Stanton Harcourt: Education

Pages 294-295

A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 12, Wootton Hundred (South) Including Woodstock. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1990.

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Peter Bostock, vicar of Stanton Harcourt from c. 1611, ran a school there in 1610-11; in 1617 the church house was said to have been used as a schoolroom from time immemorial and was held in trust. (fn. 99) Charitable bequests were made to the school in 1711 and 1721. (fn. 1) Reading was taught free, (fn. 2) and from 1728 four boys under the Gibbons endowment (fn. 3) were taught writing and arithmetic free, were supplied with books, and were clothed and apprenticed. Offertory money was used to educate poor children for most of the 18th century. In 1738 there were 16-17 boys and girls attending, but in 1774 the 17 pupils were all boys. (fn. 4)

By c. 1800 the schoolmaster received £14 8s. a year to teach the four Gibbons boys and one child from each labourer's family. In 1808 c. 25 children were taught free, and c. 20 younger children at their parents' expense. (fn. 5) By 1815 eight children received free education and 14-15 others paid; the schoolmaster was then a feeble old man. (fn. 6) The schoolhouse, in which he lived rent-and tax-free, was then in the church house by the churchyard, presumably the former vicarage house or a building south of the church demolished by 1876. (fn. 7) Forty-five pupils attended in 1817; a Sunday school, newly established on the National plan, had 80 children, but closed soon after. (fn. 8) In 1824, although 60 families each had the right to send one child to school, there were seldom more than 40 free pupils, and no boys were receiving the Gibbons bequest. (fn. 9) By 1831 the bequest was again in use, but only 16 children attended school full-time, others working during the summer. (fn. 10)

In 1835 three small private schools had 41 pupils, mostly girls, and the Baptists ran a Sunday school for 30 children. (fn. 11) A dame school was opened c. 1860 by a mother and daughter, who in 1869 taught 35 children, mostly girls, and ran an evening school in winter; the Revd. William Vernon Harcourt gave £10 a year and a rent-free schoolroom and cottage. The charity school, said in 1860 to be sadly neglected, continued to teach one child free from each family but charged for writing lessons; the master made up his income by acting as postmaster and assistant overseer. The vicar was excluded from both the charity and dame schools. (fn. 12)

A National school, replacing the former charity school, was opened in 1871; then or earlier the school was moved to a cottage on the village street, no. 21. New buildings in brick, accommodating 90 children, were added at the back on land owned by E. W. Harcourt, who was sole manager. (fn. 13) In 1876 fees amounted to c. £24 and voluntary contributions to c. £60. The endowment was only £4 8s., reduced to £3 18s. in 1880, but the school also received £10 a year from the Gibbons trust until 1889. (fn. 14) A government grant was received from 1871, when the average attendance was 55 boys and 25 girls. (fn. 15) Accommodation was increased to 114 by 1876, when attendance was 59 by day and 8 by night, and to 130 in 1901. (fn. 16) The children were repeatedly said to be backward, and in the late 1880s frequent staff changes lowered standards. (fn. 17)

Stanton Harcourt school was reorganized as a mixed junior and infant school in 1938, the seniors going to Witney. Average attendance rose from 58 to 77 by 1939. (fn. 18) From 1951 the officers' mess of the R.A.F. camp was used for the two upper forms, and the old school building for infants. (fn. 19) The school acquired controlled status c. 1957; (fn. 20) the roll was 75 in 1954, fell to 61 in 1962, and rose again to 75 in 1970. A new building was opened in 1974 with 90 places, but in 1983 the roll was only 47. (fn. 21)

Bequests for educating poor children of Stanton Harcourt were made by William Plasterer (will proved 1711) who left £30 (fn. 22) and by William and Thomas Barfoot (wills proved 1714 and 1720) who left £5 each; (fn. 23) Catherine and Mary Flexney (wills dated 1721 and 1724) left £10 each, Mary directing that Bibles should be given to children who had 'learned their Bible through'. (fn. 24) Mary Barfoot (will proved 1726) left a 10s. rent charge, (fn. 25) and Edward Crutchley and James Digweed (wills proved 1728) (fn. 26) £10 and £5 respectively. Dr. William Gibbons, by will proved 1728, (fn. 27) gave £400, later vested in All Souls College, Oxford, which paid the school £10 a year from it. (fn. 28) The money was to educate, supply with books, and apprentice four boys nominated by the churchwardens and overseers; other poor boys were to have free education. The chosen four were also to have two suits of clothes each, paid for by All Souls in addition to the £10 endowment. As there were seldom four boys a year ready to be apprenticed, surplus money was used to buy a third suit of clothes for those in school. (fn. 29)

In 1765 a subscription in the parish raised £54 12s. for the benefit of the poor and the schooling of poor children. (fn. 30) In the late 1790s all the educational charities except Gibbons's and Mary Barfoot's were incorporated into the United charities; £3 18s. a year was applied to schooling and that, with Gibbons's and Mary Barfoot's, made up the schoolmaster's salary for most of the 19th century. (fn. 31) In 1901 the United charities were divided into educational and eleemosynary branches, each with an income of £3, but by the 1960s most of the income was used for the school. (fn. 32) In 1889 the Gibbons bequest was regulated by a Board of Education Scheme, amended in 1950, whereby two separate charities were created: the Dr. Gibbons charity for the advancement of education with an income of £20 10s., to be given as prizes or awards, and the Dr. Gibbons school charity with an income of £20, for apprenticing poor boys or providing outfits for a trade or profession. The benefits were extended to girls in 1897. (fn. 33) From 1901 to 1926 no applications for apprenticeship were received, but several indentures were being paid in the early 1930s. (fn. 34)


  • 99. P.R.O., E 134/22 Jas. I/Hil. 26; O.R.O., MS. Misc. Pa Ia/1.
  • 1. O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 24/¼0; below.
  • 2. 10th Rep. Char. Com. 414.
  • 3. Below.
  • 4. Secker's Visit. 145-6; O.R.O., MSS. Oxf. Dioc. d 565, f. 147; b 38, f. 188v.
  • 5. Educ. of Poor Digest, H.C. 224, p. 730 (1819), ix B; O.R.O., MSS. Oxf. Dioc. d 569, f. 105; d 707, f. 159;below, Char.; cf. Bodl. MSS. d.d. Harcourt e 26; c 149/11, p. 15.
  • 6. O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Dioc. c 433, f. 187.
  • 7. 10th Rep. Char. Com. 414; O.R.O., MS. Misc. Pa Ia/2; Harcourt estate office, map of 1819; O.S. Map ½,500, Oxon. XXXVIII. 3 (1876 edn.); above, Church.
  • 8. Educ. of Poor Digest, 730; O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Stanton Harcourt c 5, ff. 77v.-78; ibid. MS. Oxf. Dioc. b 38, f. 189.
  • 9. 10th Rep. Char. Com. 414.
  • 10. O.R.O., MS. Oxf. Dioc. b 38, f. 189.
  • 11. Educ. Enq. Abstract, H.C. 62, p. 755 (1835), xlii.
  • 12. Rep. Com. on Child. and Women in Agric. [4202-1], p. 350, H.C. (1868-9), xiii; Bodl. MS. d.d. Harcourt e 27, pp. 31-3; O.R.O., MSS. Oxf. Dioc. d 179, ff. 364-5; d 180, ff. 1055-6; D. McClatchey, Oxon. Clergy, 141.
  • 13. Returns relating to Elem. Educ. H.C. 201, p. 324 (1871),lv; P.R.O., ED 7/101/193; Bodl. MS. d.d. Harcourt e 27, pp. 31-3, 45, 49; O.S. Map ½,500, Oxon. XXXVIII. 3 (1876 edn.).
  • 14. P.R.O., ED 7/101/193; Publ. Elem. Schs. 1875-6 [C. 1882], H.C. (1877), lxvii; Bodl. MS. d.d. Harcourt c 540.
  • 15. P.R.O., ED 7/101/193; Bodl. MS. d.d. Harcourt c 540, pp. 120-1.
  • 16. Publ. Elem. Schs. 1875-6; Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1920).
  • 17. Bodl. MS. d.d. Harcourt d 93.
  • 18. Inf. from Oxon. C.C. Educ. Cttee.
  • 19. O.R.O., T/S Misc. 19.
  • 20. Ibid. MS. Oxf. Dioc. c 2019: letter 11 Feb. 1957.
  • 21. Inf. from Oxon. C.C.Educ. Cttee.; O.S. Map ½,500, SP 4005-4105 (1970 edn.); O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Stanton Harcourt d 3, s.a. 1974.
  • 22. O.R.O., MS. Wills Oxon. 145/2/3.
  • 23. Ibid. 208, f. 92; 116/4/29.
  • 24. Ibid. 24/¼0; 128/1/8.
  • 25. Ibid. 117/1/16.
  • 26. Ibid. 94, f. 171; 125/¼9.
  • 27. P.R.O., PROB 11/621, ff. 156v.-158.
  • 28. 10th Rep. Char. Com. 413; Char. Don. 1786, p. 996, where Dr. Gibbons's bequest is wrongly attributed to Henry Meads.
  • 29. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Stanton Harcourt c 5, ff. 29-30; Bodl. MS. d.d. All Souls c 192/65.
  • 30. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Stanton Harcourt c 5, f. 31; Bodl. MS. d.d. Harcourt e 26.
  • 31. 10th Rep. Char. Com. 413; Char. Digest [292-11], pp. 54-5 (1871), 1v.
  • 32. O.R.C.C., Kimber files.
  • 33. Char. Com. Schemes 309595, 309171.
  • 34. O.R.O., MS. d.d. Par. Stanton Harcourt, b 11.