Stoke St Gregory History Pages
School Log Book
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.
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.
The following is a transcript of the first part of a talk given by Jenny Blackburn at a concert in the Village Hall in 1984 [More to follow] Many thanks to Jenny for allowing us to use it.
Everybody knows that ships’ captains and leaders of Polar expeditions keep log books, but not everyone is aware that Head Teachers also record the happenings of their establishments in a log.
I would like to share with you some of the interesting and amusing things I have found in old log books of Stoke St Gregory School. The earliest records start in 1863, and very interesting reading they make too.
I know things about some of you that you never knew about yourselves - or if you did you probably forgot about them long ago. For example I know when Emrhys Coate went to Langport to see the County Oculist; when Edward Parsons had scarlet fever; when David House won a prize for egg shackling and Ronald Woodland one for gardening; when Beryl Crudgley came second in a public speaking concert and Pat Colman went on a cycling tour of the Quantocks.
Does Eric Hembrow remember when he accidentally fell over in the playground, during the afternoon recess. It is recorded that his eyebrow was badly gashed through contact with a sharp stone, and the Head Teacher deemed it advisable to take him home and to the doctor’s.
The entries are for the great part every day events in the life of any school; they record the Christmas concerts, the services on St George’s Day (March 12th), the high days and holidays. Apart from those which were official, the children of the past took time off for seasonal work like apple picking, withy whitening, potato planting and picking, and of course the school was closed for Bridgwater Fair. Masters took a dim view of absences, and in April 1863 we read:
“Three boys and three girls admitted today, mostly small. The truth is this, the little ones stay at home during the winter, but when the withy whitening begins the children are sent out of the way so that the mother may be able to earn more and not be plagued with the little brats.” [Let’s not mince words, headmaster] "I fancy that this is the motive and not the education of the children, or they would be more regular at other times.”
In 1877, Walter Ernest Pullen (pictured here later in life) arrived at the tender age of 22, with his 19 year old bride, Annie.
Each Head Teacher in turn seems to have had a passion for recording items closest to his own heart. During the first two decades of this century SANITATION seems to have occupied a great deal of the masters’ time. Each month in 1900 & 1901 we read “W.C.s flushed this morning”. 1902 was uneventful on the lavatorial front, but on Monday 2nd March 1903 disaster struck! The headmaster had informed each of the Managers that the top of the cess pit had fallen in! On Tuesday 3rd March “Owing to a defective drain and a bad smell”, the school was suddenly dismissed for the rest of the day - after consultation with the ‘Reverend Correspondent’.
The school opened for, dare I say it, ‘business as usual’ next day but thankfully, a week later on Wednesday 11th March, it was reported that “cess pits were emptied today - a whole holiday given”. We can only presume that the necessary repairs were carried out - details are not given.
When a new Head took over in 1918 [Ernest Poles], after the previous master had served 41½ years at the school, virtually his first entry was concerning, guess what - yes, the state of the lavs. The entry for 17th January 1919: “The lavatories in the boys’ playground are in a very deplorable condition. The playground itself is very muddy owing to recent rains and this mud has been carried to the doors, floors, walls and seats by some of the bigger boys, who have also removed many bricks from the wall. These boys have been cautioned that any such behaviour will be severely dealt with in future and have been made to thoroughly scrub and clean all dirty places and flush the W.C.s. Also replace all the bricks removed.”
Watch out for the next instalment of Jenny's talk