Can’t go to school – busy acorn picking

Plumpton Green Village School
Plumpton Green Village School

Memories of Plumpton Green Village School:

The first real day of schooling was the 9th July, 1878, and that was occupied with the teachers ,Mr Batchelor and his daughter, Henrietta getting particulars of the children and organising the classes.

By November the weather was beginning to get cold, and the heating was not functioning and also found to be inadequate. All through December the children developed coughs and colds, which the parents said were due to the cold classrooms. The weather did not improve until the end of February.

In March, 1879, the weather improved and some of the children returned who had been missing for more than three months. But by the end of April, many of the older boys were absent, working in the brickfields and doing farmwork.

By July attendance was so bad that letters were sent to the parents. These were returned with excuses, some parents claiming that their children were ill.

On August 15 the school closed for a month for the harvest, and on re-opening very few attended.

In June, 1880, James Scrace, labourer, living then in neighbouring Streat parish, was summoned before Lewes Petty Sessions for failing to provide due elementary education for his two sons. The children had apparently been sent to school in ‘such a dirty condition as necessitate their being sent back’.

In 1883 acorn picking seemed to be another way of keeping the children away from school during October and November. At the Sussex acorn harvest boys, girls and women might get 1s. per bushel from local farmers, and the acorns were used for Sussex pigs, despite the fear of achieving ‘a pebbly sort of bacon’.

May Day caused two days’ absenteeism as the children spent the previous day collecting flowers for the garlands they made and on 1st May they spent the day carrying garlands from house to house.

A report of May 1974 spoke of an interview with an old pupil of the school, 95-year-old Mrs. Mary Carpenter who remembered a rhyme from her youth:

‘Old Daddy Batchelor’s a nice old man

He tried to teach us all he can

Read, write and ‘rithmetic

He never forgets to give us the stick.’

* Scarpfoot Parish: Plumpton 1830-1880 has recently been republished with over 40 period photographs and is available from The Castle Bookshop, Barbican House, High Street, Lewes and Plumpton Green Village Stores. It will also be on sale at Plumpton’s Festive Fair on 30th November at the Village Hall.