Prep 2 step back in time to the Victorian Era…

Arriving to the sound of the bell, 24 scholars lined up either side of the school path to be welcomed by Miss Squire, schoolmistress of Sevington Victorian School and her sister.

Cleanliness of hands were inspected and then the school monitors were appointed for the day, handing a penny to each scholar. On entering the school room, Miss Squire took the register, with all children standing up when they heard their Victorian name called out and responding ‘Present, Ma’am!’. A prayer to start the day followed and then the pennies were collected in by the monitors and the children learned of how their penny would have helped pay for oil and wood to heat the school room and pay for resources such as paper which were very expensive. An uplifting and energetic rendition of ‘All things bright and beautiful’ filled the school room and then some handwriting practice using slate pencils to write the first line of the hymn on a slate board was undertaken.

The children then split off to be educated separately; the boys went outside to view ‘the privy’ and to look at the beehive, which is essential element to a Victorian garden, providing opportunities to make honey, beeswax for candles and pollination of flowers and fruit trees. Meanwhile, the girls went to the parlour to make a lavender bag and learnt how to tie a bow. They then went into the kitchen where they were expected to clean the copper and brass, polishing it to the highest standard. On return to the schoolhouse, the boys then had a chance to make their own candle, using a wick and a sheet of beeswax which they had to roll up neatly and carefully.

On return to the schoolroom, the scholars were invited to try their hand at writing with ink in their copy books. After dipping their pen nibs in the ink, ‘hands aloft…commence!’ was said as they put pen to paper. The children then learnt the art of blotting their page as they wrote to avoid any unnecessary smudging and inky fingers! In Victorian times, left-handed writers were frowned upon as when they wrote they could easily smudge and spoil their work!

A much-needed lunch was enjoyed which consisted of a large bread roll, a hunk of cheese, an apple and a shortbread biscuit and water. The children then went outside for some ‘recreation time’ where they had the opportunity to play with a range of typical Victorian toys made from wood such as a cup and ball, Jacob’s ladder, wooden hoops, cricket stumps and bats to name a few. Like lesson times, boys and girls played separately during this time too.

To end the day, Miss Squire talked about some of the items on display around the school room. Much to the children’s delight, she finally got out the cane and explained how and when it was used. The children were fascinated to learn that there were different sizes of cane as some were used to punish children across their fingers and hands too. With the help of some keen volunteers, she demonstrated how the back straightener was used to ensure scholars sat up straight and how the finger stocks stopped children fidgeting with their hands and fingers whilst at their desk!

An incredible learning opportunity which enabled the children to fully immerse themselves in a typical day in the life of a Victorian school child and, hopefully one that they will cherish and remember fondly during their time at Hatherop Castle!