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Schools & Childhood in Bournemouth
Bournemouth's first schools were at Kinson and Holdenhurst in the early 19th century, when both communities were farming villages on the edge of Bourne Heath. These schools had little in common with today's schools, being either Sunday schools organised by the church or some children were given lessons by a woman in her own home. These were called 'Dame schools' and the teacher often had no training or education of her own. Many children had no schooling at all and were sent out to work at an early age.
In 1833 the Government took the first steps towards developing a system of state education and paid £20,000 towards opening new schools around the country. Within a few years there were daily schools at Kinson (opened in 1836), Holdenhurst and Pokesdown. In central Bournemouth a converted cottage was in use by 1834 as a schoolroom for nine boys and nine girls. When the Reverend Morden Bennett became the first Vicar of Bournemouth in 1845 he made it a priority to establish a church school. It was built in St Peter's Road in 1850 and survived until 1937. Georgina Talbot, the founder of Talbot Village, opened a school there in 1862. The 68 pupils were taught the three 'Rs' (reading, writing and arithmetic) and scripture.
By the end of the 19th century Bournemouth had many schools, some of them fee-paying to cater for the children of the town's wealthy residents and long-stay visitors.
School logbooks and inspectors' reports help to bring to life the daily activities of schoolteachers and pupils in 19th century Bournemouth. In 1868 the inspector visiting Holdenhurst School complained that there was only one teacher and she was 'totally untrained' the teaching was 'very elementary', the arithmetic 'very defective' and no logbook was kept. But he did compliment the school on having children who were 'neat and clean'.
The Kinson School logbook for 1885 lists four of the main subjects taught as objects, common employment, phenomena of nature and scenes in common life'. The book divides 'Objects' into four sub-headings - animals (dog, tiger, mouse, horse, camel), plants (flowers, corn, sugar, cotton, pea), mineral (coal, chalk, iron, salt) and various (leather, money, umbrella, matches, form, colour). Under 'common empoyment' the children were to learn about carpenters, shoemakers and fishermen. Nature studies included stars, snow, sun, clouds and night and day, while lessons in common life comprised ships, rivers and gardens.
Illness, discipline and holidays
Problems with illness, holidays and discipline were among the matters referred to in the logbooks for Throop village school, which date back to 1878. Some entries are very sad, such as the one describing the death from diptheria in 1900 of a 'fine, bright little girl' called Alice Durnford. The other children attended her funeral instead of having their usual playtime. Epidemics of measles, whooping cough and scarlet fever sometimes forced the schools to close.
In 1893 a pupil at Kinson School was punished for throwing stones at a teacher after school. A few months later he was in trouble again for spitting in his teacher's face, pulling the girls' hair and other bad behaviour'. The cane was a common form of punishment and the same boy refused to hold out his hand and instead 'received three strokes on another part of his person'. But it wasn't only the boys who got into trouble.
The weather could also be a problem, heavy snow or flooded roads occasionally kept away children from outlying areas. 'Extremely wet in morning. No children present and very few in afternoon' says a logbook entry for 1 July 1879.
School treats and holidays are often mentioned in the logbook. 'Annual treat in Mr T Whitcher's field,' states one entry for 26 June 1878. Two days later the children were given a day's holiday for Coronation Day.
Among the causes of non-attendance at Kinson was the arrival of a circus in Bournemouth.