Curbridge: Education, charities for the poor

Pages 224-225

A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 14, Bampton Hundred (Part Two). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2004.

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In 1759 the rector of Witney was paying for someone to teach reading to a few children in Curbridge and the other hamlets, but was doubtful that they would benefit. (fn. 1) By 1771 Curbridge seems to have been the only hamlet with a teacher paid by the rector. (fn. 2) In 1802 there were said to be 'many schools' in the area, but in 1815 Curbridge seems to have had only a Sunday school for 20 boys and 20 girls, long-established, and soon to be re-organized on the National plan. (fn. 3)

In 1835 there was a day school with 12 children paid for by their parents and a Sunday school with 30 children, which needed a larger room. (fn. 4) The church built in 1836 had an attached schoolroom on the north, described much later as a 'small miserable room' built as a stable for the rector's horses. (fn. 5) On census day in 1851 attendances at the Sunday school were 124 in the morning, presumably untypical, and 20 in the evening. (fn. 6)

In 1871 a National mixed school was built on the south side of Main Road on a site given by William Dutton; it was paid for by subscriptions (£204) and grants totalling £52 from the diocese, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and the National Society. (fn. 7) The building, probably designed by John Collier of London, (fn. 8) was of stone and brick and comprised a single room (25 ft. X 16 ft.) with two porches. An uncertificated mistress was teaching 13 boys and 17 girls in 1871. (fn. 9) The school was administered by the Witney National Schools committee and was supported by a voluntary rate from 1874. (fn. 10) In 1884, when a grant was first applied for, the inspector's report was lukewarm, but after improvements had been made a provisionally certificated mistress was appointed in 1888. (fn. 11) In 1890 average attendance was only 15, and in 1892 the school was in financial difficulty in the absence of a grant; the rector was contemplating closure because of the near impossibility of finding a qualified teacher for so few pupils. The grant was resumed in 1892–3, when average attendance was 28, remaining at that level into the 20th century. (fn. 12) In 1904 the 'capital little school' was praised especially for the quality of its geography and arithmetic teaching. Good reports continued until the First World War, although the difficulty of teaching older children and infants (sometimes including babies) in the same unpartitioned room was a constant problem. In 1914, when there were 17 older children and 8 infants, it was proposed that pupils be transferred to Witney, though the school was not finally closed until 1923. The building, sold in 1927, survives as a private house. (fn. 13)

Charities For The Poor

One widow of a clothier or blanket-maker from Curbridge was entitled to a place in John Holloway's almshouses at Witney, built on Church Green about 1725. (fn. 14) The Witney surgeon James Leverett, by will dated 1783, left £50 secured on his toll-gate dues to the officers of Curbridge township, the interest to be distributed in bread at Christmas, (fn. 15) but the bequest seems never to have been received.

At Curbridge's inclosure (begun c. 1839), some 5 a. of former heath on the township's southern edge was allotted to the lord of the manor and his lessee in trust as a place of 'exercise and recreation', presumably for those losing common rights as a result of inclosure. (fn. 16) In 1840 the land was divided among the poor by lot, and some was apparently sold and the proceeds spent on coal. (fn. 17) The East Gloucestershire Railway Company acquired some lots by compulsory purchase in 1871, but title was so uncertain that the company paid a sum into court. A Charity Commission enquiry in 1907, after the parish council had claimed the accumulated fund to buy a recreation ground, found that although some lots were still in private ownership the intention of benefiting all inhabitants had not been seriously departed from. The parish council's plan for a new recreation ground seems not to have been pursued, and in 1962 the Charity Commission, presumably in response to a similar approach, concluded that the parish council could not claim to be a trustee of the original recreational allotment. (fn. 18)


  • 1. ORO, MS Oxf. Dioc. d 557, f. 160.
  • 2. Ibid. d 563, f. 183.
  • 3. Ibid. d 567, f. 171; c 433, f. 224.
  • 4. Educ. Enq. Abstract (Parl. Papers 1835 (62), xliii), p. 758.
  • 5. Memoirs of C. Jerram, ed. J. Jerram (1855), 328; school papers in possession of Mr J. Pole, Curbridge: grant application to National Soc. 1871–2.
  • 6. PRO, HO 129/161/42; Ch. and Chapel, 1851, no. 134.
  • 7. School papers in possession of Mr J. Pole.
  • 8. Local information in Asthall, where Collier designed a similar school in 1873.
  • 9. Elem. Educ. Returns (Parl. Papers 1871 (201), lv), p. 324. The school was officially opened in 1872: Witney Express, 1 Aug. 1872.
  • 10. 'Witney Par. Diary', 32.
  • 11. Ibid. 61, 76.
  • 12. Public Elem. Schs. Return (Parl. Papers 1890 (403), lvi), p. 214; Return of Schs. 1893 (Parl. Papers 1894 [C 7529], lxv), pp. 490–501; Return of Non-Provided Schs. (Parl. Papers 1906 (178), lxxxviii), p. 20; 'Witney Par. Diary', 80.
  • 13. School papers in possession of Mr J. Pole; ORO, T/S Misc/55 (88).
  • 14. Above, Witney, charities.
  • 15. Bodl. GA Oxon. 8° 364.
  • 16. ORO, incl. award.
  • 17. Oxf. Chron. 9 May 1840; for a different version of the initial division, Witney Gaz. 6 July 1907.
  • 18. Witney Gaz. 6 July 1907; ORO, CH/XCVIII/1.