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The new Church built school was completed in 1846 at a cost of £434.4.11 including £16 for lavatories. However right from the start the building was expensive to heat and maintain, and interest from the endowment was not sufficient and had to be supplemented by School Pence, the scheme by which every child brought a penny to school each day.

The headmaster in 1863, and records show that he was was preoccupied by absences, and the excuses provided for these. Amongst those recorded are "Rackenford Races, Worlington Revel, Gardening, and Fossetts Circus." Although there was an attendance officer, he seldom seemed to receive much co-operation from the parents, who were not above moving their children from one school to the other if they felt there was an advantage to be gained. Mr Mansfield and the Vicar appeared satisfied with the way things were going, but this view did not appear to be shared by HMI or Whitehall. In a letter dated 1865 from Whitehall the following view was recorded: "Their Lordships of the Treasury have had some hesitation in allowing an unreduced grant to the school, on account of the deficiencies in the instruction pointed out by HMI." For the next 16 years until the death of Mr Mansfield in 1881 the record is one of constant critical reports by HMI, and in 1872 the grant was reduced by a tenth, the first of many such reductions, and the managers were told that they should take a more active and intelligent interest in the school, and to take some control over the system of instruction and financial management. Upon Mr Mansfield's death the HMI wrote "the death of Mr Mansfield is a favourable opportunity to put things on a different footing."

For a while this seemed to be the case, the new headmaster, Henry Westacott quickly earned high praise from HMI for improving the premises and the standard of the school work, but still pointed out the irregular attendance records. However in 1885 Mr Westacott left suddenly following the Diocesan Inspectors report on his "neglect of duty". His successor Mr Broadridge fared little better, leaving after only ten months in the post. An entry in the school log at the time of his departure noted "Things in great confusion, there being no register or timetable", it is also noted that the roll had fallen to only 28 children. With the appointment of the new headmaster, Mr Henry P Cornish, things seemed to change for the better. He rather wisely involved the managers in the school, getting them to pay regular visits, and at the same time pointing out the shortage of suitable teaching materials, and the need for repairs to the fabric of the school. By 1890 the roll had risen from a low of 28 in 1885 to 71 but Mr Cornish remained the only teacher despite HMI recommendation for an extra teacher. Soon the number increased to 89 pupils and the managers grudgingly provided one very young monitor to assist. It was not until 1891 that HMI forced the managers to appoint Miss Jessie Ford as an assistant mistress. In 1893 following the abolition of School Pence HMI delivered a scathing report on the standards of teaching, and on the lack of separation between infants and the rest of the school. A month later Mr Cornish resigned to be replaced by a supply teacher who promptly accused the managers of meanness in failing to provide such basics as writing slates, pencils, and books.

National School 1895-1965

In 1894 the National School began a long period of stability with the appointment of Augustus Andrews as Head. He would fill this post until 1930. he introduced ideas of his own and easily coped with the pressures, changes and demands of the Education Authorities. His enthusiasm is plain to see in the school log book and his Managers' appreciation comes out in their minute books. Those of his pupils who have in the past shared their memories, spoke of him as a good teacher and a good headmaster. Here are a few instances from his term of office. He lost no time in making his influence felt, for in a few years attendance had risen from 70 to 100,and in 1897 he suggested that more space was needed, and could be found by using the headmaster's house for pupils. The managers were quick to respond and by 1898 this was done, and a house found for the Head elsewhere. Not only that, but new cloakrooms were installed, a new well sunk and a force-pump provided. In 1901 Mr Andrews began school walks (Bradford Pond, Coombe Quarry etc); in 1909 the roll reached 129,and the staff increased to five. In 1902 a Mr Gunn gave an entertainment on the gramophone, and the outside world made its growing presence felt, with visits from inspectors, attendance officers, photographer, dentist, medical officer, sanitary inspector. In 1913 the inspector recommended a garden, and in no time Mr Andrews was recognised as a "Teacher of Gardening" and a site had been found. He and his managers were quite prepared to defy "Exeter" when they felt like it. for example, they were told to appoint a committee of ladies to visit mothers and lecture them on proper clothing, sleep, fresh air and cleanliness for their children. The managers refused, saying that no one would serve on such a committee. They also refused to provide school dinners, and maintained this stance for over 30 years. The Punishment Book records no mention of caning between 1905 and 1930. The 1914-18 war seems to have made little impact on the school, and in fact Mr Andrews got his calling up papers in June 1918,but in the event was not required In the 20s Orford House in the Square was bought for the head, and Mr Andrews was charged £21 a year rent. Pupil numbers began to fall at this time, and His Majesty' Inspectors became a little more critical and logbook entries became brief. They did however note on 9th January 1930 "The Airship R100 passed over Witheridge at 9 30 A.M." There were four more heads before 1965,and the school had mixed fortunes. Charles Luxton was Head for two years, recorded 67 uses of the cane and an increase in numbers from 88 to 108. He also presided over new a more friendly relations with the British School. Jack Dryer followed and saw them through the war years. In 1938 the pupils had their first gas masks, and half an acre down Newbridge Hill was rented to grow food. In June 1940 107 evacuee children arrived with their two teachers. they gradually drifted back and only 21 remained by 1944. 1947-8 saw the 11 to 14 year olds transferred to Chulmleigh School. In 1950 Frank Sellars became the last Head and saw them through to the merger.

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It was decided in 1963 that the two existing schools would merge to form one combined school with effect from 1st September of that year. Until the building of the new school was completed, the juniors would be taught in the old National school, and the infants in the British School. The two schools merged in 1965 to form The Witheridge Voluntary Primary (Controlled) School, with Mr J A H Parnell as Headmaster of the new school.

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Last Edited 03/07/2006    Copyright © 2000-2006 Witheridge

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