1804 – 1990
This short history of Bathampton School was written at the time of the remodelling of the school in 1990. It was presented to all pupils at the school, governors, staff and members of the wider community.
In 1804, Mary Willton, a pupil at Bathampton School with great care and fine thread, and over many hours, embroidered a picture of a lady in a garden, representing `Simplicity’. Fragments of this beautiful work exist as the earliest tangible evidence of a school at Bathampton.
The first existing logbook begins in 1863. We know that the school building was then near but not on the existing site. All the children were taught together. Their lessons consisted of Reading, Dictation, Arithmetic and Bible Classes. In the Bible Classes they were also expected to learn the Ten Commandments and Catechism. Examiners found that the Arithmetic and Spelling were weak. As payment to the school was by result in the tests, children were on occasions kept in until eight o’clock at night in order to improve the standard of work. The children at school are reported as being inattentive and noisy on occasions.
“January 8th 1863. A very fair school. My sister assisted me again. I examined the 1st Class in Reading, Arithmetic and Dictation. I found them backward in Arithmetic and Spelling.”
This may have been because there was much to distract them in a rapidly changing world. Queen Victoria was on the throne. Barges drawn by horses still used the canal, stage coaches, carriages and carts rattled over the canal bridge to The George, and steam trains regularly trundled past on their way to and from London. Children who were not at school could gather primroses to decorate the Church for Easter.
Within a few years new Reading books were printed and were bought to help the children learn to read. As school was not compulsory, attendance was a problem and also children were often late and had to make up the time later in the day. Childhood illness was a worry, as children in those days would often die from contracting illnesses like Measles. When the children did well in the tests in 1864, they were rewarded with gingerbread or sweetmeats.
“March 2nd 1864. We had two sets of new reading books today viz: 8 books for Standard III and 13 for Standard II.”
“June 1st 1864. Mrs Sheppard came in just before the school was dismissed; she looked at the Dictation books belonging to the 1st Class, and heard the children sing. She was very pleased, and sent for some sweetmeats, which were distributed among them.”
In the wider world the children would have possibly heard that David Livingstone was exploring Africa. News may have reached school in letters delivered by the Penny Post. Those who travelled to the sea might have seen for the first time ships without sails powered by steam engines. In the houses in the village for the first time some people would have been able to get water from a tap whereas most would still be using well water and cooking on an open fire or range. A few homes might have had piped gas.
In 1869 besides the Teacher there was also a monitor. The monitor would be taught by the teacher and she would then teach some of the children. Although much of the children’s work was still done on slates using a slate pencil, they were beginning sometimes to copy work into copy books using pen and ink. We imagine the long rows of galleried desks with tip up seats and the china inkwells with pens with steel nibs. Some children in 1869 found it impossible to write in their books without making blots. The 45 children would have all walked to school and on a very wet day in that year they were allowed to stay at school at dinner time.
By 1870 children would have been able to read `Alice in Wonderland’ and `Alice through the Looking Glass’. They may also have heard stories of the crossing of North America by the first railway. This was the time of The Empire.
In 1871 the Infants moved to a separate room. Payment to the school was still by results in tests and attendance. In the days before the test, the attendance always improved as parents obviously wanted to keep their school. The day before the examiners arrived, school was closed for a good spring clean. Perhaps they did well because for half a day in that year they had an annual treat. Young ladies from Bathampton Manor helped in the school very probably with teaching the girls needlework. It is almost certain that there would have been some tears when for the first time all the children were vaccinated against Smallpox, which was in those days a killer disease. During the 1870’s children still walked to school but in fashionable Bath they could have seen people riding the new invention, the Penny Farthing Bicycle or even later the Safety Bicycle.
In 1876 the attendance register was so spoilt by spilt ink that a new register had to be started and, although in this year the telephone had been invented, it was to be many years before one was installed in the school.
“September 8th 1876. On Wednesday afternoon Alice Gardner spilt ink over the 1st class girls’ Register for which I was obliged to buy a new one and copy the nine months’ attendance into it.”
Although children no longer suffered from Smallpox, Measles was a big worry.
In 1877 the school was closed for a month due to a Measles epidemic and in the village two children died from contracting the disease.
Bathampton was still a farming community and half day holidays were given to attend Agricultural Shows. Maybe the children went with their parents by train or, more likely still by horse and carriage, as cars and buses were yet to appear on our roads.
From the very beginning of school records, heating in cold weather had been a problem but there must have been much joy when two new stoves were installed in 1878. The expansion of Queen Victoria’s Empire meant that Geography became a fashionable subject, and in 1878 for the first time, children could see on maps what their world looked like. A Harmonium was delivered to the school in 1878, so obviously music lessons were also held. The log book of this time records the names of the songs being taught.
In 1879 the school was examined and it was thought that more time should be given to mental arithmetic, as the children were using their fingers too much to work out the answers.
“March 28th 1879. Have increased the time for Mental Arith: before each Arithmetic Lesson, as the majority of the children use their fingers too much in the working of their sums.”
Education was changing fast but children were still absent for long periods when they were needed, for example, in the hayfields. 4
In 1876 education became compulsory. However, in 1882 the School was closed due to severe flooding in the village. In this same year Object Lessons were introduced. As many facts as possible were taught about certain objects. We know that the children in Bathampton learnt about Common Things, Natural History, Physiology, Physical Appearances, Form and Colour.
The children also were reading many more different books and cookery was taught in the evenings.
“Nov. 5th 1886. List of Object Lessons to be given to the infants during the year commencing November 1st 1886.
In 1883, the only record of a child being caned appears in the Log Book and this was for bullying. The invention of electricity in 1878, made possible in 1884, a Magic Lantern Show which the Vicar gave for the children in the evening, somewhere in the village.
By 1884 there were 64 children at the school. The subjects had expanded but the log book records that the Object Lessons could `burden the memory of young children’. In the next year, by paying one penny a month, children could borrow a library book. In far away America the first skyscraper had appeared on the skyline of New York.
During all these years the children had continued to work on slates, only using paper or copybooks occasionally. The Object Lessons had expanded.
It was felt that the children’s work on paper was nearly equal to their slate work.
The children performed in a Concert in 1889 and for the first time could wash their hands in a basin. The boys learnt English and Geography whilst the girls learnt English and Needlework. For the first time History could be learnt through new books and the sound of Poetry being learnt by heart would have drifted out of the open windows.
In 1890 a new gallery was built and the children had new desks, the first recorded remodelling exactly one hundred years before this major remodelling in 1990. Until now the children had spent much time writing, the small amount of drawing was rubbed off the slates, but in 1891 for the first time, children could keep their drawings as they were now done in drawing books. The well water at the school was declared unfit and piped water was installed. Children still helped their families, and fourteen children were absent for a time picking up potatoes. The rural nature of the school is illustrated by the fact that strong winds blew some elm trees down on to the roof of the school and it had to be closed.
In 1893 the first log book ends. The next log book is missing and so there are no written records until the next log book starts in 1923.
During this period the new school was built in typically Victorian style with its main galleried classroom, its two smaller classrooms and the outside toilet block. The school bell would have summoned children to school. At playtime the boys and girls played in separate playgrounds divided by a high wall.
The thirty years gap in the written history of the school saw vast changes in the world. Queen Victoria died. The normal working man’s wage in 1889 was £1 a week, but many men were called to fight in the Boer War, after which the Boy Scouts were founded. Cars were appearing on the roads and women had the vote. X-rays were discovered and the Radio was invented. Local Education Authorities were looking after schools and the payment to schools by results ceased. As the Twentieth Century opened and passed through its first decade, aeroplanes began to appear in the skies. Children left school at 14. The First World War, 1914 to 1918, came and went.
The next log book starts in 1923 with 42 children. In that year, nearly 25 years after it was built, the School House was repaired and decorated. The school itself was difficult to keep warm. Gas was installed, presumably for lighting, and the School Dentist examined children’s teeth for the first time. It is recorded in the log book that the Headteacher, who retired in 1922, had been in charge of the school for forty years. Some things had moved from the old school to the new, including the Harmonium, but this was now out of order in 1923.
23rd July 1924. Report by H.M.I. Mr T Johnson. “The present Headmistress came in April 1922, succeeding a Headmaster who had been in charge of the school for over forty years.” “The school has many praiseworthy features. The children are orderly and industrious and their attainments in Elementary subjects, taken as a whole, are very creditable!”
Transport was a problem but some teachers overcame this by coming by train, the station being just below the school. Children were occasionally taken out of school to see interesting events; one in particular was a diver working in the river at Bathford.
Co-operation between the local schools was evident, with children from Bathampton attending Batheaston for Woodwork.
In 1925 the Headteacher was knocked down by a pupil and that same year the school was broken into and the Infants’ room caught fire. However, a good event for the school was the delivery of a new piano. It was packed in straw. In this rural village a foot and mouth epidemic was raging and for this reason the straw had to be burnt in the playground. The use of cameras and the invention of flashlight photography led to the first flashlight photographs of a Christmas Play at Bathampton, although ordinary photographs had been taken in 1885.
“Nov. 27th 1925. The piano arrived today and as it is packed in straw the straw is to be burnt in the playground, as this is a restricted area owing to foot and mouth disease.”
By 1926 it had been realised that exercise was important for health and children did drill in the playground. We do not know if the General Strike affected the children at Bathampton, but they might have heard about it on one of the early wireless sets. Leslie Crook swallowed sixpence in school and had to have an X-ray in hospital. With the station so close it was inevitable that the children who saw the trains pulling into and leaving the station daily, should use the train to go for a journey. Their excitement must have been evident, for the train took them to Weston-Super-Mare. Successive Headteachers had reported problems with the heating and, in 1926 during Assembly, the ancient stove cracked and the children were sent home.
A new illness is noted in 1927 and this was a `flu epidemic, which caused nearly 50 children to be absent. Until now the music in the school would largely depend on the musical abilities of the teachers. In 1927 the children could, for the first time, hear music from records on the new gramophone and, fifty years after its invention, the telephone was, for the first time, installed in the school. In the outside world the first talking picture films replaced the silent films. It is recorded that one thousand children died of diphtheria.
The next few years saw National Savings in school encouraging thrift, and the introduction of Walt Disney’s talking cartoons. For a time in the 1920’s and 30’s the school became just Junior aged children. Of course, the teachers are all-important to the success of a school and, with the rate of change and introduction of new ideas; the first In-Service Training is recorded in 1931. The very set timetable, which was still adhered to, was found to be very rigid and a little more flexibility was introduced. In 1931 measles again ravaged the community with 31 cases reported. The school ventured further afield for its annual outing by going by train to Barry in South Wales. The children of these years would have been used to seeing cars on the road and an increasing number of aeroplanes in the sky. People passing the school would have noticed geraniums in the windows. In 1932, after 35 years, the school was redecorated.
Drill had now been superseded by Rhythmic Exercises and Folk Dancing. A great event in 1934 was the removal of the gallery in one room and the old desks. The children then had new desks and chairs. They also sat examinations for entry to Secondary Schools. Until then children had gone home to dinner, but in 1935 they could bring their dinner to be warmed in school. King George V Jubilee saw a tree planted by the Hall in the village. In May a boy kicked a wooden block from under the piano. The piano toppled over, breaking flower pots and a desk. Severe weather conditions had affected the school at various times over the years, but tremendously heavy rain on June 25th caused such bad flooding that waist deep water in the village meant children did not leave school until half past five.
“May 31st 1935. A pupil came into school before he was told to do so, kicked against a wooden block under the Piano, and knocked it over, breaking all the flower vases etc on the top, also crashing into a desk and breaking it. I reported the affair to Col. C.W. Barlowe, mentioning that for a very long time, at intervals, I had sent to the village carpenter asking him to put on a castor, but with no result.”
The year that the old King George died was the first time the Wireless or Radio was used in school. The year was 1936.
In the following year, 1937, the final gallery was removed and new furniture bought for the school. Children stayed at Bathampton until they were 14. Life in school became more fun with Maypole Dancing, a Fancy Dress Competition. However, the fun was shortlived. The Second World War had begun.
The children in Bathampton would have been issued with gasmasks and food was rationed. The school received 48 evacuees who were put into two classes and taught separately from the rest of the children. They were not merged with Bathampton children for a year. School continued during the war years but the bombing of Bath and Bristol must have meant that many children were terrified at the sound of planes overhead. Because many men were away at war, children from school helped with lifting potatoes in the fields, just as their predecessors had done 50 years before. Because of the air-raids on Bath, many people were homeless and the school was used as an emergency feeding centre. Children arrived at school one day in 1942 to be sent home as a stray unexploded bomb was lying near the school.
Besides feeding air raid victims, the school also became a clothing centre, collecting and distributing clothes to those made homeless by the bombing.
“Aug. 31st 1939. School closed for reception of school children evacuated from London.”
“Sept. 3rd. Outbreak of hostilities with Germany.”
“Sept. 13th. Evacuees admitted number 27 from Bow, Sneed Rd School and 21 from East Ham.”
During the war years, children would have heard of the invention of Rockets, the Jet engine and the Atom Bomb.
In 1944 the new Education Act changed for ever education in this country. Children now stayed at school until they were 15 years old. During this year, and in spite of the war, the new canteen was built at the back of the school.
VE Day was celebrated throughout the land in 1945 with two days’ holiday. In the post war time the children were now entered in various musical festivals and energies could now once again be devoted to extending the educational provision. Diphtheria, the dreaded disease, was being prevented by inoculation. Children would have been able to visit cinemas in Bath to see films now that the blackout had ended.
In the 1940’s children were writing with pencils or pens and ink, although Biros had been invented. The winter days would have been lightened in 1948 as for the first time, and 70 years after its invention, electricity was installed in the school. Children heard that new Comprehensive Secondary Schools were being built.
In 1951 a new Headteacher, Mrs Kendall, was appointed to replace Mrs Oakey. She was to remain Headteacher for 21 years. In that year screens were bought to divide the two classes taught in the large room and possibly some children and their parents may have visited the Festival of Britain in London.
A new illness, Polio, caused great concern in 1952, the year that Elizabeth II became Queen. Everest had been conquered, and Rock Music could be heard on the radio. By this time General Assistants were being appointed in schools to assist teachers. The Educational Psychologist appeared in school for the first time. Dinner Ladies looked after children at lunch times.
The increase in numbers in the post war years meant that extra accommodation was needed, and in 1956, 60 years after the school opened, a Pratten hut appeared in the playground. The children gave a concert for the 60th Anniversary in the grounds of Bathampton Manor. At last the open fire in the Infants’ room, which warmed the room in winter, was replaced by a stove. With the increase of traffic on the roads, Road Safety was taught for the first time and Mass X-ray for TB was being offered. More and more families had television sets but they were quite a luxury.
“May 30th 1956. Messrs Pratten have begun to erect the School’s new classroom in the Headmistress’s garden and on railway property, which has been leased.”
By 1957, the first School TV programmes were being shown and the Russian Sputnik satellite rocketed into space to open the Space Age. In the same year hot water was available to children for washing their hands but, in spite of this, Dysentery was a problem. Rhythmic Exercises and Folk Dancing had been replaced by PE and the use of apparatus and floor work on individual mats.
At the end of the 1950’s children were listening to schools’ programmes on the new VHF Radio and a Tape Recorder was used. The school was redecorated and the playground resurfaced. With 135 children in school, conditions were cramped. Many children were absent with Scarlet Fever and Mumps.
In 1960 the children, for the first time, used King Edward’s Playing Field for games, and music making was extended by the purchase of instruments, but it is doubtful whether the children would have been allowed to play the new Beatles’ tunes on these. They did participate successfully in many music festivals including The Mid-Somerset Festival.
By 1961 the first man had gone into space, but in school the main difficulty was storage of sandwich boxes for those bringing sandwiches for lunch for the first time. The drains blocked continuously. The following year electric sockets were installed and a Projector could show slides and filmstrips.
1963 was a very severe winter. The school was closed for some time as it had been in 1947.
The village was shocked in 1963 by a dreadful fire at Harbutts and school started late, as fire engines blocked the village street. In this same year a small hut appeared, later to become the Head’s office. Also, in this year it was hoped that the school would at last be warm in winter, as Central Heating was installed in the old school and the Pratten Classrooms. The children using these classrooms with new furniture and low windows, must have been delighted with the change in their classroom areas.
Children were disturbed by trains stopping at Bathampton Station for the last time in 1964 as it closed, and the road beside the school became a quiet lane.
Children washing their hands could use paper towels for the first time in 1965 and, although the old piano was still in working order, a new piano was delivered, together with new furniture. For the first time Staff Meetings were held. Everyone was becoming more aware of strategies for safety and a Fire Alarm was installed. Metric measures were introduced in Maths lessons.
In 1967 it was agreed to provide a second Pratten Classroom, and by 1968 the class had moved in and the old classroom had become the office and library. The support of the parents was very evident in their fund raising and assistance for the new swimming pool, which was opened for use in 1969. In this same year the teachers needed to be trained in the new decimal coinage and man first stepped onto the surface of the moon.
The school subjects were expanding in the 1970’s. French was being taught, and so many children had bicycles that Cycling Proficiency Classes were started. Children could make music on the new glockenspiels and xylophones.
By 1972 calculators were in use in America and Computers were in use in the business world.
In 1972 the school expanded for the last time, when the new Elliot caravan classroom was positioned on the old station master’s garden and with it came new furniture. There were changing rooms for the swimming pool. Many teachers had taught at the school and many children had walked through the door and sat at desks. Mrs Kendall, Head for 21 years, retired.
Her place was taken by Mr T. Collier. The school leaving age was raised to 16, although Bathampton had long since become a Primary School, with the children leaving at 11. During the next seven years the highest number of children was 161 in 5 classes. Netball and Football teams flourished. Children continued to be well taught in Reading, Writing, Maths and Projects appeared to replace Geography, History and Nature. The new Avon Authority took charge of the school, and in 1976 for the first time, detailed talks on Modernisation and remodelling began.
Until 1972 the School House had been occupied by the various Headteachers but it was then let to other occupants. Towards the end of the 70’s the numbers were rapidly dropping and teachers took early retirement, or moved elsewhere.
In 1979 Mr Collier moved to another Headship and Miss Grayson took over as Headteacher.
The school had 5 classes and 126 pupils at this time. The Alpha/Beta Maths Scheme was in use and various Reading Schemes including Janet and John and Reading 360. Swimming instruction was carried out for one day a week in the school pool, and two evenings were organised for recreational swimming. In 1979, for the first time since it was built, the largest room became a Hall without a resident class. New dining tables of a folding type were provided. Many children now came by car to school.
The Australia Day celebrations to commemorate Admiral Arthur Phillip, held every year in Church, enabled the children to have a direct link with Australia. Meanwhile, the Netball and Football teams, plus Recorder groups continued to flourish. Education was moving on. Children now sat in groups and there was less formal whole class teaching. Several subjects were undertaken at the same time and this became known as the Integrated Day. Science became part of the child’s day and visits out to places of interest in connection with topics were enjoyed.
As the 1980’s open discussions were held about remodelling the school, and in the following year a double doorway was made between Class 1 classroom and the library. The Library had become solely a library. In 1981 a whole week was devoted to Police Liaison activities to give the children greater understanding of police work. As the number nationally dropped in schools, the roll dropped to 84 and the Elliot classroom was closed, as only three classes were in operation. Although children’s health had improved, the school was hit by the `flu epidemic in 1982 and 50% of the school were absent. Also, in 1982 the first direct meetings relating to remodelling the school were held.
In 1983 the use of computers was discussed – 16 years after they were put into use for administration in the LEA offices. Computers were purchased in the following year, 1983. During all these years the Summer Concert was held every year and the Autumn Fayre raised money for School Funds. From 1979 onwards parents visited the school on Parents’ Evenings and discussed the children’s work with the teachers.
By 1985 the school again had 4 classes and was redecorated throughout. Jolyon Laycock as part of a school Arts Festival composed, rehearsed and finally conducted a performance of the musical `Bladud’. During this year also a Cluster of Schools gathered for Area Sports. This year saw the election of the first Parent Governors.
A Book Festival in 1986 brought authors to the school, notably Dick King Smith. This was followed by a Craft Festival in 1987. Various craft experts demonstrated their crafts and the children enjoyed participating. 1987 was also the year in which the Juniors went on a visit to York, which had been won by a pupil. They visited the Railway Museum, walked round the city walls and visited the Viking Museum. During this year the first Governors’ Open Meeting was held. The Festival in 1988 was a Science Festival. The celebrations for the Bicentennial of the founding of Australia saw a whole school project on Australia and the whole concert being a performance of `Bicentennial, a History of Australia’. In 1988 Baker (In-Service) days were introduced. In 1988 also, Local Management of Schools became a reality.
A live issue in 1988 was still the proposed remodelling. The Education Reform Act was aimed to make sure that children were being educated for the 21st Century.
At last, in January 1989, it was learnt that the remodelling was to go ahead and by March the office had been emptied. The Headteacher had at this time to prepare an Institutional Development Plan for the first time. On May 30th 1989 the remodelling started with the demolition of the kitchen, changing rooms, boiler house and shelter. By the middle of June, within the remodelling compound, the footings appeared for the two storey extension, which then grew apace over the next six months. A `flu epidemic hit the school in late 1989. Only 26 children out of 95 were not affected.
The new National Curriculum had started for five year olds in Maths, English and Science. Over the Christmas holidays 1989/90, the school was moved into the new extension and the School House and the Victorian building closed for refurbishment. The Elliot classroom was moved. Finally, in the middle of April, the Victorian building was re-opened and the playground remade after the removal of the Pratten Huts and toilet block. The school well was discovered at the bottom end of the toilet block. A staff car park had been constructed at the bottom of the site.
On June 11th 1990 the official re-opening of the remodelled premises took place. Children in 1990 still at school, learned to read and write and do Mathematics. They worked with pencil and pen on paper and in books. There are no more dull exercises. They wrote in a variety of ways for a purpose. Children in 1990 used a wide range of books and other resources including TV, Video, Film strips, slides and photocopied documents. Children at Bathampton School in 1990 used the Computer and Printer; they did a considerable amount of Science and Technology. They designed and made things for a purpose. They devised and conducted experiments and evaluated them afterwards. They tried a variety of crafts including Needlework and Lacemaking. Their sports included Netball, Unihoc, Short Tennis and Badminton. Country Dancing also took place. There were flourishing Recorder Groups and an Orchestra.
The homes of the children contained many luxury and labour saving devices. There were TV sets and Videos, records and tape decks and portable transistor radios. Washing machines, tumble driers, dishwasher and vacuum cleaners made life easier for their parents. Electric or gas cookers, microwave ovens, food processors, `fridges, freezers, toasters, electric kettles etc. all made food preparation easy. Central Heating kept the home warm and an electric iron was used for ironing clothes. Most homes would have electric blankets to warm cold beds. Digital clocks and watches helped with telling the time, whilst calculators and computers were in use. Children had electronic games and played on skateboards and bicycles. Most households had at least one car and some had two. The majority of mothers had part-time jobs. High speed trains passed the school on the main railway line. Pleasure barges used the Kennet and Avon Canal. Jet Aeroplanes and Hot Air Balloons could be seen in the sky. The first space telescope had just been launched.
The School building had a computerised heating system, sophisticated alarm system and photo-electric cell lighting. The latest materials were incorporated into the structure.
Bathampton School is moving towards the 21st Century.
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