Bicknor School Log Books by Ann Butcher


Bicknor School Logbooks

Ann Butcher

Meeting of 10 September 2015

Ann has studied 34 years of logbooks, starting in 1863 (the School opened in 1834). The holidays in 1834 were just Saturdays (Sunday School was a must for all children) and four weeks in summer to help with the harvest; by 1863 they also had Christmas, Whitsun and Easter. There were also half-days so the school could be used for village events – there was no village hall until 1934. There were three classes, with 7-10 year olds separated (at first) by ability not age, then the infants in a separate building.

Education was not compulsory until 1871 (for 5-10s), and even then there were problems with attendance when things needed doing on the farm or the weather was bad (other reasons given include ‘crow-keeping’ and ‘St Vitas’ Dance’). Also, most families were poor and many resented having to pay for schooling. Children came from as far as Lydbrook and Symonds Yat, and walked every day; with no wellies or raincoats there must have been some very damp children in school all day.

Many winters saw pupils staying at home due to snow, and measles epidemics were fairly regular. The Attendance Officer arrived in 1878 and found several new older pupils who had never been to school. In 1874 average attendance was only 28; by 1878 it was 79.

The school had to reach certain standards to get the full annual grant. Annual inspections variously report:

- Four children were found to be ‘old and ignorant’

- In 1864: ‘reading is correct, but still monotonous, even for Forest of Dean’

- The 1876 report recommends emptying the cesspit by the offices as they are very smelly

The inspectors were also unhappy with the confusion over children’s ages – compulsory registering of births was only fairly recent. Needlework (for girls only) was an ongoing problem and in the end the school had to hire a sewing teacher. By 1893 reports were good and full grants were being recommended.

Writing was done on slates, although older children also had paper as there are many references to punishment for pupils literally ‘blotting their copybooks’. Annual events included trips to places like the Rock and Goodrich Castle; Christmas tea and the Ascension Day feast. An 1860s entry records that the master was ‘delayed’ in attendance at the school – he had just rescued a child from drowning in the castle well!

A copy of the full talk is available – including lots of wonderful detail on the staff - just e-mail me. CS