Stoke St Gregory School
"I, Anna Gore Langton, lay this Foundation Stone of the Parish School of Stoke St. Gregory, in faith and hope, to the glory of God; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
School Photos HERE
Stoke's school was built in 1857/8, on land given by the Rev. Richard Watson Moor, who was 'Perpetual Curate' of the parish (before Stoke had it's own vicar). He was a very wealthy man, having married the widow of a Bedforshire banker/ corn merchant. He may even have paid for the village vicarage to be built, but this needs verifying.
The County Herald reported on the stone laying ceremony in detail: "COUNTY AND DISTRICT NEWS. Stoke St. Gregory.—Laying the Foundation Stone of New Parochial Schools.—Thursday last had been looked forward to with considerable anxiety and interest by all classes in this somewhat sequestered village the day which the first stone of large and commodious schools, designed by C. E. Giles, Esq., Taunton, subject to Privy Council arrangements, about to be erected this parish, was to be laid the Lady Anna Gore Langton. At half past eight the church bells began to peal forth in a merry strain, to remind the parishioners that it was not an ordinary day ; and triumphal arches of evergreens and flowers, decked with flags, in the neighbourhood of the school site and parsonage house, betokened that something more than usual was going on. Visitors from adjoining parishes, from and from Taunton, began to arrive about 10, and assemble in the parish church for a service at ll. The school children, in their Sunday clothes, were gathered in the transept set apart for their use, and shortly after the clergy, robed in surplices, entered at the chancel door, and took their places within the communion rail. . . . At a later hour, about 150 children walked into the garden and field in procession—were regaled with tea and cake to their hearts' content —and enjoyed themselves with games, in which half the grown-up part of the parish seemed to join with relish, till between 7 and 8. The National Anthem was then sung; cheers for various friends given; and thus the day, pleasant and fine in itself, was brought to happy close, and will doubtless long be remembered, by all who shared in its celebration."
It had been planned to open the new school on 3rd August 1858, but this coincided with the laying of the foundation stone for the new the tower of St. Mary Magdalene, Taunton. The ceremony then took place on Monday 16th August, as reported in the Taunton Courier: "Stoke St- Gregory.—Monday was a grand day in this parish, this being the opening of the new parochial school. The weather was delightfully fine, and the village, which was tastefully decorated with arches and evergreens, came out in festive array in honour of the event. Divine service was held the church at 12, when the Lord Bishop preached an admirable sermon in aid of the school fund. Afterwards the clergy, and visitors, and the school children, bearing flags, walked in procession to the school-room, and the building was opened and dedicated to the important work of education in due form. A tent was erected on the parsonage lawn, where a cold collation was served up; and all comers were privileged to partake of the courteous hospitalities of the Rev. R. W. Moor, the incumbent. A happy and well spent day was closed with a number of out-door amusements of an innocent and recreative character."
Drawing by Alfred Alexander, 1860
When the school opened it catered for 140 children, who stayed up to the age of 14. Some children might stay on as 'pupil teachers', when they would be given some more education while looking after some of the younger ones. The first recorded schoolmaster living in the school house is an unmarried man, aged 23 in the 1871 census. Alfred H Lacey, born in Wincanton, also had a housekeeper, Jane Spiller, a 54 year old widow from Ilfracombe.
In 1877, Walter Ernest Pullen (pictured later in life) arrived at the tender age of 22, with his 19 year old bride, Annie. Also living with them at the 1881 census were Annie's two brothers, Frederick, 12, and John, 8, both pupils at the school. Although Annie was a Devon girl, the boys had been born in Norwood, Middlesex, so we are not sure where Walter started his career. There was no 'Lord of the Manor' in Stoke, and the vicar, Reverend Gurney, was something of a recluse, so the headmaster took a leading role in village life, especially in organising social events. and running evening classes for the adults of the village. Mr Pullen was headmaster for over 41 years (his wife Annie also taught in the school).
He used rhymes to get the message home to his pupils.
Learning the names of the Channel Islands:
"Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark
A pennorth of meat and a twopenny fark"
And the Somerset rivers:
"Avon, Axe, Parrett and Tone
Give old Knocker a marrow bone"
(Knocker was the dog at the Royal Oak)
The girls in the picture are having a sewing class in the Church Room