North Petherton: Education

Pages 313-315

A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 6, Andersfield, Cannington, and North Petherton Hundreds (Bridgwater and Neighbouring Parishes). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1992.

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There were two unlicensed schoolmasters in the parish in 1606, (fn. 1) and Gregory Ball was described as a schoolmaster at his burial there in 1625. (fn. 2) In 1635 Timothy Batt was licensed to teach and may have continued until 1643. (fn. 3) A charity school was established at Rydon c. 1687. (fn. 4) Another was started in North Petherton village under the will of Sir Thomas Wroth (d. 1721) who left £20 a year to clothe and educate 10 poor boys, (fn. 5) for which land was bought at Lyng in 1763 and which c. 1776 had 20 boys. After a further small endowment had been given by Sir Thomas Bacon, John Slade built a schoolroom in Pound Street, North Petherton, between 1787 and 1796. By that time pupils provided their own books but were given clothes of blue cloth, and the school was known as the Blue Coat school. (fn. 6) In 1840 the school was merged with the National school, some of whose pupils were elected to the Wroth foundation. (fn. 7) From the 1870s the charity income was distributed among all the board schools in the parish as prizes for attendance. (fn. 8) Under a Scheme of 1980 half the charity income was used to provide additional benefits for schools and half to promote the education of needy young people in the parish. (fn. 9)

In 1819 a Sunday school had 40 children and three boarding schools and several day schools had c. 250 children, in addition to Wroth's charity school and schools in North Newton. (fn. 10) In 1835 the whole parish had 11 day schools with 240 children taught either at parents' expense or by charities. There was also a church Sunday school with 150 pupils, held in a cottage; a Sunday school with 160 at the Congregational chapel; and a Wesleyan Sunday school with 70 pupils. (fn. 11)

A year later several dame schools were said to teach as many as 500 children. In that year the vicar, J.J. Toogood, established, as a continuation of the church Sunday school, a day school which was later affiliated to the National Society. It was for 70 children and was free to those whose parents could not afford to pay. Within a year it had 90 pupils, who were taught reading, needlework, and religious knowledge. The building, on two floors, stood immediately west of the church c. 1837. (fn. 12) By 1846 there were as many as 193 children attending. (fn. 13) In 1875 the school was transferred to a board for North Petherton and St. Michaelchurch. (fn. 14) A new school was built east of the church in 1877. (fn. 15) By 1903 there were 378 children in three classrooms and an evening continuation school was held. (fn. 16) Numbers fell to 254 in 1915, to 230 in 1945, and to 174 in 1955 but there were 232 children on the books in 1965. From 1967 the school took juniors only. A new infant school to the south was opened in 1967, and in 1983 there were 106 infants on the register and 135 juniors. (fn. 17)

The Congregational church maintained a British day school in 1861 and until c. 1878. (fn. 18) Three dame schools in North Petherton village had 71 pupils in 1846. (fn. 19) One was probably Elizabeth Mulford's infant school in Fore Street which existed from 1840 until 1872. (fn. 20) There was a second day school in Fore Street from 1861 to 1866. (fn. 21) Of several boarding schools in the village in the 19th century one kept by James Crosswell between 1816 and 1830 was run by Thomas Simons Crosswell until 1859; (fn. 22) in 1851 it had 13 boys aged between 10 and 15 (fn. 23) in a large house south-west of the church. The Alexanders kept schools east of the church by 1830 and until 1866 or later when they moved to Bridgwater; in 1851 there were six boarders and an English teacher in addition to the family. There was a girls' boarding school with several proprietors between 1830 and 1859. (fn. 24)

At Rydon, Dorothy Cheeke by will dated 1687 endowed a school for six or more children. In 1701 the endowment was increased by Henry Stodgell for four more children. By 1786 the school had closed but the tenants of the school house and land contributed towards teaching poor children. After 1819 a private school was kept in the old schoolroom (fn. 25) and by 1835 the charity school had reopened. (fn. 26) After a second closure and accusations of mismanagement in the 1860s the school was reopened. (fn. 27) It continued into the early 1920s. (fn. 28) In 1933 the Cheeke and Stodgell educational foundation was established in its place to promote the education of poor children. (fn. 29) The schoolroom, standing opposite Rydon Farm, was rebuilt further north after 1838. (fn. 30)

At Northmoor Green in 1837 a school had 60 children paying 1d. a week. (fn. 31) It was probably the dame school which in 1846 had 26 pupils. (fn. 32) In 1857 a National school was built, which was enlarged or rebuilt c. 1865. (fn. 33) It closed in the late 1860s because of local religious controversy (fn. 34) and a school was established in its place by local farmers. The National school had reopened by 1875 and was then enlarged and administered by the school board. (fn. 35) In 1903 there were 76 children on the books and an evening continuation school was held. (fn. 36) Numbers fell to 28 in 1935 and 22 in 1955 but rose to 56 in 1975. In 1983 there were 27 children on the register. (fn. 37) The school is on the west side of the Bridgwater road 400 m. north of Northmoor Green church.

At North Newton in 1837 a school was supported by Sir Thomas Acland and the parents. (fn. 38) It may have continued until taken over by the school board in 1875. (fn. 39) A new building was erected in 1877 and part of the old one was sold for a vicarage house. (fn. 40) The school had 176 pupils in 1903 and held evening continuation classes. (fn. 41) Numbers fluctuated but fell from 112 in 1935 to 69 in 1955 and to 33 in 1975. In 1983 there were 37 children on the books. (fn. 42)

At Buncombe brook, south of North Petherton village, a school was established by Lady Slade and Richard Meade King c. 1836 when it taught up to 100 children and was supported by voluntary contributions and fees. The children were taught reading, writing, arithmetic, needlework, and grammar with one day devoted to religious instruction. The school closed c. 1837 after the opening of the National school in North Petherton village. (fn. 43) There was a school at Fordgate in 1838. (fn. 44)

A county school at Somerset Bridge, opened in 1903, had 168 pupils in 1910, 160 in 1915, and 192 in 1935. In 1983 there were 102 children on the register. (fn. 45) The school also serves part of Bridgwater.


  • 1. Ibid. D/D/Ca 151.
  • 2. Ibid. DD/X/SR 5; D/P/pet. n 2/1/1.
  • 3. T. H. Peake, 'Clergy and Church Cts. in Dioc. of Bath and Wells 1625-42' (Bristol Univ. M. Litt. thesis, 1978), 283-4.
  • 4. Below, this section.
  • 5. Som. Wills, ed. Brown, ii. 85.
  • 6. 15th Rep. Com. Char. 433; S.R.O., D/D/Vc 88; DD/WRO 7.
  • 7. S.R.O., DD/X/BUSH.
  • 8. Ibid. DD/WRO 9.
  • 9. Char. Com. reg.
  • 10. Educ. of Poor Digest, p. 793; below, this section.
  • 11. Educ. Enq. Abstract, p. 818.
  • 12. S.R.O., DD/X/BUSH.
  • 13. Nat. Soc. Inquiry, 1846-7, Som. 14-15.
  • 14. Lond. Gaz. 26 Mar. 1875, p. 1832.
  • 15. S.R.O., C/E 4/183.
  • 16. Ibid. 4/380/292.
  • 17. Ibid. 4/64.
  • 18. P.O. Dir. Som. (1861); Rep. Som. Cong. Union (1896); inf. from Mr. A. W. Turner, Edinburgh, grandson of a teacher there.
  • 19. Nat. Soc. Inquiry, 1846-7, Som. 14-15.
  • 20. Co. Gaz. Dir. Som. (1840); Morris & Co. Dir. Som. (1872).
  • 21. P.O. Dir. Som. (1861, 1866).
  • 22. MS. Jnl. of J. A. Giles, in possession of Miss M. M. Cheetham, Bondleigh, Devon; Pigot, Nat. Com. Dir. (1830); P.O. Dir. Som. (1859); S.R.O., DD/X/KLT (C/983); ibid. tithe award.
  • 23. P.R.O., HO 107/1924.
  • 24. Pigot, Nat. Com. Dir. (1830); P.O. Dir. Som. (1859, 1866); P.R.O., HO 107/1924.
  • 25. Char. Don. pp. 1068-9; 15th Rep. Com. Char. 457-8; Educ. of Poor Digest, p. 793.
  • 26. S.R.O., DD/X/BUSH.
  • 27. Ibid. D/P/pet. n 9/1/3; ibid. C/E 4/183.
  • 28. Local inf.
  • 29. Char. Com. reg.
  • 30. S.R.O., tithe award.
  • 31. Ibid. DD/X/BUSH; Educ. Enq. Abstract, p. 818.
  • 32. Nat. Soc. Inquiry, 1846-7, Som. 14-15.
  • 33. S.R.O., C/E 4/380/293; C/T 5.
  • 34. Above, church.
  • 35. S.R.O., C/E 4/183; Moorland par. rec. in ch.
  • 36. S.R.O., C/E 4/380/293.
  • 37. Ibid. 4/64.
  • 38. Ibid. DD/X/BUSH; Educ. Enq. Abstract, p. 818.
  • 39. S.R.O., C/E 4/183; Nat. Soc. Inquiry, 1846-7, Som. 14-15.
  • 40. S.R.O., C/E 4/183.
  • 41. Ibid. 4/380/294.
  • 42. Ibid. 4/64.
  • 43. Ibid. DD/X/BUSH.
  • 44. Ibid. tithe award.
  • 45. Ibid. C/E 4/64.