Mildenhall in Wiltshire - The Minal Community Website




The Village School


In 1808 some 14 children attended a school kept by a poor woman in Mildenhall. The school had been closed by 1818 when the only provision for educating the poor was two Sunday schools and catechizing. In 1818, however, Charles Francis, the rector, gave land and in 1821 he bequeathed £4,000 for a school. Half the money was invested and half used to build a school and teacher's house, designed by Robert Abraham and completed in 1824. The building, in Perpendicular style, has a two-storeyed octagonal central block and a lantern roof. From alternate sides radiate single-storeyed wings, two of which were used as schoolrooms. The income from investment, £100 in 1858, was used to pay a master and a mistress and for the general expenses of the school There were 28 pupils in 1833 and numbers rose to between 60 and 70 in the late 19th century. By 1873 the central area of the school had been divided into additional schoolrooms and in 1898 one of the original schoolrooms was enlarged. In 1906 the average attendance was 70 and numbers fluctuated between 50 and 75 until 1938 when they stood at 40.The school was closed in 1969.

Linzi Mathews, an ex-pupil, has contributed these memories of the school and some of her fellow pupils:-

It was a Church of England school and this meant we started each day with a short Bible session. We also had prayers each morning, each lunchtime and at the end of the school day. Every Monday morning, Reverend Courtman attended and led the assembly, and once a week we recited the 'Collect'. Each Good Friday the school attended a special church service and all the children were given a hot cross bun. We all walked to the church in a big group, being 'collected' on the way - as the Sowdens and I lived the closest to the church we were the last to be picked up!

Each Christmas the school did a nativity play/carol service for parents and villagers. We did three performances - one in the largest classroom, one in the village hall and one in Miss Price's flat, which was part of the school building. The last Christmas we were there, I got the (highly coveted!) part of Mary and Paul Tilling was Joseph. Miss Price eventually moved out of the school into a bungalow on a newly-built estate along the main road - Berry Close - in about 1967-ish.

In some respects the school was rather old-fashioned, but effective. For example, I when was taught to write 'joined up' I was actually taught copperplate (!!) and I was taught to read using a set of 1920's school books called 'The Radiant Way'.

School dinners were not available until I had been at school a couple of years - until then children just went home for lunch. The food was brought out in big heated containers from Marlborough (?) and dished up by the teachers. Initially, we didn't even have dining tables, so we ate at our desks using specially-provided placemats.

The School in 1967

We look rather a shabby lot, don't we! I think this is partly because there was no school uniform, but also because quite a few of us came from relatively poor backgrounds.

My family - the Standfields - lived at No.1 Church Lane (next door to Mr & Mrs Fishlock at No.2) from late 1959 to May 1968. My dad, Ken Standfield, worked for John Gale's father & Mr Ainsley. The Sowden family lived further down Church Lane and the Madgewicks at the very end.

The Rawlings family were Romanies who lived somewhere up a lane that goes off to the left before the lane to the school (there used to be a triangle of grass at the junction with a telephone box on it).

Stanley was about my age and a jolly boy. Gordon and Sheila were older and I didn't know them that well, although I remember Sheila seemed a kind girl and Gordon was very quiet but knew an incredible amount about animals and birds. When I was about 8, the school acquired a tape recorder and Miss Price made a recording of all the children "interviewing" Gordon, asking him questions about wildlife.

I remember on one occasion the Rawlings children were absent from school and Miss Price announced that they were at home because their grandmother had died. She went on to say that the grandmother was a "gypsy queen" and that Romanies from all over the country would be coming to the funeral to pay their respects. She was right - the village was absolutely packed with visitors and the cortege was huge.

The Miles family was large! There were 12 children in all and they lived further along the lane beyond the school. Alan and Philip were the closest to me in age.

I think Pamela Smith and Jackie Smith were cousins. Both families lived along the main road in Minal; Pamela's across the road from the shop but slightly further along, Jackie's further along again. The Furzeys lived in a house opposite the shop.

The other Jackie (possibly Carpenter - can't remember) lived with her parents in a house on the main road roughly opposite the pub. It had a long, overgrown garden that reached all the way down to Church Lane and 'finished' opposite our house. People tended to use it as a public footpath/short cut.

The Wood family lived in "Roamers" along the main road. Mr Wood was a postman; Mrs Wood and my mother were particular friends. My parents still exchange Christmas cards with Mr & Mrs Wood, who now live in Little Bedwin.

Paul Tilling's family lived the 'Ramsbury end' of the village. Where the lane to the school branches off, the main road curves round a bit and just beyond there is a turning off to the right. Somewhere along there is a bridge; Paul's house was just beyond the bridge - a sixties bungalow (dormer bungalow?) faced with Cotswold (?) stone.

 More Modern Minal