The school was opened in 1832 and by 1850 had five classes being taught in two rooms. The children paid one nanny (0.4p) or a penny halfpenny (0.6p) a week. Pupil teachers were employed under a master until 1854. In 1858 the school is described as being of two rooms, one over the other, each 32 feet by 18 feet by 8.5 feet high. Around 100 children were taught by an uncertified master and mistress, who were paid a joint salary of £35. In 1866 a piece of land was conveyed in trust for a new school and a government grant of £146.17.16d (£146.87) was obtained. Local subscriptions raised a sum of £721.10.0d (£721.50) and a new school, costing £900, was built, being completed in 1867. It was placed in union with the National Society as a church school.
Until 10 May 1902 the Infants’ School was run as a separate department within the school. It then came under the master of the elementary school. The log books for the separate Infants’ School exist from 16 October 1876 when Emily Buck took charge of the school. The mistress changed in 1878, and again in 1881, when Fanny Colman arrived. A monitor had been appointed in 1878 and another, Alice Powney in 1881. The monitors received training out of school hours and took examinations to enable them to become teachers themselves. The infants learned a range of subjects, but initially the 3 ‘Rs’ – reading, writing and arithmetic. They also had scripture and singing lessons. Later they did natural history, needlework and knitting (both boys and girls), poetry and marching. They had object lessons, when they studied all aspects of one item, with objects including a lion, loaf of bread, a kettle, an apple, a beaver, a knife, fork and spoon, and iron.
Attendance in the 1880s seems to have averaged between 50 and 60 although there were low numbers when even the infants were kept at home for seasonal work such as pea picking in June. Annual holidays were two weeks at Christmas, two days (Good Friday and Easter Monday) for Easter, although this was increased to one week in 1879, one week at Whitsun and four weeks Harvest Holiday in the summer. Full day and half-day holidays were also given on the occasion of choir festivals, picnics, temperance meetings and school and church treats. There was also normally a half-day holiday given after an HMI inspection and when the schoolroom was needed for concerts or other activities. In 1880 this included a day when the room was required for a local lady’s wedding festivities, and in 1881 the school was closed when snow that had drifted under the tiles thawed and dripped through the ceiling.
Numbers at school were always affected by the weather and infants were more susceptible than the older children. Cold and wet weather always reduced numbers and sometimes the school was shut, as in January 1886 and February 1887 when heavy snowfalls closed the school for several days. Heavy snow also caused problems in January 1881 when the road was blocked for two days, while in October 1882 a violent gale caused closure for a morning. Illness also caused poor attendance with the infants very prone to coughs, colds and sore throats. More serious illness sometimes closed the school, measles in the summer of 1880 for three weeks and scarletina in the summer of 1885 for two to three weeks. Mumps and ringworm also made regular appearances. Sometimes accidents happened at school as when a boy fell when sliding on ice in the playground in February 1888 and cut his head badly. It had to be ‘plastered’ at a shop in the village. In 1886 a little boy caused great alarm by getting his finger stuck in a hole in the drain in the playground. It took some time to release him and all children were cautioned about playing there.
From being marked as ‘fairly satisfactory’ in the HMI report of 1877 the Infants’ department received increasingly good reports, culminating in this one for 1884.
The children of the department have done their work very well and are in very good order. Those in the fifth standard passed remarkably well in their elementary work and repeated their poetry with very good expression. Of those over six years of age both boys and girls passed well in reading and sums, the boys very well and the girls exceedingly well in writing. Of those over five years of age both boys and girls passed exceedingly well in writing and very well in their mental arithmetic which the boys read very fairly and the girls pretty fairly. The object lessons and the method of teaching in other subjects are good.
A. M. Powney has passed fairly but should attend to arithmetic, grammar, geography, method and history.
Other points from the log book include:
From 1876 all children paid one penny (0.4p) a week for instruction. Before this many children were taught for free.
In May 1883 a supply of kindergarten toys was received. Until June 1883 it seems that children aged under three years were brought in by older brothers and sisters. In that month it was decided that no child under three was to be admitted.
Miss Edgell, the vicar’s daughter attended the school on a regular basis to teach.
In 1882 the school remained open for infants during the Harvest Holidays with the young children under the care of Bessie Powney, a pupil teacher from the mixed elementary school. This acted as a crèche while parents and older children were engaged in harvest work.
From 1893 the school had accommodation for 197 children and dimensions of the rooms were; Mixed School 41 feet by 18 feet by 14 feet high, Infants’ School 34 feet by 16 feet by 15 feet high, classroom 18 feet by 16 feet by 15 feet high. Log books for the Mixed School only survive from 1894 and show a picture of life at the end of the Victorian period. Staffing was the master, a certified teacher, an assistant teacher and two pupil teachers. The pupil teachers had lessons from the master from 7.30 a.m. to 8.30 a.m. from May to September, and from 9.15 a.m. to 10.00 a.m. and 5.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m. from October to April.
Apart from the elementary lessons, the 3 ’R’s, the older children had a variety of lessons. These included scripture, history, geography, needlework, drawing and physical drill and exercise. Their arithmetic advanced to include the concepts of Euclid and they also learned how to write and address letters, and were taught good manners. During the 1890s attendances were normally over 100 and by 1896 the number on the school register had risen to 117 for the Mixed School. Not everyone attended, although obliged by law to do so, and in 1900 a summons was issued for one boy. Between 24 March and 21 April he had failed to attend 36 times (morning and afternoon school were counted separately).
The annual holidays were the same as those for the infants but by the 1890s the schoolmaster varied the Harvest Holiday according to the harvest. In 1894 an additional three weeks had been given when the potato crop was ready early. In 1896 the school was closed from 5 June to 19 July for pea gathering and potato picking, while in 1897 four weeks were given for pea picking from 28 June to 26 July. This seems to have been official acceptance of the fact that most of the children would have been absent anyway in order to get the early vegetables harvested as soon as possible. From 1895 two weeks were given for the Christmas holidays and the Inspector always requested a half-day holiday after an HMI inspection.
Owing to these extra holidays there seem to have been less seasonal absences among the children although older boys were often away potato dropping in April. Other absences were caused by stopping earths for the local hunt and being ball boys at a tennis party (both 1897). As with the Infants, but to a lesser extent, very wet weather caused low attendances. In 1900 the whole school was closed on 3 February because of a heavy snowfall. The bad weather continued and the school was closed again on the 14 and 15 when a blizzard blocked the roads. Serious illnesses made regular appearances and these would affect many children in the village, creating local epidemics. The major ones were diphtheria (1895), mumps (1896), measles (1897), chicken pox (1898) and scarlet fever in 1900 and 1901. There were also outbreaks of ringworm.
Punishment seems to have been caning on the hand or back for various misdemeanours. These included disobedience, boys being in the girls’ porch at playtime, making fingermarks on the wall, lighting fires and throwing stones in the schoolyard. In 1899 the boys lost their football when they kicked it into the garden of a local lady and she refused to return it.
The HMI reports for this period are reasonable and two typical ones are:
March 1897 – Mixed School – The children are much inclined to talk to and to prompt one another during their work. Reading is fairly good and in the lower standard fairly good progress has been made in writing, spelling, and arithmetic, but the upper classes are very weak in spelling composition and arithmetic. The class subject is on the whole well known and singing and needlework good.
28 March 1898
Mixed School – The children are in good order. They have been carefully taught and have made on the whole good progress in the elementary and class subjects. Needlework and singing are good. The floor of the school must be washed more frequently.
Infants’ Class – The infants are making good progress. The staff should at once be strengthened, so as to meet the requirements of Article 73 of the code which are not at present satisfied (Article 08). E. King is recognised under Art. 68 code. B. King and G. M. King should be re-vaccinated before application is made for their recognition as probationer pupil teachers.
Other points of interest from the log books are:
Minor works in December 1895 included, masons repairing the step and sink for water in the cloakroom, a hole in the schoolyard filled, the school wall repaired, the stove chimneys swept, a new boot scraper for the boys and two new mats for the school porches.
In 1896 every child was given a Christmas card.
A photograph of all the schoolchildren was taken in May 1895.
In December 1897 a piano for the school was delivered and placed in the infants’ room.
In May 1898 the schools were thoroughly washed during Whitsun week.
After the Harvest Holiday in 1899 the children found that new floors had been laid in both schoolrooms, the walls and windows had been cleaned and there was a new urinal in the boys’ side.
On 28 May 1900 the children were much interested in the eclipse of the sun, which began at 2.47 p.m. They were shown at afternoon break (3.00 p.m.) and again at the end of school. Each of the children looked at the sun through a piece of blackened glass.
In October 1894 Mr. Powney had kindly given and erected goals so that the boys could play football with a ball they had recently received.
In August 1895 the local policeman visited the school over the matter of children pulling up Mr. Hughes’ mangolds.
In November 1898 one boy, W. Cleverly, got too close to a working threshing machine at morning break and his eyebrow was pierced and had to be bandaged.
In 1906 Chittoe School closed and the children were transferred to the Bromham Church School. This increased the numbers, which by 1910, were 129 in the mixed school and 68 infants. Older children (11+) were transferred to Calne in 1938 and the school became a mixed junior and infants’ school instead of elementary (all age) school. The school was granted Voluntary Controlled status in 1948 and further information can be found under St. Nicholas Church of England (V.C.) Primary School.
By 1950 the school had a head teacher and 2 other teachers, and there was an average attendance of 80, a figure that rose to 93 in 1955. In later years the Victorian building was extended to provide a library and administration rooms. In 1978 there were 220 children attending the 2 schools in Bromham but by 1984 this had fallen to just over 100 children and it was obvious that 2 schools were too many for this number of pupils. The County School closed and its pupils were transferred to St. Nicholas in September 1984. The school was extended by the addition of a double and single mobile to provide 3 classrooms. By 1997 there were 102 pupils, mainly from the village, and this figure changed very little over the next few years. In 2003/4 permanent classrooms were built to replace the mobiles and these were officially opened in September 2004.