A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 13, Bampton Hundred (Part One). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1996.
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By deeds of 1709 and 1713 ratified under his will Thomas Horde (d. 1715) charged lands in Aston manor with £6 a year to teach 20 poor children of Aston and Cote to read the Bible. (fn. 1) Though the bequest was recorded throughout the 18th century, (fn. 2) two elementary day schools recorded in 1808 and together teaching 50 children were unendowed, and then as in 1824 the bequest was received presumably by the Sunday school. (fn. 3)
By 1835 the bequest was paid to a National school which had 30 pupils paying pence. (fn. 4) In 1868 the school's annual income totalled c. £42, including, besides the Horde charity, c. £3 from unspecified Bampton charities and £5 from the unidentified Betton's charity, received from the Ironmongers' Company. It then received no government grant, and lack of support from most landowners meant that it was running at a deficit. (fn. 5) Its original site is unknown, (fn. 6) but in 1856 a new National schoolroom and house, designed in 13th-century style by James Castle of Oxford, were built east of the church on land allotted to the vicar and churchwardens at inclosure, the cost met by the vicars, by subscription, and by a government grant. (fn. 7) By 1866 accommodation had been increased from 72 to 95, and by 1868 there were 42 boys and 56 girls on the roll from Aston, Cote, Chimney, and Shifford. Many parents saw little advantage, however, and attendance was usually lower. About 17 children were employed in farm and other work almost continuously, and 24 temporarily paid for by the curate were removed as soon as he withdrew support. (fn. 8)
A dissenting school opened in 1827 and with 50 pupils in 1835 was presumably the British school established in Aston House by Richard Pryce, minister of Cote 1819-40, which moved first to a barn in Aston owned by a Baptist deacon, and in 1845 to the newly built Baptist chapel and schoolroom on North Street. (fn. 9) In 1871 the National and British schools together provided accommodation for 152 children, and 168 attended on inspection day, but since the British school was also used for worship the inspector ruled that the National school must increase its accommodation to 160, intimating that a school board, an unlimited compulsory rate, and increased fees might be unavoidable. (fn. 10) In response the National school's trustees appointed a certificated master and mistress, agreed new fees of between 2d. and 6d. a week, raised a voluntary rate to which Shifford and Chimney initially refused to contribute, and established a committee to look into efficiency and fund-raising. (fn. 11) Accommodation in the National school came under additional pressure after Shifford and Chimney were merged with Aston and Cote into one school district c. 1872, and in 1874 a new infant room increased accommodation to 165, the cost met chiefly from voluntary subscriptions including £50 each from Henry Hippisley and Col. Edward Harcourt. (fn. 12) The British school, which like the National suffered from inadequate financial support, (fn. 13) closed in 1874, when an expected influx of pupils to the National school was counterbalanced by falling population; average attendance in 1875-6 was only 76, and in 1879 some children were withdrawn to an evidently short-lived dame school in the former British schoolroom. (fn. 14) Following the British school's closure two nonconformists were usually invited onto the National school's board, a practice reinstated in 1899 after several years' lapse. (fn. 15)
During the later 1870s the National school was usually judged satisfactory, though individual subjects were criticized and there were threats to reduce the government grant. Income in 1874-5 included a grant of c. £60, reduced to £48 the following year, voluntary contributions (c. £64), school pence (£26), and charitable endowments (£14), and in 1881 the Ironmongers' Company withdrew Betton's charity since the school had a balance in hand. Fees, formerly related to parents' means, were replaced in 1878 by flat rates of 1d. for those under 7 years and 2d. for those older, and voluntary rates were raised occasionally. (fn. 16) Average attendance during the 1880s rose from 97 to 136, (fn. 17) and in 1894 another new infant room was added, the cost met by voluntary donations; thereafter attendance fell with population, though in 1900 the infant mistress had more children than she could manage. (fn. 18) Reports continued to be satisfactory, (fn. 19) and in 1926 the school became a junior school for children under 11, the seniors going to Bampton. Though average attendance fell to 50 by 1939 and in 1962 there were only 58 on the roll, the school was then a 'robust community'. (fn. 20) Extensions were built in the 1950s and c. 1973, and in 1993, when further extensions were planned, the roll was 111. (fn. 21)
A second dissenting school, with 20-30 pupils in 1808, was perhaps connected with a boarding school reportedly opened in Aston House by a relative of Joseph Stennett, minister of Cote 1798-1810. (fn. 22) Another, supported from parental contributions, had 18 pupils in 1835, but was not mentioned later. (fn. 23) A private day school opened in 1826, supported from voluntary contributions and pence, continued in 1835, (fn. 24) and a private day and night school, run, according to the curate, by 'a dwarf of bad character', was mentioned in the 1860s but had closed by 1872. (fn. 25) A school training young girls for domestic service was established in Aston in 1888 with 5 or 6 pupils, and in 1913, with c. 70 girls aged from 12 to 16, moved to newly-built premises (later St. Joseph's) on Bampton Road. That school taught standard academic subjects as well as domestic skills, and received a government grant; additional income included profits from its commercial laundry business, run from the original building off Back Lane. (fn. 26) The school closed between 1920 and 1924, (fn. 27) and St. Joseph's was used as an orphanage and, in the late 1930s, as a home for Spanish Civil War refugees. (fn. 28) In 1992, as Westfield House, it was occupied by a private nursery school.