Pages 69 - 71

Wrington Village Records
Studies of the history of a Somerset Village

The village school
Pages 69 - 71

Deed of sale of the old Parish Schoolroom, 1860 (original MS., Wrington).
Deed of foundation of the Village School, 1865 (original MS., Wrington Parish Records).
Scarth: Proceeding of Somerset Arch. and Nat. Hist. Soc., 1887.
Scarth: Proceedings of Bath Field Club, vol. 2.

The earliest reference found so far to a school in Wrington appears in the Diocesan deposition books of the Bishop of Bath and Wells where in a tithe action in 1539, one witness aged about forty casually mentions that, when he was ten or twelve years old, he went to the school at the parish church of Wrington. The village, therefore, had a school at the beginning of the 16th century. It was probably run by the parish priest, and would have provided a very simple grounding in reading the Bible, learning the catechism, and possibly writing. The next mention of the school is over a hundred years later, when in the Churchwardens' accounts of 1656-7 William Webb is paid 1s. 5d. "for mending the school house locke and nails and new stockings" - a typically mixed bag of information that reveals how useful a source of history accounts can be. By 1657, this entry implies, the school had its own building.

We next hear of it in 1704, when George Legg left nine acres of land in Congresbury parish, called the Poor's Land, for keeping six boys and six girls of Wrington at school, where they were to be taught to read the whole of the Bible ! A rather limited education, perhaps, but at least it was for a few girls as well as for boys.

By 1794 a change had taken place: a School of Industry was in existence, in addition to the children's school. In that year, a Mr. Smith left £33 to the School of Industry, while Mr. Legg's older bequest was to be divided between maintaining eight boys at the boys' school at Wrington, and the rest to the School of Industry: clearly implying that there are two establishments, and perhaps a girls' school as well. The existence of a School of Industry suggests the needs of a village population many of whom no longer work solely on the land. Sometime at about this same period a Mrs. Ann Webb left £80 towards a Sunday School; but it was used instead for the School of Industry, where boys were taught to read, girls to read, sew and knit.

These references to a Sunday School and a School of Industry bring to mind Wrington's greatest personality, Hannah More: and in all probability the establishment of both was largely her work. In all the villages with whose welfare she was so concerned, not least her own village of Wrington, it is clear that Hannah was just as determined that the children should have a basic and practical education during the week, as well as religious instruction on Sundays.

Her Day Schools - or Schools of Industry - and Sunday Schools are often really only variations of the same institution, held in the same place, on different days. Moreover, the vast number of short stories, moral tales, poems and Bible stories which she wrote, mostly while she was living at Barley Wood, and which were issued as little booklets at
1d. or ½d. each, provided a completely new and much more varied diet for the reading classes at these schools, hitherto limited solely to the Bible.

Where was this early school situated ? Scarth, writing in 1887, states that up until about 1887 the village school "was in a small building on the left of the lane leading to Court Farm". The deed of the sale of this, the "Parish School Room", survives. It is dated 30th January 1860, and records how a group of Wrington clergy and gentry (probably the trustees of the school) sold to William and Zepheniah Organ, wooldealers, of Wrington, for the sum of £19, "All that House, Outhouse or Building and Premises for many years used as the Parish School Room for the said Parish of Wrington (and adjoining on the North to the Road or Way leading to Wrington Court Farm)".

Attached to the deed is a receipt of 18th Apri11861, for "stripping, Repairing Roofs on the schoolroom and Tiling the same", which was carried out by Mr. Samuel Parsley at a cost of £14 17s. 6d. As this is almost as much as it cost to purchase the building, it suggests that the schoolroom must have fallen into a poor state of repair. The description of the building, with the lane to Court Farm on its north side, agrees with Scarth's version. This is the old Parish School and may well be the school-room dating back to 1657. The paper Wrington Poor Houses has already made reference to the conversion of half the poorhouses, across the lane, into the Girls' National School in 1842. Perhaps the old parish school on the south side of the lane had by this time become the Boys' School: we cannot be certain. Nor is it clear whether the School of Industry or the Sunday School were housed in one or other of these premises, or elsewhere.

Brown's Guide to Weston, 1854 says that the cottage in which John Locke was born, and which formerly stood adjoining the north gate into the churchyard, was "until lately" used as a school. It was a private house when Locke was born there in 1632; but it might have housed one of these various schools at a later date - or the guidebook may have confused it with these other school buildings close by.

The old Parish School Room was sold in 1860 because its place had been taken by a new village school, in line with the educational legislation of the day; and this was the school that stands in School Road today. The original deed of the school sets out that Lord William Powlett, on 17th June, 1856, granted to the Minister and Churchwardens of the parish church of Wrington, "the cottage and garden wherein Abel Hardwick resided", together with part of the garden and a strip of the barton behind the cottage, about half an acre in all, being part of the Manor of Wrington, for a "school for the education of Children and Adults or Children only, of the labouring, manufacturing and poorer classes in the Parishes and ecclesiastical districts of Burrington, Blagdon, Churchill, Congresbury and Cleeve" - as well as Wrington itself.

The Rector of Wrington was to superintend the "religious and moral instruction " of all the scholars; while the Bishop had ultimate control of the school, the selection and dismissal of staff. A Committee was set up, consisting of the Rector, his curates and five other persons, who had to be members of the Church of England and own real property in the parish. This Committee was to meet on the 1st January each year; and they were to appoint a group ofnot more than four ladies, also all members of the Church of England, to assist them in the "visitation and management of the Girls and Infants School".