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The beginnings, Holyrood School 1910

This month we follow the fortunes of the newly named Holyrood School from 1910 onwards. Since the last instalment, a document has come to light at the Museum written by Denslow Mitchell. He mentions a photo of the 1928 Holyrood Football team featuring Mr Bennett and Mr Candy.

He goes on to say "I was taught by both these teachers. Mr Bennett was from Birmingham so naturally the school colours were those of Aston Villa. (claret and blue) Mr Bennett's sister was headmistress of the Girl's School and Mr Bennett's wife helped out occasionally at the Infants School. As regards, "Nutty" Bennett, true he was fond of the cane but also Mrs Bennett used to make trays of nutty toffee which was passed out to the winners of the school matches and sports". I wonder what the current headmaster's nickname is?

The new buildings, that the school had moved into, had a few teething problems. Mr. Bennett noted in the School Log Book that the glazed partition between the girls' and boys' sides of the main hall had to remain open for the morning and evening prayers because ‘it is very undesirable to sing two different hymns at the same time. Supplies of gas and water also gave him a headache and several times he laments the lack of water in the boys' lavatories’.

The Doctor and the 'nit' Nurse still made regular examinations and when the Dentist treated the teeth of eight of the boys he charged them 6d each. January 1919 has the first mention of a Health Visitor. Each year the attendance figures went up and down due to measles, whooping cough or enteric fever; thanks to modern vaccinations the dangers that these diseases posed have faded from our memories.

The years leading up to World War One were fairly uneventful and there is no mention of the impending conflict until September 4th 1915 when 'the new teacher has not put in an appearance but sent to say he had joined the army'. Mr Bennett was rather put about this as there were still 180 boys in the school and, now, just four teachers. Two brothers, August and Josef Marien, joined the school in November, they were refugees from Belgium. Their other brother joined the next day.

By December 1914 the War was having more of an impact, 'A portion of Lord Kitcheners Army visited the town of Thursday afternoon. So that the attendance should not be spoiled, the Registers were closed at 2 o/clock; playtime was abandoned.' On the same page, one of the teachers, Mr Welby, is reported to have left to join H.M. Forces, 'I understand his place is to be kept open for him until the war is over.' Unfortunately, the gap was not filled for some time as no replies came from the advertisements Mr Bennett put out. The fate of Mr Welby is unknown, his name does not appear on the Register again after the War. By 1916, the staff were down to three, so one of the teachers from the Girl's School was seconded in to help.

Interestingly, the first note in 1915 is that four boys by the name of Hawker had gone into the Workhouse and consequently had to leave Holyrood and go to the High Street School, 'where all the other Workhouse boys attend.' Unfortunately, we don't have the Workhouse Registers, so we are unable to find out why disaster struck this family or how many others were also affected. The Workhouse Officers preferred to give 'outdoor relief' to hard-up families, so this must have been a crisis in the Hawker family.

The teaching standards remained high during this period. H.M. Inspector Grindrod reported in his opening paragraph, that 'The tone and instruction of this school deserve praise. The headmaster's supervision is constant and helpful; the assistant teachers are earnest; and the boys are willing and alert.'

The reading was fluent; geography tests were well answered; the arithmetic tests produced results much above average. A loose letter in the Register from the Inspector of the Girls School in 1920 stated that 'The Managers desire to congratulate you on the favourable nature of the Report.' So Miss Bennett maintained the same high standard as her brother.

Throughout these years there is a constant flow of pupils winning free places to Ilminster Grammar School. In 1929 Lewis Beaumont and Stanley Bartholomew were successful in passing the exams for enlistment to the Army as Apprentice Tradesmen.

The War made a small but significant impact on Holyrood: In 1916, arrangements were made for darkening the windows (blackout curtains). Empire Day had the usual flag waving and patriotic songs, but in 1917 Food Economy lessons were added and the King's Proclamation read out. The King had decided that the surname of the Royal Family was to be changed from Saxe-Coburg Gotha to Windsor as it the original was deemed to be Germanic. Mr Phear was given permission 'to be absent on Tuesday afternoon for 3/4 an hour, to see his son off to France.'

In September 1916 Woodwork classes were suspended 'In consequence of the Woodwork Instructor being called to the Colours.' Although Mr Bennett does not mention it, the flag on the pole in the playground would have lowered to half-mast when a previous pupil was reported to have died in action. The obituaries of previous High Street Schoolboys in the contemporary Chard and Ilminster News editions mention this happening.

A plaque was put up to the fallen of Holyrood School 'as a Memorial of the Old Boys of the School who gave their lives for King and Country in the Great World War.'

The end of the War was not mentioned in 1918, perhaps because Mr Bennett had his hands full with the immediate danger of, what came to be known as, the Spanish Flu. It started with 10 boys being absent in the first week of September 1918; by the end of the second week he notes 'The attendance this week has been the worst I can ever remember only reaching 74.7% This is due to an epidemic of influenza.' It was downhill from then on; by the next Monday there were 22 boys absent; by Friday, 61 boys and it was no better in the Girl's School or Infants. Mr Bennett alerted Dr Savage, who telegraphed that the schools were to be closed for a week. This was followed by a further weeks closure. The school reopened and immediately closed again for another week as "over 200 children were absent in the three departments." When the school opened again mid-November figures gradually improved, but it was fairly patchy. It wasn't until 1922 that a triumphant Mr Bennett wrote in red ink in the margin that there had been a record of 99.4% attendance!!

Sporting achievements were recorded regularly. The Carnival Cup was hard fought over each year from 1924 onwards, although the headmaster entered the scores when the team won but not who the opponents were! The exception was 1925 when they beat Tatworth 5 - 0; but who they drew with, in 1926, or who they beat 7 - 0 in 1927, we are none the wiser!

A big change during this period was the start of cultural activities being included in the school year. In 1924, 47 boys and girls and three teachers went by motor-bus to watch a pageant at Mulcheny Abbey. In May 1923, Mr Bennett was proud to tell 'that some work of the boys was despatched to Weston, the same having been asked for by Mr Beurons, H.M. Inspector and Mr Snelgrove, County Inspector, with a view to its forming part of Somerset's contribution to a an exhibition at an Imperial Education Conference to be held in London in June.' Quite an achievement . In June that year, ten boys and Mr Candy went to London for three days to the Wembley Exhibition. It is reported that 'they had a very enjoyable time.'

This was in fact the Empire Exhibition, held over several months that year, to promote awareness of the Empire, in the magnificent purpose-built stadium, later to be re-named the Wembley Stadium. In 1929, the boys enjoyed an unusual treat when the Mayor gave the children a tea to celebrate the inauguration of the new water scheme! Fifty-three boys were able to enjoy a performance of Julius Caesar at the Corn Exchange as Mr Bennett had secured half-price tickets for them. They were reading the play at the time and he thought it useful. The school was treated to the live service from the Cenotaph on Armistice Day in 1929 as they 'obtained the use of a portable wireless set through the kindness of Mr J. W. Hallett, father of one of the boys.'

Only a few accidents are recorded in the Register, and these seem to be the most severe. In December 1926, My Bennett had a bad week. Albert Burt 'was badly kicked on the shin. A large piece of flesh was nearly torn away and the bone exposed. He was removed to Chard Hospital.' The next day Ernest Lavercombe fell down and broke his thigh. This was set on the school premises by Dr's Fawcus and Jupp. In all my experience of nearly thirty years in this school I have never had a case as bad as either of these, he wrote 'My sympathy is with Ernest having his thigh set at school.' In 1930, Noel Pardy broke his leg between the knee and the ankle playing with Leonard Manley, he was taken to hospital. Leonard Manley is commemorated on the WWII memorial in St Mary's churchyard.

A big change came to Holyrood in 1925. There was re-grouping of the schools in the area. After the Easter holidays in 1925, all the boys under eleven (59) had to move to the High Street School and Holyrood took in 47 boys over eleven from there onto their books and Holyrood became the Senior school and High Street the Junior school. Previously, there had been 158 boys, but this was reduced to 134 by this change. This change in status was marked by the arrival of the new school caps. By 1927, the school-leaving age had risen to 14. Arthur Miller, chosen by popular vote, was the first Head Boy mentioned. In 1929, the school timetable had to fit in a new class - the Posture Class! This was a short-term addition noted each week from January to April and then never again. I presume the remedial exercises worked!!!

We bring this chapter to a close, with the retirement of Mr Harry (Nutty) Bennett in July 1931, after 34 and a half years’ service at Southend and Holyrood Schools.He and his wife retired to Paignton in Devon, where he died in 1944 aged 73.He should be remembered for guiding the school through the many changes in the education system and maintaining a high standard throughout his tenure in Chard. A generation of boys benefitted from his dedication.

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