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The Story of the Old School

With the introduction in 1870 of W. E. Forster’s Education Bill many villages throughout the Country became involved in their own schools for the first time. The Bill intended that the existing voluntary system should be expanded, using as little public money as possible, but relying on parental and voluntary help, the object being to spread education to all areas where at that time it did not exist. Buildings could be if necessary rate aided, but the school fee system was to be retained linking in with voluntary help. Loans were to be made available by the Public Works Loan Commission. 

The 1870 Act had its effect on Denmead on Thursday 12th September 1872, when the chairman of The Hambledon School Board, which was formed to run the Hambledon National School, (built in 1848 by voluntary subscription) read a return of the number of children between the ages of 5 to 13 years from the districts of Barn Green (Denmead as it was then known) and Worlds End that were attending the school at Hambledon. The School Board decided to build two schools, one at Worlds End, an Infant school and one at Anthill Common, an elementary school for all ages!

Building plans are approved

In May 1873 the Education Department approved plans for the buildings and arrangements were made for the Public Works Loan Commission to lend to the Hambledon School Board sums of money, namely £ 297 for the Infants School at Worlds End, this being made up of £30 for the site and £267 for the building, and £1,496 for the Elementary School at Anthill Common, this being made up of £85 for the site and £1,411 for the building.

The Worlds End School was built by Mr. J. Budd in August 1873 at a cost of £169, plus £39 for offices ( the latter were not built ). The land was obtained from Mrs. Hammond for £25. The whole school was completed for the total cost of £288 7s 6d: this included all expenses, and it is interesting note that this sum included a fee of £28 to the County Surveyor and a £24 12s 0d fee to the solicitor (all under budget!). The School lasted for three years and was closed because of lack of attendance. It was used as a mission for some years but little on no trace of it exists today.

Anthill Common Board School

The contract for building Anthill Common Board School went to Messer’s. Fulford & Boyes of Fareham in 1873 to build the school for a sum of £913. The previous estimate to build at £877 tendered in April 1873 was withdrawn by Messer’s. Fulford & Boyes because of the rising prices of materials. Negotiations for the land at Anthill Common were complete when it was purchased for £ 80 from Mr. Friend. The negotiations for both pieces of land were carried out by a Mr. Pink, a member of the Hambledon School Board.( which see later consecration of All Saints Church ). The School was completed in the late summer of 1874 and was officially opened by the Rev. T. White, vicar of Hambledon on 7 September.
A total of 68 children were enrolled but only 58 were present at the opening. This was much lower than anticipated but was accounted for because it was harvest time. 93 children were attending the school a month after opening.
All the children attending had to pay 2d a week. Proof of the parents inability to pay had to be put before the Hambledon School Board before the children were exempt. There are records of fines to parents of 2/6d ( 5P ) and 3/- ( 6P ) existing for not paying the fee, as do records of children being sent home on a Monday to collect their 2d. This 2d fee was increased to 6d for the first child and 3d for subsequent children of shopkeepers and employers of Labour in May 1879, the 2d fee remained for others. In 1883 the fees for children under the age of five years were withdrawn. All fees were withdrawn in 1891.

Financial difficulties

This was a time of great financial difficulty for the people in this area, an agricultural community, who were experiencing very poor farm prices. The Rev. Dr. E. Harold Brown, Lord Bishop of the Diocese, at the consecration of All Saints, Denmead, in November 1880 said ‘he had never consecrated a church in a day when there were so many poor people and hoped that the new vicar would take a kindly interest in his parish, particularly the poor’. In reply the Mayor of Portsmouth, Alderman W. Pink, JP. (of ‘Shrover Hall’ Anmore which see the plaque in the church) said ‘There are many poor people in Denmead and I suggest that it is the duty of all land owners and farmers in the area to take an interest in the general welfare of those around them’.

Further investigation into the history of the ‘Old School’ reveals the fact that very little was spent on the running of the school. The reports contain references to there being no coal for the fires resulting in cold classrooms, temperatures quoted as being 30 - 40º F in the winter inside!. Some children were found to be sewn into their clothes for winter! Poor sanitation was a continuous complaint for many years, when complaints were made it often took one or two weeks to get the toilets emptied. The toilets were ‘earth closets’ out in the field, where the car park is now. There were two wells which supplied drinking water, this was often fouled by the bad sanitation. One of the wells was under the new store room outside in the yard area, the other was in front of the barbeque area beside the house.

In the late 1940’s the village had to protest to the authorities regarding the toilets close proximity to the kitchen (in the present car park beside the door ). It was some time before any thing was done to improve the situation. The School was closed frequently due to the infestation of Rats.

Denmead Council School

The year 1902 saw the end of the School Board System and the school became known as Denmead Council School. The new vicar of All Saints Rev. F. C. Green did not like the name of the area as ‘Barn Green’ and promoted the name of DENMEAD. The school came under the control of the local Education Authority in October 1903, which was based in the City of Southampton. In 1935 a new system of local authority came into force from Southampton. 

We have a drawing that shows a survey of the buildings with extensive subsidence to the headmasters house. Part of the building was so badly damaged that it had to be demolished. New deep foundations were excavated and a series of concrete beams put in place to support what was left of the original building. The brick building part which can be seen to-day is a replacement for the old building. This contains the kitchen on the ground floor and the parish council office above on the first floor.

In 1907 the end room we have named ‘Jubilee room’ was added in this first construction it had a stepped floor, so that the rear rows of desks were raised. On a good day you can see the marks in the walls where the floor was higher and there is a change in the colour of the parquet flooring showing the line of the modification. This was brought to our attention when the floor was sanded and repolished in November 1989 by Mr. D. Williams of Copner Road Portsmouth as part of that years improvement programme.

The first headmaster taught with the assistance of his wife, a few years after taking up this new position his wife died. This was close to the time when the school at Worlds End closed, the teacher from Worlds End moved position to teach at Anthill Common Board School as assistant to the head teacher. Later they married. and lived in the house. The greater part of this text is taken from a letter to Hampshire County Council pleading for the building to be sold back to the Village after it ceased to be a school in 1977 and written by Mr. R. Culpin Parish Councillor.

All Saints Church - “Go out, sir!”

An extract from the book on the history of ‘All Saints Church’ Denmead and the life of Rev. Green. ‘Mr. Green had a great interest in children and was a regular visitor at the school both in his capacity as a teacher of Scripture, and as the Chairman of the School Managers. He called the village children his ‘varlets’ and his ‘pickles’ and encouraged many of them to attend confirmation classes which were held in his study at the vicarage. These classes were held in the company of a white cockatoo and a small dog named Caesar. The dog was prone to sneezing, and many classes were reduced to giggles at the Vicar’s exasperated command: “Go out, sir!” 

With thanks from Mrs. Christine Waddington

A former teacher at Denmead Council School remembers his time at the school, the closure of the old school and the move to the new junior school in Bere Road 

by Alan Sweet.

In 1968, I was teaching at a school in Chessington, Surrey which had been built in 1954 (modern). It had an impressive vestibule, eight classrooms, an art room, a dining room, a large hall with a stage and a playing field, and it was very pleasant.  However, my wife Audrey and I decided we would like to move to Hampshire so applied for a post which was advertised by Hampshire County Council at Denmead Junior School, which the vacancy list said had a roll of 400. 

My wife accompanied me to Denmead when I was called for interview on 21st May and we were initially puzzled because the school buildings did not seem to be large enough to accommodate 400 pupils. The mystery was solved at the interview when it was explained to me by Mr Geoffrey Randall, the headmaster, that the school was what is called today a ‘split-site school’. The Junior School was housed in today’s Community Centre,  otherwise known to Denmead residents as ‘the old school’, while the Infant school was housed in new buildings at the  Bere / Hambledon Road site on the other side of the village.  The staffroom, where I was interviewed by the Chairman of the managers a very affable Mr John Withers the Head and five school managers, was upstairs in what had previously been the front bedroom of the old school house (Forest room: today, of course, the premises of Denmead Parish Council).  I was successful and appointed to join the staff and challenge of Denmead Old School.

Mr Mogeridge was the Deputy Head and my other colleagues were Mrs Bending, Mrs Morgan, Miss Hill, and Mr Foster.  The caretaker was a Mr Page, a delightful man who lived opposite in School Lane with his wife, who assisted him.  Mr Parvin – a real son of the soil - was the groundsman and I recall he used a peddle cycle to get around between the two sites.

The old school looked rather different from the smart Community Centre which we have today.  The school bell hung on the wall outside where the Office is today, it was rung by a pupil pulling a chord.  Although there were only a small number of indoor toilets, they were used only in wet weather.  The main toilets were outside and used at all other times!  Once a week, the Headmaster led an assembly in the largest classroom, (now called ‘Jubilee room’ after the 1977 Queens 25 yr celebration) which was also used for country dancing.  The sliding partitions which divided the hall ( now called Ashling Hall ) were never opened up while I was teaching in this building.  Outside, the grassed area on the North side adjoining the ‘temporary classrooms circa 1958’ , today the Annexe, saw little use.  There was an orchard in the grass area on the South side by School Lane between the two play grounds.

School lunches for the pupils were prepared in the wooden hutted kitchen and served in the adjoining dining room, both now demolished to form the entrance car park.  The Head Cook, Mrs Stone, and her assistants prepared fresh meals.  In the kitchen of the school house- (today the ultra-modern President’s kitchen ) there was a hotplate where teachers’ lunches were brought before being taken up stairs to the staffroom to be eaten.  Teachers who liked sugar in their tea used a very battered tin which, when empty, was thrown out of the window to a child who took it to the kitchen to be refilled, before returning it!

As with split school sites today, there were some disadvantages.  For example, using the ‘New infant School’ hall meant walking the children there along Hambledon Road.  The playgrounds (now car parks) had to be used for other physical activities.  Again, the Head’s office was in the old Hambledon Road building and on occasion it was necessary to phone him from the new school.  The old school was on the Hambledon exchange and the new school had a Waterlooville number, I remember each call involved 2 operators.  This was before the inception of direct dialling.  The phone at the old school was located in the passageway between the two classrooms formed in Ashling Hall with folding partitions fixed to the steel support beams, this space also housed the library.  Later the library was re-located to the front downstairs room in the house and I ran it.

When the new school in Bere Road was ready for the transfer of operations the old school would be closed. So winter half-term was chosen as the best time (which was shorter in those days) for the transfer.  This had been arranged for Friday 23rd and Monday 26th February, so the move, using a removal van, took place on Thursday 22nd February 1973 after which Infant and Junior schools were in a more convenient proximity to each other on Bere Road.

March 2017
Revised 27 June

Contributions welcome!

Denmead Community Centre and the Old School would welcome any contributions of your memories to enhance the story.

Jot down a few ideas now especially if it was your school!!

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