14 – The School

Nina Brown, schoolteacher, as Sally Peters in the Revel 1906
Headmaster Mr. Braddon with his pupils in 1905
Butleigh School outing in 1950

As with the infant school, the National School was built in 1845 with a grant from the National Society. It was designed to house a maximum of seventy five children aged from six or seven up to fourteen. The Head Teacher lived in the school house which was an integral part of the school building. The school house now forms part of the school and its office. The school had two classes, younger pupils were on the stage and older ones on the lower section. Up to the mid 1900s the classrooms were heated by stoves burning peat (stored under the stage) and coal. There were boys and girls in each class but, in the playground, they were separated by a stone wall. We have many recordings of local people who attended the school before, during and after WW1 and these tell us much about the schooling at that time. Mr Braddon, who was the headmaster from 1903 to 1926, rented the orchard opposite the school (now Grenville Close) from the Squire and turned part of it into a garden. He gave gardening lessons to the pupils and in July 1916 they contributed to the war effort by sending to the British Fleet in the North Sea, 573 cabbage lettuces, 197 Cos lettuces, 30 cabbages and 60 turnips. Robert Neville Grenville, the Squire, visited the school often and all the boys had to salute him and the girls curtsied. He presented the school with a set of naval semaphore flags and the pupils had to learn how to signal with them. Violet West, Mr. Braddon’s daughter, was fluent in semaphore and could hold a conversation using the flags. The pupils also had to do military drill in the playground and Nelson’s instruction ‘England expects every man to do his duty’ was painted on a beam in the school. One day each week, the pupils were taken on a ramble for nature studies and often returned covered in mud! Absenteeism was common, with many outbreaks of measles, scarlet fever, whooping cough, chicken pox, influenza and impetigo noted in the school log books. The school staff played an important role in the social life of the village – Mr. Braddon ran a choir for boys and men and teachers Miss Brown and Miss Baker ran the Butleigh Friendly Society that provided an early form of medical insurance. When the infant school closed in 1947, the infants transferred to this school.