Village School History


The School – Part 1

I have a confession to make.​​ The history of the village school has already been covered by this publication.​​ Back in 1979, the late Mrs Alma Vann wrote a series of articles which​​ appeared during 1980; a​​ précis of her findings can be found​​ on the village website.

The late Doris Court carried out further research​​ and​​ included the results in her​​ excellent​​ book on the village, but being a private publication​​ is no longer in print.​​ Coupled with those details,​​ together with​​ my own​​ examination of the original school records​​ and​​ the further information​​ now available on the internet,​​ the following is my update​​ on the history of education in Weston-sub-Edge.

Located in the wall opposite the steps down from the Church Lych-gate, and to the left of the old water point,​​ is a marble plaque marking the location of the village school from 1852 to 1985.​​ However, education in Weston began​​ many​​ years earlier​​ as a result of the philanthropic action of a local landowner and gentleman,​​ Thomas Eden.​​ Living in Broadmarston, with major property investments in and around Bristol,​​ and also​​ within Weston Parish​​ at Lower Norton,​​ he​​ set up a charitable trust​​ in December 1773​​ for the​​ purposes of:

“Maintaining and supporting a charity school for the education of poor children and to teach them to read English and to say the Church of England Catechism by heart in the parishes of Pebworth, Weston-sub-Edge and Weston-on-Avon, and the purchase of Bibles, New Testaments and Common Prayer Books for​​ the use​​ and instruction thereof of such children.”

(This trust is still​​ registered​​ and now called the​​ ‘Thomas Eden Foundation’.​​ )

Unfortunately there is no record of where​​ in the village the school​​ was held, but was most probably in a room in the house of the schoolmistress, whose​​ annual salary of some £7​​ and the yearly allowance​​ for books of £2​​ were financed from rental and profits​​ from houses and warehouses in Bristol and from​​ a 30 acre estate​​ nearby.​​ 

In 1845​​ the Eden Trustees approved the admittance of pupils​​ other than the poor.​​ These children​​ were paid for by their parents, who had to obtain a certificate of character twice a year from the Rector, then the Rev Hugh Smith​​ – history​​ does not​​ tell us the​​ reason for this​​ change of policy, but​​ the cynic might think it​​ would certainly have​​ helped to bolster​​ congregation numbers​​ with​​ parents​​ keen to secure the​​ required​​ paperwork!

Next month:​​ The influence of Canon​​ George Drinkwater Bourne.

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The School – Part 2

As​​ we saw in Part 1, the development of formal education in the village was​​ linked closely to​​ the Church​​ and it follows that​​ the​​ vicar​​ of the day​​ would play an active part in its​​ development.​​ However one man​​ had​​ a significant influence, the evidence of​​ which can still be seen today.

George Drinkwater Bourne was born in Liverpool​​ in​​ 1821.​​ The eighth son of a wealthy couple, he​​ graduated from​​ Oriel College Oxford​​ and began his theological career in 1845 as​​ Deacon.​​ His​​ appointment​​ as Priest​​ to​​ the living​​ at Weston​​ followed in 1846.​​ He was​​ made​​ Rural Dean in 1875 and​​ although not elevated to​​ Canon of Gloucester Cathedral​​ until 1880,​​ that is the title by which he is known​​ and​​ referred to hereafter.

In 1847​​ he​​ married Jane​​ Hole​​ from Tiverton, and the couple​​ settled into the Rectory, which was then located in​​ Parsons Lane​​ where they lived in some style with​​ a staff of four.​​ His stipend is reported to have​​ been​​ £900 per annum, a sum equivalent to £125,000 today.​​ 

Their first child​​ Margaret, born in 1848,​​ went on to marry​​ another vicar.​​ Their son Francis rose to the rank of captain in the 43rd​​ Light Infantry, but only lived to​​ the age of 30.​​ Tragically Jane passed away in 1854, with Canon​​ Bourne remarrying Harriet Eliza Moss in 1857.​​ They had one son, William, who died in infancy.

Canon Bourne was​​ a wealthy man and contributed​​ generously to the church.​​ He donated the brass lectern, the sundial on the South wall, and the clock​​ in the tower, and​​ almost certainly paid for​​ other restoration work, including raising the roof of the Nave in 1861.

In 1955​​ the Rectory in Parsons Lane was sold, with​​ the current and much smaller Rectory​​ built in its grounds.​​ The purchasers were the Webb family who subsequently​​ renamed the building ‘Canonbourne’ in honour of its​​ most distinguished occupant.​​ 

In​​ addition to having​​ a building named after him, Canon Bourne also left another physical memorial in the form of a blue brick path which he had laid from the Rectory​​ up to the Church.​​ Much of this​​ has been replaced with tarmac but one short length is still visible across the entrance to Middle Farm in Church Street, in addition to the path from the Lych-gate to the Church Porch.

When Canon​​ Bourne​​ arrived in Weston,​​ the​​ annual​​ Dover’s Games​​ had become a rather rowdy​​ event​​ and, no doubt with the​​ moral welfare of his flock at heart, he​​ set out to bring​​ such​​ shenanigans​​ to a halt.

Next month:​​ How​​ he succeeded and​​ the​​ consequences​​ to village education.​​ 

​​ Any comments to:​​


The School – Part 3

In Part 2 we looked at the life and times of Canon Bourne, who was vicar in Weston from 1846 until his death in 1901 – a period of 55 years and​​ significantly longer than any​​ other incumbent.​​ This month I am going off on another tangent – Dover’s Games.​​ Just why all these diversions are relevant to the history of the school​​ will soon become apparent.

The Dover’s Games​​ that we know today have a long and​​ chequered history.​​ The most likely date​​ for​​ their start is 1612,​​ when Captain​​ Robert Dover, a lawyer, organised a series of competitions​​ that ran annually on Weston Hill,​​ later renamed Dover’s Hill​​ in the captain’s memory.​​ The English Civil War​​ brought an end to the games, but​​ they were revived again​​ during the reign of Charles II.

When Canon Bourne arrived in Weston in 1846,​​ the games were being run by William Drury, who rented the site​​ over​​ Whit Week for​​ £5.​​ Mr Drury owned and ran the Swan Inn in Chipping Campden​​ and​​ obviously made a tidy profit from​​ selling alcohol,​​ renting out booths and stalls,​​ and taking​​ entries​​ for races.​​ Unfortunately the games had become too​​ popular with vast crowds pouring in from the Midlands, swelled by the many​​ ‘navvies’ brought to the district to build the​​ railway line and dig the Mickleton tunnel.

Canon Bourne claimed that the​​ occasion had become​​ ‘... the trysting place of all the lowest scum of the population which lived​​ in the district between Birmingham and Oxford.’​​ However, the extent of bad behaviour​​ may have been​​ exaggerated,​​ as there are few reports of the police being​​ called to the games, and no record of court prosecutions for​​ drunkenness or​​ fighting.​​ Nevertheless Canon Bourne​​ vowed to stop this corruption​​ within his parish.

The answer to​​ Canon Bourne’s​​ prayers​​ came​​ in the form of​​ the Enclosure movement​​ and in 1850,​​ together with​​ local landowners Sir John Maxwell Steel and Lord Harrowby, he was​​ successful in securing the Enclosure​​ of Weston​​ Parish, with the 969 acres​​ being​​ redistributed among​​ local farmers and landowners.​​ This​​ brought the games to a halt in 1852, until they were​​ revived in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain​​ celebrations.

But what has this​​ to​​ do with​​ the school you may ask?​​ Under the​​ terms of the Enclosure Award, the villagers were awarded four acres for allotments, one acre for recreation and one rood for a​​ site for a school and​​ schoolhouse.​​ Canon Bourne​​ (reported to have​​ been allocated 63 acres​​ for himself!)​​ secured​​ a further two acres for​​ school recreation, as he was keen that children played​​ cricket and football.

Next month:​​ Early days of the school.

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The School- Part 4

Thanks​​ to the efforts of Canon Bourne​​ the village​​ now​​ had a plot of​​ land for a school and schoolhouse:​​ the next task was to secure finance to build them.​​ It seems most likely that​​ money was obtained​​ from the Government and the National Society who were both​​ then providing grants for​​ such buildings.​​ With active encouragement from both Lord Harrowby and Canon Bourne the school​​ opened​​ in 1852 with 20 children aged between 4 and 10 years,​​ together with a new school mistress.​​ 

For details of​​ early life in the village school, we​​ are fortunate to have​​ the School Log started in 1870 by the​​ then new​​ teacher, Miss Catherine Marnes.​​ Appointed on 1st​​ May, she was obliged to​​ announce an immediate​​ 3 week holiday while the school premises were​​ repaired​​ and enlarged.​​ Her first entry on 23 May​​ 1870 was brief and to the point,​​ ‘Began school.​​ Only 21​​ present.​​ 7​​ girls and 14 boys.’

Attendance the following week was not much better. Out of 48 on the books, 13 are recorded as​​ not​​ having been at all, with the others coming very irregularly.​​ 0n 29th​​ July, so few were present that it​​ was thought advisable to break up for​​ the harvest holiday.​​ Miss Marnes’​​ diary​​ paints​​ a​​ vivid picture of life of the young in​​ the Parish, noting that​​ ‘...boys are set to work as soon as anything could​​ be got for their labour with​​ the girls being​​ kept at home​​ to mind the little ones.​​ In both cases,​​ attending school​​ was​​ very much a last resort.

The summer​​ was​​ the​​ most important time in the life of the​​ village,​​ when everybody was involved with the harvest.​​ It usually lasted five weeks but often​​ ran into six and occasionally a seventh was added if the​​ harvest was late​​ or the weather bad.​​ In 1870 it seems​​ everything went well, with the school reopening after only​​ 5 weeks on 5th​​ September.​​ Learning soon picked up, as two days later, on 7th​​ September,​​ it is noted that Rev W Begley visited and​​ ‘gave the children a good lesson in arithmetic.’

Throughout​​ the year there was also other work to keep the children away from school.​​ In October, sisters and​​ brothers were home on holiday from domestic service and the younger ones wanted to be with them. All then took part in picking acorns, helping to get​​ up potatoes and blackberrying.​​ In April the​​ bigger girls​​ would be absent picking cowslips for wine, and in June the boys would be busy bird minding, and then there​​ would be haymaking and picking currents.​​ 

Next​​ month:​​ More days off school!

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The School -​​ Part 5


Last month’s chapter​​ described​​ the​​ impact​​ harvest​​ activities​​ had upon​​ school attendance.​​ Bad weather​​ was another​​ factor,​​ with​​ floods and snow​​ often preventing children from reaching school.​​ However,​​ they were expected to make every effort, and​​ on one occasion,​​ children in Saintbury were admonished for using three inches of snow as an​​ excuse for​​ staying at home!


Illness was​​ also a frequent​​ reason for absence.​​ A typical example is recorded​​ in 1883​​ when​​ the school mistress, Miss Catherine Marnes,​​ was​​ obliged to cancel​​ the Christmas Week holiday​​ and​​ was​​ only​​ able​​ to give the pupils​​ Christmas Day off due to the​​ extent of time lost earlier in the year​​ – an outbreak​​ of whooping cough had closed the school for two weeks in February. This was aggravated by​​ an extra long​​ break​​ of 7 weeks for​​ a​​ protracted​​ harvest which​​ meant that,​​ after​​ taking account of the Easter​​ and Whit week holidays,​​ there was a risk the school​​ would not be open for the required number​​ of​​ times in the year.​​ However,​​ on this occasion,​​ Miss​​ Marnes​​ softened the​​ blow by​​ letting​​ the​​ children out early each day.


The schoolmistress​​ would appear to have​​ had​​ the ability to​​ grant holidays to suit local occasions.​​ One memorable event​​ was on June 24th​​ 1875, when​​ the​​ wedding of Canon Bourne’s daughter, Margaret, to the Rev​​ Francis​​ Broome-Witts took place in St Lawrence​​ Church.​​ The children​​ had a good view of the​​ celebrations​​ from the​​ front of the​​ school garden. They​​ then​​ followed​​ the parade around the village​​ before​​ joining​​ in with the wedding feast.​​ It seems that​​ some had a​​ preference​​ for​​ beer rather than​​ lemonade, with​​ the result that the following day also had to be a holiday!


A visit to Evesham​​ Regatta became an annual event​​ and in 1903, another​​ regular excursion​​ began.​​ By now the​​ head mistress​​ was Miss Bertha Stanley, who​​ believed in broadening her pupils horizons.​​ On 15th​​ July she took a party of​​ forty​​ of the older​​ children to the seaside.​​ Using funds raised from two concerts held during​​ the previous winter,​​ and transported​​ on​​ wagons provided by local farmers,​​ Messrs Robbins and Tredwell,​​ they travelled​​ to​​ Honeybourne​​ Station​​ (then a major junction)​​ to catch​​ the 4.15am​​ train​​ to Bournemouth.​​ Many of the children had never been out of the village and only one had ever seen the sea before.​​ It was therefore no surprise that​​ they wanted to know​​ if there were railings​​ around​​ the water​​ to stop people from falling in.​​ Nevertheless, a​​ good time was​​ had by all, with the party​​ not​​ returning​​ until​​ the next morning at 3.00 am.


Next month:​​ What was taught.


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The School –Part 6

Over the​​ past two​​ months,​​ I​​ have looked at the​​ sort of​​ things that​​ kept​​ children out of school.​​ But what did they do when​​ in the classroom?

As the State​​ became more involved, it was​​ inevitable​​ that​​ legislation would​​ be introduced​​ to determine what should be taught, and​​ in 1872​​ a Revised Code of Regulations​​ defined​​ a set of six​​ Standards​​ for the three R’s.​​ Standard Three​​ was​​ the minimum required to enable a child to leave school for work and for this​​ the pupil​​ had​​ to​​ be able to read​​ a short paragraph from a more​​ advanced book (than​​ Standard Two),​​ write a sentence​​ slowly dictated​​ once​​ from the same book, and understand long division and compound rules​​ for money.​​ 

The school was subject to​​ annual inspection and​​ the​​ summary of the​​ report for 1876​​ concluded,​​ ‘...order good, teaching generally creditable and intelligent. The reading​​ might occasionally​​ be more fluent and the spelling and arithmetic better here and there but as a whole​​ the teaching is satisfactory.‘​​ Other reports​​ refer​​ to the standard of​​ the​​ girl’s sewing​​ and knitting and​​ geography as a subject is also​​ commented upon.​​ 

Following a prolonged spell of illness,​​ Miss​​ Marnes​​ retired​​ in​​ March 1886, and her place for the next six years was taken by Miss Emma​​ Hallett, followed​​ by Miss​​ Matthews.​​ In November​​ 1896,​​ Miss Bertha Stanley took over and although​​ a strict disciplinarian, she was an​​ excellent teacher​​ and,​​ in addition to trips to the seaside,​​ taught​​ practical skills​​ such as calculating​​ the size of the playing field (in acres),​​ measuring the distances​​ (in chains)​​ from the school gate to Aston turn​​ and​​ from the school to the railway station.​​ It is difficult to imagine such activities today​​ (even​​ with lockdown traffic levels!),​​ given​​ the​​ need for the​​ ubiquitous risk assessment.​​ Miss Stanley​​ retired​​ after 35 years service during which, in her​​ later years,​​ she was​​ very successful​​ in helping 11 year olds gain scholarships to Campden Grammar School.

It should not be forgotten that during​​ these early​​ days,​​ corporal punishment was​​ the norm.​​ Back in 1875,​​ one of the boys threw a stone which​​ severely hurt the eye of a girl, to the extent that​​ it was​​ feared she might lose it.​​ Canon​​ Bourne​​ specially addressed​​ the​​ whole school on the subject of stone throwing, and warned​​ them to stop the practice at​​ their peril, as he would personally​​ flog​​ any​​ boy caught​​ again.​​ Some months later the School Log​​ records that ‘..stone throwing​​ seems rather scarce​​ in the village of late.’​​ A further entry​​ thankfully​​ recorded​​ that the girl’s eye​​ had been​​ saved’.

Next month : Falling numbers and closure.

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The School Part 7

I have been unable​​ to​​ trace any​​ record of the number of pupils who attended the​​ first school set up​​ by the Eden​​ Trust, or indeed​​ how many​​ transferred​​ to the newly build school when it opened in 1852.​​ However,​​ we​​ know​​ from Miss Marnes’​​ Log​​ that​​ there were 21​​ children​​ when she began as school mistress​​ in 1870.​​ It seems reasonable to assume​​ they were all from families​​ living in​​ or near Weston, but in 1874​​ 9​​ orphans​​ from​​ Evesham workhouse​​ were admitted​​ and​​ placed with​​ cottagers.​​ Miss Marnes​​ observed that ‘... all who come out of the workhouse to this Parish are either weakly or covered with sores’.​​ 

School numbers​​ were further enhanced in 1875​​ when 12 children​​ from Saintbury were​​ admitted,​​ raising the​​ total on the register to 83,​​ the highest on record.​​ There were those who left, and one​​ pair who​​ deserve​​ a​​ mention​​ were​​ the​​ brother and sister who had been walking to school from Honeybourne, but​​ after a time found​​ it to​​ be too far.​​ They​​ are recorded as returning to their own Parish School, which of course begs the question – why did they​​ leave in the first place?​​ 

By 1883 numbers had dropped to 63,​​ but were​​ increased in​​ 1927​​ when​​ Aston sub Edge school closed and​​ 12 pupils transferred to Weston.​​ The next major influx​​ came​​ in​​ 1939​​ when the then​​ headmistress,​​ Miss Wellings, admitted 3 private​​ evacuees to the school.​​ In​​ 1940,​​ 19 evacuees​​ arrived​​ from Dagenham, accompanied by their teacher.​​ This group was​​ taught in a room in the​​ Rectory and presumably billeted out​​ to​​ households in the​​ village.​​ As time went by​​ some returned to their homes​​ and in 1944 there were just nine left, with these having​​ departed​​ by VE Day in May 1945.​​ 

After the​​ war, pupil numbers​​ did increase​​ and by​​ 1964 had​​ risen to 71.​​ However,​​ it was all down hill​​ from this point, until​​ by​​ 1984​​ the total​​ was only​​ 10.​​ The​​ proposal to close the school was​​ greeted with mixed feelings;​​ to some​​ it​​ meant the loss of​​ a significant village facility​​ but​​ to others there was an acceptance that​​ it was no longer educationally viable.​​ 

Following​​ the closure of the school the Diocesan Education Committee​​ assumed,​​ based on usage,​​ that they​​ were the owners​​ and​​ published plans​​ to sell it and use the proceeds for other Church of England schools in Gloucestershire.​​ However,​​ they were challenged​​ by​​ the Parish Council​​ whose chairman, James Court,​​ had the​​ benefit of the​​ research carried out by his sister, Doris.​​ With this,​​ they​​ mounted a counterclaim to the land.

Next month:​​ Victory for the Parish Council.

Comments to:​​



The School Part 8

As​​ described​​ in Part 3, the​​ plot of​​ land upon which the​​ school and schoolhouse were built was part of the Enclosure​​ Award.​​ The​​ Parish​​ Council argued that as the​​ successor to the Overseer of the Poor​​ and administrators of​​ the​​ other two parcels of land​​ included in that Award, namely the allotments​​ and the acre for recreation, they​​ were​​ also​​ the rightful administrators​​ of the school and schoolhouse.


Not surprisingly, there was some resistance to this view, but the Parish Council​​ eventually prevailed​​ and as owners,​​ set out​​ to find an ongoing use for the buildings. When an offer to lease the property for use as a nursery​​ fell through, and with​​ no other offers on the table, it​​ was decided to sell the buildings​​ at auction.​​ This was​​ held at​​ the Cotswold House Hotel in​​ Chipping Campden on​​ 14 October 1987​​ with the highest bid being​​ from a developer who​​ subsequently converted the building into the three dwellings we can see today.


The Weston-sub-Edge​​ Educational​​ Trust was​​ established​​ in January 1989​​ to​​ require​​ the​​ investment income​​ from the​​ £141,000​​ sale​​ proceeds​​ to​​ be used to​​ provide​​ benefits of a kind not normally​​ provided​​ by the local Education Authority,​​ and to promote​​ the education (including​​ social and physical training)​​ of persons under the age of 25 who​​ were​​ former pupils of the school,​​ children of former pupils or​​ children​​ now​​ living​​ in the​​ village.​​ The​​ ‘village’​​ was​​ defined as the​​ ‘ancient​​ parish of Weston-sub-Edge’, to​​ allow for​​ land lost to Hereford & Worcester in​​ 1965.


Obviously there are​​ no longer any​​ former pupils​​ still under the age of 25,​​ but their children​​ (wherever they live),​​ and indeed any children​​ living in the village,​​ may​​ apply for​​ financial support for such things as​​ University​​ degree​​ courses,​​ nursery fees, clubs, music lessons,​​ drama,​​ sports clubs, and​​ school​​ trips both​​ in the UK and abroad.​​ Applications​​ should​​ be​​ made to the Trust Secretary​​ at​​​​ 


The above is,​​ of necessity,​​ only a brief outline.​​ Full​​ details of the​​ terms​​ and objectives of the​​ Trust,​​ the current Trustees​​ and​​ the​​ conditions​​ applicable​​ to applications​​ may be found​​ on the village website.


We have come a long way since Thomas Eden set up his Trust in 1773,​​ and​​ I hope​​ this​​ potted history of education in WSE has​​ been of interest.​​ I must​​ pay​​ a final tribute to the late​​ Alma Vann and​​ the late Doris Court for their​​ earlier research, carried out at a time when they did not have the benefit of the internet,​​ and were​​ obliged​​ to​​ identify and then track down original documents – true historians indeed!


If anyone has anything to add, please contact me on​​





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