by three teachers.

A new school was built on land at Townsend at the southern edge of the village for children from Great and Little Cheverell, Erlestoke and Coulston. It opened on 22nd April 1980 and the official opening was on 13th June 1980, by the Bishop of Salisbury. The school has since been extended and children from many local villages attend. In 2004 there are 125 pupils at the school. The old school is now a nursery school.
 

Note: School Still Open - Current Details:

Address
Townsend
Great Cheverell
Devizes
SN10 5TL
Wilts
  
Telephone No.01380 813796
Fax01380 813796
Age Range4 to 11
District Council Area
NurseryNo
ResidentialNo
Special Facilities AvailableNo
Web Sitewww.holy-trinity.co.uk

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The Holy Trinity C. of E. V. A. School, Great Cheverell
 
The Holy Trinity C. of E. V. A. School, Great CheverellImage Date: 2004
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The Holy Trinity C. of E. V. A. School, Great Cheverell
 
The Holy Trinity C. of E. V. A. School, Great CheverellImage Date: 2004
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The Holy Trinity C. of E. V. A. School, Great Cheverell
 
The Holy Trinity C. of E. V. A. School, Great CheverellImage Date: 2004
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The Holy Trinity C. of E. V. A. School, Great Cheverell
 
The Holy Trinity C. of E. V. A. School, Great CheverellImage Date: 2004
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The Holy Trinity C. of E. V. A. School, Great Cheverell
 
The Holy Trinity C. of E. V. A. School, Great CheverellImage Date: 2004
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The Holy Trinity C. of E. V. A. School, Great Cheverell
 
The Holy Trinity C. of E. V. A. School, Great CheverellImage Date: 2004
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