Shoreham Village School has very close links with the community.
History of the School
Shoreham Village School has been at the heart of the village for over 160 years. Its appearance hasn't changed a great deal in that time with the biggest alterations happening only in the last few years.
It was founded in 1840 and it owes its existence to the new squire, Mr Humphrey St John Mildmay of Shoreham. Parliament had recently made grants available to both the Church of England and nonconformist churches ?for the erection of School Houses for the education of the Poorer Classes?. Half of the money had to be met by a local sponsor, which Humphrey Mildmay generously supplied.
A college friend of Mildmays recommended the young Robert Barton (just out of his apprenticeship to a baker in Cambridge) to be the first schoolmaster. Once in Shoreham, Mr Barton met and married Sarah Green, from Preston Farm. Robert taught reading, writing and mathematics, while Sarah taught needlework (an important skill at the time).
Sixteen years later (1856), the couple chose to emigrate to Australia. To this day, their descendants return regularly to keep up their links with the village. In Australia, Robert Barton became a shopkeeper once again and built a house in north Melbourne called 'Shoreham' which is still standing.
The school masters who followed the Bartons struggled to keep the children in school, as they kept disappearing to earn vital extra money from jobs picking fruit or hops, or working in the brick field. Albert and Eliza White were master and mistress from 1862 to 1868 and oversaw 87 pupils. But during one week in October, only 5 children were present! Children came to the school from miles around, even walking down the steep hill from Romney Street. Epidemics regularly struck down the pupils typhoid, diphtheria, scarlet fever and smallpox were added to the usual infections. From the early 20th century, when a child caught scarlet fever, they were expected to stay in the new isolation hospital at Twitton for six weeks, without any visitors!
Until the Free Education Act of 1891, families had to pay small fees according what they could afford. In 1891, Humphrey Mildmay was forced to give supporting the school but happily for the school, the London, Chatham and Dover Railway and the South Eastern Railway Companies offered donations to the school, so it managed to keep going.
John Vincent Steare, an ex-sergeant of the Volunteers, was headmaster from 1892 to 1927. For those 35 years, he was also organist and choirmaster. He included rifle shooting in the curriculum for a year before the Board of Education stepped in and said that it was not a subject ?which can advantageously be taught to children in Public Elementary Schools?.
The school children always enjoyed the first of May (May Day), also called Fair Day, held since early times for 'Pedlary' and the sale of toys. The school log book shows that donkey races took place at the fair, which may have taken place on the ?Town field? (which later became the allotments, the old common land of the village). The second holiday in May was the Village Club Festival of the Shoreham Amicable Benefit Society, held on 31 May. From the late 19th century to the 1920s we know that there was a soup kitchen distributing soup to the poor at the Vicarage on this day - something enjoyed by the school children as well as their elders.
Victorian Day in the 1980s
Mrs Boyce was the loved and revered Infant School teacher for many years prior to and throughout the Second World War, providing children with a sound beginning for their further education. One of her former pupils remembers the class facing towards the stove in a semi-circle horseshoe formation, while Mrs Boyce would play the grand piano for them. Another remembers how she gave a sixpence to each of her pupils when they left school. At that time slate and chalk rather than pencil and paper were in use. Each child was also given one third of a pint of milk every morning.
Since the Second World War, the school has gone from strength to strength. Many of the children who attended during these years are now waving to their grandchildren at the school gate. The school has benefited from three bright new classrooms, a totally remodeled playground and playing field, many new facilities and successive head teachers.
The children no longer have to trek over to the old school canteen across the High Street, but are served hot meals in the school hall.
Part of the playing field has been transformed into a wilderness area and Barton Class has its very own allotment. The school still plays a vital part in the annual village fête and in many other local activities and is very much at the heart of the village. Long may it continue!
Information gathered from: 'Shoreham: Past and Present' by Joy Saynor and Peter Batley (Shoreham and District Historical Society); 'Shoreham: A Village in Kent' by Malcolm White and Joy Saynor.