Chapter 6:


The earliest reference to education in the village is an entry in the parish register of April 1755 relating to the payment of 12/- [£0.60]. for one year's schooling for Symond Winser. This probably means board and lodging rather than education. Reference to a Day School is made by the National Society in the records of 1833 which reported three daily schools containing collectively 32 young children whose instruction was paid for by their parents. The 1846 General Church School enquiry revealed that 62 children - 28 boys and 34 girls - were attending day and Sunday schools in the village and at that time there were three paid teachers (one master and two mistresses). The 1845 Directory lists Miss Mary Barnett as Mistress of a Free School.

In 1859, George Francis Coke, the Curate of Piddlehinton, wrote to the Rev. J.G. Lonsdale at the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church, as follows:-

Rev. Sir,

As I am endeavouring to get a School Room built in the parish of Piddlehinton, Dorchester, Dorset I should feel much obliged by your sending me any papers which the National Society publishes of instructions and proper forms of application for aid, and the terms on which the Society is prepared to give assistance in building a School, and in supporting it in a very poor parish.

I am, Revd. Sir,

Yours faithfully,

George Francis Coke,

Curate of Piddlehinton.

A balance sheet was also sent to the National Society as part of the application.

Receipts£. s. d
By subscription & collections raised in the locality or otherwise187. 7. 0
By grant from the committee of the Council on Education
(Founded in 1839 until 1902)212. 4. 0
By grant from the Diocesan or Local Board 10. 0. 0
By grant from the National Society now requested 20. 0. 0
20. 0. 0
To cost of schoolroom 194. 0. 0
To cost of residence 177. 0. 0
Architect's commission 25. 0. 0
To cost of fittings and sundries, fencing etc. 33.11.0
To legal expenses of Conveyance etc. - - -
429. 11.0

It is interesting to note that the Conditions of the Grant included the proviso that 'in future the Committee will expect all recipients of Grants to undertake to make Collections, either annually or at other convenient intervals on behalf of the Society in the Church to which the School is attached'. Also that 'the Managers of the Schools to which Grants are voted be invited to make a yearly subscription to the Society from the funds of the School'.

The conveyance of the school site from the College Royal of the Blessed Mary of Eton (Eton College) included the instruction that members of the committee elected to control the management of the school 'must all be members of the Church of England having a life estate of real property situate in the village and be resident therein.' They were also required to contribute 20s. [£1] a year to the school funds and 10s [50p] . to elect their successors.

Each August they were entitled to appoint a Committee of not more than 4 Ladies, members of the Church of England, to assist them in the visitation and management in the Girls and Infant Schools which ladies committee remained in office until the following August and could be renewed.

The new school obviously opened to pupils during 1861 as the County Chronicle of that time reports school activities and treats such as the report on the 30th October of 'an excellent spread, provided for the school children by Rev. Coke, of tea and plum cake, served in the new school room after which they adjourned to the Rectory to play games'. However, the official opening - which was originally planned for the 19th December 1861; but was cancelled due to the death of the Prince Consort - took place on 1st January 1862. The County Chronicle reports:-

'The ceremony of opening the commodious new school took place on New Years Day and the proceedings created considerable interest among the parishioners by whom an anxious desire has long been felt to improve the accommodation afforded for the education of the rising generation of the humbler classes. The old school house was a dilapidated old place some little distance up the village...' From this it must be assumed there had been a schoolroom in the village although it has not been possible to trace records relating to this.

The earliest school records available date from 1894 when there were 88 children on the register, 30 boys and 58 girls. However it is known that in 1881 the Rev. Roper wrote to the National Society requesting assistance to build an extra classroom for 42 children as follows:-

'We have between 70 and 80 children in our school and amongst them several infants for whom a gallery needs to be used in the one room with the older children. The want of a class room is a great hindrance to the work of our schools but the interest in education is so slack in our little country village (with a population of about 400, no resident squire) and means are generally so inadequate that there is no hope of raising a sufficient sum or of obtaining any but very small subscriptions to the work amongst ourselves, The school was built (with aid from your Society) about 18 years since. Since that time our churchyard has been enlarged, our Church also enlarged and restored, the Rectory House enlarged and considerably improved so that for any new work our resources are at the lowest ebb.'

In January 1890 a grant of £14 was made, towards a total cost of £94. 2s 0d. for enlarging the school. This must have been the small classroom commonly used as the infant's class. The original plan also shows the inclusion of a gallery, which is referred to in the school records of 1904 when it was agreed that 'If the Gallery is to be retained it should be fitted with desks and backs should be fitted to the seats'. However on the 10th May 1906 a Managers meeting decided that 'The Gallery in the Infants Room should be removed and suitable desks substituted' and on 19th September of that year Infants desks were received from the Scholastic Co. of Bristol and the gallery was taken down as 'being not fit for use'.

At the turn of the century, when less than 35 children attended, this was considered an insufficient number and the school was closed for the day. This action appears to have been undertaken on the instruction of the then Rector of Piddlehinton, Rev. J.H. Hawkesley. As a number of children had to walk considerable distances to school, when the weather was bad there were frequent low attendances resulting in the closure of the school. There were several occasions on which illness caused the school to be closed for several weeks at a time as in:

1894 where the school record shows 'bad attendance due to sickness' with closure of several days.

1917 when the school closed for 2 weeks between 4-18th November because of a flu epidemic.

1920 the school closed on 6th July because of measles and did not re-open until after the summer holidays on the 13th September.

May 1898 record 'very low attendance - probably because it is a Bank Holiday!!'

The school appears to have had a good attendance record despite bad weather and bearing in mind the distance some of the children walked to attend. On several occasions the school closed as a result of snow and in January 1917 the school closed down due to lack of coal.

In July 1901, the Rector, Rev. J.E. Hawkesley presented Salisbury Diocesan medals to 7 pupils for full attendance during the year. There is frequent reference in the school records to the attendance flag purchased in 1899 for the standard attaining the best record. However a letter written by Rev. Hawkesley and published in the Parish Magazine of March 1897 show his concern about regular attendance.

Letter from Parish Magazine

The high standard of training reached by pupils in the school must be noted during the late 1890s. The Parish Magazine of the time records that during 1891 and 1892 Kate Ellis, Alice Churchill, Ada Churchill and Kate Way were awarded Diocesan prizes in Religious Knowledge and as Pupil Teachers between 1893 and 1897 they were all awarded Dean's Prizes for the best Pupil Teacher each year. This record was not equalled by any school of a similar size in the Diocese, and by very few, if any, of all the schools. To take a first class in the Diocesan Examination was considered good but Piddlehinton School took prizes for both Pupil Teachers and Scholars.

In March 1898 the results again showed two Pupil Teachers, Kate Ellis and Kate Way taking the first and second prizes. Kate Way obtained a post as Assistant Mistress at North Holwood near Dorking.

A considerable number of pupils went on to Teacher Training College, and it is interesting to note that three of these, Rosalie, Kate and Agnes Way, were from the same family.

Photo of School Teachers

1904 - Left to right - Miss Way, Miss Green (Head), Miss Myra Smith, Kate Ellis.

Lessons throughout the school lifetime were varied, recording knitting and needlework exams in 1895, a choir outing to Weymouth in 1901 and cookery classes for girls first mentioned in 1911. November 1914 notes 'Among supplies received was "one packet of needles for girls to practice needle threading"'. The only mention of the 1914-18 war in school records is in September 1917 when children were given time during the afternoons to pick blackberries for the Ministry of Food, a total weight of 2209.5 lbs [1004kg] of blackberries were picked.

The use of the school for 'Peace Celebrations' is recorded in July 1919 and an extra weeks summer holiday is recorded. On 14th November of that year the schoolchildren attended an Armistice Celebration in the Parish Church. Empire Day, 24th May seems to have been a favourite celebration enjoyed by the children when they dressed up to represent the colonies and sang patriotic songs. They also seemed to have enjoyed country dancing and several photographs of this activity exist.

Picture of Children on Primrose day 1903

Primrose Day was also celebrated and this photograph [right] taken in 1903 - the earliest school photograph available, found in Dorchester Museum, shows the children wearing primroses in their buttonholes.

It was also common practice for pupils to learn long extracts of poetry (often overnight). May 1895 school record shows:-

Standard 1 should learn The Childrens Hour 40 lines

Standards 4,5,6 and 7 Edinburgh After Flodden 80, 100 and 150 lines

The school had a wide variety of teachers during its lifetime and in 1896 Miss Haywood came to the village from Whitelands College, Chelsea having previously been a teacher in a mixed village school and being very fond of the country. Miss Haywood brought a sister with her and they were both very keen to be involved in village activities.

In the winter of 1899 a Night or Continuation School for girls was proposed. This was for girls who had left school at an early age and were in danger of forgetting what they had learnt.

It is difficult to trace the history of the school between the years 1926 and 1959 except from photographs of events supplied by local people as the school records for this period were destroyed. However it is evident that village life was very much influenced by school activities.

Picture of School Class October 1928

1928, names not known

Picture of School Class October 1930

October 1930

Back - Sam Taversham, Terry Jeanes, Percy Taversham, Geoffrey Rendell, Denis Cheeseman, David Read. Middle - Lilly Gregory, Nellie Ford, Millicent ?, Kathleen Crott, Margaret Jeanes. . Front - Vera Hawkins, Teddy Cuff, Joyce Hawkins, Charlie Gregory, Margaret Vincent, Everett House, Violet Taversham.

Former pupil Mrs Emily Hansford at the school closure July 1981

The village school closed in July 1981 and present at its final evening was Mrs Emily Hansford who at that time was the oldest village resident and former pupil of the school.

Year Head Teachers Assistant Teachers Pupil Teachers
1841 Sarah Ball
1845 Mary Barrett
1851 Sarah Moores
1861 Elizabeth Wilkins
1870 Mary Hardy
(sister to Thomas Hardy)
1875 approx Kate Hardy
(sister to Thomas Hardy)
1881 Adelaide Evans
1881 Emily Bryant
1894 Mrs E. WyethMrs Geyton Alice Churchill
Mrs Cleall Kate Way
Mrs Green
1895 Edith Barby
1896 Mrs Lillian HaywoodKate Ellis
1899Mrs Emily GreenMrs Ellis
1901 Myra Smith
1902 Agnes Way
1903Alice ChurchillAgnes Way
Mary Churchill
1905 John Warren
Elizabeth Neal
Charles Tarry
Edith WilliamsMiss Williams (sister of Edith Williams)
Miss O. Calvell
1907Mrs DowntonMiss Hughes
Miss Rose Way
1914Carrie AskewMrs Brown
Mrs Mabel BennettMiss Maud Haskell
1915Chrissie Chaldecott
Elsie Cheeseman
1917 Miss Bryant
Miss Pearce
Miss F. Dorriman
Mrs Bennett died on 30th January 1926 after an illness in hospital
1926 Linda Woodland
During 1926 there were five temporary teachers:
Miss Winzer
Miss Hunting
Miss Usher
Miss Score
Miss Trevett
1926Miss Hindley
?Mrs Moyson
1946Mrs Haydon

from a pupil of that time - Vera Vincent (now Mrs Vera Hewitt).

The things which I can remember most vividly are:-

Our teacher, Miss R.C. Way, taking us out in the playground to see the occasional aeroplane in the sky!

Trundling our hoops (when they were the craze) from home at Muston to school, and back - hanging them on the pegs in the school porch. Girls had wooden ones and boys had iron ones, made I think by the village blacksmith Mr Fred Way. We would often watch him at work (during the school dinnertime) shoeing horses, making shoes etc.

It was a wonderful experience for us small children to see a car on the road (as there were so few about) and we could hear it coming long before it reached us, as it would be travelling quite slowly.

When the Rev. W.G. Newman had his car in the 1920s it was always a special pleasure for us to stand back by the hedge and wave excitedly to him.

At one time, we used to have a tin lid (eg a furniture polish lid) and push it on the road with a stick, and aim to get to school without making a hole in the tin!

Sunday School was held in church in the mornings - before the 11am service and again in the afternoons. When it was cold weather, while waiting for the morning service to start, we would stand around the massive iron stove which was just inside the church door, to try to warm ourselves but it certainly wasn't adequate heating for the whole church!

We were expected to go to Sunday School in both the mornings and afternoons, but as we lived at Muston, once a Sunday was permissible for us. When we went in the afternoons we used to go over to the Rectory and wait for the Rev. and Mrs Newman and it was a rush to see who could be the lucky ones to hold one of their hands on the short journey to church. We had Sunday School outings once a year to Weymouth - by charabanc in the early days until there were buses! We used to sing songs most of the way to Weymouth and back, but we weren't allowed to sing while passing through Dorchester. On our arrival at Weymouth, each child was given a sixpenny piece to spend! There was a Woolworths in Weymouth - a favourite place to go as everything was either 6d or 3d (2.5p or 1.5p).

After church on Christmas Day morning, each child would be given an orange.

On the day war was declared, Sunday September 3rd 1939, all the congregation walked over to the Rectory (Archdeacon Chute was Rector then) and heard the announcement on the wireless there and then everyone went back to church for the usual morning service. War had begun.



A Country Market Day in Dorset

A country market is one of the most interesting and enjoyable scenes of town life. At the market, when it is in full swing, one sees country folk mingling with the townsfolk, also animals, birds, machinery, farm produce, cheapjacks, conjurors and entertainers .....

In the morning, everything has to be booked in by 12 o'clock.... Cattle, horses and sheep are driven in lorries, or on the roads if the distance is not too great.... Country carriers bring in the farm and garden produce for the cottagers and smallholders.

The country folk arrive by buses, cars and wagons, sometimes on 'shanks' pony' and bicycles. They have come from their rustic homes to join the "madding crowd"....

The auctioneers start their work, hammer in hand. The farmers stand around the cattle ring discussing the animals they have brought.... "D'ye know that 'Dahlier' gave eight hundred gallons last year! She be a real bargain, and if 'ee do consider havin' her, don't forgit I got me tythes to pay 'et".

....In the shed with eggs and all the dairy produce, are women and various classes of men, as dairy produce interest towns' people as well as country. The cheeses, honey and butter are always tempting. ....Walking down the poultry pens, many different sounds of discontent are heard, especially from the ducks.

....Around the cheapjacks and 'grocery kings' there are usually plenty of foolish housewifes. The din is terrific.

....The public auctions usually finish about 3 o'clock and most of the farmers have left by then. ....soon everything is quiet after a day which has been filled with the noises of pigs squealing, sheep, horses, poultry and dogs barking.

The country people go back to their homes .... The men discuss the market prices. "Fat calves were down this week weren't 'em Bert?"

.....Meanwhile the traders at the market, have packed everything up and either moved away to another town for the next day's market, or put their remnants away until the next week.

If one has some money and feels that it must be spent, go to the market on market day. It is a miniature town and very interesting and exciting for old and young alike.

Mary Hardy

Mary Hardy, sister of Thomas Hardy the famous Dorset writer, was a teacher in Piddlehinton School for several years commencing in 1870.

Born 23rd December 1841, Mary Hardy trained as a teacher at Salisbury training College and after teaching at Denchworth Village School in Berkshire and Minterne Magna school, Dorset, returned to her family home at Bockhampton and took the post of Head teacher at Piddlehinton Village School. Mary was a plain woman with a quiet nature and few friends, confiding in the first Mrs Thomas Hardy 'nobody asks me to dinner or treats me like a lady'. This quiet temperament is possibly what endeared her to her brother Thomas who was of a similar disposition.

At the time Mary took up her appointment at Piddlehinton, Thomas Hardy had also returned to the family home and having had a close relationship with his sister all their lives, it is possible he would have accompanied her on many occasions on her journey to school where they would have passed the Manor at Waterston, purported to be Weatherbury Farm in his novel Far From The Madding crowd, the book in which he used Mary as his model for Bathsheba Everdene.

It is thought that at some time during the 1870s Mary actually lived in the Schoolhouse in Piddlehinton as Thomas Hardy is said to have brought his manuscripts to the schoolhouse for his sister to read before publication.

Piddlehinton Down by Mary Hardy

There are also a number of paintings by Mary Hardy obviously reflecting a time of her life when she was closely associated with the village; particularly 'Piddlehinton Down' [right] painted in 1872 and 'Piddlehinton Church' painted in 1875.

Kate Hardy

Mary's younger sister Kate was a Pupil Teacher in Piddlehinton School prior to going to the same Training College as Mary in 1877. The Diocesan Training College for schoolmistresses where both Mary and Kate Hardy trained was reported by School Inspectors in 1852 as having spacious airy dormitories and a large, handsome lecture room. However, a former student described her impressions of the college in the 1850s as being so different to all her preconceived notions of a college as to compare her reactions to that of being plunged into a cold bath. The rules were strict, the fare Spartan and the amount of household duties required to be done by the students seemed appalling.

Piddlehinton and surrounding villages feature very prominently in a number of Thomas Hardy's novels and poems in which reference is made to 'Longpuddle', thought to describe the Piddle Valley. This is sometimes divided into Lower Longpuddle and Upper Longpuddle which could refer to Piddlehinton and Piddletrenthide.


As in most villages considerable emphasis was placed on the attendance at Sunday School and village records show that in 1846 more children attended Sunday School than day school.

Number of Schools2
Type of schoolSunday and Day
Scholars14 boys, 28 girls
(Sunday and weekday)
Weekdays only2 boys
Sundays only12 boys, 6 girls
Total28 boys, 34 girls

At this time there were three teachers (1 master and two mistresses) recorded. At one point the Rector wrote in the Parish Magazine that it was more important for local children to attend Sunday School than day school. It seems that attendances were very good and the children were regularly entertained to treats in the form of tea at the vicarage and village outings as reward for their good attendance.

In September 1896, the Parish magazine urged parents to send their children to Sunday School which would shortly re-open after the summer break, reminding them of their duty to see that their children and God-children over the age of three years should be thoroughly instructed in 'the faith once delivered to the Saints'.

In the same magazine it was reported that Mrs Hawksley, the Rector's wife was thinking of opening a night school for young men and lads through the winter. This would consist of classes in the schoolroom twice a week and members would be charged a penny a night in order to pay for the lights and fuel. The hours would be from 7.30 to 8.30pm and, of course, during that one hour everybody would work hard - not play about or turn the whole thing into a joke. Eventually this class took place on Sunday afternoons at the Rectory with six young lads present. The Sunday School continued through the years with a number of teachers and finally closed in the early 1970s.


A fund to provide a Village Hall in Piddlehinton came into existence in 1925 when it was decided that the balance of £19 15s. 1d. (£19.75) left over from money collected for the War Memorial should be the basis of a fund to provide a meeting place for local organisations. The possibility of buying a suitable piece of land in the village was discussed but not pursued. By 1933 the fund had not progressed very far and a meeting was called to discuss what should be done with the money. Various suggestions were put forward ranging from using the money on the upkeep of the War Memorial to buying a Hand-Bier for the village, but finally it was decided to continue to press for a village hall or some sort of social centre as the need for this facility was very apparent.

Over a number of years, the fund was maintained and the use of existing buildings in the village was investigated. Eton College was also approached for help in the form of land or financial assistance but to no avail. The fund grew by such means as when in 1933 'a party of seven women sold tea and buns at 1d (approx 0.5p) per item to produce a profit of £1 in 'less than 6 months'.

By October 1953, the fund had grown to £250 but the existence of a village hall was no nearer and when in 1980 it was learned that the Village School was to close, a special meeting was held in the school on 14th April 1980 attended by about 60 people. At this meeting the suggestion of purchasing the school to be used as a hall was put forward and it was unanimously agreed that every effort should be made to raise the necessary money for this purpose. The village hall fund at that date had increased to the sum of £2,349.66.

The school, owned by the Charity Commission and under the Trusteeship of the Salisbury Diocesan Board of Education, was purchased at a cost of £14000 in July 1982. Conversion costs amounted to a further £11,839.17.

Money for the purchase of the school was raised by many and varied fund-raising activities in the village, ranging from barn dances in the grass-dryer at Bourne Farm to auctions held once in a marquee at West Lodge after a family wedding, and once in a very bare school hall, both raising considerable amounts of money. The village also enjoyed a sponsored walk across the hills to the Dorsetshire Gap where a grand picnic was held and then on to the rest of the walk home stopping at various 'watering holes' manned by local people for refreshment of squash and cider.

Various grants were provided by Dorset County Council, the West Dorset District Council and the Piddle Valley Parish Councils and film shows and entertainment evenings were held to make up the much needed balance.

The hall, which was completed in November 1982, was officially opened in April 1983 by the High Sheriff of Dorset, Mr Richard Earle, and is now in continual use by local organisations which include The Brownies, The Art Group, The Craft Group, Play Group and Mother and Toddler Group as well as being used for private functions.

The Hall Committee has raised and spent over £33,000 to date on such things as improvements to the kitchen, storage heaters, additional cupboards and extra outside storage space. The biggest and costliest undertaking was the re-roofing of the hall in the summer of 1986.