Schools and Schooling in East Chinnock
From medieval times education in East Chinnock is likely to have been undertaken in some form by monks from Montacute Priory and continued spasmodically until we have written records.
An early mention of education is of a schoolmaster in 1778 when Joseph Searle was paid £1-1s-0d a quarter for teaching four boys. From about 1787 the responsibility for schooling was taken over by the Feoffees. Two years later their records show they made a payment to Robert Leach of 1/6d. a week, for teaching at Sunday School. Those children who could not attend weekday school because they were expected to work, attended Sunday School for the whole day.
In 1806 the Trustees advertised for a teacher in the Sherborne Mercury and in that year William Bishop was appointed and he held that post for ten years. He was followed by Charles Templeman.
By 1842 the Feoffees had built a new school on the Parish House site at the cost of £312.13s.5d. It was built as a semi-detached unit, one as the school and the other as accommodation for the school master. It was made large enough for the master to take boarders, who were to sleep in the loft.
The “New” school of 1842 in Carters Lane, now known as Willowdene and Milestone.
The picture shows the upper storey windows of the boarders dormitory and the date plaque.
In 1876, legislation established that all children should receive an elementary education. As a result in 1876 the Hare and Hounds public house was demolished and the East Chinnock National School built on its site at the corner of Weston Street and College. The building consisted of two rooms and a teachers residence. It was built to accommodate 100 pupils. The school was publicly opened on 28th September 1876. The children were taught by a six standard system, representing the six years of school life, and left when they were 13 or 14 years old. The weekly fee was 2d for the first child, 1/2d for the second and 1d for any others. The children were expected to clean the school and the assistant teachers to light the fires.
When the first pupils left in 1878 the numbers had doubled and to fit in all of them, tiers were erected in the small room. In answer to the query, did children fall off, yes one did, in July 1878 George Hallett fell backwards and accidentally broke two panes of glass!
The children were regularly given extra days holidays in addition to the annual ones: in March when the horse races were being held at West Chinnock, in August for the Sunday School Treat and in September for the Chinnock Feast.
In November 1877 a night school was started and run by the Headmistress. Soon afterwards, the managers asked Anna Claxton to resign in favour of a man teacher, and in February 1878 George Ganden was appointed and was headmaster for the next 27 years. Mr Ganden would let the children go to watch the wonderful pageants passing through the village - the first motor cars, the artillery as it passed from Salisbury Plain to Exeter, the one man bands, the barrel organ with the monkey sitting on top and the circus with cages pulled by elephants.
After Mr Ganden’s death, Mrs Ganden became headmistress for 12 years. The gallery had been taken down by then and new infant desks were required.
By 1917 the numbers of scholars were down to 52 and Laura Dutton took the post of headmistress. Miss Dutton resigned in 1931 and Dorothy Wheeler took charge for two years. During this time a flourishing football club was organised, proving to be very popular with the older boys.
In September 1933, Mrs Katherine Chant was appointed headmistress. She writes “Having found everything in a very disorderly manner and very little equipment, I am unable to keep to the work of the curriculum”.
The first mention of the Second World War was in September 1939. The children were dismissed one morning as Mrs Chant had received instruction to close the school “owing to evacuation children and this being a reception area”. The school windows were netted over and a stirrup pump was received. On 18th September, the first evacuee children were admitted and over the next few years more came and went, the last ones in July 1944. The school celebrated VE Day with 2 extra days holiday in May 1945.
In 1946, a Public Meeting was held to protest against the proposed closure of the school. The number of pupils at that time was 37. Two years later the older children were transferred to a secondary modern school, leaving 28 pupils at East Chinnock.
Mrs Chant retired in 1962, E.L. Grandorge and M. Hibbert carried on through the next year, but in March 1964 the school closed and 14 children were transferred to East Coker School. The building was then converted and used as the village hall.
Extracts from Schools & Schooling, East Chinnock - Village Echoes
by Marianne Merchant