Monday, 23 January 2012

More on the village schools

Background to Treasure Quest destination
The booklet 'Memories of Old Buckenham' (which now appears to be out of print) contains lots of information on the schools of Old Buckenham. The following text is about the Infant School built in 1865 when facilities for children were rather more primitive than they are today.
The absence of traffic and a much safer social climate meant that all the children, even quite small ones, could and in fact did have to walk to school. They walked in small groups of twos and threes to and from school, unaccompanied by adults, perhaps as much as two or three miles each way in all weathers and often in the dark. Each pupil carried his or her lunch sandwiches, unless fortunate enough to have friends near the school who would offer lunchtime refreshment.
There were two schools. The four to nine year old boys and girls, of whom there were about seventy, went to the Infant School facing the Green some four hundred yards south of the entrance to the Church. This school was built in 1865, given by Robert Cocks who also gave the almshouses. It was in continuous use as an Infant School until 1938.
It was essentially a one-room school with a high ceiling with a curtain dividing two classes. By modern standards conditions were harsh. Lighting in the winter was provided by oil lamps and there were only two fireplaces to provide heating. Those who remember that school have the abiding memory of the cold in winter. They also remember that the two lady school teachers frequently stood in front of the fireplace, so keeping what little heat there was from the children. Each lady teacher had her own class and taught all subjects.
Overcoats were piled on each other in the single cloakroom. This had a large grill over a drain in the centre so that it could be sluiced down to remove the mud that was brought in. The facilities consisted of a bucket with an enamel mug tied to it for drinking water for all the school and a single bowl of cold water for washing hands. As with most village houses, the toilets were separate structures out at the back.
There was no formal playground but the children did have a play area on the Green immediately in front of the school itself. When the older children in the Infant School reached the age of about eleven the whole class moved up to the Big School into what are now the Church Rooms at the entrance to the churchyard.
Both the Infant and the Big Schools were closed in 1938 when all schooling moved to a new Area School. The Infant School was sold to the local Young Farmers Club. When the Club moved to Attleborough the building fell into disuse and remained in this condition until 1972. It was then converted into a house and a first floor inserted to provide three bedrooms upstairs.
Outside this attractive little white house one can see the inscribed foundation stones recording the laying of the foundations by the Vicar‘s wife, Mrs Fulcher, in 1865. The Big School on the other hand became the Church Rooms for All Saints' Church.

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