Heytesbury School History

Heytesbury School History

An elementary school was provided by the state in 1838 and improved in 1848 with a further grant of £156. In 1846 Heytesbury had a Sunday and a day school with 90 boys and 92 girls taught by a master and a mistress. In 1858 there were 50-60 pupils taught by a master, in a room 45 feet by 20 by 12, with a flagged floor and parallel desks. There were also 40-50 infants taught by a mistress in a similar room. The school moved to its present site in 1900 and the old school became the village reading room.

Unfortunately no logbooks from the Victorian period survive in the public domain but we know in general terms what school life would have entailed. By 1880 children were educated up to the age of ten, although they could stay longer. The learning age was raised to eleven in 1893, when children normally started as infants, aged four or five. School fees, one penny or twopence a week, were removed in 1891. The school day was likely to have been from 9.00 to 12.00 noon and from 2.00pm to 4.00pm. Children either brought their lunch and ate it in the schoolroom or went home to eat. The teacher was assisted by paid monitors in their early teens or by a pupil teacher, who was training to become a certified teacher.

Lessons were the elementary ones of reading, writing and arithmetic with scripture; some lessons in the latter subject were often taken by the vicar. The girls learned sewing and all had singing and recitation. Some geography and history would have been taught. School holidays were about a week or 10 days at Christmas and Easter, a week at Whitsun and five weeks Harvest Holiday in the summer. Full day and half day holidays were given for various reasons such as church or chapel teas or Sunday school outings, royal and national occasions and the afternoon after the H.M.I. examinations. Unauthorised absences included seasonal work on the farm and in the garden for the older children and visits to local fairs, military events and other local happenings.

The school was taken over by Wiltshire County Council in the early years of the 20th century.

The Heytesbury logbooks start in 1920. At this time the school was divided into three classes, each with its own room. The older children (aged 9-13) had a room 40 feet by 22. The middle class (ages 5-8) were in a room 18 by 16 and the infants’ room was 25 by 18. There is very little information about the subjects that were taught. A Shakespeare play is mentioned, as is a geography lesson on South Africa.

Discipline was firm; there are several entries recording corporal punishment. The head at this time was a lady, following Mr Ashworth who had been in post for 22 years. She may have believed that firm discipline was a way of showing her authority, particularly with the older children. The school was visited regularly by the vicar, the nurse and the attendance officer. The general health of the children was good. The school closed for three weeks in June 1931 due to a measles outbreak.

In September 1931 Heytesbury became a Junior School and all children over 11 went to school in Warminster. The following April Mrs Marion Beauchamp became the headmistress and stayed until 1943. This would have been a welcome period of stability following four head teachers in the last twelve years. Mrs. Beauchamp started a school garden and obtained a field for PE and games.

Pupil numbers have varied greatly over the years. In 1907 there were 80 children attending the new school built in 1901, which was planned for 157 children. By 1933 numbers had dropped to 38, but they rose again to 56 in 1955.

The school has continued to serve both Heytesbury and Tytherington and in October 2008 there were 63 pupils on the school register; this has risen to 68 in 2014. In recent years Heytesbury Hedgehogs Pre-School has been established in a purpose built classroom in the school grounds and is managed by a committee of parents.