The Schools in Kingsclere

Extract from Kingsclere, Place and People by Margarte Ingram, published in 1987


The old boys school which stood where the Health centre Car Park is today, was probably started in 1542 when John Norman left £10 for ten years to teach and in 1618 James Lancaster, in his will, left £20 yearly for the master of the Free School. Before this time no teaching was allowed other than that of the Church of England and all scholars had to conform to church discipline. In 1768 Joan Mills sold her cottage and garden adjoining North Litten to the church wardens.

The school had a thatched roof in the 18th Century. It was rebuilt in 1820 with a schoolhouse and the "ruinous free school" was again rebuilt in 1861 to hold 96 pupils. An additional classroom was added in 1873 to accommodate 50 children and a further classroom in 1911 when the scholars were given eight weeks holiday instead of six in the summer to get the classroom completed before the school term began.

The school stood in Lyddon Meadow and a rent of 10/- was paid by Mr Milson for a piece of Lyddon enclosed by him.

In 1867 the authorities were thinking of having the examination date transferred from July to October, but in view of the number of children who were away from school helping on the farms, it was decided to leave it in July.

Richard Chance was head teacher for a short time in 1832. At the census of 1841 Samuel Brewer was here. By 1869 Albert Drury was head teacher and Charles Stevens from 1885 to 1932 and Dr Bull's father taught here from 1907 to 1937. In the time of Charles II the curate of the Parish was appointed master by the vicar.

The girls' school began in a building loaned by the Misses Holding, who were largely responsible for the beginning of the National School. In 1859 the vicar, Rev. R Nelson Barnes, sent out letters asking for subscriptions to build a school which was expected to cost £1,100. The Misses Holding subscribed £100 for the building plus £5 to each school. Although the girls' school was built for 88, the average attendance in 1899 was 58. In 1914 it was enlarged to accommodate an additional 90 girls. It was during this times that H Knight (Headley), H Philliss, ? Baggs (Wolverton) and G Holdrup laid the floor and put a message in a rum bottle with their names "while we're fighting these blasted Germans". The bottle was found while the floor was being repaired in 1982. Billy Verney had the bottle but the message hangs in Kingsclere Primary School. While two schools were separate, the infant was mixed and formed part of the boys' school complex. The class held 44 in 1871 but 30 years later there were 1bout 80 children in infants who were taught by female teachers with the Headmaster visiting once a day.

Girls at the National School were taught reading, sewing, marking and knitting. No child was corrected without the consent of the Visitor or the Committee. The children had to attend church twice on Sundays and were taught the Church Catechism and were to be instructed only in such books as were used in the parent school.

In 1924 the schools were reorganised, boys and girls were no longer taught in separate schools. The under elevens went to the school at the bottom of North Street, while the over elevens attended the school at the top of North Street

With free education it was suggested in 1891 that the money the children had been taking to school to pay for their schooling be taken for a Penny Savings Bank. In 1901 the School Managers decided to give each child one halfpenny for every full week they attended. The boys school that year was opened 403 times and the girls school 393 times.

Are school days the happiest days of ones life? They may be in the present age but life was very different for children living 90 years ago. The better off had Burberry coats to keep out the wet, but poorer ones had no raincoats and there were no Wellington boots. School dinners had not been started - those who lived too far away to go home at midday took sandwiches. The girls were more fortunate in having teachers who cared about their welfare. Miss Graham, the Headmistress, made coffee for the girls which they had with their sandwiches to ensure they had a hot drink, while Miss Adams even took potatoes to school and cooked them under the ashes to supplement the girls packed lunches. Tuesday and Friday the children who lived over one mile from the school were provided with lovely rich hot broth and a slice of bread - again due to the generosity of the Holding family.

The boys were not looked after so well. A number of "old boys" remember their school days as hard days under a bachelor who believed the cane would teach academically as well as being a punishment. One boy whose name was Billy was made to stand on a chair because he couldn't sing in tune.

One Sunday while in Church one boy made "rabbits" with his handkerchief which made his companion smile. The next morning the boy who had smiled was given the cane. Another boy recalled how he went home with marks on his hands - his mother dressed them for him but he dare not tell his father or he would probably have been told that he must have deserved it and might have been given another one.
In the late 1920's or early 1930's on Empire Day (May 24) the Headmistress, Miss J Lanham allowed some of the children into her home at 18 Newbury Road, to listen to her radio.

Mrs E Nash was caretaker from 1926 until 1963. At the commencement of this employment she received £18 a year. After three years another classroom was added which contained 20 tables with 40 chairs, for this she was paid an additional 2s 2d a week. At this time there was no piped water, water for cleaning being taken from a tank outside. During the drought of 1926 it had to be carried from the stream to the school.

Before the Second World War there were three classrooms in use, but with the wartime evacuees one room was partitioned making four.

When Miss M Holman came as Headmistress in 1950 (she had taught there in her youth) there were 99 children with three teaching staff. When she retired in 1969 the numbers had grown to 310 with 10 or 11 teaching staff and additional buildings in the playground. During the next five years numbers had increased and during the summer term of 1974 there were over 400 pupils. Since then numbers have decreased and at Easter 1987 there were 300 pupils.

In 1966 when the old boys school, which had become the Secondary Modern School, move to Burghclere, the newer classrooms became available for the Primary School. This Horsa block had been built in 1947 for science and woodwork and five years later the Medway block had been built for £5,000. The kitchen and domestic science rooms were both wooden and had been built in the 1939-42 period and used as a school dining hall. After the Secondary School moved to The Clere the old school building was used as a church hall.

At Easter 1972 the infant department transferred to the new Primary School in Parsonage which had been built at a cost of £75,000 solely on the site. When the old school site was sold for the new Health Centre, the Horsa and Medway blocks were no longer available, four new classrooms and toilets with a resources area was built for the juniors ion 1978/9 at a cost of £100,000.

The old girls school at the bottom of North Street was sold in 1986. The wooden classroom which was built as a temporary one at the bottom of the sports filed is used as a music room.

Life was vastly different for children in the 19th and early 20th century. Large families living on small incomes and parents without much leisure time meant children had to amuse themselves in their spare time. Money was scarce, children's games were simple ones such as hopscotch, hide and seek or in frosty weather sliding on frozen ponds. If children had a kite it was one they had made out of paper and string. Boys had iron hoops with hooks and girls had wooden ones which they trolled to school, something which would not be safe to do today. One favourite pastime was to roll the hoops to the Star Inn and if they timed it correctly they had a ride home in the carrier's van. Paper chasing across the meadows to the moors and Harridens was something the authors Aunt did. After the paper trail had been laid, a group came and followed it, not easy in windy weather. Marbles was another game, they were placed in a ring and children took turns at "Shooting", if their marble touched those in the ring they won them. Farms attracted children and at harvest time it was even more exciting riding in the empty wagons to the harvest field and if a child was good he might even be allowed to ride to the rickyard from the corn field on the back of one of the horses. Skipping ropes could be purchased as late as 1938 from the rope works for just a few pennies. Not many children in recent years have had skipping ropes, but this is something which is being encouraged at school and in March 1987 a sponsored skip was organised with half the money going to the Ferry Disaster Fund. Competitions with skipping took place after Easter of that year.

The crowning of the May Queen is something that has been revived at school and dancing round the Maypole included the "Spider's Web".

Seventy years ago the pupils never had the chance to play football at school. Sometimes they were taken to Marsh or Stantons' Ponds fro a turn at skating in frosty weather. In the 1940's the junior children went to Strokins Meadows for rounders and the senior boys to the Recreation Ground for football. Now the school has its own sports field for organised games. Visits are made to other schools for netball and football as well as inter-schools rounders games of chess and scrabble are arranged. The school was awarded a Rounders Cup three years running in 1984-86. The cup for football in the Basingstoke Schools District came to Kingsclere in 1978 and in 1984 the biathlon shield was won for swimming and running against teams from all over the Newbury District.

When the Author was at school during the 1938-47 period, the few mothers who came to meet their children waited outside the school gate in North Street and parents rarely saw the teacher from one years end to the next. Now there is a closer relationship between the two. In 1969 the Parent Teacher Association was formed with the idea of raising money for equipment, this was followed by Friends of Kingsclere School. There have been school sales and fetes and some of the latte have been opened by well known personalities such as Norman Goodland in 1982. There was the sponsored Sunflower Competition in the long, dry, hot summer of 1976 when £80 was raised and the tallest was Robert Bailey's measuring 14feet 2inches (4.3 metres).

The Swimming Pool was built by the P.T.A. and in June 1973 was officially opened by Mr Ian Balding from Park House Racing Stables who dived in followed by the Headmaster, Mr Geoff Martin and children of those fathers who built it.

All the departments take part in the annual Christmas Concert and in 1977 the Queen's Silver Jubilee was commemorated with a concert outside and class L3 made her a scrapbook.

There have been many visits from people outside the school who have talked to the children on various subjects. These have included a visit from a blind person with her guide dog, a representative from Dr Banardo's Home and the Police demonstrating road safety. In 1976 the Society for the Protection of Rural England donated 103 trees, these were silver birch, maple and mountain ash. Kingsclere Gardening Association also planted some trees in the grounds.

When there was a spare infants classroom various animals came to school for a few ours including calves, pigs, lambs, puppies, turkey chicks, ponies and a goat. Guinea Pigs have been born in the classroom and chicks have been raised in an incubator.

During the Easter holidays an educational visit is arranged in Devon, Kent or the Isle of Wight, this year [1987] it was the latter. How very different school is nowadays. No longer is it hard graft, especially for the less able, but a place where learning can actually be enjoyed.

Pupils are encouraged to wear the green, white and grey uniform with the badge which Mr Edward Dredge originally designed for Kingsclere Secondary School in 1950. This had been in red, silver and blue and the four quarters contain a crown and hunting horn, representing King John's local association, the rose from the Hampshire crest, a crosier to indicate the ecclesiastical foundation of the school and the "barry-wavy" section to represent the brook, which powered the four mills and was therefore of great importance to the village economically.

The first quarters continue in the badge of the Clere School, again designed by Mr Dredge, to indicate the formation of the new school from the nucleus of the old.

A School photograph from early 1900's. Exact date not known.