Tyneham School

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MUST SEE: Tyneham School closed in 1932 but the building has been faithfully restored and reburbished to recreate an authentic 1920’s classroom.

GETTING THERE: From Tyneham Car Park walk towards the Telephone Kiosk. Carry on up Post Office Row and then turn left. Tyneham School is on the left.

Things to look out for:

  • Children’s named school pegs in entrance lobby
  • Children’s work on desks

The Tyneham National Elementary School was built in 1856, originally to house 60 children, but when the Coastguard station at Worbarrow closed in 1912, nearly half the pupils left. Numbers remained low throughout the 1920s and eventually, in 1932, when attendance had fallen to only 9 children, the school was closed ‘for reason of economy’. The building was then used as a village hall, and the children were taken, by bus, to Corfe Castle school.

The children walked in from the outlying farms and villages, so if the weather was bad, attendance was poor, as the teacher’s log book shows. Similarly, outbreaks of influenza or other infectious diseases kept many away from school, as did busy times on the farms, for children had to help with the harvest and other work, such as hedging, ditching, making gate (the local ‘barways’ made of planks cut with a cross-cut saw and slotted into solid stone posts).

Children from 4 to 14 were taught in the same room. The younger ones used the stage behind the drawn curtain, counting beads on strings or drawing with blunt crayons, usually under the eye of a ‘pupil teacher’. Children as young as three would often wander in to join their brothers and sisters.

Known teachers were:

  • 1895-1907 Mrs Ann Elizabeth Fry nee Newberry (1857-1910)
  • 1907-1921 Miss Norah Sophia Woodman (1871-1944)
  • 1921-1928 Mrs Malvina Pritchard nee Harper (1874-1964)
  • 1928-1932 Miss Leonora Maria Hearne (1880-1977)

There was a very strict regime under Mrs. Pritchard, head teacher from 1921 to 1928 and even her son Arthur, who attended the school, was shown no favouritism. The late Kathy Barnes of East Stoke, (then Kathy Wrixon) recalled that there was no talking, and knuckles were rapped when the pen was held incorrectly for handwriting. Joined-up writing was practised from the start, with careful attention to spacing of letters. The Union Jack was saluted on entering school.

The late Winnie Applin (then Winnie Bright) was a pupil teacher trained by Mrs. Pritchard for four years. Winnie walked to school from Kimmeridge every day, and knew all the best places to find orchids on the way. She caused a stir when she got a motorbike and rode it to school! She was particularly valued by Mrs. Pritchard because she was the only one who could play the piano.

When the school put on an evening show, the unwieldy bench desks were taken outside and the villagers would bring their own chairs. Children sat on the floor or perched on the bookcases at the back watching the show by the light of paraffin lamps.

Please be aware the children’s work has been created to give an authentic feel. It is not the actual work of the children named. The same is true of the children’s pegs.

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