This is a story of the kind of schools which were
attended by few children at the beginning of the
nineteenth century, but by growing numbers from
the 1870s (when schooling became compulsory)
and many more from the 1890s (when schooling
From the 1860s Heads had to keep daily Log
Books in which some reveal marvellous insights into
the life of the school, in its community. For
information on earlier periods, when schools might
be founded by a benefactor, Trust documents give
details of the purpose and provision made for the
Somerset is fortunate in having two particular
characters of more than local significance. First is
Hannah More, of the Blue Stocking Circle in Bath,
who pioneered Sunday, and Evening Schools in the
Mendip area during the 1790s and, also, wrote many
readers and tracts for school use.
Second is Rev John Poole, of the Quantocks,
who practised what he preached by setting up a
model school in 1811, supported by a detailed guide
to spread ideas about the Improved Village School.
The combination of such people and the variety
of place in Somerset – from coast, moor, levels, and
from agriculture, industry to mining – makes it a rich
context for the research of village schooling, and this
is reflected fully in this ground-breaking new study.
Sarah Villiers has led a nomadic life.
En route she collected degrees in
history, development politics, and
education. Since then she has been
engaged in teaching for over 40 years,
both at home and abroad. She has
now returned to her roots, settled as a
Somersetonian and resumed her
researches in local history.
To broaden this understanding
she takes part in surveying vernacular
buildings with the Somerset
Vernacular Buildings Research Group,
helps as church recorder with NADFAS
and works as a volunteer for the National
Trust. These latter two activities
have provided opportunities for researching
church textiles and the literacy
aspects of girls’ stitched samplers.
Imprint: Ryelands. ISBN 978 1 906551 33 9, hardback, 297x210mm, 224 pages. Published October 2012.