Monday, December 12, 2011

The Three R's

School logbooks are a valuable source of local knowledge, providing a snap shot of a locality and even the name of a young ancestor - especially if they were naughty!

Built in 1841 on land provided by Rev. Henry Streeten, 'adjacent to the Butts' the school in Lydiard Millicent opened in 1842.

The logbooks held at the Wiltshire and Swindon Archives date from 1870 and the appointment of Miss Hannah Shore.

Despite all efforts to get them into school, hard-pressed rural families often kept children at home. Boys were put to work on local farms during busy times and education versus a few coins towards the family income was always a hard fought battle. Hannah Shore writes on June 30, 1871 - 'Many of the children away on account of the haymaking.'

From 1880 education became compulsory for children up to the age of 10, yet in 1891 schoolmaster Francis Drew was to write in the Lydiard Millicent school logbook - 'Lucy Leonard who has been absent 158 times during the past 9 months, having been kept at home as her parents state to nurse the baby.'

The Lydiard Millicent catchment area was a large one and the children from the outlying village of Shaw had a long walk. During the harsh winter of 1880/1 Drew writes that the roads were completely blocked by snow and that some children only managed to get to school 'owing to the kindness of Mr. Hayward.' (Henry Rudge Hayward, Rector of All Saints' Church).

The Lydiard Millicent logbook includes a record of what was taught in the various standards and sometimes a comment on the progress of individual children. After tests in 1883 Drew writes - 'The backward children in this standard are: Letitia Love, Hester Greenaway, Phoebe Embling, Mary Beasant, John Carter and Charles Greenaway. The names of persistent truants and cheeky children pepper the pages - June 17th 1881 - 'Severely caned John Titcombe for using bad language.'

Along with entries about the Children's Treat, a picnic provided by local landowner Captain Sadler, and half-day holidays, are the more distressing events of Victorian village life. An outbreak of Scarlatina in August 1881 saw 20 children sick and Drew writes - 'One of the children has died with the Scarlet Fever and as the number of cases is increasing the school is closed under medical authority.'

While new teaching appointments are noted, children joining the school are recorded, with perhaps a hint of professional one-upmanship. March 29th 1886 - 'Admitted 3 children from Hook School viz Florence Guest, Benjamin Stoneham & Ernest Tuck who know nothing of Geography or Grammar.'

So if your ancestor was less than a model pupil, or failed to turn up at all, you might just find them in a school logbook.

Blunsdon National School 1898 - photograph courtesy of the Richard Radway Collection for more from this archive visit

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