There was provision for Boys’ Education in Watlington from 1664 when Thomas Stonor agreed to include in the new Town Hall an Upstairs Room, which could be used as a Free Grammar School. Stonor endowed the Schoolmaster’s Salary and in 1731 Dame Alice Tipping of Ewelme endowed the Education of 4 other Poor boys, who were to be taught Elementary subjects. By the 19thC the School no longer kept to its original purpose, but gave an Elementary Education. In 1818 there was provision for 20 Scholars on the Stonor and Tipping Foundations and the Master also instructed another 20 Boys. The growing Elementary character of the School was encouraged by the fact that a National school for Boys was united with it. In 1841 the Vestry resolved to Establish a National School and to endow it from Hester’s Charity and part of the Church Charity. It was opened in 1842 and the Churchwardens gave £28 towards it. As the School-room in the Town Hall was used for it, the old Free Grammar School came to be regarded as a part of it and in 1853 was described as a National School taught by James Bartlett. Numbers had risen from 40 Scholars (i.e. 20 Free Scholars & 20 others) in 1818 to 80 in 1853, but they began to decline in the next decade. In 1866 the endowed School held above the Market Place was described as ‘merely an Elementary School‘ with 42 Boys in 4 Classes and James Bartlett, who had been Teaching for 36 years, was described as untrained and uncertificated. Apart from the endowed Scholars, the Boys paid 3d a week. Instruction was given in the Bible & Catechism, in reading, writing, arithmetic, dictation, a little geography & grammar. The 2 Rooms over the Town Hall were said to be in only moderate repair and ill supplied with Furniture, and there was neither Playground nor Offices. The School, on the whole, was regarded as inferior to a National or British School under Inspection and did not qualify for a Grant as an Elementary School. Because of this Report, a Board School was set up and the Free School was forced to close soon after. Part of the Endowment money was used for School Prizes, but part at least continued to be paid to James Bartlett (d. 1880) as a Pension and after his death to his Widow (d.1881). An attempt by his Heirs to claim the Rent of the Tipping Endowment was resisted and the Charity Commissioners organised the Election of a new Committee of Trustees to Administer the Income from the Endowments for the benefit of the children for whom it had been intended. From 1885 Scholarships were awarded Annually, Tenable in any Public Elementary School in Watlington, and in 1900, for example, 6 Scholarships were given. The Trustees also administered part of the income of the Church Estate, which at 1st was used for Prizes. In 1896 it was used to encourage regular Attendance and in 1900 the Trustees pointed out that there were 18 full Attendances as against none in 1896. After 1905 the income was used to provide extra facilities for Education.
There was no Endowment for Girls’ Education until well into the 19thC. In 1816 a Mrs Horne of Southampton financed the instruction of 6 Poor girls of the Parish, but it was not until 1843 that a Girls’ National school, connected with the Boys’ School and financed partly by Subscription and partly out of the proceeds of some of the Charities in the Town, was built on the Southside of the Church for £275. Fifty to 60 Girls were taught daily in 1853 and 1854 for a small fee. There were 60 Girls in 1871, but the School was presumably incorporated in the new Board School after the reorganisation in 1872.
There were other unendowed Schools in the early 19th century, which were connected with various Religious Bodies. In 1815 the Vicar reported that there were 2 Day-Schools, apart from the Free School and the newly founded Day-School for 35 Boys instructed on ‘the plan of the National Society‘. These may have been the 2 small Day-Schools, each with 35 children, which were recorded in 1818, and the 2 Day-Schools for 30 Girls paid for by their Parents in 1834. A Day-school for Boys was recorded in 1834 also, and there were 2 Day-Schools conducted by the Independents and the Wesleyans respectively. The children started school at the age of 6 or 7 and left at 13 or 14.
The fate of these Schools is not known, but after 1872 their place was probably taken by the Board School. The latter was affiliated to the National Society. The School Board consisted of 4 Churchmen and one Wesleyan until 1884, when there was a Contested Election. The Free Church Minister and one other Dissenter were then Elected. The Vicar noted that though this might appear disadvantageous to the Church the result was probably beneficial. Both the Vicar and his very active Churchwarden, William Wiggins, were 2 of the Church members elected and the votes cast for the Church Candidates were 761 as against 275 for the Dissenters. In 1889 there was an attendance of 127 at the National School, of 233 in 1902 and of 77 boys, 84 girls, and 88 infants in 1906. In 1927, following reorganisation after the Fisher Education Act of 1918 and the Hadow Report of 1926, the School was divided into a Senior School with 96 pupils and a Junior School with 72 pupils. Some Seniors came by bus from Chalgrove and by bicycle from Brightwell while Juniors walked from Cuxham. In 1954 there were 196 Seniors and 93 children at the Primary School. A new County Secondary School was built in 1956 to house all the Senior Pupils and the old Buildings were taken over by the Primary School.
There are many Records of Private Schools, both Boarding and Day, and in 1813 the Vicar reported that the National School did not flourish because some preferred these other Schools. One of the earliest was the ‘very respectable and well-conducted Academy‘ kept by the Vicar Richard Birkhead (d.1784), and another was that of a Mrs Treacher, who Advertised in 1801. In 1833 there were 2 Boarding Schools, one for 19 Boys, the other for 20 Girls. One of these Schools may have been Miss Kent’s School at Hill House, which was advertising for an Apprentice in 1829. Another must have been the Commercial Academy which was seeking Pupils in the same Year, and whose Headmaster, Thomas Barnes, announced in 1835 that his recent appointment as Inspector of Weights & Measures would not be allowed to interfere with his Scholastic Duties. Barnes still had a Private Day and Boarding-School in Couching Street in 1844 and Mrs Maria Barnes of High Street was a Schoolmistress in 1854. There were also Private Day and Boarding-Schools kept by a Miss Neal in Church Lane and Mary White in High Street in 1844, and by 1871 79 children were attending 4 Private Schools in the Town. Private Schools seem to have declined after the opening of the Board School. In 1891 only 2 advertised: a Boarding and Day-school ‘for young gentlemen‘ was kept by William Slater in High Street and a Day School for Ladies managed by Miss M K Spyer in Barn House. Mrs Ada Matlock kept a Girls’ School in Gorwell in the 1st Quarter of the 20thC, but by 1960 Private Schools no longer flourished.
There were Training Schools in Watlington from the early years of the 19thC. In 1816 parties of children and grown-girls are described as marching daily to their Lace-making School, each with a Lace Pillow under her arm and a ‘comfort-pot‘ in her hand, which was to be filled with glowing coals and placed between the feet. In 1865 a Training School for Domestic Servants, built by the 6th Lord Macclesfield, was opened by the Countess, who was responsible for its Management and Maintenance. The Building was the present Chiltern Gate Hotel, situated just outside the town. Ten or 12 girls were boarded & trained by a Matron, who received a salary of £35 a year, in Cooking, Housework & Laundry for between one & 3 years according to their ability. Any spare time was given to Reading, Writing & Needlework. The girls also received an hour’s instruction from a Clergyman once a week and Religious Instruction from the Ladies of Shirburn on Sundays. Lady Macclesfield selected 8 Poor girls, who paid 6s. a Quarter, while other Pupils paid 4s a week. The girls supplied their own clothing when at School, but the Countess gave them an outfit worth about £5-10s when they left. They were allowed a fortnight’s holiday a year.
Before the provision of Universal Education in the 20thC, the poorer classes received much of their instruction in Reading as well as in Religion from the Sunday Schools, which were very active in Watlington from the beginning of the 19thC. In 1800 the Vicar, Thomas Williams, started a Sunday School in which ‘he constantly exerted himself with un-wearied industry and increasing pleasure’. By 1815 the attendance was 147 boys & girls, and a 2nd girls’ Sunday School, founded about 1801, was supported by Mrs Tilson of Watlington Park and had 30 or more children from the Uphill area. It was thought the ‘the poor in general are able to have their children instructed in reading‘. In 1833 there were 3 Sunday Schools, one for 80 children belonging to the Established Church, one for 70 children conducted by Independents, and one at Greenfield with 104 children conducted by the Wesleyan Methodists. These Schools were still in existence in 1864 and were attended by many children from Pyrton, Shirburn & Turville. In 1878 boys attended a Sunday School held by a Clergyman with 6 men Teachers and one woman, and the girls’ Sunday School had 6 Lady-Teachers under a male Superintendent.
Evening Classes for Adults also provided instruction and in 1878 a School for men & women was being held nightly and employed 2 paid Teachers as well as voluntary Assistants. The Night School was still active in 1885.
The Old School House – Watlington – The Property is a joined Cottage & Barn in Watlington. Existing Cottage & Barn, which used to be a Vets, now one dwelling. Planning was obtained for a Roof conversion to the Cottage part, as well as an infill Extension with new Front Door to join them