Not Forgetting - Chapter 6: School Number 31

The village school from 1902 onwards

Catherine Pugh

Local children at a fete on the Rectory Lawn, 1920s. | Bottesford Local History Archive
Local children at a fete on the Rectory Lawn, 1920s.
Bottesford Local History Archive
Bottesford Friendly Society marching to church, c.1911. The village school building is seen in the background, including the original ornate brickwork of the entrance hall to the infants classroom (nowadays called the Fuller Room). | Bottesford Local History Archive
Bottesford Friendly Society marching to church, c.1911. The village school building is seen in the background, including the original ornate brickwork of the entrance hall to the infants classroom (nowadays called the Fuller Room).
Bottesford Local History Archive
Bottesford children, 1920s. | Bottesford Local History Archive
Bottesford children, 1920s.
Bottesford Local History Archive
Mary and Victor Collett at The School House, Grantham Road, Bottesford in 1901 or soon after. The boy is probably their nephew William Barrand. | Bottesford Local History Archive
Mary and Victor Collett at The School House, Grantham Road, Bottesford in 1901 or soon after. The boy is probably their nephew William Barrand.
Bottesford Local History Archive
Bottesford school children at the village cross, 1920s. | Bottesford Local History Archive
Bottesford school children at the village cross, 1920s.
Bottesford Local History Archive
The juniors class in Bottesford School, 1928. | Bottesford Local History Archive
The juniors class in Bottesford School, 1928.
Bottesford Local History Archive
Bottesford School footballers, 1929.  Back row (left to right): Albert Cooper, Henson, Jallands, Hector Johnson; Middle row: Eric Turner, Bellamy, Arthur Piccard, Pip Lane; Front row: Braithwaite, Jim Taylor, Walter Bateson, Jim Miller.                          | Bottesford Local History Archive
Bottesford School footballers, 1929. Back row (left to right): Albert Cooper, Henson, Jallands, Hector Johnson; Middle row: Eric Turner, Bellamy, Arthur Piccard, Pip Lane; Front row: Braithwaite, Jim Taylor, Walter Bateson, Jim Miller.
Bottesford Local History Archive
May Day in the school yard, ca.1930. | Bottesford Local History Archive
May Day in the school yard, ca.1930.
Bottesford Local History Archive
Bottesford School cricket team, 1934. | Bottesford Local History Archive
Bottesford School cricket team, 1934.
Bottesford Local History Archive
Captain Walter Cox, in uniform. | Bottesford Local History Archive
Captain Walter Cox, in uniform.
Bottesford Local History Archive
Bottesford scholarships in 1904, including W. Cox. | Bottesford Local History Archive
Bottesford scholarships in 1904, including W. Cox.
Bottesford Local History Archive
An aerial view of Bottesford School, ca.1960. The wartime air-raid shelter is the flat-roofed building at the right hand end of the school yard.                                                           | Bottesford Local History Archive
An aerial view of Bottesford School, ca.1960. The wartime air-raid shelter is the flat-roofed building at the right hand end of the school yard.
Bottesford Local History Archive
An extract from the school Log Book for August 14th, 1940.       Courtesy of  Bottesford Primary School. | Bottesford Local History Archive
An extract from the school Log Book for August 14th, 1940. Courtesy of Bottesford Primary School.
Bottesford Local History Archive
Bottesford Junior School children, 1930s. | Bottesford Local History Archive
Bottesford Junior School children, 1930s.
Bottesford Local History Archive
Not Forgetting - Chapter 6:  School Number 31 | Bottesford Local History Archive
Bottesford Local History Archive
Schoolmaster Mr. P.H. (Percy) Stimpson, c.1960.            | Bottesford Local History Archive
Schoolmaster Mr. P.H. (Percy) Stimpson, c.1960.
Bottesford Local History Archive
Bottesford infants in 1940.  Back row (left to right): Teacher Miss Morris (Mrs Edinburgh), not identified, Sheila Coy, Pat Robinson, Ann Lovett, Paddy Jameson, Vera Skinner, Jean Bend, Daphne Marsden, Eileen Fenton, Kathleen Doubleday. Third row (left to right): Francis Stubley, Herbert Turner, John Skinner, Richard Pacey, Keith Samuel, Brian Branston, Jeff Boland, George Pearson, Ian Norris. Second row (left to right): Pat Taylor, Beryl Lamb, Dot Bend, Margaret Deacon, Sheila Mumby, Gina Topps, Gillian Isaac. Front row (left to right): Maurice Fisher, Gerald Pacey, Peter Holmes, Richard Higdon, Peter Stanley, Gel Dolby, Peter Abbott, not identified, Peter Olley. | Bottesford Local History Archive
Bottesford infants in 1940. Back row (left to right): Teacher Miss Morris (Mrs Edinburgh), not identified, Sheila Coy, Pat Robinson, Ann Lovett, Paddy Jameson, Vera Skinner, Jean Bend, Daphne Marsden, Eileen Fenton, Kathleen Doubleday. Third row (left to right): Francis Stubley, Herbert Turner, John Skinner, Richard Pacey, Keith Samuel, Brian Branston, Jeff Boland, George Pearson, Ian Norris. Second row (left to right): Pat Taylor, Beryl Lamb, Dot Bend, Margaret Deacon, Sheila Mumby, Gina Topps, Gillian Isaac. Front row (left to right): Maurice Fisher, Gerald Pacey, Peter Holmes, Richard Higdon, Peter Stanley, Gel Dolby, Peter Abbott, not identified, Peter Olley.
Bottesford Local History Archive
A Bottesford school photo taken in the school yard, about 1950. Back row L-R: Mr. Laurie Dewey, Des Rayson, David Bend, Michael Taylor, George Norris, Conrad Taylor; Middle Row: ... Dammes, Pat Barnes, John Simpson, Neville Bagnall, Geoff Rayson,  ...  , Norman Gail,  ...  , Jean Bolland, Pat Lightfoot, Mr. Davies; Front row: Margaret Fisher, Irene Young, Ann Ducker, Ann Jallands, Anne Dunsmore, Joy Baggaley, Angela Bradshaw,  ...  , Sylvia Guy,  ...  . | Bottesford Local History Archive
A Bottesford school photo taken in the school yard, about 1950. Back row L-R: Mr. Laurie Dewey, Des Rayson, David Bend, Michael Taylor, George Norris, Conrad Taylor; Middle Row: ... Dammes, Pat Barnes, John Simpson, Neville Bagnall, Geoff Rayson, ... , Norman Gail, ... , Jean Bolland, Pat Lightfoot, Mr. Davies; Front row: Margaret Fisher, Irene Young, Ann Ducker, Ann Jallands, Anne Dunsmore, Joy Baggaley, Angela Bradshaw, ... , Sylvia Guy, ... .
Bottesford Local History Archive
Bottesford's new Secondary School under construction, 1959.  From the collection of Mr. W.J. Roberts, the builder. | Bottesford Local History Archive, copyright Ted Rayson.
Bottesford's new Secondary School under construction, 1959. From the collection of Mr. W.J. Roberts, the builder.
Bottesford Local History Archive, copyright Ted Rayson.

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1902 – 1914

On July 1st 1903, Bottesford National School came under the control of Leicestershire County Council and changed from National School 3645 to Bottesford (Church of England) School Number 31. When the Infants’ School reopened in May 1903, then the start of the school year, Miss Fanny Lawrence took over. The Pupil Teachers, Miss Bust and Miss Page, seemed to do well under the new Mistress’ guidance, giving ‘good’ or ‘fair’ ‘criticism lessons on such subjects as ‘An Orange’, ‘Coffee’, ‘Number 8’, ‘The Apple’ and ‘Colour’. The school settled into a steadier routine. There were  the usual holidays for ‘treats’ and ‘feasts’, for the Primitive Methodists and the Wesleyan Sunday Schools, the Anglican Sunday School trip to Belvoir, the confirmation service, the Band of Hope concert, the ‘Garden Fete on the Rectory Lawn’ and the dedication of the church bells.

There were holidays or early closures for the ‘Club Feast’, the gymkhana at Belvoir Castle, the Church rummage sale and entertainment, the Church bazaar, the social evening, the whist drive, as well as for elections.

The Infants’ curriculum shows the influence of the educational ideas of Pestalozzi, Montessori and Froebel. In the closing years of the nineteenth century  H.M.I.s were arranging special training for teachers in Nature Study and by 1904 nature walks become a regular feature of the curriculum, perhaps in response to the H.M.I report: ‘This school is efficiently conducted, but the attention and interest of the children might be more thoroughly and generally secured.’

The children were taken to see the lambs, to watch the sheep shearing and dipping, to observe the rookery, to study the trees in winter and the growth of spring. Ideas of natural growth began to affect teaching methods. Miss Lawrence felt that ‘more must be made of the activity of the children’. She also decided to introduce phonics for the teaching of reading. Even then the reading of boys was perceived as a problem: ‘I thought the Boys needed more practice in reading than girls, so on this system the boys get 2 extra  half-hours.’

At the end of 1904 there were 51 pupils enrolled in the Infants’ School. Attendance was usually over 90%, but as before fell in wet weather or snow. In 1914 H.M.I. reported that: ‘The children learn largely by doing’ while the Diocesan Inspector states approvingly that: ‘The babies are very interested in their lessons which are given chiefly in the form of play’.

In the Senior School Mr. Collett introduced gardening into the curriculum and a garden was established on half an acre of land which the Duke of Rutland allowed the Parish Council to let, close to the Head Teacher’s house. The first gardening lesson took place in April 1910 and continued to be part of the school curriculum until the 1960s, though the garden was moved to Bowbridge Lane in 1937.

Attendance continued to suffer; because of the weather, from the flooding of 1909 and 1910, and from infectious diseases, with repeated closures on the orders of the Medical Officer of Health. It may have been this which prompted the improvement to the school’s sanitation, with the conversion from ‘vault closets’ to ‘earth pans’ and the installation of wash basins. The water supply was improved by moving the pump from the boys’ yard, where it was polluted by the adjacent farmyard, to the infants’ playground, where water was obtained from Mr. Geeson’s well. Heating continued to be a problem, with the Log Book recording morning temperatures below freezing in the school rooms after the stoves had been lit.

Throughout the early years of the twentieth century the Log Book gives evidence of an increased attention to the health and welfare of children, partly because of the anxiety over the poor physical condition of recruits to the army during the Boer War. The School Nurse came regularly. Eye tests were carried out. In 1911 one boy was ‘reported as dirty and verminous’ and another was ‘sent home for dirtiness’, but Inspector Locke, of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, visited the school to enquire about the boy’s family. The reports of the Inspectors often emphasise the need to improve conditions in the school and in 1913 they also comment on the risk from the road: ‘The desirability of fixing up motor warning notices should receive attention. The school stands at a rather awkward angle of the road.’

On Empire Day 1911 the Infants’ School children ‘learnt the first verse of God Save the King’, sang their ‘Flag Song’, and had a talk about the Royal Family and the countries belonging to England.’

In June they actually had a flag, ‘The scholars have this week subscribed and collected £2-3s-11d  towards the cost of a school flag staff . By 1912, in line with the national mood, the ceremony was extended: ‘The scholars hoisted the Union Jack on the new school flagstaff at 9.00 a.m. The National Anthem and a patriotic song were sung and the scholars saluted the flag…After play-time, a display was given … by our Boy Scouts, ambulance work etc.: songs were sung; the girls gave a display of dancing.’ On February 26th 1913 the log book notes that: ‘Yesterday and today scholars allowed out of school into playground to see the passing of Army aeroplanes over the village.’


First World War years

The school entered into the patriotic fervour that marked the start of the First World War, forming a branch of the ‘Guild of Young Patriots’, collecting money for wool, knitting garments for soldiers and sailors and organizing concerts and entertainments in aid of the Red Cross. As the War progressed further collections were made for the ‘Overseas Club for Xmas gifts for troops’, the ‘Overseas Club for Prisoners of War’, the Local Fund for Leicestershire Prisoners of War and the ‘Overseas Tobacco Fund.’ There was a succession of flag days in aid of the ‘distressed people of Belgium,’ ‘the Russian Red Cross Society’, ‘Comforts for the Wounded’, ‘the Lord Lieutenant’s fund for Disabled Soldiers and Sailors’, and the ‘Wounded Warriors Fund’. Eggs were collected for the wounded and oranges brought to school for ‘Jack’s Orange Day’, a scheme to supply sailors with fresh fruit. In addition to this frenzy of fund-raising, a War Savings Association was formed and the Log Book regularly records the increasing sums saved, reaching a total of £799-13s in January 1919.

The holidays were changed to allow pupils to assist with hay making and harvest, gleaning and potato picking. As food shortages increased the Headmaster led a campaign ‘to encourage food production in the parish’, making arrangements for the supply of seed potatoes and for pig-keeping. The school garden was devoted to the production of vegetables and herbs. There were lectures on Food Economy and War Savings. The school closed for several afternoons for blackberry picking. Waste paper and fruit stones were collected. The children gathered chestnuts which they sent to ‘the Minister for Propellant Supplies.’

In May 1916 the Infants’ log book records that ‘The hands of the clock have been advanced a hour in accordance with the Summer time Act.’ On July 3rd 1917 the infants were allowed to look at ‘the machinery of a broken aeroplane’ before resuming their usual nature walk. The classroom was used by the military authorities and there were staff shortages which resulted in the combination of classes. Dulcie Osborne, the supplementary teacher obtained ‘leave of absence in order to take a post as a nurse in a military hospital.

Empire Day was marked with patriotic songs, a ‘patriotic display for family and friends’ saluting the flag and old English country dances.’ Independence Day was  celebrated ‘to mark the attachment of the United States to the Allied cause’ and the American flag was flown from the school flag staff. In February 1918 the infants were told, ‘what to do in case of an air raid’.

In 1915 Mr. Collett put up a Roll of Honour with ‘the names of ex-scholars who have joined the colours.’ As the war continued he recorded the names of those who had won medals. Strangely, he only mentioned three of those killed, though 28 names appear on the Bottesford War Memorial in the Church. In 1918 he noted proudly that six old scholars had been decorated for gallantry.

Life in the village and in the school during the Great War are described at greater length in our 2017 publication:
Lest We Forget – Bottesford and Muston in the Great War


Between the Two World Wars

On November 11th 1918 ‘news having been received that the Armistice has been signed, thus stopping military and naval actions, a half holiday has been granted’. On November 12th ‘A talk was given in the morning on ‘The War’ – Patriotic Songs were sung and cheers given after ‘Saluting the Flag’. Half Day holiday.

Almost immediately after these celebrations, on November 19th  the school was closed by the influenza epidemic and did not reopen until January 9th 1919. One pupil died.

In 1918, when Mabel Wright became Head Mistress of the Infants’ School, she introduced the celebration of May Day, no doubt under the influence of the national revival of interest in folk song and dance. It remained a popular event in the school calendar for many years.

There were more celebrations in 1919. On Empire Day ‘A procession was formed and the children walked through the village. They returned to the school and a Patriotic Concert was given.’ There were more Village Peace Day Celebrations and more extra holidays in July, but perhaps the greatest excitement for the infants came in September, when ‘the school closed at 3.10 to enable the children to visit Bostock and Wombwell’s Wild Beast Show.’

The following Armistice Day was a more sombre affair. ‘The teachers gave  special lessons during the morning session referring to the League of Nations and the sacrifices of our Glorious Dead in the War. There was a two minutes pause at 11 o’clock of ‘Silence’ and ‘Remembrance’. The Rector The Rev. J. Walford gave an address…

The war time shortage of teachers and the commandeering of school buildings drew attention to the state of elementary education. There was a demand for longer and better education for working class children. In 1918 the Fisher Education Act raised the school leaving age to 14 and attempted to provide for continuing education through Senior Elementary Schools, Central Schools and part-time ‘Continuation Schools.’

By 1920 it became obvious that Mr. Collett could not continue as Head Teacher much longer. His eyesight was failing and the Inspectors reported that his assistant teachers had to mark the children’s books and complete the clerical work on his behalf, ‘owing to this physical disability he is bound on his part to rely on the lecture method of teaching to a large extent.’ In June 1920 he resigned and in September was ‘presented with a handsome aneroid barometer together with an address from the teachers and scholars expressive of their esteem and regard.’ The managers, too, wrote to express their appreciation of his many years of service, particularly recognizing ‘how well the children under you have done in the matter of scholarships’ and  ‘mindful that you have always had the welfare of the village at large in your wishes and your deeds’.

Mr. Collett’s successor was Percy H. Lockley and his arrival marked significant change in the regime at the school. Mr.Lockley’s origins were rather different from those of Bottesford’s earlier Head Teachers. His father was an ‘artist and art teacher’. Percy Lockley had been influenced by the ideas of Charlotte Mason, founder of the Parents National Educational Union. Mason believed in child-centred education, emphasizing that children should be respected as active agents of their own learning, rather than treated as empty vessels to be filled with teacher-delivered information.

The Inspector was delighted, commenting in July 1921 on ‘ a marked improvement in the work, tone and discipline … the methods of instruction now employed are calculated to encourage initiative and originality… Oral expression at present is not so good, but this defect is probably the result of the repressive treatment which formerly existed…’  The first Diocesan inspection was perhaps a little more cautious: ‘I would like to say …how pleased I am to find Mr. Lockley and his staff keen on self-teaching methods and wish his experiment every success’ but the next H.M.I. was also impressed: ‘the most striking characteristics of the school as a whole are the self-helpfulness and keen interest in their work  displayed both by the teachers and the children’…. and by 1926 the Diocesan Inspector seemed convinced: The P.N.E.U. system is working well and the children … are beginning to find answers for themselves.’

In 1925 the number on the roll increased when Muston School became a Junior School, sending its older pupils to Bottesford. Arrangements were to be made for meals and for drying clothes. There were persistent problems with heating; the stoves did not work properly and ‘one open fire grate is not sufficient for adequately heating the main room’, there were complaints about the caretaker, the lavatories needed attention and the traffic was noisy: ‘Increasing difficulty is experienced in teaching through the great increase in motor traffic.’

Perhaps Mr. Lockley was a little too progressive for Bottesford’s School Managers, perhaps they shared the opinion of the new Diocesan Inspector, ‘P.N.E.U.is…good as far as it goes’.. When Mr. Lockley left at the end of September 1927 for Lutterworth Central School, they appointed a local man with a more traditional approach to the job.

Walter Cox was born in Bottesford, son of a railway signalman. He lived on the High Street, attended Bottesford School, was one of Mr. Collett’s scholarship winners in 1904 and returned as a pupil teacher from1907 to 1910. References to P.N.E.U. gradually disappear from the log book. However, he seems to have shared Mr. Lockley’s enthusiasm for gardening. In his first week he writes in the log book: ‘Set black currant trees, raspberry canes – Winter digging continued,’ and in March, after another severe winter, he is pleased that several boys volunteer to work in the evenings to get the garden ready for sowing.

The transfer of Redmile Seniors to Bottesford after December 1928 increased pressure on space and made the need for school dinners more urgent. In effect, Bottesford had become the Senior Elementary School for the area, taking pupils from Muston, Redmile, Barkestone and Plungar, as well as some pupils from the adjacent Nottinghamshire villages. By 1930 there were148 pupils on the roll for the combined Junior and Senior Departments.  In January  the cookery mistress, as an experiment, provided a meal consisting of Irish stew and rice pudding at 3 ¾ d a head. In May 1930 the first woodwork and cookery classes took place in the old Baptist Chapel. On October 1st 1930 Mr. Cox was able to announce triumphantly: ‘Hot dinner commenced today. 48 scholars and 2 teachers being served with dinners, 6 scholars with soup and 4 with cocoa.

The Inspector’s report is favourable: ‘a timetable in which practical work is well balanced against more academic subjects shows that the Headmaster knows how to cater for the needs of his older pupils…there is no doubt that the pupils are receiving valuable training for the lives they will lead after they have left school.’ However, the Inspector was concerned to ‘relieve one or other of the big main rooms, in both of which two classes are being taught simultaneously without adequate partitions.’

Some scholarships were available for pupils to attend grammar school, but for the majority, schooling finished at fourteen. Even those who won grammar school places could not always afford to take them up, and extra education was often thought unnecessary for girls.

By September 1932 there were 101 pupils in the Senior Department, 60 in the Juniors’ and 38 in the Infants’ School. Proposals were put forward to the managers that the schools should be used as a Central School, or the Earl of Rutland’s Hospital should be used as a school.

The managers rejected these suggestions emphatically. ‘The managers considered the questions that arose out of each proposed scheme. The managers agreed that they had no money to spend on the scheme and asserted their intention not to let the Junior and Infant Schools be transferred to a Council School if they could possibly help it. Mr. Welbourn proposed and Mr. Kettleborrow seconded the following resolution: that the Managers and Trustees are not prepared to turn the Juniors and Infants out the present schools as they have no other accommodation for them, and are not prepared to have the responsibility of the upkeep of other buildings if provided for them, and do not agree to Juniors and Infants of this parish being taken away from the Church School.

In the Infant School Miss Wright continued celebrating May Day, revived traditional children’s games: and maintained the school’s religious ethos: Feb.13th 1934. ‘Shrove Tuesday. The children are having competitions in the schoolyard at skipping, whip and top, and battledore and shuttlecock’. The children went to church the next day for the Ash Wednesday service.

May 1st. ‘The chosen May Queen was crowned in the playground. The children danced round the maypole, did Country Dances, sang songs and recited. A play, ‘Mother Goose’s May Party’ was given. Many parents were present.’

In the 1930s more welfare milestones are noted, with visits of the school dentist recorded in 1931 and the ‘inauguration of milk scheme’ in 1935, though the supply, from Grantham Co-op, seems to have been rather uncertain. Given the shortage of space in the school, it was difficult to find a place for dental inspections but ‘Accommodation found in Mrs. Bateson’s room (opposite the school).’ In the same year Miss Wright, Headmistress of the Infants’ School retired and the infants were placed under the control of the Headmaster. Improved medical services did not prevent sickness and the spread of disease. In 1929 a boy died of appendicitis, in 1930 another died of scarlet fever. In March 1931 the Headmaster reported 65 cases of mumps and the school was closed until after the Easter holiday.  In May the school was closed again from May 29th to June 22nd by a measles epidemic. From Dec 18th 1933 to January 14th 1934 it was again closed by the spread of scarlet fever. In 1937 there was an outbreak of diphtheria and one boy died. In March 1938 the water from the school pump was declared unfit to drink unless boiled and the water from the well at the dining hall was found to be worse.

Mr. Cox adhered strictly to the guidelines on the completion of Log Books, ‘no reflections or opinions of a general character are to be entered in the book’, but there are some  hints of satisfaction. For example, when he recorded the schools victories in the Inter School Sports Championships in Grantham; the boys in 1933, 1934, 1936, the girls in 1938, or improvements to the school facilities, such as the installation of electric light in all rooms in 1933, of a telephone in 1936 and the building of the new woodwork hut in 1938. On one occasion in 1934 he was clearly outraged: ‘Severe thrashing administered to boy (visitor from Manchester) for stealing money from drawer in HdMaster’s desk. Whole school assembled and serious nature of offence pointed out.’

By 1938 November  there were 223 pupils on the roll, 126 Seniors, 67 Juniors and 31 infants. Officials from the L.E.A. had plans to build a new school, but there was no date. The school leaving age was to be raised, which would lead to a further increase in numbers. In July Mr. Cox was appointed to the Headship of Melton Mowbray Boys’ Modern School, but in August 1939 he withdrew when he heard that plans for the building of the new school in Bottesford were‘ being hurried forward’. On September 3rd.1939 all such plans came to a halt.

1939 had started with heavy falls of snow followed by severe flooding. Many children were absent with colds and sore throats, followed in April by several cases of jaundice. Although war had not been declared, the authorities were already anticipating an influx of evacuees. In May discussions had been held ‘re  accommodation for mid-day meal of 130 scholars from evacuated areas.’ Scarlet fever broke out and another case of diphtheria was reported.


The School during the Second World War and after

In September  the evacuees began to arrive. Some were ‘voluntary’ evacuees from Nottingham and London, possibly relatives of Bottesford families, but the largest number, 44, were children evacuated from Wybourn School, Sheffield, accompanied by their teachers. In the first week of September they met at Bottesford School. They had a gas mask parade and inspection, sports activities, rambles and a visit to the gas works where Mr. Marsh showed them the plant. As more evacuees were expected, a separate school was set up in the Primitive Methodist Chapel.  During the ‘phoney war’, when no bombs fell, almost half returned to Sheffield. At the beginning of 1940, since only 23 remained, they were enrolled at Bottesford School, bringing the number on the roll to 213.

That winter was as hard as the last. Severe frost and heavy snow made the roads impassable and many children went down with influenza, chicken pox and German measles. On April 23rd Mr. Cox attended the funeral of the Duke of Rutland. In May he reported the death of one of the scholars from meningitis. In June handicraft lessons were cancelled as the instructors were ‘wanted for war work,’ and the school closed for two weeks for the hay harvest.

In July education officials visited ‘re provision of shelter in case of air raids without warning + ploughing up of field for new school site’.  The first such raid took place on August 14th 1940:

Four bombs were dropped by German aircraft last night (10:21 p.m.) in the field next to the playing field beyond the railway. Damaged the windows + woodwork of the school Garden Hut. One unexploded bomb found by Hd. Master in School Playing Field – Reported to Police+ Military Authorities, also L.E.A.’

 The school air raid shelter, in the boys’ playground, was almost completed when  the school was reopened after three weeks closure for the corn harvest. On the 16th September 1940 Mr Cox was ‘recalled for service with the army’ and Percival H. Stimpson took over as Acting Head. On October 8th Mr. Stimpson wrote: ‘2 stirrup pumps received today for use in case of fire, such as might be caused by an incendiary bomb.’ On October 11th Mr. Stimpson reported 43 cases of measles and on the 15th admitted nine evacuees from London.

The proximity of the army camp and the new airfield must have made further bombing seem likely. Window netting arrived for the school windows and a battery to provide light in the shelter. Weekly fire drills using the stirrup pumps were planned. The dining hall in the old chapel was to be used as a First Aid rest room.

In January 1941 attendance fell to 89 out of 221 when the roads were again impassible because of heavy snow storms. Snow and mud prevented the children from Normanton reaching school: ‘No Normanton children at all this week – New aerodrome at Normanton- lorries have made the roads unfit for pedestrians.’ The log book for February  records that the chief A.R.P. Warden examined all the children’s gas masks and replaced the ones that the children had outgrown. In May the roads between Barkestone and Plungar were ‘forbidden to traffic on account of delayed action bombs in the vicinity’ which prevented children from those areas reaching school. There was an outbreak of chicken pox and cases of measles, whooping cough, conjunctivitis, impetigo and ringworm.

As in World War 1 the school was involved in the war effort, maximizing the productivity of the school garden, helping with the potato harvest, attending propaganda displays on War Weapons given by a Cinema Van on Church Street, and collecting tin foil, waste paper and rose hips. New War Savings groups were established and funds were raised for Coventry’s Distress Fund, Empire Day Gifts for Fighting Men, the Prisoners of War Parcels Fund, the Red Cross, the Overseas League Tobacco Fund, Medical Supplies for Leicestershire Regiments and Aid to China. 1162 eggs were collected for Nottingham General Hospital in 1941. In 1942 Derek Holt raised £6-12s during Warship Week by exhibiting his model destroyer. During Wings for Victory Week in May 1943, the pupils saw a demonstration of the use of a rubber dinghy by R.A.F. officers and collected enough money to buy a dinghy. In 1944 May Day was celebrated with two plays for ‘Salute the Soldier’,

For War Savings Week in July pupils raised £53 with a display of folk dancing and other amusements on the Rectory lawn for three hundred people.

In addition to the weather and infectious diseases there were other problems. The Diocesan Inspector was sympathetic: ‘This school has suffered more than most from loss of staff, staggered holidays, potato picking etc.’ Conscription caused staff shortages. There are very few weeks when no staff absence was recorded. Female staff were often granted leave of absence when husbands or friends were sent overseas or were home on leave.  Pupil numbers fluctuated because of the comings and goings of evacuees, but at their highest reached 237, causing complaints of over-crowding. In February 1938 the water supplies from the school pump and the well near the dining hall had been declared ‘unfit for drinking’ unless boiled. It was not  until June 1941 that a ‘solution’ was arranged: ‘A four and a half gallon jar, with tap, to be filled with boiled water. Gas copper, new, to replace old one.’ Perhaps the strain made tempers short. There were disputes with the Rector over the electricity bill, with the landlady of The Bull over the use of the yard by pupils going to dinner and with Normanton parents who refused to send their children to school unless a bus was provided. Maybe, when Captain Cox returned in March 1945, Mr. Stimpson handed over the headship with a sigh of relief.

The school was closed on May 9th 1945 in celebration of V.E. Day. Although the war in Europe was over, there was no end to the staffing problems or the outbreaks of infectious disease. The weather, if anything, got worse. In October Mrs. Logg left the school and was replaced by Miss Kathleen Mabel Walker. In November the Head Teacher ‘was absent to attend interview – Control Commission (Germany).’ In December attendance fell owing to ‘a mild epidemic of influenza.’

At a ‘farewell gathering of managers, staff and scholars presided over by Canon Blackmore’ in April Captain Cox was presented with a gold wristlet watch. A letter from Canon Blackmore thanked him for ‘the very excellent work done … over the past eighteen and a half years’ and conveyed the manager’s ‘keen appreciation of the valuable service’ he had rendered to ‘the whole village of Bottesford.’

Lawrence Dewey took over as Head Teacher in September 1946. Woodwork classes began again in the hut on Mr. Daybell’s paddock. The Wesleyan Chapel was once more considered as a possible site for domestic science lessons. In 1944 the Butler Education Act had required local authorities to provide secondary education offering opportunities for all pupils suitable to their ‘ages, abilities and aptitudes.’ The school leaving age was to be raised to 15 from 1947.  In Bottesford there was no mention of the new school which had been imminent before the war, but there were discussions of ‘future accommodation when the school leaving age is raised.

The grim winter of 1947 is recorded in the log book:

Jan. 8th …only 107 children present out of 189 (56.6%) …due to a heavy fall of snow …an epidemic of whooping cough…Barton’s bus did not run..

Jan. 31st Attendance 40.9% … due to an epidemic of whooping cough, influenza, coughs and colds and also the snow.

Feb.4th. There was a further heavy snowfall in the night and no school buses were able to run..

Feb.10th Heavy snowdrifts blocking the road..

Feb. 14th Owing to the snow and treacherous road surfaces no buses have run this week

Feb.26th … further snowfalls and blocked roads.

March 3rd A further blizzard during the night blocked all the roads. No buses…

March 7th. Still no buses running…

Eventually the thaw came.  The authorities were still reviewing the site for ‘domestic subjects’ and discussing the problems of children having to cross the main road through the village, there were Standard Attainment Tests for the first time, in October there were still about 40 children missing school for potato picking, but there were positive developments. The school was given permission to use the Village Hall for P.T. and folk dancing (15s per week). Sex education (for girls only) was introduced. There was a visit from the school psychologist. There were careers interviews and swimming lessons in the mill dam.

At the Open Day in June 1948 a ‘large number of parents and friends’ came to admire: Art (boys), Needlework (girls,) Folk dancing (girls), a parade of dresses (made by the girls), Singing (girls and boys), Silent reading (boys), Dramatic work (juniors) and the infants’ Percussion Band, ‘Rhythmics’ and Radio Story.

It was twelve years before the new Belvoir Secondary School was officially opened, nearly thirty before the primary school moved to its new premises on Barkestone Lane in 1977 and forty years before the by-pass temporarily reduced the danger from traffic in the centre of the village (1989). In 1968 the Secondary School became a 10-14 year age range school, renamed the Belvoir High School. It also became the home of the Bottesford Community Centre, providing day and evening adult education classes. In the year of writing, 2009, Belvoir High School has expanded to take 11 to 16 year old pupils.

After the primary school had moved, the old school building on Grantham Road was the home of the village Pre-School Playgroup before it took up its new building next to the Community Centre. Then, in 1995, the former infant’s class-room was sold by Leicestershire County Council to Bottesford Parish Council, and  took on a new lease of life as the Parish Meeting Room (The Fuller Room). In addition, at about this time the remaining parts of the old school building became the premises of Bottesford’s Public Library and Youth Club.


 

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This page was added on 21/10/2019.

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