Village Life in the School, 1875-1900
Taking over from the redoubtable and late lamented Howard Stringer as village archivist, one of my first tasks has been to complete a transcription of the School Log Book entries for 1875 to 1900. This has been a formidable task, copying nearly 200 pages of copper-plate writing. It is, however, done. I’ve paused at 1900 for rest as much as the convenience provided by the end of the Victorian era, and if anyone would like a copy in Word please do contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be warned, however – it is a hefty document of 272 pages.
Over the next few months I’d like to share with you some of the insights into village life that the log book provides. Schools were obliged to keep log books from 1862, so because Haslingfield was endowed with a school long before that, in the 1830s, it would suggest that the first one has been lost. The 1875 log book marks the beginning of the headship of Micaiah Marshall, and the first entry shows what a family affair Victorian Primary education was – Rebecca Marshall was his sewing mistress, with Emily Mary Marshall as the trainee Pupil Teacher, clearly being the teenage daughter of Micaiah.
The school at this stage consisted of two large rooms, the two that front onto the road and face the church. The larger of the two rooms, still in part used as a classroom, would have housed the Juniors (all of them!), and the smaller room, which is now used for storage, would have accommodated the Infant School. It would have had a gallery, a sort of mini-grandstand, on which the Infants would have sat. Progression through the school was by annual inspection and examination. In 1875 pupils seem to have been tested in reading, writing, arithmetic, geography and ‘special subjects’. In 1900 the list included object lessons, grammar, singing and needlework. The school received its annual grant according to the number of passes in the school, as well as for the previous year’s attendance. This explains the care with which successive heads recorded weekly average attendances, and got so hot under the collar when pupils failed to turn up at school while harvest was still on.
The system inevitably produced some anomalies, as a later entry by an inspector for 19th July 1909 indicates:
“A boy named William Douglas, aged about 13, is now included in the infants’ class. It is very doubtful whether he is capable of gaining any benefit from school attendance, and it is clear that he is quite out of place amongst the Infants”.
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