Ogbourne St Andrew Parish History Group

        Ogbourne St Andrew, Maisey & Rockley
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The story of the schools in the parish offer a fascinating insight into recent history.  There were a series of schools in St Andrew and one in Rockley.  Ogbourne St Andrew parish lost its last school in 1971 but there exists a rich seam of history in the events leading to its closure.  References to “dame schools” in England can be found from the 16th century onward. These were small, private schools run by working class women, often in their own homes. The schools had a poor reputation, with pupils often unable even to read and were seen as a cheap form of daycare.  It is surprising that, in the mid 19thC, there were two schools of equal size in St Andrew, one Church of England and one "dissenting" (i.e. Baptist).

There is evidence that St Andrew in 1842 had three “childrens’ houses” (now Keeper’s Cottage, Kelmscott and Southview) with Ann Lanfear probably acting as “manager” and possibly “dame” from her house (now Bramley).  By the mid 19th C attempts were being made to improve schooling and one such scheme was the “National Schools” founded by the “National Society for Promoting Religious Education”. These provided elementary education, in accordance with the teaching of the Church of England, to the children of the poor.

In 1858 in Ogbourne St Andrew there was a National School in a thatched cottage (probably on the site of the existing building). A House of Commons report dated 7th Feb 1859 reported that the National School “had 20 to 30 scholars, mixed and who are taught by a mistress, in a sufficiently commodious room, cleared out in a low thatched cottage, with irregular boarded floor and a few loose desks.  The children pay a penny a week. The vicar is exerting himself to place this school on a more satisfactory footing”.  It went on to say “In the dissenting school they pay 2d.  There are 30 to 40 children who are taught by an elderly woman, in a neat red-brick school-room forming part of “Zion Chapel” (the Baptist Chapel behind Crowlynch).
The Education Act 1870 provided for the establishment of board schools to supplement those of the societies, and this was the death knell for National Schools, many of which were closed or handed over to the school boards. Following the 1870 Education Act, the vicar (Rev. G.K.Weston) successfully raised local support, creating a new school.  On the 2nd. April,1872 Michael Foster Ward (a prosperous local land owner) conveyed to the Vicar & Churchwardens a cottage, outbuildings and garden. The deed permitted buildings “thereon erected ……..to be for ever hereafter appropriated and used as and for a School for the education of Children and Adults or children only of the labouring, manufacturing and other poorer classes in the Parish of Ogboume St. Andrew aforesaid and for no other purpose.”
A managing committee was set up to oversee the running of the school and “A Committee of Four Ladies was set up to "assist in the visitation and management of girls and infants". Any dispute or complaint about "any teacher from the School on account of his or her defective or unsound instruction of the children in religion" was to be referred to the Bishop.
The form of application states "a dilapidated building has hitherto been lent and this is now pulled down and will be superseded by the new school".  Fees were to be “1d weekly from each child”. There was no income beyond annual subscriptions.
The estimated cost of the undertaking was:
Site                                                                  £100
Schoolrooms                                                    175
Teacher's residence                                        175
Fittings,fencing,&c.                                           75
Law expenses.                                                     5
Architects expenses.                                        10
Total                                                               £540.
Set against fund raising:
Local fundraising                                            £346.19.9
Grant from Committee of Council                137.  0. 0
Grant from Diocesan Board                             24.10. 0  
Grant from National Society                            33.  0. 0
Total                                                                £541.  9. 9
Note how much was raised by donations from with the Parish, approximately £1 per head, a considerable sum in those days.
The new School opened on Feb. 29th., 1876 with 60 children. Boys: 13; Girls: 18; Infants: 29
William Fish, Certificated Teacher of the Third Class, under Article 59 of the New Code, 1871, entered upon his duties at this date.
Selected highlights from the school log:
March 9th           Snow – "attendance very small"
George Heath      left to work on the land, aged 11 years.
Harvest Holidays: 11th. August to 18th.September, i.e. 5‑6 weeks.
Fine October; but potato harvest reduced attendance ; roll 54
November 10th.  the fire lit.
Poor attenders named as Catherine Smith, Frederick Pile Eliza Blanchard.
Frequent visits by the Vicar to certify the registers and give religious instruction
Attendance 39‑59 ;
October 21           was very wet.
August 9th           Treat in Savernake Forest;
November 16th        Heavy snow and potato picking reduced attendance to 39
1883 {Perhaps the saddest entry}
Average attendance was 48.5.
April 18th;        children dismissed this morning by medical advice during of the illness of my little daughter Emma" {the headmistress's daughter}
April 30th.         The school has been closed since the 18th. My child died April 19 of diphtheria
May 10th .         Cold, snowy morning, many infants absent.

January 7th.       Severe weather with much snow reduced attendance to an average 35.6
February, 17th. Mary Scott died, aged 7. "one of the most intelligent and satisfactory children".
June, 21st.         Queen Victoria's Jubilee, dinner, tea and sports.
July 8                  heat reduced attendance".

March 9th          two boys who lived at Four Mile Clump. returned after 11 months absence, but school closed on two following days by deep snow,
{there were two isolated cottages at Four Mill Clump where thirty years or so later a murder occurred}           
                              still snowing on the 20th

92 on role, probably the maximum; average. Attendance: 82.2.
8 children from Rockley, "backward"
May 20th.      Rockley girls "exceptionally dull and backward".

58 on role ‑ 10 left with Michaelmas farm changes; following year 16 left in October, leaving 44 on the role.
1903 – 06
Population of the parish, 414; no. on school roll, 66 rising to 78 in Sept. 1905 and 86 in April, 1906, boys and girls 49. infants 37 attendance generally near those figures.
During the early part of the 20th Century there were frequent changes in the teachers:
Perhaps the shortest was Miss Gower , appointed Sept. 10th to succeed Miss Long, but who left on Sept. 13th . "does not wish to continue as an elementary teacher and also is of no use to the school."

1914 -18
There was no mention of the Great War in the Log Book though we read that "Evening School closed on March,27th 1918, and in 1917 there were "day and evening gardens"

Measles closed the school from 25th . February to April 4th, by order of the Medical Officer of Health
On pp 143‑145 are reports of both the Diocesan Inspector Mr. Sutherland, and the HMI. The first comments on the reverence of the children, their neat and accurate written work showing that exceptional care had been taken with that part of the work. The HMI's report praises creditable progress, the keen interest of the teachers in natural objects and the admirable relationship existing between the headmistress and her class. All very gratifying.

A less happy picture is presented;
February 16th           two cases of scarlet fever were reported as they closed for half‑term. Returning on the 20th , 32 children out of 54 were present. The Head was told to close until March 5th., but it remained closed until after April 9th when only 23 children. returned, whooping cough having also broken out.

11th Sept.                 four children. admitted making roll 47 ;
                                   in addition there were seven "refugees" {presumably evacuees from the cities}.

May 8 th                  "VE" Day Holiday today and tomorrow.

Miss Shirley Platt started as headmistress.

May 28th                Letter from Mr. Bradley (Wiltshire County Council) setting out reasons for closure.   In July closure deferred

April 8th.                 informed of proposed closure, precipitated by impending retirement of Miss Weir, Asst. teacher. This was opposed by parents "on account of the known good qualities of the school and teachers". But the site (0.12 acres.) was too small and numbers then had fallen to about 20.
July 28th                closure notice issued; opposition letter to Secretary of State sent 18.9.70.

April 7th                Shirley Platt leanes school, succeeded by Mr. O'Brien who was last headmaste
May 19th               closure approved but no date, so school. reopened 7.9.71 with 15 children. The last to be admitted was Lynda Dawn Cummings of "Clovelly" Church Lane, No. 1339 on Admission register.
September 9th    Mr. Dunn (Vicar) wrote urging haste; on 17.9.71 formal notice of closure for 15.6.71 was issued. 13 children. to go to Ogbourne St George.
Last log book entry, "School closed finally at noon today. Electricity and telephone disconnected, all furniture and equipment removed. Keys nominally in charge of Mrs. Margesson, Manager, but held by Caretaker, Mrs. Mason. To be returned to County Education Office by Rev.Dunn, Chairman of Managers, when school completely cleaned and ready".

September 23rd      letter from Diocese offering school to Parochial Church Council or Parish Council.  This was apparently turned down on the basis that “the village had no need of it”(!)
October 10th           letter from Mr.Bradley to Managers.  The School has now closed and the Managing Body ceases to exist, concluding with thanks to the Managers.

Shirley Platt then stepped in and bought the school, operating a very successful pre-school playgroup until eventually closing it in 2002.
January 2021
copyright Ogbourne St Andrew History Group 2021
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