AUTHOR's NOTE - the Museum Continues to research all stories from local schools. At the end of this instalment we have uploaded school photographs from 1964. Unfortunately we had to break them up into sections so that they could be scanned. If you can recognise anyone on the four segments please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
... and now back to the story
Over the years, the school staffing levels presented a challenge on more than one occasion, and in 1946, two stalwarts, Mr Cody and Mr Anscott retired after 44 and 46 years, respectively. Both events were marked with a presentation and a cheque. Knowing that these retirements were imminent, headmaster, Mr Ashman must have breathed a sigh of relief when, at the start of 1946, Mr Handel, returned after six and a half years army service, he noted"resumed duties"!
From the beginning of the Register, both Mr Bennett and Mr Ashman noted regular visits from the School Managers to check the Attendance Book and to hand out prizes and medals at the end of the school year. In 1948, a new being appeared in the shape of the Reverend Doorban, the first school Governor mentioned. I wonder if school Governors still appear unannounced during school hours to check if everything is running smoothly? By the end of 1946 Mr Ashman laments again that the "school badly staffed no-one appointed to Mr Anscotts position".
Between January and March 1947, the school was closed more than it was open. Heavy snowfalls over two months decimated the attendance figures. The Chaffcombe bus couldn't get to Chard for over a month. 8th February 1947 "weather still atrocious, attendance still very poor". 6th March 1947 "Glazed frost and rain frozen on the trees, conditions very bad". The school buses were an essential part of the school routine as, at this time, boys came from as far away as Otterford and Churchstanton.
In 1950, new transport regulations were began in April, which prompted a strike by 25 boys from Tatworth, who's free bus ride had been rescinded and they refused to walk to school. They held out until June 1st !
The pupil numbers had steadily risen over the years from 75 in 1931, 138 in 1939 and 354 in 1949. Mr Ashman reported that "Mr Bland, County Inspector, called this morning and together with the Mayor E. D. Browne, we reviewed alterations to the premises and necessary improvements". A month later, "Mr Taylor called today re Report , to investigate what had been done relative to the criticism of the buildings contained in the Report". This seems to be an early indication that the school had outgrown its present buildings. In 1949, the domestic science room was unavailable because the builders had not completed the alterations. In 1952 work started on new pre-fabricated classrooms. This was the year that Mr Ashman voluntarily closed the school for a day, "in order that staff and pupils could attend my installation as Mayor of Chard".
January 9th 1951 proved to be a momentous day for the school, when Mr P. B. Baker commenced duty - specializing in Music! When he had found his feet, in 1952, Mr Baker began, what was to be, a long tradition of ambitious school performances held at the Corn Exchange. The first was the Pirates of Penzance, then Iolanthe (1955), Patience (1956), The Gondoliers (1957), The Mikado (1958) and The Sorcerer (1959). The school orchestra performed at the Axminster Festival, the school choir at the Bath Festival and in 1957, the girl's choir won first place in both the senior and junior classes at the Taunton Music Festival. Parents and friends who attended the Carol service each year were accompanied by the choir and orchestra.
The involvement of parents in the activities of the pupils had first been suggested in the 1930s, but Mr Bennett could never have imagined that by 1953 Mr Ashman welcomed over 700 people to the Open Day and Evening. In 1956, we are given an insight into the Open Day, when it was opened by the Mayor, Councillor Read. "The exhibition was very comprehensive embracing basic subjects e.g. Pottery, Needlecraft, Housecraft, Handicraft, Art and gardening. A parade of the girls wearing the garments made by themselves proved very attractive. A display of PE by the boys and a canoe built by the Hobby Group proved to be very interesting. Hundreds of parents and friends attended during the afternoon and evening".
Mr Ashman is quite consistent with his entries about the school attainments, so I was surprised to find out that, in 1948, the boys at Holyrood had built a replica of the 1848 Stringfellow steam aeroplane. Mr Ashman doesn't mention it in the school log for 1948, but in 1964, it was mentioned in a report in the Chard & Ilminster News concerning a lecture by Leslie Hayward, patents manager of Westland Aircraft Ltd. Apparently, the replica was on show in the lecture hall. Does anyone remember this plane?
In 1957, Mr Ashman recorded "The first Official Speech Day (July 25th) Lieutenant General Richard Savary - Chairman of the School Committee - County Education was the guest speaker - presented prizes. A large number of parents attended."
The School Fete in 1957 raised nearly £200 in aid of the swimming pool fund; another £200 in 1958 and a further £200 in 1959. Work started on the project in April 1961, but it was to take four years to complete until it is noted by the new headmaster, Mr Brian Knight, that the pool was officially opened.
July 21st 1956, "The school Speech Day. Prizes presented by Miss M. G. Prowse, matron of Somerset and Taunton Hospital. Following this, the newly-completed swimming pool was opened officially by Alderman E. Ashman, late headmaster and this was followed by a demonstration by Miss Jane Franklin, England International swimmer." The weather was not kind to them on the day!!
The final entries in the school log book were "July 20th 1959. Speech Day - Dr Bradfield, Bishop of Bath and Wells, , guest speaker, presented the prizes. School packed to capacity, then July 22nd 1959. The final day in the history of this building as a school for secondary education - moving to a new school on Sept. 9th. Thus, my term of headmaster in this school comes to an end". It was signed off Happy Memories E. Ashman"