A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 17, Calne. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2002.
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By will proved 1662 John Bentley gave freehold and leasehold land adjoining Lincoln's Inn (Mdx.) to endow a new free school for English to be taught; he did not specify the location of the school. A newly built house on the Green at Calne was bought and the free school, intended to be for c. 30 boys, was opened c. 1664. From 1677 the master was paid c. £52 a year. In 1683 the commissioners of charitable uses declared that, besides English, the master might be required to teach the catechism, writing, arithmetic, and Latin. In 1690 the freehold land was sold, annuities were bought, and the master's salary was increased by c. £10. A dispute between Bentley's feoffees and the later owners of the land was ended by Act in 1741, and in 1743-4 £300 was invested for the school. (fn. 1) In 1687 the master, James Webb, during whose time as master the number of pupils fell, was dismissed for negligence and misconduct. (fn. 2) Latin was added to the curriculum, presumably soon after 1687, and Sir Francis Bridgeman (d. 1717) gave two exhibitions at the Queen's College, Oxford, for pupils at Bentley's school; in 1734 seven additional places were provided at the school for boys who were to study classical subjects as candidates for the exhibitions. The exhibitions were last awarded c. 1804, and the number of boys attending the school fell from c. 80 in 1805 to 33 in 1834. Neither Latin nor Greek was taught in 1834, when the master was paid £50, most of the boys were from poor families, and the buildings of the school were in poor repair. From 1836 fees were paid for attendance, and in 1842 the house built shortly before c. 1664 was demolished and a new school was built on its site. (fn. 3) In 1858 the school had 50-60 pupils and was described as thoroughly successful, (fn. 4) but in 1891, when it was attended by the sons of tradesmen, farmers, and artisans and the education provided was more commercial and technical than classical, attendance was only c. 20. In 1901 Bentley's school was amalgamated with Calne technical school as a school of science for boys aged 9-17; the new school was called Calne county school, later Calne county secondary school. Girls were admitted from 1903 and accommodated until 1909 in the former silk mill and orphanage on the north-east side of the Green. In 1908-9 new buildings for the school were erected, using those built for Bentley's school in 1842 as a nucleus. (fn. 5) The county secondary school was later called the Bentley grammar school, and in 1957, with places for 360 boys and girls, it moved to a new building in the angle of the London and Melksham roads. In 1974 the grammar school was merged with the Fynemore school, which had buildings in Silver Street, as the John Bentley comprehensive school, later the John Bentley school. The school used both sites until 1998, when the buildings in Silver Street were given up and, in the angle of the London and Melksham roads, new buildings were erected and existing ones improved. (fn. 6) In 1999 the John Bentley school had on its roll 1,128 pupils aged between 11 and 19. (fn. 7) In 1904 Calne county school received £50 from John Bentley's endowment. (fn. 8) By a Scheme of 1977 the income from that and other educational charities was used for scholarships for, and to provide other help to, pupils at the John Bentley school; (fn. 9) in the 1990s it was used to pay for prizes and to help with expenses such as buying uniform. (fn. 10)
Calne technical school was built on the south side of the Green in 1894. It was paid for by voluntary contributions and grants by the local authorities and was to provide instruction to adults and children from the parishes in Calne poor-law union. In 1901 it was amalgamated with Bentley's school. (fn. 11)
In 1930 Wiltshire county council built a new school in Silver Street. It was for children aged 11 and over and, when it opened in 1930, it had 216 on its roll. It became a secondary modern school, was enlarged in 1940 and 1963, and was called Fynemore school from 1964. It had 613 on its roll in 1963. Fynemore school was merged with the Bentley grammar school in 1974; (fn. 12) its buildings were demolished in the late 1990s.
Walter Fynemore (d. 1557), the lord of Whetham manor, gave a rent charge of £2 to provide a teacher for 10 poor children. (fn. 13) Schoolmasters taught at Calne in the later 16th century and earlier 17th, (fn. 14) a free school was held, and the master of the free school received the income from a small endowment and evidently the £2. (fn. 15) In the mid 18th century and early 19th schoolmasters were appointed by Fynemore's representatives, and in the early 19th century there was a school said to have been founded by Sir John Ernle, either of two owners of Whetham manor in the 17th century, as one for five boys. The school failed c. 1829. (fn. 16) By will proved 1670 William Woodroffe gave 50s. a year to pay for five boys born in Calne borough to be taught freely. In the late 1820s the boys were taught in a poorly managed school in a former malthouse in Church Street. That school was also closed c. 1829. (fn. 17) The two charity schools were superseded by a National school for boys built on, and near the southwest corner of, the Green in 1828-9. (fn. 18) The National school was presumably the school with 170 pupils said in 1834 to be a British school. (fn. 19) It had 115 pupils in 1846-7, (fn. 20) and 80- 90 in 1858, when its buildings were described as very good and the teaching as highly satisfactory. (fn. 21) Average attendance had risen to 155 by 1876 (fn. 22) and was 120 in 1906. (fn. 23) Numbers fell in the 1920s, and in 1930 the school was amalgamated with the National girls' school as Calne junior school. Average attendance at the combined school was 145 in 1936. (fn. 24) In 1968-9 it was replaced by two new primary schools, St. Dunstan in the north part of the town and Priestley in the east part. In 1999 St. Dunstan school had on its roll 267 children aged 7-11, Priestley 253 aged 5-11. (fn. 25) From c. 1829 to 1900 the National school for boys received the income from Fynemore's and Woodroffe's endowments; thereafter the money was used to provide a scholarship at Calne county school (fn. 26) and from 1977 was used with John Bentley's endowment. (fn. 27)
In the earlier 17th century Robert Foreman (d. 1646) allowed the rent from 1½ a. at Studley to replace a gift to Calne of 20 nobles made by his father. The rent was used to maintain a free school at Calne, presumably that attended by the children paid for by Fynemore's charity, and was confirmed to the school by Robert's will. The use of the rent from the land for education evidently lapsed before 1814. Thereafter £2 a year was paid to a mistress to teach four girls; (fn. 28) it is unlikely that the teaching was in a separate school. A National school for girls was built on the Green, between the boys' school and Bentley's school, between 1828 and 1833. It had 96 pupils in 1833, (fn. 29) 124 in 1846-7, (fn. 30) and usually 70-80 in the later 19th century. (fn. 31) Average attendance was 97 in 1910, usually c. 80 in the 1920s. In 1930 the school was merged with the National boys' school. (fn. 32) From c. 1833 to 1866 the girls' school received the income from Foreman's charity, which was afterwards used to provide a scholarship at the Bentley school. (fn. 33)
A National school for infants was built in Mill Street in 1835. (fn. 34) It had 120 pupils in 1846- 7, (fn. 35) c. 100 in 1858, (fn. 36) 74 in 1876, (fn. 37) 56 in 1903, (fn. 38) and 60 in 1927. The school was closed in 1930, and the pupils were presumably transferred to Guthrie school. (fn. 39)
In 1868 British schools, later called Calne Marden school, were opened in rooms adjoining Calne Free Church. (fn. 40) There was a mixed school and an infants' school. (fn. 41) Average attendance at the two schools was 153 in 1876, (fn. 42) and the schools had c. 200 pupils in 1910 and c. 175 in 1919. In 1922 the infants' school was closed and the pupils were transferred to the school in Mill Street. The mixed school had c. 70 pupils in 1927. It was closed in 1930 and the pupils were transferred to the new school in Silver Street and to Calne junior school. (fn. 43)
Guthrie school was built off Wood Street in 1854 and affiliated to the National society. (fn. 44) It had a classroom for older children and another for infants, had 80-90 pupils in 1858, and was described as Guthrie juvenile school. A new classroom was built in 1889, and the school was again enlarged in 1903. From 1897 it was for girls and infants, (fn. 45) and in 1906-7 the average attendance was 113. In 1930 Guthrie school became an infants' school and the older children were presumably transferred to the new school in Silver Street and to Calne junior school. In 1936 average attendance was 85. (fn. 46) In 1959 additional classrooms were built in Bryans Close Road, and in 1964 the whole school moved to a new building in the north part of the town. (fn. 47) In 1999 Guthrie school had 189 children aged 5-7 on its roll. (fn. 48)
St. Mary's school, a day and boarding school for girls of the middle classes, was opened in 1873, principally at the instigation of John Duncan, vicar of Calne. (fn. 51) It occupied a house on the north part of the Green, was held partly in the east end of the church, and from 1890 or earlier also occupied two houses adjoining that on the Green. In 1880 the school bought the house which it had occupied since 1873, and between 1880 and 1900 it received several endowments. In 1881 Ellinor Gabriel, a benefactor of the school and its first manager, gave the income from £1,000 to provide scholarships at the school. In 1905, when the income from its endowments was £92, the school had 24 day girls and 10 boarders; 20 of the girls were aged between 10 and 15. (fn. 52) In 1908 St. Mary's school moved to a house off the north side of Curzon Street. A villa off the west side of North Street was bought in 1916, and between 1918 and 1921 land and other buildings near the school were bought. In 1923 there were 78 pupils. (fn. 53) The school continued to grow: new buildings were erected in the 1920s and 1930s, the union workhouse and 11½ a. were bought in 1934, and the isolation hospital north-west of the workhouse was bought c. 1938. The workhouse was demolished, c. 1945 the hospital was converted for a junior department, St. Margaret's school, and c. 1946 Northfield House (no. 5 Curzon Street, later St. Cecilia's), a lunatic asylum in the mid 19th century, was bought. There was much new building from the 1950s, a large boarding house was built in 1966-7, a chapel, designed by Sampson Lloyd, was built in 1972, and a theatre was built in 1990. St. Mary's school had 240 pupils c. 1970. (fn. 54) In 1999 it had 300 pupils aged between 11 and 18, and St. Margaret's school was then a co-educational junior department with 120 pupils aged 4-11. (fn. 55)
Other schools in Calne included three conducted on Dr. Bell's plan: one for boys and one for girls were opened shortly before 1812, (fn. 56) and a third was open in 1818 when the three had c. 250 pupils. (fn. 57) They were presumably closed when the National schools on the Green were opened. (fn. 58) From 1849 a house in Curzon Street was used as a school in which girls were trained for domestic service. Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, marquess of Lansdowne (d. 1863), bequeathed £1,000 to the school; £200 was spent on repairs to the building, and in 1868 or 1869 the rest was used to buy the building or invested. In 1868 the school was attended by 16 girls, each of whom stayed for a year. It was closed in 1883. The building was sold in 1884 and the proceeds were invested to provide training for girls elsewhere; 11 girls from Calne and 8 others were assisted between 1883 and 1904. (fn. 59) Small private schools, for boys and girls, day and boarding, were kept in the town from the late 18th century to the 20th. A boarding school for boys open in 1842 (fn. 60) and 1858, or a boys' school with 15 pupils in 1858, may have been the school held from 1844 or earlier to 1869 or earlier in a former factory in Silver Street. Five private schools for girls had c. 85 pupils in 1858. (fn. 61) In 1983 the Grange, a large house on the north side of the Bristol road, was opened by Wiltshire county council as Springfields school, a residential school for maladjusted boys aged over 11; in 2000 Springfields special school was attended by 54 boys aged 10-17. (fn. 62) From 1971 and in 1999 the buildings erected on the Green in 1908-9 for Calne county school were used for further education classes held by Chippenham college. (fn. 63)
Cowage school was held in a farmhouse, presumably the principal house on the Cowage estate, from 1773 to 1781 or later. In its first year it was attended by 10 girls and 2 boys nominated by William Petty, earl of Shelburne, and probably living in Bowood liberty. A mistress taught the children to read and to knit. (fn. 64) The children living in the liberty later attended a school built at Buck Hill in 1814. (fn. 65)
At Derry Hill a National school and schoolhouse was built east of the church in 1843 and was later enlarged. (fn. 66) Before 1843 children living there attended the school at Buck Hill. (fn. 67) The school at Derry Hill was attended by 26 boys and 25 girls in 1846-7 (fn. 68) and had 80-100 pupils in 1859. Although in 1859 the schoolroom was described as large, well lit, and well ventilated, (fn. 69) in 1870 it was found to be inadequate. It was later a reading room. A new school, and a teacher's house partly converted from an existing building, were built west of the church in 1872. Average attendance was 115-20 in 1888 (fn. 70) and 152 in 1906. (fn. 71) It declined in the 1920s and 1930s, perhaps partly because older children were sent to school in Calne, and was 57 in 1936. (fn. 72) It increased in the later 20th century, partly because of the new housing built in the village, and in 1999 Derry Hill school had on its roll 211 children aged 5-11. (fn. 73)
At Quemerford in 1858 there was a dame school attended by 20-30 children. (fn. 74) In 1867 a Church of England school, Holy Trinity, incorporating a teacher's house, was built on a site immediately south of the church built in 1852- 3. (fn. 75) Average attendance was 73 in 1876, (fn. 76) 114 in 1906, (fn. 77) and 95 in 1936. (fn. 78) The school was later enlarged and in 1999 had on its roll 209 children aged 5-11. (fn. 79) The teacher's house was sold in 1979 and the proceeds invested; the income from the investment, £600 in 1996, was used to help the education of children in Calne ecclesiastical parish. (fn. 80)
At both Sandy Lane and Studley there was a dame school in 1858. That at Sandy Lane had 20-30 pupils, that at Studley 10-15. (fn. 81) In the 1830s children from both villages attended Buck Hill school; (fn. 82) later they presumably attended Derry Hill school.
At Stockley a school was built in 1855 or 1856 at the expense of John Guthrie, vicar of Calne; a teacher's house was added, probably in 1858. The school had 30-40 pupils in 1858. (fn. 83) In 1870 the vicar, John Duncan, said that it was doing more harm than good and, with the approval of the government, closed it. The children were transferred to Holy Trinity and Heddington schools. (fn. 84)