Bracon Ash & Hethel CP School

1878 - 1978

In 1977 Bracon Ash & Hethel School celebrated its centenary. A booklet was produced with 'extracts were taken from school records and they give an accurate and often humorous account of education at Bracon Ash over the last 100 years.' To these have been added some photos from the Bracon Ash archive and some pupils' memories.. Look, too, at Gladys Watling's memories of some of these events.

The Victorian Era

23 Sep 1878: Miss Pyle commenced her duties as Mistress (certificated) of Bracon Ash and Hethel U. D. Board School. On that day 27 boy and 19 girls were admitted.

28 Sep 1878: Total 50. Only 3 boys can work sums correctly but they cannot record their work.

14 Oct 1878: 78 children on roll

18 Oct 1878: First cases of whooping cough (4)

25 Oct 1878: Attendance down because of bad weather

1 Nov 1878: Board meeting - fees fixed. It was unanimously resolved that the fees to be paid by the parents should range from 1d - 4d perweek. Children of agricultural labourers and journeyman tradesmen should pay 1d per week for the first 2 (children) and ½d for subsequent children

11 Nov 1878: Wet weather; many from a distance could not attend

18 Nov 1878: 4 children still away with whooping cough and two reported with fever

28 Nov 1878: It was decided that an assistant should be appointed... 
[which means that Miss Pyle had been teaching 78 children without assistance: today we complain if numbers exceed 36...]  
Hannah Fryer appointed. Salary £20 per month, lodging in school house.

It was at this time that the holidays were fixed: 2 weeks Christmas and Easter; 4 weeks for Harvest.

27 Jan 1879: 1 boy could not attend as he had no boots. 4 boys punished for being late

31 Jan 1879: 4 sent home with ringworm on arms

5 Feb 1879: One father (farmer) was ordered by the Board to pay fees including back fees or else the child would be expelled

7 Fen 1879: Weather fine enough for those who live in the village to go home for lunch. Received a rather rude complaint that children had been turned out in the rain.

14 Feb 1879: St Valentine's Day ½ day off

20 Mar 1879: Boy punished for rudeness and disobedience

7 May 1879: Same boy rude again so parents threatened with expulsion of son if this recurs

9 July 1879: 2 cases of chickenpox

16 July 1879: Several cases of mumps

17 July 1879: 7 girls & 2 boys sent home for being late and parents had to report to school in the evening to give a reason

22 July 1879: 2 more absent with mumps and because of continuous wet weather average attendance very low

20 Aug 1879: wet weather continues on into August

29 Aug 1879: School closed for harvest

10 Oct 1879: Several children absent, gleaning with parents

27 Oct 1879: A parents refused to pay for child's books

10 Nov 1879: 4 children all from same family had no books and could not pay their back fees so they were not able to attend school

19 Dec 1879: School closed for Christmas

[1879 was obviously a very wet year and for the teachers of Bracon Ash not without its problems.]

12 Jan 1880: 3 absent, no boots. 1 child away looking after his animals

8 Mar 1880: One boy reached age of 14 so left to go to work

9 Aug 1880: 3 boys received their certificates and went to work

10 Aug 1880: 1 case of scarlet fever

12 Aug 1880: School closed early for Harvest on account of outbreak of scarlet fever

Undated photo of school in Victorian times

13 Sep 1880: School began again. Some children still gleaning, some still with fever

11 Oct 1880: 1 boy guilty of truancy; 2 more the following week. Also some were gathering acorns.

[Truancy lingers on but today we think of better excuses than gathering acorns....]

28 Oct 1880: Permission given to children over ten to work on land for a limited time

8 Nov 1880: Children still absent acorn picking and cutting beet. At the end of term prizes were given to children who had made the most improvement

10 Jan 1881: Only 10 children present because of severe weather and so school closed at 11 am.

Weather did not improve until the end of the month.

28 Mar 1881: One child had to stay and mind the house while mother went stone picking

6 May 1881: A little boy could not attend school having accidently chopped off one of his fingers. Another boy was absent for two weeks because he had no boots, while another was away keeping crows (at bay)

23 May 1881: Measles outbreak

8 Jun 1881: Whooping cough outbreak cuts numbers back to 26

15 July 1881: Many absent this week keeping house while their parents pick fruit and single beet

20 July 1881: Bracon Ash children went to the Sunday School Treat given by the Rev. Berney

22 July 1881: Girls of the 3rd standard still kept away by parents who are still fruit gathering

1 Aug 1881: School closed for 5 weeks Harvest Holidays. Report for end of term read: "The school has a good tone and the children are taught carefully."

7 Nov 1881: 3 boys were away cutting the tops off turnips

8 Nov 1881: 1 boy gave great trouble on account of rudeness and laziness. On leaving school the following day the same boy and his brother gave trouble yet again. Later in the week this same boy was absent: the heavy wheel of a threshing machine passing over his arm and leg bruising him and injuring very much

15 Jan 1882: 3 children away as their parents received orders for the "Union" at Swainsthorpe

17 Feb 1882: Some boys were spoken to for throwing stones at the school during the evening. Head threatened to report them to the Board.

24 Feb 1882: Because of the absenteeism, Miss Pyle was instructed to produce a list of those away for more than a quarter of the term

18 July 1882: A boy was punished for using bad language

17 July 1883: Children attended a tea given by Sir Kenneth and Lady Kemp at Mergate Hall

April 1885: A boy was rude and disorderly and on one occasion this month Miss Pyle had to defend herself from his kicks and blows. An entry tells us that he refused to do his lessons and it was felt unsafe for him to be at school because of his outbursts. There were two or three other boys frequently mentioned in connection with bad behaviour. On some occasions their deeds were so bad that they were not recorded. [And they say that today there is no discipline....]

14 Feb 1886: Annual Valentines Holiday

During this year the children had lessons on Summer (this lesson was given in February); Winter; a horse; the camel; sugar; the bricklayer; a cart and a boat.

16 Jun 1886: Half a day on account of tea party at Hethel Rectory

29 July 1886: 29 on roll

21 Dec 1886: Half day given as the school was needed for a concert in aid of Bracon Ash lending library

21 Jun 1887: School closed today because of the Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Victoria

14 July 1887: Girls could not sew as they could not hold the needles due to the hot weather (!!)

Undated photo of school pupils in Victorian times.

The Winter of 1888 was very severe and later in the year the children were struck down by outbreaks of whooping cough and scarlet fever.

1889 didn't seem to be much better and in fact Miss Pyle had the added duty of caning one of the girls for disobedience. It appears from the records that Bracon Ash school had a reputation for being a school capable of dealing with problem children for in 1891 4 children were admitted from Wreningham because of their bad behaviour. This obviously proved too much for Miss Pyle as a Miss Burridge took over in September 1891. Miss Burridge found the reading throughout the school to be poor, pronunciation bad, and simple meanings unknown.

19 Feb 1894: An Infant boy drowned at the weekend

22 Jun 1896: School closed for celebration of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

4 Nov 1898: Infant girl died suddenly

30 Nov 1898: Children took part in a writing competition. Prizes given by makers of Sunlight Soap. 70 on roll.

23 Jan 1901: Singing not taken because of the Queen's death. [22nd Jan at Osborne House]

A New Century

7 Mar 1902: Natural History lesson given by travelling man with fossils. [Probably one of the earliest County Organisers]

6 Aug 1902: Half day holiday - Coronation festivities

1907: Changes were made so that the school year ended with the summer holidays and the year was to consist of 3 terms. These holidays were set nationally and not by the Board [according to local conditions, such as Harvest]. In August there occurred the first Bank Holiday.

Nov 1908: County Shield for Norfolk Birds & Trees competition awarded to this school (by the precursor to the RSPB).
[Not only did Bracon Ash & Hethel School win the Challenge Shield for the first year in which it was awarded, but the essay by Dorothy Rowe was 'marked by the judges as especially good' and she and a pupil from Downham Market were awarded special prizes. Of the Bracon Ash & Hethel entries, the judges noted that 'no notes were used at the essay writing, yet four of the team obtained full marks while two others obtained nine marks each. The papers were quite equal to any from schools where used, and denote bright and intelligent observations, besides being very pleasantly written.' (The Norfolk News 5 Dec. 1908). Quite a feather in the cap for this rural school and especially for Dorothy Rowe and the others in the team - Violet Canham, Arthur Devereux, and Frank Ellis. The school went on to win the shield again, on several occasions.]

By July 1909, children had completed 5 years perfect attendance. This must have been a tremendous achievement.

21 Jun 1911: School closed for King's Coronation

March 1912: Infant case of diphtheria

Jan 1915: Child died of scalds

16 Feb 1917: A boy found a in the noon hour and took it to Mulbarton to find out its name. Complaints of children always yawning - reasons for this thought to be the onset of hot weather.

15 May 1919: School dismissed at 3.30pm so the children could attend Nurse Cavell's funeral in Norwich.

Oct 1919: School closed at 3.10pm for children to attend War Savings Cinema Entertainment.

Nov 1920: Boy died suddenly of meningitis

Feb 1922: School closed for wedding of Princess Mary

26 April 1923: School closed for wedding of Duke of York [Later King George VI]

Oct 1925: New Head, Miss Baker, took over after death of Miss Burrage who had given 35 years' service to the school.

A gallery of class photos from the 1920s

March 1929: Fire in the classroom. Damage to the teacher's desk.

Dec 1929: Alice Garrard took over as new Head. Miss Garrard continued until 1935 when Miss Chippling became Head

6 Nov 1935: School closed for Royal Wedding. In the report of this year it was said that the school had been sending flowers regularly to a school in the East End of London. 37 on roll.

4 May 1937: School closed for Coronation

11 Sep 1939: Evacuees swelled numbers to 64

27 May 1941: Senior Warden and Home Guard Officer examined all gas masks today.

2 Dec 1941: School canteen erected.

4 Dec 1941: Rector and 5 representatives of the Education Committee visited to discuss the opening of an air raid shelter

Jan 1942: 55 on roll

8 May 1945: Victory in Europe Day - school granted 2 days holiday

3 Oct 1945: School kitchen opened today

1 Oct 1947: Francis Cobb started as Head

L>R back: Lewis Nichols; Margaret Rice; Ann Tungate; John Shaul; 2nd from back: 3rd from L John Shaul; 2nd from front: Michael Harvey; ?; John Betts; Carol Daglish; ?; front: Michael Duffin; Richard Moore; ?; Peter Bailey; Margaret George. DATE?
L>R back: Lewis Nichols; Margaret Rice; Ann Tungate; John Shaul; 2nd from back: 3rd from L John Shaul; 2nd from front: Michael Harvey; ?; John Betts; Carol Daglish; ?; front: Michael Duffin; Richard Moore; ?; Peter Bailey; Margaret George. DATE?

Memories from the War years

At Bracon Ash village school, upwards of 50 children aged 5 to 14 were taught by Mrs Garrard, the Headmistress, and Miss Rowe, the Infants' teacher in two adjoining rooms. Mrs Garrard, with perhaps 40 children, including several big boys, kept excellent discipline and stood for no nonsense. Because of the war, boys as well as girls were knitting socks and scarves for soldiers.

Miss Rowe, the infants' teacher, though uncertified had immense dedication and dearly loved her little charges. She cycled to school on an upright bicycle after taking Communion at Hethel Church each morning. In the big room we could hear her loud voice teaching the little ones. Most learned to read before they moved up.

These were the staff who had to adapt to the influx of evacuees, never quite sure when new children would appear and what sort of education they had received so far. If the schoolroom got too crowded the classes were held in shifts. This pattern of adapting to an influx of newcomers did not stop when the war ended.... 

As the 1944 Education Act comes into effect

1 Jun 1948: Miss De Caux commenced as Head today. 51 on roll.

Miss de Caux with village children dressed in Welsh costumes. 

Oct 1949: 8 children admitted from Hethel Camp. Infant room very overcrowded. [From Sept 1951 it had its own school.]

11 Sep 1950: 74 on roll

Line of pupils, carefully arranged in height order, with shield - after 1948 School sports were held in Berney's meadow, in front of Bracon Ash Hall, opposite church.
L>R: P Waters; R Martin; A Lowdell; B Edwards; M Edwards; J Hudson; E Watling; N Richmond; J Stackyard; J Patrick; J Martin; W George (holding shield); A Bogis; N Stackard; P Patrick; J Canham; B Saunders; E Gittings; M Martin; B Cornwall

L>R: front row: Gilbert Thorpe; Doreen Cunningham; Doreen Futter; Tony Howell.
2nd row: Gloria Barlow; Elsie Bix; Arthur Bailey; Pam Devereux; Ivy Futter; Brenda Harvey
3rd row: Betty Cunningham; Phylis Nichols; Norma Nichols; Pat Martin; Ivy Harvey; Helen Golding; Ann Tubby. Back row: Dererk Harvey; Peter Tooke; Eric Lister; Graham Martin

PROUD SCHOOL! L>R, Front row: -?-; Geoff Duffin; Val Preston; Eileen Feltham; Ruth Bix; Tessa Martin; Pam Howell; Audrey Walker; June Shawl; Margaret Smith; Mervyn Davey; Roy Howell.
2nd row: Grace Greenwood; Gloria Barlow; 'Gilly' Thorpe; 
Doreen Cunningham; Doreen Futter; Arthur Bailey; Pam Devereux; Elsie Bix; Ivy Futter; Brenda Harvey; Tony Howell; Joane Harvey; Joy Howell; Mary Futter (standing).
3rd row: Derek Harvey; Grace White; Marj Nichols; June Nichols; Peggy Howell; Ann Tubby; Phylis Nichols; Ivy Harvey; Helen Gowing; Betty Cunningham; Sylvia Futter; Pat Martin; + teacher, Miss Pansy Rowe.
Back row: teacher, Mrs Garrod; Rosemary Spinks; Ivan Herrell; Margaret Nichols; Norma Nichols; Ellen Futter; Eric Lister; Peter Tooke; Graham Martin; Michael D; Gloria Rounce.
[with thanks to Ivy Futter for identifying everyone in these photographs!]

15 Feb 1952: Children and staff attended a church service to mark the funeral of King George VI

29 May 1953: School closed today for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

12 Feb 1954: School nurse visited this morning and examined all the children present for warts in connection with the National Wart Survey

20 Dec 1957: Dr. Lincoln Ralphs, Chief Education Officer; Miss Shaw, his assistant; representatives of the school management and parents visited the school for the presentation of first prize in the Royal Norfolk Show Competition organised by the Royal Agricultural Society.

Jan 1958: 41 on roll

Sept 1958: 30 on roll. This fall in numbers was due to the fact that children over 11 were now going to Wymondham

Feb 1959: Mrs Wilde became cook and Mrs Rice canteen helper. Together they served 100 lunches a day for Bracon Ash, Hapton and the Meals-on-Wheels service. Below are photos of pupils at their desks where lunches were served. 'It was always a traditional hot lunch with roast once a week. The children paid a shilling (5p) for a meal - but the dinner ladies' pay was only 2s 7 1/2d (16p) an hour.... Now it's all junk food, but that's what the children like!' [Memories by Phyllis Rice written when she retired in 1984 have worked for more than 19 years in Bracon Ash and a further 6 years at Mulbarton.]

18 Dec 1959: Miss De Caux left

Jan 1960: Mr Poulton became temporary Head. 25 on roll.

5 May 1960: School closed for wedding of Princess Margaret

10 Jan 1961: Miss G Davies became Head

4 Sep 1962: 19 on roll. Head gave notice

8 Jan 1963: Mrs Cobb became Head

1 Jan 1965: Area Sports at Barford; Trevor Mallet won cup for Boys Under 11. This boy went on to win the cup at the County Sports

29 May 1968: TV set delivered. 16 on roll

6 Jan 1971: Mrs J Betts started as part time Teacher

3 May 1972: Piece of a fuel tank from an American plane fell into the playground at about 12.30. No-one hurt, and next day an officer from Lakenheath came to collect it.

20 May 1974: Mrs Cobb announced her retirement and Mr Beacock was appointed as the new head to start in September. Mrs Boyce was at this time the Infant teacher and in 1976 she too retired, and Mrs Canning was appointed in her place. Children on roll rose from 24 in 1974 to 40 in 1976 and so Mrs McKillop was appointed as a part-time teacher.


The school at the centenary celebrations; Neil Beacock, headmaster, seated centre.
'This is the present situation of the school in 1977, the year of the school's centenary and I hope you have found this an interesting look back on a hundred years of education at Bracon Ash & Hethel County Primary School. It must also be noted that at the end of the Summer term Mr Beacock leaves and as yet no successor has been appointed.'

School photo, not long before school closed:  L>R Back row: Karen Hammond; Richard Symonds; Robert Draper; Justin Simms; Nick Hardy; teacher: Heather Jones;  Middle row: Kay Salf; Jayne Miller; Rachel Miller;  Tanya Bailey; Sharon Bowles; Nick Thompson; Colin Mace; Samantha Thompson; Rachel Butler; Juliette Simms; Lisa Rowen. Front row: James Wilson; Victoria Simms; Glen Hammond; Kate Betts; Jeanette Bloom; Stephen Ford; Ben Leaman; Julian Smith; Robert Miller; Lyndsey Rowen; Helen Salf.

Mr Beacock moved to Stoke Holy Cross school and a temporary head was appoint - Mr Kennedy. The school finally closed in July 1978, but not before the parents had put up a fight to keep it open. In fact as a final protest parents opened their own school in Bracon Ash Village Hall for 1 day - but a day that attracted plenty of press attention. The remaining pupils then moved to Mulbarton First & Middle Schools - along with Phyllis Rice who had been in the Bracon Ash kitchen for more than 19 years: she worked in the Mulbarton kitchen for another 6 years before she retired (below, Phyllis Rice centre, with flowers - Mercury & Advertiser 26 Oct 1984).