The history of the schools in Hungerford Newtown is intricately connected with the history of St Mary's Church, Newtown.
- St Mary's Church, Hungerford Newtown. Now a private house, Sep 2009.
- Plans for Newtown School and School House, c1899-1900
- Sketch by Oliver Brown of the layout of the school in the 1920s.
- Newtown School and School House
The Infant National School, Hungerford Newtown:
The earliest mention of a school in Newtown is in 1842, when a Grant of a site, with land for a school for poor persons, was made by Richard Compton, Esq, of Eddington House to Revd William Cookson, Vicar of Hungerford, and his successors, for the provision of a school for poor persons. This was the Infant National School.
It was "sited on the east side of the Turnpike road, comprising all the tenement and ground with the blacksmith's shop therunto adjoining the road leading from Hungerford to Wantage. The cottage and blacksmith's shop having recently been in the occupation of William House, deceased, to who it was leased." [BRO D/P/71 25/1-13]
On 28 Sep 1854, the curate of St Lawrence Church Hungerford, the Rev George Pearse, wrote advocating the holding of a Sunday service in the school: "The hamlet of Newtown is situated 2½ miles from the Parish Church and has a population of 300. People generally are ignorant, and on Sundays are left to the teaching of Ranters and other sects. If a service could be established, it would be hoped, byt God's blessing, to counteract the evil". The proposal was welcomed, and divine service was first celebrated at Newtown School on 29 Oct 1854. For this link for more on the development of the church at Newtown.
There is a note that in 1855, D A Cherry of Denford Park gave £10 towards funds for the school, having been reminded on three occasions to make a donation!
The 1864 Billing's Directory states that the "Infant National School, New Town" is supported by contributions, and the children's pence. Average attendance 35. Martha Clements, Mistress.
A letter was sent in 1866 from George Cherry to Windsor, appealing for money towards the provision of a separate church at Newtown.
In 1869 (Post Office Directory) the mistress was Mrs Eliza Davis, presumably the same Mrs Davies(sic!) who was "Governess" in 1870 (Parish Magazine).
A separate church is proposed:
A letter was sent in 1866 from George Cherry (of Denford Park) to Windsor, appealing for money towards the provision of a separate church at Newtown. The Parish Magazine (31 Dec 1867) records that the offertory received during the year from Newtown School totalled £1 3s 0d.
In 1869 it was felt "most desirable that a building more suitable to the purposes of a Village School and at the same time affording for the devout ministration of God's Holy Word and sacraments should be provided for the use of the poor people of the district. An excellent site was offered by F Lovelock Coxe, Esq, of Eddington House."
An appeal for funds was made, and £500 was collected. Plans were prepared by A W Blomfield, and the contract (in the sum of £350) was awarded to Mr Wooldridge (of Hungerford Wharf). In the end the contract was increased to £493 3s 9d by the additional provision of outbuildings and a boundary wall, and interior fittings.
St Mary's School-Chapel:
Designs for the school and Chapel buildings were drawn up by A W Blomfield. St Mary's Church was erected largely at the expense of Lady Pearce, of Chilton Lodge, after nearly thirty years in the old schoolroom, a new "School Chapel" was built at Newtown, which opened on Easter Tuesday 1870. This School Chapel was later to be known as St Mary's Church, Newtown.
When it opened in 1870 there were 73 scholars, and in addition to the daily lessons, a Sunday School was held. The Clothing Club seems to have been an important feature.
A receipt dated 13 Nov 1875 from the London & County Bank, Hungerford when Rev Anstice "of the Newtown School" deposited a £100 Russian 5% Bond "for safe keeping" can be seen here.
A receipt dated 17 Jun 1895 from the Capital and Counties Bank in Hungerford (receipt no 001) when Rev W A G Gray "of the Newtown School Chapel" deposited one £100 "Cape of Good Hope" 4% Bond can be seen here.
St Mary's School-Chapel had a dual purpose for 30 years, during which the number of pupils remained at about 70. Sunday School was held in addition to daily services, and a clothing club was instituted, started by Rev Anstice in 1868, to help parents save for their families' needs.
In 1896 Newtown School was placed under Government Inspection, application having been made to put it on the list of grant-aided schools. The services of a certified teacher were secured - Miss Lucy T. Rigby. The first entry in a school log book was by her, on 13 April 1896, her first day as Schoolmistress. There were 52 children on the register, with an average attendance of 47. Lucy Rigby had previously been Assistant Mistress at Sacred Trinity School, Salford. The Parish Magazine points out that "The school is now free, and attendance is now compulsory. It is hoped that the new system will prove a great benefit to the little community." The National Archives has a deed of the scheme dated 12 May 1903.
The new school:
A new school - the Hungerford Newtown Church of England Primary (Aided) School - was opened along the road from the chapel in 6 Dec 1900, paid for by the great local benefactress Lady Pearce of Chilton Lodge, and the chapel could be dedicated to the sole use as a church. The school trustees were The National Society.
The Parish Magazine of October 1899 announced that "new school buildings are to be erected at Newtown which we trust will have the effect of adding to the efficiency of the school, and at the same time to the spiritual advantage of the district.
The work, which has been entrusted to Mr F. New of Chilton, will comprise a new schoolroom 40ft long and 18ft wide, a new mistress's house with kitchen, parlour, three bedrooms, and the necessary offices. Adjoining the schoolroom there will be a commodious reading room for the use of the men of the village.
The little chapel of St Mary's will thus be left entirely free for religious services and its sacred character will be more easily impressed on the children, a thing which has not been possible, while it has been used during the week for secular purposes. The new schoolroom will be available for teas, concerts, and other entertainments for the villagers."
The new school had been paid for in an act of great generosity by Lady (Dinah Elizabeth) Pearce of Chilton Lodge. A legal document of 12 May 1903 confirms the legal transfer of "part of a plot of land known as Malt Shovel Meadow" and the school buildings to the National Society for Promoting Religious Education. The land is described as "on the north side of the road leading from Aldbourne to Newbury bounded on the north and east sides thereof by pasture land belonging to Sir William George Pearce and on the west by a plot of land on which is erected a building heretofor used as a Mission Church and school...".
The new school opened on 6th December 1900. In Kelly Directory 1903, the "Infants School" had 35 children, with an average attendance of 24. Miss Rigby was still Schoolmistress. "Erected about 1870". (This is clearly an erroneous date). The premises also included a clubroom for recreational use.
The Governors were Rev H A Sealy, John H Williams of High Grove, E R Portal of Eddington House, R Neville-Bennett of Hidden Cottage, E H Russell of Little Hidden, Fred Bates, the postmaster at Newtown, E Cobden of North Farm, Denford, James Harding of New Hayward and Rev Grantham of Avington Rectory.
The 1913 Kelly Directory gives Miss Little, Mistress, and says the school is for Mixed and Infants – 75 children in all. In 1920 (Kelly gives) Miss OJ Warden as Mistress.
See Character reference letter from Sidney Allright regarding Miss Smallbones, 7 Mar 1919.
Miss Little was Mistress when Miss Edith May Oakes started as assistant Mistress in 1930. She had previously taught at schools in Berkshire and Hampshire, then at East End School before coming to Newtown.
Oliver Brown, who attended the school from 1908 when he was 12 years old, shared many memories of his attendance at Newtown School (see Oral History - Audio Archives). He recalled that after Miss Little, two Miss Allen sisters came - one was head teacher. After that the head-teacher was Mrs Brooks, whose husband was organist at St Lawrence's church.
Further memories of Oliver Brown: "Some small children walked long distances in all weathers. I can remember some who came along footpaths with very little protective clothing, and not good footware. The coat racks were in an unheated corridor, so coats hung up wet went on wet in the evening.
I would say that given the limited facilities available, the education given was quite reasonable. Under Mrs Brooks it was quite strict.
The highlight of the year was the Christmas play (many evening rehearsals) complete with Tree and buffet.
I used to go home at midday but the children who came form outside the village probably brought bread and cheese which was eaten outside if fine, or in the classroom if wet or in winter. The only heating was the big "tortoise" stove and the open fire. I can't remember a kettle or if anyone made tea.
Certificates were given out for good work each year and were much prized. I think the vicar presented them."
Oliver Brown also recalls that school children had to do the following:
- Collecting wood for fires,
- collecting mushrooms for pocket money,
- driving horses in the harvest fields for 2d per hour, 7am - 7pm, with 1 hour for lunch, during which the horses had to be taken to water,
- beating in the woods during the pheasant shoots,
- collecting milk from farms before going to school, and
- bringing shopping home when returning from school.
Oliver Brown remembered that he often played truant, and was sent to Hungerford Council School for the last five months before leaving school aged 14 years.Children walked there and back, although some were given bicycles to speed the journey.
A further account of school life at Newtown in the 1920s and 1930s comes from Oliver Brown's son John Brown, BEM, interviewed by Pat Gray, 1998. The headmistress was Mrs Brooks, wife of the organist at St Lawrence Church. Other teachers were Miss Little, the two Miss Allens and Miss Oakes.
Children attended up to the age of 11, then transferred to Hungerford Council School. There were about 40 pupils. Even small children walked long distances to school in all weathers, sometimes with little protective clothing and poor footwear. The coat racks were in an unheated corridor, so any wet clothing was still wet in the afternoon.
John Brown went home at midday for lunch, but most children from outside the village brought snacks, mostly bread and cheese. If the weather was fine, it would be eaten out of doors, but on wet days in the classroom. The room was heated by a big "Tortoise" stove.
The highlight of the year was the Christmas play, much rehearsed, with the performance enhanced by a Christmas tree and buffet refreshments.
Mrs Brooks was quite strict with the pupils, and the education received was quite reasonable. 40 children aged 5 to 11 in one classroom, receiving various different instructions at the same time demanded strictness.
At the end of each school year certificates for good work were presented by the vicar of Hungerford. They were much prized.
Sunday School classes took place in the Clubroom, not in St Mary's Church. As Harvest Festival approached, children were selected to help decorate the church - a great honour.
Most children lived on the farms or big estates, so found various ways of earning pocket money. Some collected milk from the farms before school began; some took shopping home for their mothers as they returned from school. There was always firewood to be collected, and mushrooms in the autumn, either for the family or for sale. When shoots were taking place, a few lucky lads would be required as beaters. At harvest time, it was nothing for boys to drive the heavy horses for tuppence an hour from 7am to 7pm, with an hour off for lunch.
The girls were fortunate to have toilet facilities within the school building, but the boys had to visit an arrangement outside at the back.
There was a unique type of chain driven bucket pump on the boundary line between the school and St Mary's Church. To obtain water, it was necessary to wind the handle. Water came up in small buckets wich tipped into a tray and discharged from a spout. The boys regarded it as a great honour to be asked to draw water. Normally the pump handle was locked.
The school and chapel continued in use throughout and after the Second World War. Miss D Allen was Mistress from 1936 until 1949.
Mrs GF Lewis came in 1949. She had began teaching at St. Peter's School, Wapping, and had been evacuated with her school during the war to Lingfield, Surrey. She was then Mistress at Eastbury before coming to Newtown.
An insurance document for the school buildings dated 1954 covered it for £4,800, the teacher's house for £2,500, and the school furniture for £150.
Ken Stanrooke, a pupil at the school at this period, lent Pat Gray many photographs of the period. Miss May Oakes featured in many of them.
A meeting was held in Nov 1957 to discuss the future of the school. One option discussed was to rebuild the school on a new site with modern facilities, but no action was taken, and the same option was considered six years later, when it was dismissed as unviable.
Teachers at Hungerford Newtown School:
1864 - Martha Clements
1869 - Mrs Eliza Davis
1870 - Mrs Davies
1896 - Miss Lucy T Rigby
1897 - Miss Emily H Cook
1897 - Miss Grace Bassett
1898 - Miss Kate Poole
1898 - Miss Lucy T Rigby
1904 - Mrs Lewis
???? - Miss Cox
1909 - Miss L Bates
1913 - Miss Little
1920 - Miss OJ Warden
1936 - Miss D Allen
19?? - Mrs Brooks?
1949 - Mrs GF Lewis
The school closed:
Hungerford Newtown School closed on 13 April 1965 because of low numbers on the school register. A photograph taken on the last day shows 15 children along with Mrs Lewis and Miss Oakes. Mrs Lewis emigrated to Australia with her husband in May 1965. Miss Oakes carried on giving the children a Sunday Service in St. Mary's Church for a while. She recalled that when first at the school in 1930, children sat in long desks, water was drawn in a bucket from the well, there were hot drinks at mid-day as there were no school dinners. During the Second World War evacuees swelled the numbers attending, and they had to be accommodated three to a dual desk, with the teacher's desk used as well.
On 8 Mar 1967 the National Society for the Promotion of Education (who were the Trustees of the school at this time) had authorised the Secretary of the Oxford Diocese to receive the keys to the school and any money outstanding to the credit of the Managers.
Shortly after, expert Counsel was asked (see the draft freehand letter) to advise the solicitor Mr John Ellison (of Charles, Lucas and Marshall, Hungerford) on:
1. The future of the school premises, which had lain dormant for some two years, especially on possible future use, as the original grant made no specification in the event of the the premises not being required for educational purposes. If the National Society were to sell the premises, to whom and for what purpose must the proceeds be paid?
2. How to dispose of £300 credited to the School's managers account. The National Society seem to feel it should be paid to the Secretary of the Oxford Diocesan Council of Education, the Managers feel that the money had been raised locally and should be used for local purposes.
The school stood empty from April 1965 until 1968 when it was sold in three separate lots - each converted into residential homes.
- HHA Archives:
- Parish Magazines esp May 1871, August 1872 and July 1901
- HHA Archive A44:
Rules & Regulations for the Management, 15 May 1903
Berkshire County Council Education Committee Provisional Instruction to Managers Part 1 – School Management, 1903
Fire Insurance 1949-50
Fire Insurance 1954-55
Letter re renewal of Fire Insurance 18 Mar 1954
Cash receipt book relating to rent of School House 1953-57
Buildings Insurance Policy (and Supplementary Policy) 1964-65
Instructions to Counsel to advise on two matters after closure, c1964