When attempting to discover the social background of
children, particularly in the nineteenth century, but also in more
recent times,family historians often neglect school records. Yet for
those who have never been tempted to explore these records they can
provide valuable insights into how schools were integrated into the
community, especially in rural areas. The main sources, and certainly
the most illuminating, are log books. The earliest log books date from
1862 when legislation was introduced requiring headteachers to record
the daily life in Government-financed schools. Barbara Dove has been
looking through some local school records.
A log book, started in 1863 at Kidmore End Primary School,
sets out what is expected from teachers:
‘The Principal Teacher must daily make in the Log Book
the briefest entry which will suffice to specify either ordinary
progress, or whatever other fact concerning the School or its Teachers,
such as the dates of withdrawals, commencements of duty, cautions,
illness, &c., may require to be referred to at a future time, or
may otherwise deserve to be recorded. No reflections or opinions of a
general character are to be entered in the Log Book. No entry once made
in the Log Book may be removed nor altered otherwise than by a
subsequent entry. The Inspector will call for the Log Book at his
annual visit, and will report whether it appears to have been properly
kept throughout the year. The summary of the Inspector’s Report, when
communicated by the Committee of Council to the Managers, must be
copied into the Log Book by the Secretary of the latter, who must also
enter the names and description of all teachers to be added to, or
withdrawn from, those entered by the Inspector, according to the
decision of the Committee of council upon the Inspector’s Report’.
The content varies greatly from school to school and,
naturally, accordingly to when and by whom it was written. So here are
just a few of the jottings I found in log books at Kidmore End, from
the years between 1863 and 1904.
19 May 1863 Attendance very small. (Weather) N.B.
In this village, where the homes of most of the children are so distant
from the school, wet or very cold weather, lefsens greatly
8 October 1868 1st class not well attended. Boys
wanted for work in the field and for tending cattle.
14 June 1869 (Entry covers over three pages the name,
age, when admitted and standard of 68 children present at the school. I
have extracted this information and if anyone is interested please
contact me on ).
3 April 1871 Harry Castell and George Prior
punished for playing truant yesterday afternoon. No drill in the
afternoon, the weather being damp and showery.
17 May 1872 George Cleater not to come to school
while his younger brother is sick from Measles. Jesse Yates sent away
for being ragged and dirty.
10 June 1872 The School pence received this
morning found deficient of 1/2d, when counted over, suspicion aroused
that one of the older children had been guilty of theft.
11 June 1872 The suspicion aroused yesterday
found to be correct, the girl (E.H.) confessing her guilt to the Vicar,
after perfect evidence had been obtained of it.
1 January 1878 School reopened; fair attendance,
with unfavourable weather. Mary E. Jennings 3rd year Pupil Teacher,
arrived from Sopley, on Saturday last, and M. Maria Suffolk, from
Baxterley, Warwickshire, 1st. year Candidate, on Monday, 31 December.
Divine Service at 11.30.
2 April 1878 The School could not be commenced
until 9.45, owing to the School room chimney having caught fire. The
Scripture Lesson therefore omitted.
25 May 1878 (this entry is edged with a black
border and Memorandum written at the side) The Mistress and
two teachers started for Henley on Saturday morning about 8 a.m.; after
proceeding about a mile, at the corner of the road leading to Peppard,
the conveyance, which was proceeding at a rapid rate was overturned,
and they were all thrown out. Help having been obtained, they returned
to Kidmore, a messenger being despatched by the Vicar to Henley to
inform H.M. Inspector of the accident. Mary Jennings escaped with
slight contusion of the forehead, the Mistress and Maria Suffolk more
seriously injured. Being unable to attend to their duties, School was
kept on the following Monday and Tuesday by the Vicar and M. Jennings,
assisted by Mifs Sturges and Mrs Henman; and then temporarily closed.
Medical aid was called in on Monday May 27th; Maria
Suffolk grew rapidly worse from Friday, 31st. and expired on Sunday
eve., June 2nd. her Mother, having been telegraphed for, arrived the
eve, previous. Mr Suffolk arrived too late to see his daughter alive.
On Tuesday, June 4th, her remains were conveyed to her own home,
School remained closed during this week the Mistress being
unable to attend.
Extract from the log book
describing the accident
18 June 1878 Two temporary Scholars admitted.
Highest attendance ever made (132) both morning and afternoon.
12 December 1881 Two tons of coal brought in.
School routine as usual during week.
8 January 1883 Commenced taking Dictation on
paper. Spelling very bad.
The Toms family left and gone to Hook End School because
their father was summoned and fined for not sending them regularly.
29 October 1883 I, William Colwill, Certificated
Master of the Second Class, late Head master of the Westonzoyland Board
School, Somerset commenced my duties in this School today.
5 November 1883 This afternoon the village
policeman came to the School and complained that a boy had thrown a
stone at a duck in the pond opposite the school and had broken its leg.
On inquiry I found that several had been throwing but the boy who
struck the duck was called Hicks. I cautioned him and announced to the
whole school that any boy who throws stones during the dinner hour or
at play time will be caned.
Only 70 children present this afternoon. Several gone
14 December 1883 On Monday the children who stay
to school to dinner were given hot coffee with their food.
They seemed to enjoy it very much. This was done on
Wednesday and today, and it has certainly been the means of making the
children look more cheerful in the afternoon, and has improved the
attendance in the afternoon, as some who previously went home to dinner
and sometimes did not return to afternoon school now stay in the school
28 June 1886 School Year 1885-86
Corporal Punishment has been inflicted in this school
during the past year for the following offences: Lying: Petty Thefts:
Frequent inattention to lessons: Obstinacy: Stone throwing: Idleness:
Copying and Prompting. The three later have been the most frequent.
The punishment mostly consisted of one stroke on the hand
sometimes one on each hand.
30 November 1887 Mr Sutton, Dyson’s Wood, came
to the School at dismissal this afternoon and handed the master 10
shillings towards the ‘Coffee Fund’. He said he was unable to be
present at the Church when the collection was made and therefore wished
to give something privately
20 January 1888 Dinners this week provided by
Miss Tyrrell. They consisted of Soup on Tuesday and Irish Stew today,
about 50 children partook on each occasion.
21 March 1888 Rose Randall buried this afternoon.
12 October 1891 Wet this morning, several
children have left today, Fathers gone to other villages for work. The
usual Michaelmas changes.
Admitted 2 boys called Godding.
28 July 1892 Boys Cricket Match this afternoon,
Peppard and Kidmore.
15 October 1894 The urinal attached to the boys
closet was choked up owing to the rain but was soon cleared again. On
account of the mornings being very cold fires were commenced on the
Tuesday of last week.
19 April 1901 Average for week 127. On books 143
89%. The new classes have settled into their fresh work during the
week. The first class consists of 44 children very unequal in
attainments, it is rather difficult to keep them at work and also to
superintend the other classes.
report of Diocesan Inspector (Copy)
‘The school throughout is making very satisfactory
progress, especially the children of the highest division, who answered
B’p’s Prize Bertrum Lovejoy
Commended Group 3 Beatrice Wise, Arthur
Russell, Lily Cook, Edith Callis, Jno Ledbury,* Wm Long,* Frank
Beasley. Group2 Sid Ambrose, Archie Old, Wm Cook, Ethel
Beesley, Elbena Cox, Lily Middleton. *Won Bp’s Prize in former years.
J.W. Nutt Inspector
29 June 1904 Visited the school. The rooms are
crowded, and the question of the Enlargment of the school needs serious
attention. The walls sh’be coloured, and the doors made to open
outwards. The infant room is scarcely adequately lighted. E.F. Davidson
In comparison here are some extracts taken from the
Arborfield and Barkham C of E School log book held at the Berkshire
Record Office, Catalogue reference 84 SCH 1/2 (Log book December 1915
to December 1958). I have taken a selection from the log book relating
to the time that I attended the school, which was from January 1951 to
23 July 1957.
9 January 1951 School re-opens N.O.R. 114
3 May 1951 the children of Primary Department
visited the Church this morning. School closed at noon.
4 February 1952 Mrs. Clarissa Margaret Chambers
3 August 1898 commenced duties as supply teacher in the Infants
6 February 1952 the staff and children were
informed of the death of His Majesty King George VI which occurred in
the early hours of this morning.
24 April 1952 In consequence of the installation
of flush type lavatories the Offices man was given one month’s notice
to terminate his engagement.
9 May 1952 Mr. Brewerton HMI visited the school
today re accommodation. The head teacher accompanied him to inspect the
25 July 1952 School closed Annual Outing by
coach to Littlehampton.
29 July 1952 School Prizes presented. Closed for
30 September1952 The Village Hall is now being
used as a temporary classroom, accommodating the Lower Juniors with
Miss Headerly in charge. Installation of the telephone was completed
5 November 1952 Miss Betty Frances Wright
permanent staff w.e.f. 1.XI.52
28 May1953 School celebrations in honour of the
Coronation of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II. Before an assembly of parents
and friends each class gave a performance of dances singing and
Commemoration trees presented by Mrs. Simmonds, chairman
of the managers, were planted by her. Mrs. Howard-Jones, who
subsequently presented each child with an engraved beaker provided by
the County Council. This was followed by a tea.
12 June1953 Accompanied by the Chairman of the
Managers and staff, all children were taken to the Odeon Theatre in
Reading this morning to see the Coronation colour film ‘A Queen is
1 September1953 Miss M.A. Smeed has joined the
staff. Miss Wright has been married during the holidays and is now Mrs.
B.J. Cole. Work has commenced on the erection of new classrooms.
7 January 1954 School re-opened after Christmas
Holidays. Mrs. Chambers was absent as she has undergone an operation in
the R.B.H. 2 Temporary teachers appointed in her absence.
There is now a six class organisation, with the head
teacher no longer responsible for the full time teaching of a class.
Three new classrooms have been completed and were occupied for the
first time today.
16 July 1954 Junior class 2 journeyed to London
on Education visits to Science Museum and Natural History Museums in
26 July 1954 Prize giving was held this
afternoon. To mark his seven years work here, the headmaster was
presented with a television receiver, subscribed for by children,
parents, staff, Managers and friends.
28 July 1954 On appointment as Headmaster of
Dedworth County School. I terminate my engagement here. (Signed J
31 August1954 I, Cyril A. Piggott, formerly
Headmaster of West Winch V.P. School, Norfolk today take up my
appointment as Headmaster, Arborfield and Barkham C.E. School.
6 September1954 A representative of the S.E.B.
visited the school and informed the Headmaster that the supply of
electricity should be available within the next fortnight.
15 September 1954 Anthony Rourke re-admitted
21 September 1954 The electricity supply was
finally connected. November1954 Sandra Leach presented flowers to Mrs.
27 April 1955 The Headmaster and all the Kitchen
Staff this afternoon attended the funeral of Mr. Sellwood.
22 June 1955 Individual and family photographs
were taken this morning.
6 July 1956 School was closed today. The
children of the top two age groups went on a tour of Berkshire today,
visiting Combe Gibbet, the Vale of the White Horse, the White Horse and
the Blowing Stone. Wantage and Abingdon. The return journey was via
February 1957 Geoffrey Higgs (Junior 1) was
knocked down by a van outside the Swan Public House at 4.15.pm he was
later taken to Battle Hospital.
22 May 1957 Individual photographs were taken of
27 June 1957 Mrs. Sumner resigned from her
position as a kitchen helper today.
23 July 1957 School closed at 3.45pm for School
Of all these events at Arborfield I particularly remember
having school photographs taken; it is so useful to have an exact date.
I remember too those school trips, and when my mother, Mrs Sumner, left
the school because she was expecting my youngest sister. Looking
through these log books often provides some unexpected surprises — the
state of the children coming to school, discipline and accidents that
happened to them. Treasured memories — happy times, sad times,
celebrations locally and sometimes nationally.
If log books survive they maybe in the local County Record
Office, or still held at the school. I suggest that you ask the county
record office first and if they don’t have them then approach the
school. If the school has changed its name the CRO should be able to
help. One of the important things to remember is that there is a
closure date on all school records as they may contain sensitive
I hope you enjoy your visit back into your own and your
ancestors’ childhood, as much as I have. Happy hunting!
Acknowledgements to Berkshire Record Office and the
Headteacher at Kidmore End Primary School.