Warminster: Schools

A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 8, Warminster, Westbury and Whorwellsdown Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1965.

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'Warminster: Schools', in A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 8, Warminster, Westbury and Whorwellsdown Hundreds( London, 1965), British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/wilts/vol8/pp132-134 [accessed 24 July 2024].

'Warminster: Schools', in A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 8, Warminster, Westbury and Whorwellsdown Hundreds( London, 1965), British History Online, accessed July 24, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/wilts/vol8/pp132-134.

"Warminster: Schools". A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 8, Warminster, Westbury and Whorwellsdown Hundreds. (London, 1965), , British History Online. Web. 24 July 2024. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/wilts/vol8/pp132-134.


The chantry priest of St. Laurence was teaching a school in Warminster before the Dissolution. (fn. 1) Simon Forman, the astrologer, was a schoolmaster in the town in 1577, (fn. 2) and William Lockier (fn. 3) and Giles Daniell (fn. 4) taught there in the earlier 17th century. William Gough kept a school in the town during the Interregnum. (fn. 5) In 1662 three men were presented by the churchwardens for teaching unlicensed, and one of them was recommended as fit to keep a school. (fn. 6) Lord Weymouth's Grammar School was founded in 1707 to teach the youth of Warminster, Longbridge Deverill, and Monkton Deverill, but, owing to a lack of definition in the master's obligation to take free scholars, few seem to have been educated there; (fn. 7) in 1783 the curate wrote that there was no public or charity school in the town. (fn. 8) It was about that time, however, that the beginnings of public elementary education in Warminster are to be found in the Sunday Schools. That begun at the Old Meeting in 1785 was directly under the influence of Robert Raikes. The children were instructed in reading for three hours on Sunday mornings, and returned in the afternoon for another reading lesson before going to the meeting; after it they went back to the school for instruction in the catechism. They had to be recommended for admission by subscribers, and three years instruc tion was considered long enough for each child. (fn. 9) A Sunday School was begun at the New Meeting six years later, (fn. 10) and it was the establishment of another at the Methodist chapel in the early 19th century which first encouraged the establishment of a public day school in the town. The Methodists had over 200 children, and failed because numbers were too big for the teachers to control, but their effort provoked the New Meeting not only to double the size of their Sunday School, but to begin a day school as well. This failed, but roused the Anglicans to establish a National School in 1815. (fn. 11) From that time the histories of the individual schools are dealt with below.

Other educational provision in the town can only be briefly mentioned. Sunday Schools continued to supply the lack of day schools in the early 19th century; in 1833 eight schools of all the chief denominations instructed 800 children. (fn. 12) In 1798 there were five private schools, two of them boarding schools for ladies; (fn. 13) in 1822 five private schools out of eight took boarders. (fn. 14) The Christ Church Establishment for Young Ladies was conducted for many years from 1842 by Miss Haskew and Miss Cruse at Cambridge House, Sambourne, (fn. 15) and another successful ladies' boarding school of the same period was Mrs. Hardick's at East End House. (fn. 16) Sir J. E. Philipps founded St. Boniface Missionary College in a house in Church Street in 1860, and subsequently raised £17,000 for a new range of buildings adjoining which was opened in 1910. (fn. 17) The design was by J. A. Reeve; (fn. 18) a chapel designed by Sir Charles Nicholson was added in 1927. Since 1948 the college has been associated with King's College, London, as a postgraduate training centre for mission work. (fn. 19) Philipps also founded the Community of St. Denys; in addition to training women for work abroad, it has run St. Monica's School for Girls, founded in 1890, and, until 1959, the Orphanage of Pity. (fn. 20) A Reformatory School for Wiltshire was begun by another vicar, Arthur Fane, in 1856. In the buildings now known as Tascroft Farm boys committed by the magistrates worked 20a. of land, the produce of which partly supported them. (fn. 21) In 1868 they spent 10 or 15 hours a week at lessons, and worked for the rest of the time in the fields. (fn. 22) The school was closed c. 1925. (fn. 23) There was a Mechanics' Institute in East Street in 1842. (fn. 24) Its place in popular education was probably taken by the Athenaeum, which from its foundation in 1858 was used for many years for programmes of winter lectures on an enormous variety of subjects, generally to packed audiences. (fn. 25) It also housed a readingroom, library, and class-rooms, in one of which a government school of art was begun in 1861. (fn. 26) The Literary Institution, opened in 1838, provided a reading-room and library for more exalted inhabitants of the town and district. (fn. 27)

The day school which the New Meeting established early in the 19th century (fn. 28) was educating about 100 children in 1808, (fn. 29) but only lasted for a short time. A new school for girls on the Lancastrian principle was begun in 1827 in a large room in Ash Walk. (fn. 30) In 1833 80 girls attended, paying 2d. a week. (fn. 31) Three years later the committee was granted the use of the newly-built schoolrooms at the Common Close chapel, and moved the school there in 1837. In 1842 a British School for boys was started in the same building. (fn. 32) In 1859 there were altogether 85 children under a certificated master and two pupil teachers; the school 'bore the stamp of managerial indifference', and the top class were unusually ignorant. (fn. 33) The girls' section was moved to the disused Unitarian meeting house in North Row in 1872. (fn. 34) By 1890 there were separate boys' and infants' sections in the Common Close, the boys south of the chapel and the infants north of it. The girls were still at North Row, and total average attendance was about 220. (fn. 35) After the 1902 Act the schools were taken over by the county. In 1923 the girls were moved to the Close and united with the boys, and the infants sent to North Row. The senior children were moved to the Avenue School in 1931, which then took over the North Row building as a manual training room. The buildings adjoining the Common Close chapel became a junior mixed school. In 1959 the New Close Junior School was built at Woodcock by the county, but the old buildings in the Close were in 1963 still in use as part of the new school. (fn. 36)

A British School was begun at Warminster Common in 1845 (fn. 37) in a building adjoining the Methodist chapel there; it began to receive a grant c. 1868-70. (fn. 38) In 1893 average attendance was 96 boys and girls. (fn. 39) The building was enlarged in 1898, and taken over by the county in 1902. In 1903-4 the average had risen to 88 mixed senior children and 44 infants. (fn. 40) Senior children were removed to the Avenue School in 1931, and the Common School, later called New Town, remained in use as a junior mixed and infants' school until 1959. (fn. 41)

A National School was begun in 1815 in a building in Church Street which bears that date, and was evidently converted then from a small private house. It was supported by subscription and provided for about 200 boys and girls of the poorest families. (fn. 42) In 1835 another National School was built at Sambourne near Christ Church; it apparently housed girls and infants, and the Church Street school remained in use, presumably for boys. (fn. 43) In 1842 207 boys and 128 girls attended on weekdays and Sundays, and another 369 children attended on Sundays only. In summer 145 infants attended, but in winter only 85, and there was a winter evening class in Church Street for 60 working youths, run by the vicar and his friends. (fn. 44) In 1846 a new building at the junction of Back Street and West End, now Emwell Street and Vicarage Street, was opened, (fn. 45) and the Church Street school given up. (fn. 46) In 1848 the National day and Sunday schools were providing for 800 children. (fn. 47) In 1859 the National Schools in Warminster were divided into boys', girls', and infants' departments, but it is not clear how they were divided between the two buildings. About 300 children attended, and the schools were regarded as very good both for accommodation and instruction. (fn. 48) The Vicarage Street school was extended in the 1880's, and by 1890 was divided into girls' and infants' schools; (fn. 49) the girls' school was called the Hall School, but was united with the infants' school in 1904. (fn. 50) At Sambourne there were separate boys' and girls' schools. In 1890 combined attendance at the Vicarage Street and Sambourne Schools was 350. (fn. 51) In 1923 the Sambourne school was re-organized as a senior mixed school, and the Vicarage Street, or Minster School, for junior mixed children and infants. (fn. 52) No change was made until 1955, when the senior children from Sambourne were sent to the Avenue School; (fn. 53) since then the Sambourne and Vicarage Street schools have been junior mixed and infants' schools. Both have controlled status under the 1947 Act.

In 1868 it was announced that a small school in connexion with Christ Church was to be built in Kettle Alley at Warminster Common, where children of parents who were too poor to send them elsewhere could be educated. (fn. 54) Grants were made by the government and the National Society, and a small building was put up at the corner of Cannimore Road and South Street. (fn. 55) It was extended in 1878. (fn. 56) In that year Matthew Davies left £1,000 for the benefit of the school, then known as the Ragged School, and the income was subsequently used toward its maintenance. (fn. 57) In 1893 average attendance was 68. (fn. 58) It remained in use as an infants' school until 1922, when it was closed. (fn. 59)

The establishment of a school on the Boreham road followed naturally on the building of St. John's Church there. The National Society made a grant, and the building was finished in 1872 and called St. John's School. (fn. 60) The stone building, designed by G. E. Street, was added to by the Temple family in memory of Vere Temple (d. 1892). (fn. 61) In 1903-4 it contained mixed and infants' departments, and was attended by some 95 children. (fn. 62) Since the removal of the older children in 1931 it has remained a junior mixed and infants' school. It received controlled status under the 1947 Act.

When the County took over the administration of education under the 1902 Act, a Secondary School for boys and girls was built in the Common Close adjoining the Athenaeum. (fn. 63) In 1931 a new county Secondary School was built at the Avenue; some children from the old school went to grammar schools in Trowbridge, and the rest to the Avenue School, which became a Secondary Modern School under the 1947 Act.


  • 1. W.A.M. x. 314.
  • 2. Ibid. xlvi. 656.
  • 3. Genealogist n.s. xxiv. 52.
  • 4. Halliday, Information, f. 107.
  • 5. Calamy Revised, ed. Matthews, 230.
  • 6. Sar. Dioc. R.O. Chwdns.' Pres. 1662.
  • 7. Endowed Char. Wilts. (1908), pp. 743-4, 760-3; for an account of the school, see V.C.H. Wilts. v. 361.
  • 8. Sar. Dioc. R.O. Vis. Queries, 1783.
  • 9. Acct. Bk. and other papers in Wansey MSS. penes Mr. H. N. Dewey.
  • 10. Gunn, Nonconformity in Warminster, 44.
  • 11. W. Daniell, Warminster Common, 84.
  • 12. Educ. Enq. Abstract, H.C. 62 (1835), xliii.
  • 13. Univ. Brit. Dir. (1798), iv. 679.
  • 14. Pigot, New Com. Dir. (1822-3).
  • 15. Pigot, Nat. Com. Dir. (1842); Longleat Estate Office, Rack Rental, 1853-60; Warminster Herald, 4 Jan. 1879.
  • 16. Pigot, Nat. Com. Dir. (1842); Manley, Regional Survey, xi. 2013.
  • 17. W.A.M. xxxvii. 463-4.
  • 18. Wilts. Cuttings, vii. 38.
  • 19. Crockford (1956).
  • 20. W.A.M. xxxvii. 463-4; Official Yr. Bk. of Ch. of Eng. (1951), 466; Nat. Soc. Files; Wilts. Cuttings, xxi. 258.
  • 21. Acct. of Wilts. Schools, H.C. 27 (1859 Sess. 1), xxi (2).
  • 22. Rep. Com. Empl. of Children in Agric. [4202-1], p. 283, H.C. (1868-9), xiii.
  • 23. Sar. Dioc. Kalendars, 1923, 1925.
  • 24. Pigot, Nat. Com. Dir. (1842).
  • 25. Warminster Miscellany and Herald, passim.
  • 26. Daniell, Warminster, 132-3; Warminster Miscellany, Sept. 1861.
  • 27. W.R.O. 132, Papers about the Institution.
  • 28. See above.
  • 29. Lambeth Palace Libr. MS. 1732.
  • 30. Copies of Wansey MSS. made by Mr. H. N. Dewey; Gunn, Nonconformity in Warminster, 51.
  • 31. Educ. Enq. Abstract (1835).
  • 32. Gunn, Nonconformity in Warminster, 51.
  • 33. Acct. of Wilts. Schools, H.C. 27 (1859 Sess. 1), xxi (2).
  • 34. Char. Com. File 79294.
  • 35. Kelly's Dir. Wilts. (1890).
  • 36. Ex inf. Mr. H. N. Dewey.
  • 37. Kelly's Dir. Wilts. (1890).
  • 38. Rep. of Educ. Cttee. of Council, 1870-1 [C 406], pp. 270-1 (1871), xxii.
  • 39. Rtn. of Schools, 1893 (1894).
  • 40. List of Public Elem. Schools, 1 Jan. 1906 [Cd. 3182], H.C. (1906), lxxxvi.
  • 41. Ex inf. L.E.A.
  • 42. Pigot, New Com. Dir. (1822-3); Educ. Enq. Abstract (1835).
  • 43. Pigot, Nat. Com. Dir. (1842); Retn. of Non-Provided Schools, H.C. 178 (1906), lxxxviii.
  • 44. W.A.S. Libr. Devizes, Everett MSS. Pedigrees xi, Report for 1842.
  • 45. Extracts from Wansey MSS. made by Mr. H. N. Dewey.
  • 46. Longleat Estate Office, Survey 1837, p. 107.
  • 47. Hunt's Dir. (1848).
  • 48. Acct. of Wilts. Schools (1859 Sess. 1).
  • 49. Kelly's Dir. Wilts. (1890).
  • 50. List of Public Elem. Schools, 1 Jan. 1906 [Cd. 3182], H.C. (1906), lxxxvi.
  • 51. Kelly's Dir. Wilts. (1890).
  • 52. Bd. of Educ. List 21, 1927.
  • 53. Ex inf. L.E.A.
  • 54. Warminster Herald, 6 June 1868.
  • 55. Nat. Soc. File.
  • 56. U.D.C. Local Board Min. Bk.
  • 57. Endowed Char. Wilts. (1908), p. 775.
  • 58. Retn. of Schools, 1893.
  • 59. Bd. of Educ. List. 21, 1927.
  • 60. Nat. Soc. File.
  • 61. H. R. Whytehead, The Minster and Ch. Life in Warminster, 35.
  • 62. List of Public Elem. Schools, 1 Jan. 1906.
  • 63. Kelly's Dir. Wilts. (1903).