Schools

Early Teaching and Learning

on Tuesday, 19 May 2015. Posted in Schools

Some surprising facts emerged when I compiled a forthcoming talk at the History Centre on early education in Wiltshire. Although most Saxons were illiterate the most educated of all Saxon kings, Alfred (who had many Wiltshire associations), translated Latin books into English and from the latter years of his reign vernacular education for both laymen and clergy greatly increased. Teaching was in English until the Norman Conquest after which only Latin was used until at least 1300. During this time Oxford became a great educational centre in Western Europe but in 1238 there was a migration of students from Oxford to Salisbury and Northampton; Salisbury was an active centre of the liberal arts and theology well into the 14th century and De Vaux College (1262 – 1542) was a university college without a university.

Most educated men were trilingual – in Latin, French and English – but learning was only for the favoured few. Boys started school aged 7 and went to university at 14; children were regarded as imperfect adults and from the age of 7 were treated as adults at work, play, and by the law – as late as 1708 a 7 year old was hanged in King’s Lynn and they could also be married. Nunneries educated their own novices and many also boarded and educated other children, including small boys, in the search for additional income. For some centuries rural education was in the hands of the parish clerk while the priest had occasional gatherings of children in the church porch for religious instruction, while from 1529 boys were to be taught the alphabet, reading, singing or grammar. ABC schools had lay teachers and taught reading and spelling from a horn book or primer to girls as well as boys.

A Model Schoolmistress - Preshute's Finest

on Tuesday, 31 March 2015. Posted in Schools

Preshute Parochial School was founded in 1845 in the Main Street of the village of Manton near Marlborough. It was a small building comprising of one main school room and outside privies.

The school was built to provide all children within the sprawling parish, basic elementary education. This included youngsters from the outlying areas at Preshute Down (way up by the Ridgeway), Rockley and Clatford. Some pupils were as young as four and the trek into school would have been an epic one.

The school at Preshute was governed by a group of school managers. The members of the committee were made up of local gentry, landowners and businessmen. They held meetings to discuss everything from the school building, funds, staff and general day to day running of the establishment. It was this group of managers that decided to appoint a very capable new head teacher in December 1881.

Miss Emma Louisa Thorp accepted the post of head mistress after 59 written applications had been received. The post had been advertised in the ‘Schoolmasters’ publication and Miss Thorp’s application had already caught the eye of the Managers, despite the high volume of other potentials.

She preceded the previous mistress who had been dismissed along with two others before her. Miss Thorp agreed to a wage of £30 a year and a partly furnished house, despite her predecessors being paid £50 annually and having a fully furnished school house. She only agreed to become mistress on the proviso that she be given a pay increase at the end of the year and that her sister, Miss Florence Thorp, be given a position at the school as an assistant teacher. Her wage was to 2/ per week.

These conditions were agreed and the two sisters began very long and interesting careers at Preshute School.

The Lydiard School Mystery

on Monday, 16 February 2015. Posted in Archives, Schools

I was editing some articles on Lydiard Tregoze for Wiltshire Community History(http://history.wiltshire.gov.uk/community/getcom.php?id=147) and after reading a good piece on the school, with interesting material from the log books, it struck me that it didn’t seem quite right. The school was Lydiard Park Junior and Infants but investigation showed that the logs books were for Bassett Down School; had there been two schools in this small parish? Wiltshire & Swindon Archives hold the log books for one, but nothing else, while the original deeds and two admission registers are held for Lydiard Park.

The Victoria County History for Wiltshire mentions Lydiard Park but has nothing to say about Bassett Down, where even the big house was demolished in 1958. Further research showed me that were indeed two schools in this parish for 100 years and this may have been brought about by the two main landowners founding and supporting their own schools. The original Lydiard Park School was attached to the Gate House on Lord Bolingbroke’s Lydiard Park estate and in 1860 he gave land for the building of a new school, a little further away, and continued to support it. In the south of the parish, on the edge of the grounds of Basset Down House a school was built in 1864; perhaps the Storey-Maskelyne family there felt, quite rightly, that their local children would not be able to walk the four miles each way to the Lydiard Park School.

School’s Out for Summer!

on Friday, 13 June 2014. Posted in Archives, Schools

Education records in Wiltshire and Swindon Archives

At this time of year, I can’t help but think of all the children doing exams at school and college, and who are now awaiting results. I thought it might be timely to write about the range of school records held in the Wiltshire and Swindon Archives that shed light on how our ancestors coped with the demands of education. I was also amused to read on an external website that Elvis Presley managed only to get a ‘C’ for music in his exams – it just goes to show that formal education is not the be all and end all!

What I’ll do is run through the main types of educational establishments which have existed in Wiltshire down the centuries, and discuss what records may be found for them, and how they may be used. A quick caveat before I begin - survival of education records is patchy, unfortunately. Also, it is worth remembering they may still be kept by the establishment itself rather than a county record office.

WWI, from the pens of Wiltshire's school teachers

on Tuesday, 27 August 2013. Posted in Schools

Since Victorian times, schools across Wiltshire have kept a weekly or daily account in rather fancy log books. During our week working at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, we had the privilege of looking through a selection of the log books kept in the archives, some more battered than others.


Once we were able to read the copperplate handwriting used in these books, we were able to unlock the secrets of historical schools within these books. Focusing mainly on 1914-1918 (looking for any mention of The Great War) we read about children and teachers almost one hundred years ago.


Of course, there were some immediate differences that we noticed: fires in the classrooms, measuring and weighing at schools and excluding of pupils when there were epidemics of illnesses. However we also noticed some other things that have changed over time: we are no longer sent home for being dirty, nor are we caned but unfortunately, we no longer get granted holidays for blackberry picking, going sliding in icy weather or afternoons off for tea parties.

Victorian School Life: Some things never change!

on Friday, 08 March 2013. Posted in Schools

School today seems so different to the experience of Victorian pupils. Computers, interactive white boards and televisions would certainly seem as foreign to those children as slates and dipping pens would to today’s students. However, a recent trawl through the delightful school log book collection for extracts to show teachers also found some things in common.  All the teachers agreed that whether it was bad weather, uniform, behaviour in class or the challenges of teaching maths and English, parts of school life from 140 years ago seemed very familiar.

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