History - Shelfanger School


Owing to the fact that the log books of Shelfanger School, now closed, are in the County Library and cannot be studied for 50 years, the more recent happenings in the school have to be gathered from those who personally remember them. We can, however, gain knowledge of its early days from records in the County Library.

The school was founded in 1865 at the instance of Rev. Albert Smith, the vicar. There were places for 80 children, taught by one teacher, Miss Maud Samways; the average attendance in 1896 was 42. By 1904, numbers had risen to 100, with an average attendance of 80, and now, two teachers. Between 1912 and 125 numbers were 120, and there were never more than three teachers; during the 1st World War there was only one teacher.

Reports of the Diocesan Inspectors were generally good - manners, friendliness, discipline and tone were always praised.

Mr. Roper remembers three Head Teachers at the school - Mr. Bixby, Mr. Odell and Miss Plato. There were no specialist teachers, but on Tuesdays and Thursdays the Rector would come in to take Scripture, and on Fridays to instruct in the Catechism. Children who attended Chapel could be taken out of these lessons.

There was no playing field at this time. The boys played football and cricket on the glebe land behind the neighbouring houses; girls had games on the playground.

Singing lessons were held on Friday afternoons, usually taken by the Head Teacher. During the incumbency of Mr. Paton, however, he, being a fine musician, came to teach singing, and trained the children for concerts. Mr. Roper remembers a musical play called 'Princess Chrysanthemum', accompanied by an orchestra from Diss.

Mr. Roper also remembers dancing classes - being taught the valeta and barn dances. A dance was held once a fortnight, open to all, in the school; these dances were greatly enjoyed. Also enjoyed were outings to Yarmouth, in open charabancs.

When Mr. Roper left school, at the age of 14, he was presented by Miss Plato with 2/6d - a considerable sum then!

Mr. Eric Peake, who left Shelfanger School in 1948, was among the first group of pupils who went to Diss, to spend their last school year there, at the age of 14. His main recollections of Shelfanger were of reading, writing, etc. -no games, except rounders on the meadow behind the school. There were no Christmas concerts, but he remembers making paper chains!

A group of Shelfanger pupils about 10 years later (including Mr. Peake's sisters) went to Diss at the age of 11, to the Secondary School. They remember Christmas concerts and parties, Carols in the Church, Harvest Festivals in the Church and summer outings - particularly one to Regent's Park Zoo.

1980 School Christmas party ,the adults standing from left to right-Mrs Roper, Mrs Hurst, Mrs Gardiner, Mrs Monarch (teacher), Mrs Peverit (dinner lady), Mr Bowden (head master), Mrs Shaw (helper). Only small number of children hence the closing down of the school at a later date.

For memories of the last few years of the school, we applied to Mrs. Monarch, who taught at the school for 11 years, leaving in 1982. She had worked with various head-teachers and other teachers. When she went to the school, there were 50 pupils, but by the time she left, there were only 15.

She remembers that the boys played football matches against Winfarthing, but that the girls had no games teams. Harvest services and Christmas Carols in the church were held regularly; also trips to the seaside and to Colchester Zoo, accompanied by parents and other people from the village.

Chief among her memories are the musical activities, prepared by Mrs. R. Forfar - participation in the Diss Musical Festivals and Christmas concerts and pantomimes, including Au Baba, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Rumpelstiltskin. Remembered also were the splendid Christmas dinners provided annually by the governors.

A small school - but a very happy one.

There used to be many sheep in Shelfanger. Mr. S. Baker of Strete Farm owned a flock, and Mr. Spurdens, who lived opposite the farm, cared for them. By day, the boys took them round Druids Lane, High London Lane and the Common, to feed, bringing them back at night. Traffic wouldn't allow this today!

©1984 members of Shelfanger WI