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Wiltshire Community History

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Dilton Marsh - County School, Dilton Marsh

From around 1828 children were being taught in a loft above a carpenter's workshop at Stormore. This loft was also used for Baptist meetings and in 1839 a chapel was built and teaching also took place here. In 1845 the school was funded by subscriptions from individuals and businesses and also by collections at Penknap and Westbury Leigh Baptist chapels. The children also paid a penny (0.4p) a week for their schooling. In 1858 there were between 40 and 50 children in the old carpenter's shop and this had increased to 60 by 1859. A recruitment campaign for the school resulted in an increase to 90 pupils by 1860 and as the ceiling was only 9 feet high and the school could only accommodate 60 in comfort, it was felt that a new school was needed. In 1864 the Committee of the Council on Education of the British Society awarded the school a grant of £15.11.0d (£15.55p) but warned that there would be no further grants unless improvements were made, including proper toilet facilities for the children.

A committee for the building of a new school was set up by October 1864 and the school was built in 1865/6. The children were moved into the new school in July 1866 and on 13th November 1867 a tea meeting was attended by 200 people, who celebrated the completion of the new school and the clearing of the debt it had entailed. The school proved so popular that in 1884 it was enlarged to accommodate 133 children, and was also used for other activities, such as a Christmas dinner and tea for the old people of Marsh in 1877. By 1889 the attendance averaged 116 children and in 1891 the school was so full that it could no longer take children aged under three years.

In 1895 the school was extended when adjacent cottages were knocked down and the infants' room enlarged. A new playground was provided for the boys, so that there was one each for boys and girls, and new toilets were built. The work was carried out by Mr. Hopkins of Dilton Marsh and the total cost was £131.15.0d (£131.75p). In 1900 the headmistress, Miss Margaret McNiven, retired; she had been head for over 29 years. A piano fund was started in 1901 but the school did not get a piano until 1930. In 1903 hot cocoa was provided for the smaller children and later a successful Cocoa Club, with the children paying for their drinks and profits being used for school activities, was formed. In 1904 a football was bought, which led to the increased attendance of older boys.

During the 19th and early 20th century the school was elementary (all age) and children basically learned the '3 Rs' of reading, writing and arithmetic, with other lessons in history, geography, singing and religious knowledge. By 1900 the subjects were recitation, arithmetic, grammar, drill, music, geography, history, religious instruction and needlework for the older children. They also received object lessons on specific items, such as water, an oak tree, salt and a spider's web. The infants learned the basic subjects, along with songs and poems, and also had object lessons on such subjects as buttercups, a doll's house interior, and a tree. From 1911 gardening was introduced as an evening class, and this was followed by classes for English, geography and arithmetic. In 1921 physical education was introduced, and new equipment was bought for this, while in 1923 cookery classes were given to the older girls in the Memorial Hall.

School holidays were about one week at Christmas, one week at Easter and five or six weeks in the summer. There were special holidays, including a whole week for the celebration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in June 1897. In 1899 the children asked for, and received, a half holiday on 14th February so that 'they might have time to eat their pancakes', while in 1900 they successfully requested a half day holiday to celebrate the relief of Mafeking on 24th May. In June 1902 the school closed for every afternoon in one week to celebrate peace in South Africa, while on 21st June 1909 a half holiday was given so that the children could see the Prince and Princess of Wales pass through Westbury on their way to Longleat.

Absences from school were often the result of seasonal activities for parents or farmers. These included bird scaring (March), gathering dandelions (May), pea picking and harvesting (July), blackberrying and potato gathering (September), and acorn gathering and acting as beaters for Mr. Laverton's pheasant shoots (October). Children also missed school to collect firewood after gales and some went to Frome market on Wednesdays while Westbury Sheep Fair in September also caused low attendance at school. Attendances were also affected by bad weather, especially heavy snowfalls, cold weather and heavy rain. Apart from the usual colds and coughs children suffered from chicken pox, whooping cough, measles (the school was closed for a week in 1897 because of an epidemic) and scarletina.

For most of this time the children were taught by a mistress assisted by pupil teachers, whom she taught outside school hours, and who took exams and courses to qualify as school teachers. Management of the school was becoming more onerous and in 1906 the school was taken over by Wiltshire County Council on 31 January and was known as the County School from 1 April that year.


Dilton Marsh County School

By 1910 there was accommodation for 102 older children and 54 infants and the children also received their first medical examination. The school dentist first visited in 1917 and the school optician in 1918. During the First World War the children collected horse chestnuts and acorns (for explosives), and blackberries, collected money and eggs and took part in fund raising events. On 1 August 1919 Peace cups were presented to all children. The first school visit, to Farleigh Castle, is recorded in 1921 while in 1928 there is the first mention of the Area Sports at Trowbridge, when a half day holiday was given. In 1930 the older children, aged 11 plus, were transferred to the Senior School in Leigh Road, Westbury and the County School became a mixed and infants' school. Electric light was installed in 1931 and a radio provided in 1934. In 1938 there was a re-organisation and the County School became the Infants' School for Dilton Marsh, while the Church School became the Junior School. Further information can be found under County Infants' School, Dilton Marsh.
 

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County School, Dilton Marsh
 
County School, Dilton MarshImage Date: c.1906
Image Details: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham
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County School, Dilton Marsh
 
County School, Dilton MarshImage Date: c.1906
Image Details: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham
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