Bampton's History

Education in Bampton

The earliest reference to a School in Bampton is a Charity of 1624 in The National Archive in London, but nothing more is known about it. On 12th August 1679, a licence from the bishop was granted to James Style to teach reading, English, writing, and arithmetic. Where the school was held is not known. In 1682, Nicholas Mellary taught at the school, but had omitted to obtain a licence from the bishop and was excommunicated for his trouble on 16th December. In 1705, two letters were addressed to the bishop of the diocese appealing for a change of schoolmaster. The preferred candidate was James Sealy alias Taylor who was described in one of the letters as “a man very careful, honest and industrious, and much fitter for it than our present School-master, who is very careless and negligent of his boys, very idle and scandalous ....”. James Taylor received his licence on 3rd September. On 9th May 1783 a “large commodious dwelling” was advertised to let. It was in use as a boarding school for young ladies in the occupation of Mrs. Symonds and Miss Crisp. Following tradition, its location is not known.

One obviously successful school was run by Rev. Thomas Wood, who was the vicar from 1731-1784. It is not known where the school was held; it could have been in the vicarage or the church, or the old cottages in West Street which (again?) became a school in 1857 [there is a faintly visible blocked up door on the churchyard side], but it seems that the education provided was a bit more than the proverbial “Three R’s”. Notable is the distance from Bampton where some of the pupils were born and lived.

Pupils of Note from Rev. Thomas Wood’s School at Bampton
From the Cambridge University Alumni, 1261-1900

Robert Tristram Lucas of Bampton, son of Robert Lucas. The only school he is known to have attended is Rev. Wood’s school at Bampton. He entered St. John’s College Cambridge in 1744 age 17.

Nutcombe Quick. He was born at Newton St. Cyres, Devon, attending Bampton school, then Tiverton, possibly Blundell’s. He entered Sidney College Cambridge in 1745 aged 17, became Prebendary of Exeter in 1755, and Chancellor of Exeter in 1757. He assumed the surname Nutcombe, of his mother’s family, in 1792, becoming known as Rev. Nutcombe Nutcombe. He is believed to have connections with Clayhanger.

William Wood, son of Rev. Thomas. His only known school is his father’s at Bampton. He entered St. John’s College Cambridge in 1745 aged 17, becoming Rector of Hawkridge, Somerset, in 1763, and rector of Clyst St. Laurence in 1765. He was the chaplain to Hester, Lady Chatham, wife of William Pitt the Elder, dates unknown.

Richard Beadon, born in 1737 at Oakford. He was the son of Robert, a freeholder of Oakford and Mary née Squire, daughter of Edward the rector of Oakford. He attended Rev. Wood’s school at Bampton, and Blundell’s at Tiverton. He entered St. John’s College Cambridge in 1754 aged 17, receiving the Chancellor’s Medal for Classics. He became M.A. in 1761, B.D. in 1769, and D.D. in 1780. He was a Fellow 1760-1773, Orator 1768-1778, Master of Jesus College 1781-1789, and Vice-Chancellor 1781-1782. He was ordained priest May 31st 1761 at St. David’s, Wales, becoming chaplain to the Bishop of St. David’s and Chancellor of the diocese, and a preacher at Whitehall in 1763. In 1771 he became the Domestic Chaplain to the Bishop of London, then Rector of Little Burstead, Essex, 1771-1775. He was Prebendary of St. Paul’s 1771-1802, and Archdeacon of London 1775-1789. At the same time he was Rector of both Stanford Rivers and Orsett in Essex. He became Bishop of Gloucester in 1789, and Bishop of Bath & Wells in 1802 until he died on 21st April 1824. On August 18th 1778 he married Rachel, the daughter of Dr. John Gooch, Prebendary of Ely. He is buried at Wells.

James Gay. The only school he is known to have attended is Rev. Wood’s at Bampton. He entered Sidney College Cambridge in 1752 aged 16. He was the son of John, Vicar of Wilshamstead, Bedfordshire, where he was born. He became Vicar of Coleridge, Devon, in 1763.

George Paddon, son of Rev. George Paddon of Chawleigh, where he was born. The only school he is known to have attended is Rev. Wood’s at Bampton. He entered St. John’s College Cambridge in 1763 aged 18, became a B.A. in 1767 and ordained a priest in 1771. He died on January 25th 1802.

The Free School

In March 1821 Mrs. Elizabeth Penton, in order to make some compensation for the loss of the wool trade to Bampton, invested £2,200.0.0. in Navy Stock at 5% to provide free education for 100 children in Bampton, 50 of whom were to be clothed – 25 each of boys and girls. (One could worry about the other 50!) Mrs. Penton also gave her school a Deed Poll of £50.0.0. in the Minehead Turnpike Trust. This was cashed on 31st January 1864, realising £38.0.0. which was paid into the school’s current account. [A Deed Poll was made by one party only and needed no duplicate. It was therefore permiss­ible to cut the edge off it clean (poll) rather than indent it (indenture)]. In August 1830 her sister, Suzanna Webber, added a further £1,000.0.0. to the investment, also in Stock at 5%, and Mrs. Penton’s original investment was converted to New 3½% Stock. The combined investments gave a total interest of £100.16.0, £95.16.0. of which was for the school. The remaining £5.0.0. was put aside for a Bread Charity. Mrs. Penton gave the house and had it converted for use as a school, The Free School, which later became the National School.

TBampton Free Schoolhe building consisted of a large upper schoolroom with a heavy sliding partition separating the boys from the girls, and there was a classroom on the ground floor. There were separate walled playgrounds for boys and girls. Mrs. Penton’s endowment was for the maintenance of the school, purchase of materials, and teachers’ salaries. The teachers had to be Church of England, and if there was only one teacher, that had to be a woman. Suzanna Webber’s investment was to augment the salaries and to promote the objects of the school, but not for altering or adding to the buildings. The children’s ages were to be between 6 and 12 years. They had to attend Sunday School then troop off to church behind the teachers. Compulsory education came with the 1870 Education Act, and was enforced from 1876. The school was enlarged in 1874 to accommodate an influx of 50 girls from another school in Bampton, possibly from Prospect House. At the request of the Board of Education, the school changed its’ name to Church of England in 1907. It closed in 1938 with the opening of the State School, the senior pupils moving to the Senior School, and the infants to the new Church of England Infants’ School.

TNational Terracehe National School was then converted into a terrace of 3 houses, and now stands as 1-3 National Terrace in Brook Street. A headstone in the churchyard stands over the grave of Mary Ann Hunt, the schoolmistress of the National School who died in 1846. She was seemingly none too well off but very much liked, for her headstone was erected by penny subscriptions from the parishioners. The teachers’ salaries were raised from 24th April 1904. The head teacher saw his annual salary rise by £10.0.0. to £120.0.0. One of the assistant teachers had a rise from £45.0.0. to £50.0.0., and another from £31.8.0. to £35.0.0. In 1905 a letter was received from the Attendance Officer in which the headmaster had stated that the children were being kept at home for the most trivial causes. The vicar, Rev. Henry Forrester Holmes, who was the chairman, said that a few sharp, rigorous prosecutions accompanied by salutary fines would speedily correct the evil.

National School Photo 1911

Pictured on the right are the pupils of the National School, Bampton, on 21st February 1911. The headmaster (rear left) is F Townsend. Remarkably, the names of all the pupils are known!

Bampton School 1938The state school now serves as the First school, whilst the old primary building, the Church School, was demolished in 1996 to make way for a small housing development which was built in 1997. The 1938 school was replaced by a new building in 2008. This old postcard shows the primary school in the left foreground, with the secondary school top right - neither beuilding now exists, and the area is covered with a housing estate.

Bampton school 2004Bampton's school, when first built, was an innovation in that it was aimed at teaching older children about local agriculture. Two films were made in Bampton which tell the tale of this, and of the children at war-time. One of the films is available on YouTube.

Other Schools

TThew Old Househere was a “Ladies’ Seminary” in The Old House, Frog Street, run by Mrs. and Miss Farrant, concurrent with a rather malodorous tannery. It was usual for the school to advertise the start of the next school term in the Exeter Flying Post, and in 1846 the notice also gave the fees charged – for board and tuition, including writing, arithmetic, and dancing £10 per annum. For French, music, and drawing in addition to the above, £24 per annum. In January 1859, a notice appeared in the Flying Post to the effect that the Misses Sandford had succeeded Mrs. and Miss Farrant at the Ladies’ Boarding School at Bampton.

Barnhay HouseIn July 1859 the advert said that the school was now at Barnhay House (right). In May 1861 the Misses Sandford announced that in consequence of the opening of the Exeter and Exmouth Railway, they have been induced to remove the Ladies’ Boarding and Day School from Bampton to No. 3 Johnson’s Place, Strand, Exmouth, at midsummer next, where the new term would start on Thursday July 18th. There may have been a different reason for the move however. The 1861 census shows just 3 boarders, 2 of whom were nieces of the Sandfords, and one other.

Another girls’ school existed in Prospect House, later thought to have been re-named Elkesley House, just into the New Tiverton Road, but no details of it are known. In Brook Street there were an infants’ school built in 1836, another day school, and another ladies’ boarding and day school, the exact sites of which are not known.

Croft HouseA boys’ boarding school occupied Rose House, now Croft House in Briton Street (right), the schoolroom being in the loft. From about 1858 to 1871 Henry Snell was the headmaster, in whose early years the school was known as The Academy. In 1871 there were 18 pupils, by now both boys and girls, who came from a wide area around Devon and Somerset, and one 11 year old from Australia.

Church TerraceA school of 12 boys and girls, not infants, was in the cottage at 1, Churchyard [Church Terrace] - shown left. Another was attached to Castle Grove, although it was purely for the use of the house. Yet another was in Newton Square in the 1850’s where the Spar shop now stands, the schoolmistress in 1851 being Jane B. Phillips.

The census of 1851 shows a number of children aged 2 as scholars, but which school they attended is not known.

Another infants’ school was funded by subscriptions from the public in Western Way (now Station Road) in 1857.

Station Road SchoolIt took children aged 3-5, after which they transferred to the National School. The building, a small terrace of 17th century cottages named Five Bells, was given by Mr. Phillips of Silver Street, either he who supplied the town water supply or his father, for the purpose of it becoming an infants’ school. This school too, closed in 1938 and was sold by public auction to pay off the loan raised to build the 1938 school.

Station Road SchoolIt had been used for church functions until the church hall was built in 1929, and it became the work room for the secondary school from 1938 until 1962. The 1938 school was built in the shape of a quadrangle in case it was needed as a hospital in the event of war. This did not happen, and the school functioned throughout the war years. It still benefits from the investments made by Mrs. Penton and Suzanna Webber.

Ingleside School, Wonham
When the Chichester family of Calverleigh Court died out, the Court was put up for lease. It was taken by Miss Fraad in the early 1930’s and she started a boarding school for girls. In 1936 the school had an all-girl bellringing team which won many competitions. The lease expired in 1946, which was about the time a mental home, which had re-located from Beckenham, S.E. London for the duration of the war, left Wonham House just outside Bampton, and Miss Fraad transferred to that house. Soon, she retired, and her niece took command of the school. She was rumoured have a liking for the bottle, with the result that parents started taking their children away. The school dwindled and was declared bankrupt in the summer of 1955, when a letter was sent to the parents of the few girls who remained telling them to collect their offspring. The girls’ lunch in that summer of 1955 often consisted of no more than a dry roll with some ketchup!

Petton and Shillingford

A school for 25 children was built at Petton in 1856, being supported by subscriptions and payments from the children. It was on a site known locally as Box, or Boxen, Hedge, now occupied by a house named Greenacres. There may have been an earlier one, of which nothing is known other than from the Will of William Squire of Hookway near Crediton, which gave charitable donations to schools in the area, including £5 to the school at Petton in 1843 and 1846.

Shillingford SchoolThe school was replaced by another at Shillingford which opened on 1st July 1878, and consisted of one classroom and a house for the teacher. It was extended in 1931 when the school at Clayhanger, built in 1886, closed. It in turn closed its doors in July 1992. The original site was conveyed to the Bampton School Board on 28th July 1876 by Rev. William Pulsford-Browne of York, and Sarah Augusta Hellings of Gloucester. When the County Council became the education authority, it held the site on trust for the donors’ successors who were entitled to the proceeds of the sale of the site. The successors had still not been traced by the evening of Sunday 23rd March 1997 when arsonists struck, leaving the schoolroom a blackened shell. Later in the year the building was sold and became a private house.

Also in Shillingford was a “Reformed School” which existed in the house named “The Elms” which opened in July 1913 and closed in the 1930’s. It was specifically for the children of unmarried parents, in the days when it was ‘not the done thing’ to have such children in the Church schools.

It seems that trials and tribulations of teachers are nothing new. The following are extracts from the Shillingford School logbook, kept by the headmistress, Miss Annie Greene.

2.6.1886. Edwin Davis, 10, and Alf Stevens, 9, have gone to work today for Mrs. Davey of Quartley farm who bargained for them yesterday. I have informed the Board of this and asked if it can be prevented.
14.8.1886. The holidays have proved fatal to the knowledge of many of the scholars.
8.12.1886. Wrote a letter to the School Board applying for a harmonium for use in the school.
11.2.1887. [A little jealousy, perhaps?]. No notice taken of my application for a harmonium. They have granted one to the infants’ school in Bampton. Cannot understand on what grounds they can refuse one to this school. It is not the first time I have written either. The mistress at Bampton had only been there a month when she got one. [Sniff??]
11.3.1887. [One can feel the relief!]. Have received the harmonium at last.
8.6.1887. Wrote to the School Board today informing them that the children have no place to drink or wash.
26.7.1887. There are 80 children here today, all in one room. It is very difficult for Mrs. Bridie and myself to get out all the work.
18.8.1887. Mr. Cleeve [of The Barleycorn] complained that four boys had unhinged his gate letting his donkey out onto the turnpike. On enquiry I found that a great number of scholars had a hand in it on their way home from school.
26.2.1891. More than half the school absent today. There is a bread distribution in Bampton [Mrs. Penton’s charity] this morning and they have gone for their share.
1.9.1891. Free education started today.
19.5.1892. A number of scholars have got severe colds and the coughing at work yesterday was enough almost to stop it.
2.9.1892. There is a good deal of illegal employment of children here and that accounts for the poor attendance.
2.7.1896. Attendance still very poor. One girl has been away “minding baby” now for the last seven weeks.
2.11.1903. Work is much hindered for the want of material. Our ink supply is exhausted and we have no needlework materials.
6.7.1906. Many children away. One girl is not well enough to come to school but can run around the village at play.

From the sequence of the above dates, it seems that the scholars saw very little in the way of school holidays.

The Bampton National School register for the year June 1900 to June 1901 is rather more sinister in its reading:

26.9.1900. Several cases of diphtheria in the town. School closed by order of the Medical Officer.
1.10.1900. Diphtheria in some families.
5.10.1900. School closed for a week because of diphtheria.
15.2.1901. Several cases of whooping cough.
19.2.1901. Several cases of whooping cough.
25.2.1901. The children nearly all have such bad coughs that it is almost impossible to hear ourself(sic) speak.
6.3.1901.   Only 10 children. They were sent home.
11.3.1901. Only 29 children; school closed for a week.
18.3.1901. Only 16 children. Closed for a further week.
26.3.1901. Closed until after the Easter holiday as nearly all the children in the town are ill with whooping cough, croup &c.
14.4.1901. Many children still ill, some seriously.
14.6.1901. Many children still ill, many cases of whooping cough.

Extracts from the Bampton Burial Register put the above into sharp perspective. Within that year, 23 children died whose ages ranged from 1 day to 6 years. Many of them were a matter of months old. The worst period was from April 20th until May 31st. 1901, when 11 children aged from 6 months to 6 years died. One family lost 3 children, aged 1 year 8 months, 3½ years, and 6 years. On February 17th 1859 a note appeared in the Exeter Flying Post that smallpox had broken out at Bampton, but so far only one death was reported. There was a predjudice against vaccination, some parents refusing to have their children vaccinated.

On a lighter note, on December 21st 1960, the children of Bampton Primary School put on a Nativity Play, the preparation for and the last 3 scenes of which were televised on the B.B.C. “Lookout” programme.

Tom McManamon


Bampton Heritage & Visitor Centre