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Freckenham School

School > Simply click to enlarge... then use the [Back] button to returnIn 1818 the children of Freckenham were taught at three Dame Schools, which had a total of forty-one children between them. Education at Dame Schools could be minimal; they were often run in cottages by old women with little formal education themselves and were, in effect, the contemporary equivalent of child minders. By 1833 there were two daily schools with a total of forty-six pupils, the fees of thirty-four paid for by the vicar. The small flint building, which stands on the edge of the village on the Chippenham Road, now a private house, was built in 1839. It became a national school in 1891. With fifty pupils the schoolroom was overcrowded but the problem was not addressed until 1903 when the school was enlarged. The early rules of the school required pupils to be over the age of four and stipulated short hair. Attendance was possible only via a ticket from a clergyman and a weekly fee of 1d, Sunday School attendance was compulsory. The school day began at eight forty-five and ended at five in summer and four in winter with an hour and three-quarters lunch. Holidays were a week at Christmas and four weeks at harvest, plus the occasional half-holiday to accommodate treats like the 'Freckenham Feast' held annually in May. In 1912 the school became a public elementary school, its catchment area including Red Lodge and Herringswell. Surviving school logbooks make interesting, and often amusing, reading, bringing into focus the world outside the school. Outbreaks of chicken pox, tonsillitis, meningitis, impetigo, diphtheria and scarlet fever jostle with treats and trips, such as the holiday given to enable the children to wave their flags patriotically at Princess Mary when she visited Worlington in 1922. Reminders of more sombre times appear with the arrival of evacuees, troops and blackout curtains. The logbooks also hint at the indomitable spirit of Freckenham children in the face of stultifying lessons: the 1890s saw preoccupation with learning songs by heart, amongst them: 'A Boy's Best Friend is his Mother', 'Father's Return' and 'The Seasons', and so-called 'Object Lessons', in-depth investigations into An Orange, The Clock, An Inkstand, The Dog, etc. Acting as ballast, geography, scripture and long division were also included in the syllabus. Unsurprisingly, the children frequently misbehaved, causing one headmistress despair at ever instilling discipline in her charges. In the log for 1913-1914, Miss Woods writes of the children's irreverence during prayers, untruthfulness, insolent speech, quibbling and copying of each other's work, while the monitors (the mainstays of village schools) were proving less of an example by going about their work 'interspersed with smacking, poking [and] throwing books'. A frequent complaint, and one which distressed and bewildered her, was the loud raucous laughter that would erupt for the slightest thing or for no reason at all. The beleaguered Miss Woods unsuccessfully struggled to maintain discipline for eleven years but, despite the apparent chaos of her classes, the School Inspectors' annual reports were invariably favourableFreckenham School Logbooks 1875-1903, 1903-1923 and 1923-1969,   SROB 2523/1/2/3

One of the last teachers to be appointed was Hilary Anderson in 1966 (see Hilary's Oral History for a description of the school). She helped supervise school lunches, which were brought in from Mildenhall and served in the Village Hall a couple of hundred yards away from the school. The school inspector commented on them in his report in 1963. He noted that the hall was 'a drab and depressing place' where the children ate in silence and with hands on their heads for part of the meal, which was presided over by the headmistress armed with her cane and ruler: 'the cane for the biguns, the ruler for the littleuns' because her motto was always 'be prepared'! She was the last headmistress, in post for twenty-five years and, despite her failings, devoted to the schoolFL515/12/4(v), HMI Report, 12.12.1963 & 7.5.1964, SROB.

 Contributors: Sandie Geddes, Robert Creasy, Hilary Anderson and the late Victor Lister.

 

A Forest Heath District Council (Suffolk) Project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Millennium Festival 2000 Designed by ArtAtac