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Victorian Walk

Now Look At The Old School Cottages

which became homes in the 1980s and try to imagine what it must have been like to be a pupil in Victorian times.

For 126 years, from 1848-1974, these four cottages were St Paul’s School, which was built by the Church of England to provide cheap education for poor children. Victoria would have been queen for 11 years when the school opened and the church would have been celebrating its tenth birthday.

walk(16)Photograph taken by David Williams

Two classrooms and two teachers catered for infants and juniors. The children worked in groups and learnt by rote, chanting facts and figures over and over again. The early curriculum consisted of the three R’s, of reading, ’riting and ‘rithmetic and once a year the pupils were tested by

an inspector. The infants wrote on slates and the older children used pen and ink. In 1900, the year before Victoria died, a school inspector complained that not enough work was being done in books, so he could not see any evidence of sums being done for 7 months!

The classrooms were heated by round, black, coal-burning stoves and lit by oil lamps. The toilets, which were earth closets, were in the back yard and emptied at night-time by the ‘Lavender Man’, who came round with a horse and cart.

The children went home at lunch time and walked back again for afternoon school, so those who lived at Tower Hill and Bucks Hill had four long walks each day. Only one or two families would have had the luxury of a pony and trap. Attendance was irregular because there was a lot of poverty and children needed to earn pennies by picking fruit, helping with the corn and hay harvest, potato picking and so on. If the weather were bad, some children had to stay at home because they did not have suitable clothes or footwear.

Because there were no inoculations or injections for the schoolchildren, infections such as measles, chicken pox, mumps and scarlet fever spread rapidly and the school had to be closed for weeks at a time, because so many children got ill.

In 1872, there were still only 25 pupils in the school, but once attendance became compulsory in 1880, numbers gradually increased to 120 and a third teacher was appointed. Also in 1880, a brick extension was built on to the back of the flint-walled school.

Look up at the roof and you will see the pointed bell tower, which housed the all-important school bell. No pupil had a watch in Victorian times and it is possible that not all houses had a clock. Many pupils relied on the bell to tell them when to go to school and many farm workers in the fields depended on it to time their lunch breaks.

It must have been an exciting occasion for the school, when the village clock was installed in a tower on the right side of the building to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1887. A plaque on the wall gives more details.

You have now completed your walk around the Common and learnt what was there in Victorian times between 1837 and 1901. We hope you have enjoyed it.

Further information, many large photographs, and census records which provide details about the occupants of the houses and their employment, are available in St Paul’s School for the pupils studying Victorians.

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This page is edited by Russ

1 CommentRSS

Terry Trayton

What a wonderful idea this project is. It involves children in a practical way by getting them involved in their local history. I can see a huge amount of research has gone into this and I have learned a lot from it. I am not a local person myself but I often visit Chipperfield and, with a friend, I take country walks in the area. I purchased my present vehicle from a local garage and often buy bedding plants from a local nursery so I suppose I can claim some connection with the village. I congratulate all the young pupils involved in this project and wish them a very successful future. Well done!!

July 11, 2011

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