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High Street School 1854

This is the 1854 site of High Street, non-conformist British School, built 1854, enlarged by the School Board 1870. It was a Junior School 1925 -1960. Margaret Bonfield (the first female MP) was a pupil here.

The 1st British School opened in hired rooms in 1842, under the auspices of the ‘British and Foreign School Society’. It was 12 years later that this school moved into new buildings at High Street and by 1870 the attendance there reached 150.

During the next year this organization became a ‘Board School’ (one administered by a school board) and was quickly enlarged to receive 190 boys, 120 girls and 130 infants from the Borough.

In 1874 an ‘extra-municipal’ Board School was erected at Ivy Green to accommodate 114 boys and 114 girls and 172 infants.

This new school had its foundation stone laid by the Bishop of Bath and Wells on 23rd June 1877, it was designed by John Wightman, of Wightman and Denning and was built for £930 by James Hawker of Chard. The walls were built of Chard stone (probably the last time this stone was quarried and used) and consisted of 3 classrooms.

Margaret Grace Bonfield was born at Furnham in 1875, and attended High Street School, where she records, ‘she became a school monitor, and she spent her first wages on a ‘very dull but serviceable dress’ at the Co-op in Fore Street’.

Other successful people who attended the school were Samuel Henry Denning, who was influenced in his early days by the same Independent Chapel School and the revd. John Gunn the minister, which had done much for William and Margaret Bonfield and later for Thomas Dolling.

Dennings were engineers of agricultural machinery which was exported all over the British Empire and many of the Denning men were Mayors of Chard.

William Bonfield was a skilled lace designer of lace

patterns and his Sister was Margaret Bonfield who was at the school, was a pupil teacher for a year until she left when she was 13 before she went to Brighton.

Thomas Dolling started working in the Co-op in 1879 at just 12 years old as an errand boy. Within 20 years Thomas rose to be head of this Co-op and for the next 40 years continued to direct its affairs, building it into one of the most prosperous societies of its type in the southwest. He was a very busy person who coped with food control, War a

nd Old Age Pension Committees, Friendly Societies and he served as a Justice of the Peace from 1921, treasurer of his Church and later Borough Councilor and Mayor.

It was a long-established tradition at the High Street school for the infants to celebrate May Day, with elected May Queen and maypole dancing. The honour of being chosen May Queen or an attendant or maid of honour was much coveted, a platform was raised in the top class of the school and the queen was duly crowned, sometimes by the Mayor of Chard, before the dances commenced.

Boys took no part in the event. The lucky girls on this occasion, 1924, were Winnie Hopkins, Brenda Hoskins (queen), Joyce Stoodley, Betty Abbott, and Phyllis Woolacott. The gold cross worn by the queen was traditionally loaned by Miss Daisy Dalwood, a teacher.

More information available at Chard Museum or on the Chard Museum website

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