Blandford Schools in Edwardian times

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Blandford Secondary School in Damory Street. The water pump’s arch was remodelled to produce a formal gateway to house the World War One memorial.

Blandford had four schools at the turn of the 20th century:

The Milldown School in Damory Street, endowed by Thomas Horlock Bastard in 1863. In November 1903 the governors voted to Blandford County Secondary School (Milldown School), it was a mixed sex school, and was fee-paying although there were scholarships available.

Milton Abbas Grammar School founded in 1521 in Milton Abbas itself,  moved to Blandford in 1775. Never a large school, Milton Abbas had been ‘re-established’ in 1888 and was a mixed Boarding/Day Boys’ school with about 30 pupils of whom just under half were boarders. Whilst boarders could be as young as 7, day pupils were generally between 13 and 18. As the prospectus put it: ‘the curriculum is particularly suited to boys of 14 or 15 who through no fault of their own have failed to reach the standard of the Common Entrance Examination for Public Schools’. Indeed there are several overlaps between the two first world war memorials showing that boys moved there after finishing at Blandford Secondary School at 14.

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Milton Abbas Grammar School’s prospectus said the Dorset climate was ‘mild and healthy’

Blandford Elementary School (the old Archbishop Wake building and originally called the National School ) providing basic education up to the age of 14 for about 300 boys and girls. I can find no evidence of pupils travelling from outside Blandford to attend the Board School and so we can fairly assume that the reason there was no separate school memorial there was that it would only have been a copy of the town memorial.

Infants’ School in Damory Street with about 150 pupils.

 

Blandford Secondary School was quite small with pupil numbers averaging about 110 between 1905 and 1910. Established as ‘The Milldown School’ in December 1862, it was as its founder, Thomas Horlock Bastard, said in a letter nearly 30 years later ‘my object has been to establish a school for children of all sects without distinction in which instruction is given in all that is useful for business purposes’. The school was overtly non-denominational: ‘No person in Holy Orders nor any minister of any Religious denomination shall be eligible to be a governor of the school.’

The school inspection report of 1910 is illuminating, giving both a social breakdown of the pupils and a division between ‘town’ and ‘county’.

Statistics (percentages) based on Returns for the School Year 1909-10

(a) Class in life from which pupils are drawn:

Professionals 21%

Farmers 10%

Wholesale Traders 22%

Retail Traders and Contractors 29%

Clerks and Commercial Agents 6%

Public Service 5%

Artisans 7%

(b) Areas from which pupils are drawn:

Blandford 74%

Rest of Dorset 26%

(School Inpection Report 1910)

The 1910 report says ‘The normal leaving age is about 15, and few remain after that age except those who intend to become teachers’ and ‘in practice the school is hardly able to do more than organise a three years’ progressive course beginning at the age of 12.’

The population of Blandford in 1910 was 3,649, (Less than half the 8,745 in the 2001 census) and ‘most children live within walking distance of the school, a few drive or come in by train’. However looking at the names on the Memorial – of the 17 ex-pupils three must have come by train from Sturminster Newton and one must have found a way in from Tarrant Monckton – presumably by cycling. It is the nature of the memorial now at the Blandford School that it reflected both the catchment area and not just Blandford itself but also gave an opportunity for teachers from around the country to be commemorated when the town memorial did not include them

The staff of the school in 1910 consisted of the Head, Mr Greenhalgh, who taught all the maths and science classes, an Assistant Master, Mr Ormesher who taught Latin and Greek “and (has) a wide knowledge of literary subjects’’ and four Mistresses. Ralph Robinson and John Davies both joined the school for short periods before the outbreak of war.

The 1910 report goes on to say that the four Mistresses ‘though not possessing high qualifications, …are devoted to their duties and doing earnest and strenuous work under difficult conditions’ and that: ‘The pupils in the Highest Form are separated so widely in attainment that it is practically impossible to provide a course which will meet the needs of all of them’

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