The National School
At the start of the nineteenth century, education had been a rare commodity in the valley. Only the children of families who could afford to pay the vicar or employ a tutor received an education beyond Sunday classes conducted in the north transept of All Saints. The agricultural community, indeed, regarded education as an extravagance since children of all ages were needed for work on the farm where they learned more relevant skills, to their mind, than was taught in schoolrooms.
Nonetheless, in the early 19th century, the vicar had given religious instruction on a Sunday to as many as 160 parish children in the north transept; in 1845 the Bishop of Winchester and James Barnard of Park Farm donated a narrow strip of land at the bottom of Park Hill on which a National (Church of England) school was built.
For most of the Victorian era, the school had to organise its schedule to conform with the requirements of farming community. Here are some typical extracts from the log books:
Sept 7 1863
Opened school after the Harvest vacation, but owing to much wet the Harvest is not completed, consequently scarcely any children present.
Sept 28 1863
Attendance not yet very good, some of the children not having finished gleaning.
Sept 4 1865
Re-opened the school after Harvest. 102 children absent owing to the gleaning not being finished and other children are hopping.
… and so on. Similarly, the registers show how frequently children had to leave the school because their parents had left the parish in search of work, and the teachers had to admit new pupils at any point in the year because the family had arrived in East Meon to take up new jobs. The children of labourers paid 1 penny a week to attend school, while shopkeepers and traders had to pay 3 pennies for theirs.
The log book also reveals the extent of pestilence which still swept the valley. These three entries describe the deaths in one year from typhoid of the three youngest children of the Headmaster, William Stephens Tregear.
Jan 12th 187
Holiday – the Master having lost the Infant of the family, Edith Tregear, 6 months, buried in E.Meon churchyard.
July 1st 1878
Master out of school much of Wednesday. His youngest child being very ill. Also Thursday when she died. (Laura Margaret Tregear 3 years buried E.Meon 9th July)
July 15th 1878
The Master obliged to call in the doctor for another daughter. The doctor ascribes the ailment to the water and closets – the closets being too close to house and school. This child also died