History of Stourton Caundle

Early Childhood Memories

By Phil Knott

School House

I started school at four years old, walking the short journey from Bridge Cottage wearing hob nailed boots. My mother accompanied me on my first morning and I can remember seeing Mrs. Stainer at her customary position leaning on her garden gate, at the lower side of the school entrance, looking for an opportunity to catch up on the latest village news. I cried on my first day and was made to stand in the corner of the classroom facing the wall until I stopped. After that first day we all walked to and from school unsupervised, with the older pupils looking out to younger brothers and sisters. Most children also went home to lunch, with the few remaining for school lunch supervised by Miss Tite the infant class teacher. Hot school meals were delivered by the school bus in aluminum containers.

Miss Dutton was the head teacher at this time and she lived at Corner Cottage. One of my earliest schoolboy memories was the announcement of the death of King George VI, when pupils from the top class were sent into the infant class, to inform us of the King’s death. Mrs. Dutton left the school in 1953, following the fire at Corner Cottage, which left her homeless and resulted in the loss of most of her personal possessions. My father spotted the smoke rising from the thatched roof during afternoon milking at Manor Farm. Along with some other village residents he was able to gain access to the cottage to rescue some furniture and household items, before the fire took hold. By the time the Fire Brigade arrived the house was well alight. The fire crews were hampered by poor water pressure and could not save the property, with only the walls left standing. The term after Miss Dutton’s departure a teacher from Stalbridge School provided temporary cover until the appointment of Mr. Foxwell.

Corner Cottage, with lady standing in doorway

Corner Cottage, with lady standing in doorway

The school caretaker at the time was Mrs Osmond who lived in a thatched cottage on the opposite side of the road to the school. Facilities at the school were rather basic, with both the girls, and boys, toilets located outside of the main building, at opposite ends of the divided playground. The boy’s urinals were uncovered and one of the favourite pranks of older boys was to try and aim over the top of the wall and out into the playground. Heating in winter was by means of an anthracite stove located at the one end of the large classroom. The classrooms were divided by means of large double wooden doors. 1950s winters seemed a lot colder than now and we often sat in class shivering with our overcoats on and numb hands. The favourite winter playground activity for the boys was creating slides on the frozen ice.

Infants Class 1953

Back Row: John Harris, Roy Bond, Michael Ford, Eric Bealing
Front Row: Susan Gray, Sandra Gwinnurth, Brenda Gray, Lena Bond and Philip Knott

Following Mr. Foxwells appointment the dividing wall in the playground was removed and the outside toilets connected to the main sewer, which had just been installed in the village. Morning assemblies were held in the large classroom for all schools pupils and all children shared the same playtimes. Pupils were divided into mixed age groups for outdoor activities, such as team sports and gardening. The only outdoor equipment was a swing and a sandpit. Marbles, hopscotch rope, skipping and catch tag, were the normal playground activities. The garden belonging to the former schoolhouse, located beyond the playground, was grassed down to provide a small playing field, with ten garden plots under the boundary wall with the Old Vicarage. Junior pupils of varying ages were allocated to each plot. Gardening was included in the school curriculum and a cup presented for the best-kept plot. The former Schoolhouse was at the end of a terrace of thatched cottages adjoining the Village High Street, nearest the entrance to the school. The cottages had fallen into a state of disrepair, after being condemned as unsafe, and were demolished in the late 1930s. The foundations were still intact and the area, which resembled a war time bomb site, provided us with a playground.

The Junior Class of 1958, my final year at the Primary School

The Junior Class of 1958
Front Row: David Else, Graham Phillips, Clive Knott, Tony Booker, Colin Harris, Dennis Reddicliffe, Michael Phillips, John Foxwell
Second Row: Pauline Ashford, Eva Loader, Jane Collard, Suzanne Reddicliffe, Lesley Evans, Shirley Booker, Susan Gray, Wendy Phillips, Ruth Bradbury, Sandra Gwinnurth, Jane Downton, Maureen Mullett
Third Row: Ann Shapland ? Payne, Hilary Gray, Kathleen Knott, Jennifer Swaffield, Marina Shapland, Claire Ridgway, ?
Back Row: Michael Screen, Roger Else, David Loader, Michael Harris, Angela Phillips, Maureen Else, Jimmy Collard, Malcolm Gray, Richard Loader, Gregory Foxwell, ? ? Eric Bealing, Alan Mullett, Philip Knott, Tom Knott

In the classroom the emphasis was very much on numeracy and literacy, tables were recited on a regular basis by all the class and left imprinted on the pupil’s mind. Spelling and mental arithmetic tests took place on a weekly basis. Cups were also presented for pupils finishing top of the class and for the best attendance record. There was strong discipline at the school, and the cane used in the junior class whenever a child’s misbehaviour was considered to be sufficient to warrant it, with no distinction made between boys and girls. There were four rows of double desks in the large classroom, with the youngest pupils situated in the front row and the ten and eleven year old pupils at the back. The pupils were seated in perceived order of ability, with the brightest to the left when facing the class, and then in descending order across the classroom to the far right. The Head Teacher taught a mixed age and ability range of pupils from seven to eleven years old in a single classroom without any support.

In 1958 I passed the eleven plus examination, having failed the previous year at the age of ten. The reward from my parents was my first bicycle, purchased second hand from Reg Innes. He repaired and sold bicycles from his workshop in Sturminster Newton, on the right hand side of what is now the entrance to the main car park, with the redeveloped site now known as Innes Court.

Fosters Grammar School at Sherborne was an all boys school, with a total of one hundred and eighty pupils on roll, made up of around thirty-two pupils a class for forms one to five and a split sixth form of around twenty pupils studying for ‘A’ levels. Lewis Coaches from Stalbridge and later on the Bere Regis Bus Company, which had depots at Sherborne and Hazelbury Bryan, provided the school transport. The bus was usually overcrowded following the Alweston pick up and for the remainder of the journey we sat three to a seat, with standing room only for the last on.

The all male teaching staff wore mortarboards and gowns and the sixth form prefects patrolled the building and playing fields, during break times and at lunchtime, to enforce discipline. Giving out detentions to any pupil caught in the act of any minor misdemeanour’s, with smoking behind the cricket pavilion being the most common.

My sister Kathleen and myself in the Summer Term of 1958

Teachers employed a wide variation of tactics in their attempts to enforce discipline in the classroom. The woodwork master used a piece of timber of a suitable length to smack the unfortunate pupil across his backside. The English teacher resorted to throwing the black board duster, or piece of chalk across the classroom and the Maths teacher to either twisting the ear lobe, or a wrap across the knuckles with a wooden ruler.

Latin and French were included on the curriculum, starting in the first form. Latin verbs were recited parrot fashion, in all tenses, and I can still repeat them now. The French teacher informed me that the only thing I had going for me was my left foot, referring to my position of left wing in the school football team.

Outdoor sports included cross-country, running a three-mile circular route along New Road, up West Hill turning left on to the Blandford Road as far as the Lodge, at the entrance to Sherborne Park. Returning down the track-way through Gainsborough Wood, past the Gamekeepers Cottage, across the Terrace Playing Fields and down through the cutting to New Road. The start of the summer term was also the start of weekly visits to King’s School open-air swimming pool regardless of the water temperature, followed by a cold shower. Third form pupils had the opportunity to join the School Cadet Force. Most pupils volunteered and we were issued with army battle-dress, boots and spats. Every Friday afternoon we lined up on the parade ground to be put through our paces by our history teacher Major McKay.