The MALE Family Gatherings

Kate Jeanes' Memories of Her School

Handwritten Article Cover  
Kingsbury Episcopi School
Centenary 1878-1978

By E.K.Jeanes  

  Foreword by Peter Hobbs

Kate Jeanes in 1923 Kate Jeanes (1879-1976) was a Sunday School teacher, a Parish Councillor, a musician and a choral singer with the Jeanes Family Quartet. She also formed and conducted the Women's Institute Choir, whose early performances were broadcast by the BBC from Bristol. Living at "Deadlands Farm" (in Stembridge, near Kingsbury Episcopi, Somerset - see local 1930s map) for most of her adult life, she was also a mother of 4 children, and was known to myself and the rest of her extended family as "Great Aunt Kate".

In 1975 her local school in Kingsbury Episcopi began preparing a centenary project, and she was asked if she could contribute any memories. Kate was 96 years and 5 months old at the time, but immediately handwrote a 5-page article (reproduced below).

The article is remarkable considering her age, an excellent piece that any professional journalist would be equally proud of - clear, concise, factual, sometimes personal, sometime sweeping, and throughout written with perfect grammar and punctuation. But it is perhaps typical of her character that she attributed her skills not to herself personally but to the teachers in the Victorian village school that educated her, commenting quietly that "We must have had a good grounding in the three R's because the school leaving age was eleven and most of us had no further education."

Here is a full and exact transcription of her article:

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Kingsbury Episcopi School 1878-1978

My memory of the school goes back to 1884, and I have been asked to write a few notes about it.

The front of the school is as it was built, with the big room in the centre and two classrooms at each end. My sister-in-law told me she attended a school in Church Street, at the house with the big chimney, paying 2d. a week until the new school was ready. When it was opened she was one of the very first pupils. I began school in 1884, at the age of five. We began each day with a hymn and prayer, and perhaps because we had it so often I remember one hymn to this day.

"The morning bright with rosy light
Has waked me from my sleep.
Father, I own Thy love alone
Thy little one doth keep.

All through the day, I humbly pray,
Be Thou my guard and guide.
My sins forgive, and let me live
For ever by Thy side."

Mr. and Mrs. George Sharpe were the first headmaster and mistress and at first had no paid help, relying on the older girls to look after the little ones. Mr. Sharpe was a scholar of his time, knowing well the Bible, the poets and many of the well-known composers and their works. He was very fond of music and was choirmaster at the Parish Church, taking the singers to Wells Cathedral on special occasions. He also gave an evening a week to help the village band. Here began my love for music and singing.

We walked to school, carrying our lunch and hanging our bags or baskets on hangers in the passage. We ate it at lunch time sitting on a bench in the school yard. Girls skipped or played with hoops and boys played marbles or tops.

We wrote with slate pencils on slates until we were eight or nine, when we were promoted to pen and ink. One girl making a mistake tried to rub it out and made a much worse mess. The Head was furious and very scathing. The girl rushed from the room, seized her hat and bag and was off down the road in a flash making for home.

Two inspectors came two or three times each year to look over our work and hear us read or recite. We could always tell when one was expected, for the Head donned a black coat. Some members of the school Board came each month. One man had a wooden leg - not a leg but a double sized broomstick with which he thumped over the floor.

We must have had a good grounding in the three R's, for the school leaving age was eleven and most of us had no further education.

One girl a few years older than I was, Martha Bisgrove, went through the school as a pupil and became a pupil teacher. She studied under Mr. Sharpe until she obtained her certificate and then went on to be head of the infants. She retired in 1932.

In 1887, Queen Victoria's Jubilee, the clock was put in the church tower and there was a fête on the vicarage lawn. We children took part in the celebration, singing the songs we had learnt specially for the occasion. This was a whole day's holiday.

During the 1914-18 war the school entertained wounded soldiers from the hospital at Norton-sub-Hamdon. In 1939 bus-loads of evacuees from London came to the school. I was on the committee and helped to place teachers and children in various homes. My daughter-in-law [Kath Bolton m.Jeanes] was one of these London teachers, and taught there for some time. The headmaster, Mr. Walter, was chairman of the Evacuation Committee, and the school and the village worked together to help the children and adults settle in the country.

Dorothy Parfitt taught at the school for three years and left to study singing in London and Paris. She later became a well-known singer and broadcaster.

After leaving the school my younger daughter [Lilian, m.Mounter] went to Yeovil High School and Cambridge and came back as a certified teacher. She taught needlework to the girls and I was able to help her to cut out the garments. When she left to be married my connection with the school ended.

aged 96 years and 5 months

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