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Victorian & Edwardian



The Old National School had been built in 1837 (on what is now the A12) at a cost of £400. There were just two rooms, one for Boys, the other for Girls. Thomas Rickards was the first Master, teaching the boys, his wife Eliza the girls. Children came from as far afield as Dunwich and parents had to pay 2d per week (approximately 57p). Children were admitted throughout the year.

The 1870 (Forster) Elementary Education Act made provision for elementary education for all children aged 5-13 and established school boards to oversee and complete the network of schools. Yoxford then became a Board school. Fees had to be paid unless poverty could be proven. The 1880 Elementary Education Act ensured compulsory attendance and also set a standard which children had to reach before they could be employed. This was the School Certificate and employers would be penalised if they employed children without one. 

In November 1883 the Board resolved that no more children could be admitted from without the parish. Those already attending had to pay 4d per week for the first child, 3d for others. The 1891 Elementary Education Act made provision for elementary schooling to be free, up to 10 shillings (50p) being paid each year for children over three and under 15.

The school started keeping Log-books from 1872, (the 1870 Forster Act required schools to record attendance figures). These included reasons for poor attendance, including weather conditions such as heavy rain and floods, or snow. These conditions occurred frequently throughout the winter months of this period. On 22nd December 1909 there were floods all around the village and the Master had to wade through them up to his knees to get to school. Only 50 children attended in the morning and 78 in the afternoon. The roads were not paved so would often have been muddy or thick with snow. On 2nd January 1911 there was a heavy fall of snow and only children who lived where the snow plough had made a road were able to attend. There was another heavy fall in April. 

Illness and epidemics were recorded and absences owing to haymaking, stone picking, harvesting, ‘brush beating’ for Sir Ralph Blois at Cockfield Hall. From 1880 these attendances were noted daily, morning and afternoon figures recorded separately. In January of 1884 Lady Blois distributed a gross (144) of pictures to the children who had attended school all year, presumably one for each child. The average attendance then was 165, the highest on record, the number on the books being 191. The population fluctuated and in this period the school was overcrowded, the population peaking in 1871 at 1,148. By 1882 the Infants were in the same room as the older children and the girls were divided into two groups for needlework and taught on alternate days. There were stoves in each room and coal was delivered throughout the winter months.


Illiteracy was common at this period and many children arrived at the school even as late as nine or ten without being able to read or write.There were annual inspections of the school by His/Her Majesty’s Inspectors. The children were examined regularly in Religious Knowledge and prizes were awarded. Songs and the National Anthem were learned by heart. 

Books, slates and boxes of colours were provided by the School Committee and in January 1876 a delivery included poetry – Gray’s Elegy, Scott’s Lady of the Lake; and maps of Europe and the British Isles. In 1893 12 books were presented to the Children’s Library from the proceeds of the Children’s Christmas Concert. Lady Blois and other worthy ladies of the village visited on a weekly basis, to teach needlework to the girls. Infants were taught Natural History, i.e. about different animals in the world, and also Object Lessons, for example tea, sugar, coal. 

These items seem to reflect those produced throughout the British Empire. In January 1891 boys commenced lessons in drawing. In July 1895 there is the first mention of children’s work being submitted to the East Suffolk Prize Competition. There was a separate Sewing Scheme for this. In February 1897 History lessons on the subject of Queen Victoria began. In March of 1909 gardening lessons began in the School Garden of the new school. Laundry lessons began for girls in April that year.

In 1877 the School Committee was comprised of the Reverend Parr (Head), Sir John Blois, H G Berners, William Dalby, Mr Newson and Mr Orford.

There was a close connection with the Church. The Reverend Parr would visit the school regularly and in July 1885 presented 12 new bibles. The whole school would attend services in the church on Ash Wednesday, Ascension Day and others. Children were made to write with their right hand, in the belief that the right hand aligned to God, the left to the Devil.

Holidays, treats, play

There were generous holidays including a month in the summer (Harvest Holidays) and two weeks at Christmas. Lady Blois gave an annual treat in the Autumn. Shortly before Christmas an annual entertainment was put on and proceeds added to the Prize Fund for regular attendance. 1871 saw the introduction of Bank Holidays. In November of 1878 a menagerie visited the village and the Reverend Parr approved a half-day holiday. In May there was a day’s holiday for Yoxford Fair and a half-day on 24th for Empire Day. A party was followed by games in Grove Park and in 1908 Charles Lomax presented pictures of the King and Queen and a Union Jack to the school. It was customary for a bun, an orange and a new penny to be given to each child. In June there was a day’s holiday for Jubilee Day. From 1883 there were summer excursions to the seaside at Yarmouth, Southwold, Aldeburgh or Dunwich. There were also Sunday School treats. On 6th July 1893 there was a day’s holiday to mark the wedding of Prince George, Duke of York and Princess Mary of Teck. On 7th April 1898 the school was closed for the funeral of Ezra Cotton. He had been Parish Clerk and also Attendance Officer since 1882. Teachers and pupils attended the funeral and sent a wreath. On 22nd January 1901 Queen Victoria died and ‘reference was made to the world’s calamity in school lessons this day’ according to the Log-book. On 14th June that year school was dismissed early in the afternoon for the consecration of the new cemetery by the Bishop. On 22nd July there was a Circus in the village and there was no school in the afternoon. On 23rd June 1902 there was a holiday all week to mark the Coronation of Edward VII. On 29th April 1908 there was no school to commemorate the marriage of Miss Lomax to Captain Hessey (12th Hussars). ‘50 girls, dressed in white and wearing a brooch, the gift of the bride, attended the ceremony in the church and strewed the path with flowers’. 

In 1909 Charles Lomax gave permission to play in the field adjacent to the Boys’ Playground and a gateway was made at his expense.

From 1881 there were reports of the bad state of the building as well as overcrowding. A new classroom was built on to the back of the building in early 1885 and in April the school was closed for two weeks. In October of 1887 a bell was placed on top of the school and used for the first time. 

In December 1885 there was the first mention of the school being closed and used as a Polling Station. Before there was a Village Hall the school was often used for events such as the annual Flower Show, the Choral Society or for Parish Council meetings. In September 1896 it was used for the Cottagers’ Garden and Allotment Show.

In November 1893 Evening Classes commenced.

In May 1895 all desks were arranged in parallel lines, four deep facing south, which was apparently a ‘great help to discipline’. Caning was mentioned for the first time around this period. 

In 1894 there were serious talks concerning the need for a new school. The King’s Head was at that time unused and it was proposed that this site could be made available. However, in 1897 Thomas Lomax donated the current site and 18th February 1898 was the last day in the old school. It was designed for 200 pupils (5-14 year olds) at a cost of around £2,000. There were at least 60 to a class and the main hall had a sliding door to partition into two classrooms. There was a clock to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. In 1909 a new flag pole and staff were presented by Mrs Lomax of Grove Park. Pupils had to take packed lunches before school dinners were provided. School entertainments were later held in the old school, and from 1905 it was used for classes in cookery for the girls, handicraft for the boys. From 1907 the Old School became known as the Special Subjects Centre.

In 1899 the minimum school leaving age was set at 12. In 1902 (Balfour Education Act) Government brought state primary and local secondary schools under the control of the newly-established Local Authorities for the first time, and made them responsible for Teacher training. Schools then became Council Schools. Government paid four shillings per child per year. From1905 the School Year commenced in April. In 1908 Fire Drills commenced and were held monthly. In 1906 the new Liberal government introduced the Education (Provision of Meals) Act. This empowered but did not require local authorities to provide school meals. The intention was that children would be given meals meeting nutritional standards, as ‘hungry children cannot learn’. The School Managers at this time included Charles Lomax, Dr Baylie, George Newson and George Horner. On 6th May 1910 King Edward VII died and the following day the school flag was flown at half-mast until the funeral.