Happy Anniversary Lewknor School!

20th October 2016

Children stepped back in time when they dressed as Victorians to mark the opening of Lewknor Primary 180 years ago.

The children learned all about Victorian schooldays such as the strict discipline, how boys and girls had to sit separately, how teaching was by repetition (for example, whole class reciting the times tables), how ‘naughty’ children had to stand in the corner wearing a dunce hat, and how the class was expected to stand when an adult came into the room and could only sit down when they were told to do so.

Lewknor resident Barbara Scott, who attended the school from the mid-Thirties to the early Forties, spoke to the children about her memories and answered their many questions.  She recalled how it was very cold in the classrooms because the only heat came from the small fireplaces and how the teachers would stand in front of them preventing the heat from getting out! Mrs Scott, who still lives in the house she grew up in, was joined by some other old boys and girls (Sarah Smith, Alan Ashby and Karen Avery), who currently have their own children at Lewknor.

School has some old log books and diaries kept by previous Head Teachers and their comments are extremely interesting and often amusing. Headmistress Evelyn Scott (no relation to Barbara) worked from 1928 to 1960 at the school. When she applied for the job of Headmistress in 1928 she was up against several male candidates. At the interview, Reverend Thurburn, the local vicar who was on the interview panel, announced: ‘‘Whoever can play the organ in church on Sunday will get the job.”

Evelyn was furious and told the interview panel that she could not play the organ and had no ‘intention of doing so’. Luckily, none of the other candidates could play either so Evelyn got the job. She married on August 6th 1928 and moved into the school house on August 22nd. She wrote: ‘‘It was rather like living in a match box, but we were very happy.’’

However, being the first female Head Teacher caused quite a stir in the village. Evelyn wrote: ‘‘Lewknor School had had a Master since 1836 and according to the beliefs of several vociferous mothers, a woman could not cope, so they did their best to see me off. Had I been able to give a month’s notice, I would have done so, but I decided that as I had to give three months statutory notice, I would bide my time in this grubby, old-fashioned, draughty school with its water from the pump and its bucket lavatories, to say nothing of the generous sprinkling of fleas and lice.’’ Must have had a bad day when she wrote that comment!

Evelyn also recalled the time when the children had to practise what to do in an air raid during the Second World War… ‘‘The authorities told us that in case of an air raid warning we were to take the children into church and in two minutes flat the children were under the pews. What fatuous advice! After several dashes I decided that we were better off in school. After all we might be mistaken for a hay-rick, with our thatched roof.’’

She went on to write about the war years, ‘‘My husband came home in July 1945 after six years in the army. Our youngest daughter, then nine, took rather hardly to the new discipline and after a week said, ‘I wish that man would go away again’. I think it was difficult for him too, as being a Major, he had been obeyed instantly.’’

Attendance, it seems , has always been an issue:

26th July, 1897: ‘‘An attempt was made to open school today. 61 were present in the morning but only 42 returned in the afternoon when the school was closed by the managers’ orders. The reason was that at Postcombe a fair was held.

25th February, 1898: ‘‘Roads blocked by snow. Only 15 present. School closed.’’

30th June, 1899: ‘‘Attendance very irregular although the weather is fine. No doubt it is on account of hay-making.’’

Accidents and Illnesses

11th July, 1898: ‘‘FW of Postcombe has been shot in the arm by a boy from London, who was playing with a loaded revolver.’’

30th April, 1900: ‘‘School closed for three months on account of scarlet fever.’’

4th February, 1935: ‘‘On Thursday GE was sick in school. On Friday it was found that she had scarlet fever. The medical officer was phoned for advice on Saturday morning but said that nothing could be done except to exclude ‘sore throats’. Almost every child has a cold and cough.

31st May, 1938: ‘‘At 4.45pm last evening FH was killed by a car on the Main Road. He cycled out of Icknield Way straight into a saloon car. A verdict of accidental death has been returned.’’

1st September, 1943: ‘‘JP subsided under the weight of BS leaning on her, and fractured her femur. Dr Crowhall came and splinted the leg and the child was sent to the Radcliffe.’’

Health and Safety

8th April, 1960: ‘‘PR fell and hurt her nose badly. Mrs Seymour took her to Watlington where she saw Dr B. He sent her home to rest.’’

2nd May, 1960: ‘‘At medical inspection by Dr S., 20 children were examined. I asked him to examine PR’s nose, which is causing her a good deal of pain. No decision was made.

7th July, 1960: ‘‘After several weeks, PR was sent to the Radcliffe where her nose was found to be broken. She had an operation to straighten her nose.’’


13th January, 1967: ‘‘Mr Lockley arrived at 10.30am to explain the procedure in the event of a nuclear attack. The school is to be used as a rest centre.’’

12th June, 1967: ‘‘Miss Woods inspected heads of all the children; all were found clean.’’

I hope you enjoyed all the diary entries as much as I did.

Mrs Cole