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Wiltshire Community History

Schools Introduction

General Development of Schools

Many communities had schools in the 18th and 19th centuries that have left few records. These may have been dame schools, ones conducted by a local clergyman, Sunday Schools or charity schools, although in some cases there will be good records for many of the latter two types. Many towns had a long established grammar school, which provided an education for the sons of local tradesmen. Most girls in the 18th and early 19th centuries would havegained what little education they received at home.

Two societies were responsible for much of the elementary education during the 19th century. The British and Foreign Schools Society was so named in 1814, having been founded by two Quakers in 1808. This society was non-conformist and provided non-denominational teaching, and in 1811 the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) formed the National Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church throughout England and Wales for Anglicans. This society took over 230 schools formerly run by the SPCK. The two societies competed to build schools, especially in the manufacturing towns. They are commonly referred to as British Schools and National Schools.

The emergence of a large middle class in the 19th century also created a demand for better private schools and a substantial number of both day and boarding schools were set up. These catered for both boys and girls, though in single sex establishments.

The Education Act of 1870 paved the way for state run schools by providing for the election of school boards, with the power to build and manage schools where provision by the two voluntary societies was inadequate. This provoked a response, particularly from the Anglicans, to build, or re-build, schools. In 1902 the responsibility for providing elementary, secondary and technical education passed to 330 Local Education Authorities (LEAs) where it remains to this day.

Even when parents were required to send their children to school many did not or kept them at home for seasonal work such as harvesting. This can be clearly seen by comparing the number of 'scholars' listed in the 19th century censuses for a community and the local school attendance registers and log books. Parents had to pay a small amount each week for a child's schooling and fees were not abolished until 1891/2 although from 1876 poor children had been paid for by the school boards.

The age at which children could leave school was;

  • 1880 Children educated up to the age of 10
  • 1893 Leaving age raised to 11
  • 1899 Leaving age raised to 12, except for those employed in agriculture, who could leave at 11
  • 1918 Leaving age raised to 14
  • 1947 Leaving age raised to 15
  • 1965 Leaving age raised to 16

Community History Pages

These pages contain historical information on both current and closed schools in each community. Where possible photographs and an early plan of the school have been included. It has not been possible to list every school for each community as some early schools, particularly dame schools, have left very few, if any, records. Sunday Schools have not been included although these are sometimes mentioned under the history of their church or chapel. For some schools we have been able to research the Victorian school log books and have provided a description of life in that school in the second half of the 19th century in the brief history of the school. Pages for current schools have a link to the school’s own web site, which contains up to date information on the school.

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