The Old School from the Logbook 1903 to 1959
The School House
The old school house in Moulton is a handsome flint building with gothic features. It stands on glebe land formerly part of the rectory grounds. The front faces Brookside, the road leading along the river Kennet in that part of the village. The school was built in 1849 and the site enlarged some thirty years later, as the original plot left little space for a children's play area. The Kennett overflowed periodically - as it does today - after heavy rain or even a heavy snowfall (Feb 1957), flooding the road and preventing the children from getting to school.
The schoolroom was heated by a stove, which presented a recurring problem as there are innumerous entries of its smoking. In January 1913 all the inkwells froze, while in July 1923 the temperature in the school reached 85 degrees with all the windows open and the floors sprinkled with water.
By l924 the building must have reached a rather sad state of repair. A general report of the premises stated: '1) the interior needs decorating, 2) the cloakrooms are damp, 3) the playground rough and muddy, 4) the heating barely sufficient, 5) cupboards are needed, also a blackboard, and the long desks without backs for the senior pupils to be replaced.' A new stove was installed in 1930, but complaints about smoke continued. The school moved to a new building in May 1959.
Register - attendance
In July of 1903 when the school was adopted by the County Council, 104 pupils were on the register of which 90 were attending, the harvest having started and some children being needed on the farms. By September when the new school year began the harvest had not been completed, and the attendance dropped to 77. To encourage good attendance the Rev. Josling distributed oranges, with seemingly good effect as the average attendance over the following years remained around 95-97. In 1911, when problems with discipline and poor facilities were reported, the attendance was reduced to 70 and kept dropping to around 50 by 1920. It fell to 40 in 1934 and to38 in 1948 and 1956, but it rose again to 53 in 1958.
In 1904-1905 the syllabus was entered into the logbook as follows: English, History, Geography, Drawing and Nature Study. The study of English was further defined for standard I: to point out verbs and nouns, form easy sentences, recite 'Somebody's Mother'. Standard II: to know all parts of speech and form sentences. Recite 'Which shall it be?'. Standard III: to do simple parsing and analysis. Composition and recitation of 'Prince Arthur and Hubert'. There was no mention of arithmetic or religious instruction, the latter being the subject the pupils were most frequently tested on. Arithmetic books were introduced in 1909.
In 1914 gardening became an official subject under the direction of a visiting instructor, Mr. Creed, and figured very prominently in the school's activities until the 1950s. (According to the former pupil Betty Wright, still resident in the village, her brothers spent much of their time gardening, especially her brother Jack, who often started these outdoor activities straight after assembly).
In 1911 there were problems recorded at the school with discipline, low standards of attainment and unsatisfactory facilities. A school inspection report in 1923 stated that although some improvement had been achieved, general standards were still low and the facilities, e.g. books, inadequate and outmoded. An inspection in the same year by the Rural Deanery awarded 'Excellent in all aspects of RE'. Two years later more improvements were reported and the children stated to be happy. In 1934 the school was directed to give more attention to the teaching of arithmetic, English and to independent work. By 1943 'satisfactory standards' had been attained. Roger Balls was the first boy to be offered a place at the grammar school in Newmarket.
There were outings in July to mark the end of the school year. The first such was recorded in 1931, when the children were taken to the seaside. In 1956 they visited Whipsnade Zoo and in May of the same year the Queen was a visitor at Moulton Paddocks and all the children were taken there to see her.
In 1911 relations between the staff at the school and the incumbent, the Rev. Harry Smith, became rather strained. In December of that year the head, S. Wigington, left without notice, entering the reason in the logbook as 'unable to get on with Rev. Smith'. In 1912 the conditions in general were reported to be unsatisfactory and standards sliding. There was a high turnover of staff. But with the arrival of Rev. Charles Child, MA, in 1917, (whose friends in Cambridge, in a personal letter, referred to his predecessor as a disaster appointment), the atmosphere seemed to improve and the entries in the logbook struck a happier note. An inspection in 1920 found 'the conditions improving'. In 1922 a new head, Mrs. Wynfred Errington, was appointed. She confined the entries into the logbook mainly to visits by the rector for the purpose of religious instruction, to gardening activities supervised by visiting gardener Mr Creed, and the attendance.
The cane did not seem to be used very freely at the school according to the punishment book. Some years show no entries at all and the offending children seldom received more than two strokes (or stripes) on the hand. There were nevertheless a handful of inveterate re-offenders, one being George Bridge, who in 1911 received 4 stripes and his brother Walter some years later also '4 strokes with cane' for disobedience. Their brother Charlie and sister Laura too are on record in the punishment book. The four must have presented somewhat of a challenge to their teachers over the years.
In 1915 another boy, Jack Bell, aged 10, was given '4 strokes across the desk' and Percy Talbot, also 10, received '3 strokes across the desk'. Jack Bell must have misbehaved seriously the following year when he was given 6 strokes with the cane. Such severe punishment was exceptional.
The reasons for resorting to the cane (1 or 2 strokes) were: rudeness, disobedience, being warned, bad behaviour, throwing things, insolence, kicking and punching, playing truant, cheeking, interrupting, shouting out in class (Antony Jennings), swearing (Harry Wright), laziness and carelessness, spitting on someone's book, causing great annoyance to his teacher (Walter Bridge), breaking windows, continual talking, passing off copied work as own.
The children seemed to suffer from the childhood illnesses common of the times. Of these whooping cough and measles occurred most often, reducing the attendance seriously, especially in 1918, when there was a flu and measles epidemic in November. Ringworm was reported in 1904 and again in 1905, a bad year as there was also jaundice and diphtheria about. There were cases of scarlet fever in 1916. In June 1918 pupils were found to be suffering from sores, which was attributed to bad diet, especially bread. November of the same year also brought a flu and measles epidemic. A case of scabies was recorded in 1943.
Doreen Jenning was absent suffering from chorea for five months in 1932. In October 31 l924 John Hammond was injured by a cow's horn. 'He was wheeling a barrowful of cauliflowers when a cow helped herself to one but dropped it. The injury occurred as the boy was retrieving said cauliflower'. How serious the injury was and whether it needed treatment was not recorded.
An inspection of the children in 1920 found that they were 'very clean'. (If this was a reference to head lice, it didn't say). The only inspection of teeth was entered in 1930. The children were immunised against diphtheria in 1942 and polio in 1958. Four tins of malt were supplied in 1924 to Minnie and Kitty Sargent and their health regularly monitored and their diet supplemented with malt.
It may seem surprising that during the four years of the Great War, when 18 men from this relatively small village lost their lives fighting for the country, the school should not be affected in any way. The fact remains that there is not a single reference to the conflict or its effect recorded in the logbook from 1914 -1918.
The Second World War made a more immediate impact. In September of 1939 there was gasmask drill, also fire drill, the pupils having to train to manipulate the hose and pump. A month later eight Barnado boys were enrolled at the school. They stayed until 1944, when they were moved to Newmarket. There were air raids in 1940 and bombs heard being dropped in the vicinity. The routine of the school was interrupted on further occasions, particularly in 1943, when again bombs were dropped in the neighbourhood.
©2000 Marianne Evans.
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