Life at Llandenny Village School

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There was thought to be a school in Llandenny as early as 1640. This was supposed to have been in the church possibly in a room over the porch. It was a school of some note as the local gentry sent their children to this school. A Yeomen farmer, Walter Powell of Llantillio Crossenny sent his children to the school. The Vicar taught the children. Previous to the village school been built in 1864 there was supposed to have been a school in the old Blacksmith’s Shop in Llandenny 2p a week was charged to attend this school. The land for the school was given to the village by the Duke of Beaufort but it was built by the parishioners and it was opened in1864. Money was raised for the school from various fund-raising events. Farmers governors offered their services free to help build it and they did the hauling of the timber and the stone. The Vicar and the Church Wardens were the School Governors.


by the late William Hampshire (1914 -2003) as recalled to his niece Margaret Hampshire in 2001.

Will Hampshire farmed at the Rock Farm and was local historian. He and his wife, Flossie Hampshire, were some of the founder members of the Raglan History Society. He was parish councilor for 44 years from 1943 to 1987.

I remember my first day of school as I waited nervously at the front door to be called to my fate. I was lead into the class and was introduced to the class by Miss Jenkins and was shown to my desk. The governess was Mrs Mathews and Miss Jenkins was her pupil teacher. I started school when I was 4 years of age which was a little younger than the other pupils. The children then stayed at the school until they were 14 years of age although older pupils left at the age of 12 to attend the secondary school in Monmouth.

The children were equipped with chalk and slates with which to do all their work. Some young children started their writing in sand trays. The lessons were formal and a lot of the work concentrated on the 3 R’s and learning by rote. But Mrs Mathews was a marvellous story teller and everyone looked forward to hearing her read a story at the end of each afternoon.

In the corner of the class was kept a special book. It was a nature diary in which was recorded anything of special interest such as the date when the first primroses were picked and when the first swallows were sighted. As we lived on a farm my brother, Harry and I, were always keen to record anything that we had seen.

You had to take your lunch to school as no meals were provided in those days. No drinks were provided and you had only water to drink. One summer the school was closed all that summer because of a diphtheria epidemic. Water had to be boiled to stop infection spreading. Two children from Llandenny Walks died from the disease. At that time children were vaccinated against smallpox, and after the outbreak, also against diphtheria. A doctor and nurse visited the children in the locality whilst the school was shut, in order to vaccinate them. I remember wearing a red band over my arm after I had had an injection in order to prevent infection.

If you missed a lot of school an attendance officer came round to see why you were not in class. He was called The Whipper-in! In rural areas many children were kept from school to help work on the farms, especially during harvest time. In Herefordshire children helped with the hop picking harvest.

Mrs Mathews husband was often a sick man and she sometimes had to leave her class to attend her husband. She would leave the pupil teacher in charge. Unfortunately the poor girl wasn’t always able to cope with the village rogues as one day as one day the older, bigger boys played Miss Watkins up something terrible and she looked most distressed like a ‘hen with ducks in the pool’. This saying refers to the fact that a hen is unable to swim after the ducks.

On the same subject, Mrs Mathews kept some hens at the back of the school house, unfortunately these hens were always scratching in the cornfield and one day the farmer who owned the field frightened the hens off with a shotgun and killed one of them. You might say he took drastic measures! Hens disappeared from Mrs Watkins garden after that incident.

Sometimes the Vicar visited the school to sort out problems with schoolmistress. Once he generously gave 1p to each pupil. There was some contention between the vicar and the schoolmistress as she was better paid then the vicar. The state paid her salary.

Notable events in the school year were the school concerts and parties. The parties were especially looked forward to because the food was so lavish including marvellous jellies, fruit salads, sponges, a variety of little cakes and fruit pies. All kinds of party games were played and sometimes there were fancy dress parties. I can remember dressing up as a nurse and my brother was dressed up as a cave-man draped in animal skins. As I had fair skin and I also had fairly fine features for a young boy my mother thought that a nurse’s outfit was a suitable one for me. I won first prize at this party for being the least recognisable in the class.

May Day was another event in the school calendar that was always celebrated. A maypole was erected outside the school and the children danced around the maypole. The school also had its own football team and the village had its own football team called the Llandenny Harriers.

These were some of the games we played in the playground.

Ring game First the farmer sows the seed, Then he stands to take his ease, (Then he turns around to clap his hands waiting for his partner.) Choose a wife for the farmer. (The farmer chooses his wife.)

Skits about teachers

Mr Higgins was a very good man, He tries to teach all he can. He goes to church on Sunday, And preys to God to give him strength, To wallop the boys on Monday

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