Frieth School

The Years 1898 - 1906

When Mr. West became ill the school was staffed, for a term with temporary head teachers. In January 1899 Mr. W.B. Guthrie was appointed head master and his wife was to teach the infants class.

Little information about the school is available during Mr. Guthrie's time, so this account has been taken from his own entries in the Log Book, the H.M.I's yearly reports and background knowledge of the village as a whole.

Firstly, in line with the rest of the country, Frieth was going through a more materially prosperous phase in the Edwardian period.

Secondly, the links between Hambleden, in the valley, and Frieth on the hill were loosening. This was because the era of dominance by the Ridley family, father and son, followed by C.M. Weatherall (son-in-law of W.H. Ridley) had come to and end in 1896. The next Rector of Hambleden, A.W. Stanton, was a son-in-law of H.W. Cripps, and Rev. A.G. Nash, another son-in-law, was curate at Frieth. the W.H. Smith family at Greenlands had become the chief benefactors of Hambleden, and the Cripps family the chief benefactors of Frieth. Both families adopted the role of 'squire': one in the north and the other in he south of the Parish, though the Scott-Murray family were lords of the manor of Hambleden until 1923 when Viscount Hambleden took on this role.

'Reading between the lines' of his own entries, Mr. Guthrie seems to have aligned his ideas on education to those of C.A. Cripps. The latter was anxious to foster sport and to encourage a study of technical subjects amongst the working classes. Mr. Guthrie soon established a football and a cricket team and placed a distinct emphasis on the teaching of arithmetic and introduced science for the higher standards.

The yearly delivery of equipment for the school throws an interesting light on what was being taught :

Jan 1890 : Chemicals and chemistry equipment, horse-shoe and bar magnets ordered

Manufacturers and booksellers had seen the potential in marketing educational equipment in schools, and by this time they were sending out advertising material and/or representatives to call on head teachers. The names of Arnolds, Heywood, Blackie, Curwen, Palmeston and Newman occur.

July 1900 : Ordered 1 doz, tubes of water colour paint, 1 doz. brushes and saucers.

It would seem that either Mr. or Mrs. Guthrie had come from larger or more progressive schools to take up the posts at Frieth. The first week Mr. Guthrie was in the school he gave every child a test in the "Three Rs" and kept the papers as proof of what they did, or did not, know when he took charge. (Note 12) Also in the first week he established his authority by punishing lateness and rounding up absentees by a visit from the Attendance Officer. Apparently his methods worked, the average attendance soared, the boys enjoyed their games and 'the wind of change' blew through the school.

School outings and activities were introduced :

1899 : 30 of the 1st class accompanied us to Henley Regatta (Note 14). This will form the subject for a composition next week

Oct 1899 : The children produced the operetta Mr. Nobody very successfully. profit of 5 pounds to be divided between school and piano fund.

May 1900 : Solar eclipse - children watched through smoked glass

Oct 1900 : Arrangements made for a visit to the Chair Firm (Note 13) and the gardens at Parmoor

Jan 1901 : Rev. Thorne, missionary from Barbados, visited the school. Geography lesson today on Barbados

Feb 1901 : The attention of the children called to the sound of minute guns and the crossing of the Solent with the Queen's body

Mar 1901 : Visit by 1st class boys to C.A. Cripps Esq. fields to watch seed drilling

May 1901 : Teachers visited the zoo. It is hoped to arrange an outing to the zoo for the children

1901 : Children's photograph taken

Perhaps this was the photograph taken, dated "about 1900". 
Mr Guthrie is on the right hand edge. Image from John Harris's collection

Oct 1903 : Lantern slides of England's Abbeys and Castles

1903 : Mrs. Cripps kindly invited the school children to tea and provided a professional conjuror for entertainment and distributed prizes to successful Day and Sunday School Scholars

Some of the children who enjoyed Mrs. Cripps's hospitality must be in this photograph taken on 8th May 1903
Denis Latham is the third boy from the left in the back row ( See "Ashcroft" in "Your House & Mine")
Image from John Harris's collection

1904 : Annual tea at Parmoor, children enjoyed a novel entertainment with an exhibition of pictures by a biograph [ an early form of moving pictures ]

Sep 1905 : Children watched an army balloon from the Village Green

The infants class appears to have had a happier time too :

May 1899 : A large sand tray to be used for infants "Writing in the Sand"

Sep 1899 : 1 lb cheap wool for ball making, 1 doz. clock faces with hands, Nursery rhyme picture "Sing a song", 4 Arnold colouring pictures delivered

Jan 1900 : 1 Mechanical train on rails, 1 tea set and tray delivered

The window ledges in the first two classes are to be decorated with plants and the pots covered with coloured paper to brighten up the rooms

May 1904 : 1 lb of blue plasticine delivered

Mr. & Mrs. Guthrie took a genuine interest in the children themselves :

During the bad weather the children are allowed to be indoors during the playtimes and practice maypole and other exercises and play quiet games.

During the wet weather the children have their coats and cloaks dried for them

The approach to the school door very slippery, one of the boys scattered ashes to prevent the little ones falling down

1899 - 1902 was the period of the [second] Boer War. A number of men from the village joined up and the school took an interest in the progress of the war :

Jan 1900 : The older girls made and dispatched a number of articles for the hospital at De Aar

Feb 17th 1900 : News of Cronje's surrender - children gave three cheers for the Queen and sang the National Anthem

Mar 1st 1900 : On receipt of the news of the relief of Ladysmith children gave hearty signs of gladness and thankfulness. The palings in front of the school decorated with Union Jacks

May 21st 1900 : Relief of Mafeking. Gen Baden Powell's photograph framed in laurel leaves. Children sang the National Anthem

[ See also Ted Collier's account of Mafeking night in Frieth ]

Problems occurred, particularly with staffing. Mr Guthrie complained continually that he needed a trained teacher to take the middle class Standards I and II, but all he was allowed to have was an untrained assistant. Often he was without a second assistant at all and he and his wife taught over 100 children between them.

By May 1905 the position was so bad that the H.M.I. commented: The Managers have effected several useful improvements in the premises during the last year. I am particularly pleased to find that an entirely new block of "offices" (15) has been provided

The re-colouring and re-painting of the inside of the school should now be taken in hand - the need is pressing.

The school is maintaining its efficiency but the existence of the long continued vacancy in the staff is imposing a severe strain upon the head teacher. Special effort should be made to secure more help as quickly as possible. The children are under excellent control and the tone of the school is very good. The infants are being diligently taught by Mrs. Guthrie

Plan 5

The new toilet block doors opened onto the playground screened by a 5ft wall. They were bucket closets - an improvement on the old earth closets!  [ The toilet block was still there in this form (although with flushing toilets) in 1965 when I left the school ]

Another problem noted was the shortage of coal; wood was fetched from The Firm opposite to make up the shortfall and to light the fires.

Although attendance seems, on the whole, to have been much better Mr. Guthrie still complains :

Children still away in the harvest fields making bands

Many children away gathering blackberries

Hilda ... and Walter ... continue to be kept at home on alternate Monday mornings to mind the baby on washing days

Annie ... has been away from school all the week. A week ago I asked the Infants Mistress to speak to her on uncleanliness and she has been away from school since

The chief cause of absence was, of course, illness : coughs and colds and infectious diseases, mumps, measles, scarletina, whooping cough, diphtheria and influenza are recorded.

A number of children are suffering from sores on the face. I got some boracic powder from the chemist and Mrs. Guthrie and Miss Brown applied this daily, with good results (Note 16)

During this period the Village Hall was used for most village functions but the school was still used for choir practice and complaints were logged when the: Choir boys defaced the drawings and pictures in the infant room. Furniture broken : One chair, one thermometer

It is during Mr. Guthrie's term of office that the first references to "The Bucks Education Committee" are recorded.

Frieth School 1905

B. Guthrie S. Cook D. Guthrie S. Bond H. Brown E. Edwards W. Simmons F. Simmons  
Mr Guthrie H. Edwards B. Edwards H. Cook G. Plumridge E. Brown Molly Brazier G. Neighbour H. Simmons Miss E. Barksfield
Mrs Guthrie   C. Cook G. Collier J. Martin ? C. Collier Margaret Brazier M. Edwards F. Edwards
  C. Simmons W. Bond E. Bennell B. Simmons ? A. Edwards Milly Brazier B. Edwards S. Cook

Mr. and Mrs. Guthrie left the school on 2nd June 1906. In the log book he records his gratitude for the support he has had from the parents and H.M.Is visiting the school. However he goes on to complain that the School Managers have only allowed Whit. Monday as a holiday (Note 17)

Mr. Guthrie's somewhat sudden departure n the middle of a term is something of a mystery, and one that I found the elderly residents of the village unwilling to discuss. They had been his pupils and it was obvious that he had been popular with them, but there were hints that he was "a bit of a lad", he "liked his pint", and he "had an eye for a pretty ankle". None of these traits, if true, would have endeared him to his employers at that period (Note 18).

Soon after leaving Frieth husband and wife separated and Mrs. Guthrie went to live in East Anglia. Perhaps the saddest part of this family's story is that Mr. & Mrs. Guthrie had only two children (see picture above) and both were killed in World War I. ( See also Roll of Honour )

Click to go on to the next chapter "Mr. & Mrs. Derry 1906 - 1930"


(12)    This was an established practice when I first started teaching in Ealing in 1938

(13)    This would seem to have been an introduction to 'vocational guidance'

(14)    This was on a school holiday. The football and cricket practice and games took place on Saturdays.

(15)    The word "Offices" [ I'm sure you will have gathered ] in those times referred to the toilets or lavatories

(16)    It was common practice for teachers to treat minor ailments when I first started teaching and, in fact, they continued to do so until about 1950

(17)    Possibly he was only paid until June 2nd and felt he should have been paid for the rest of the week

(18)    As my informants were children at this period, the comments included must have been adult remarks overheard by their young. Probably the parents did not take so well to the Guthries as the children did, partly because these Chiltern hilltop villages were very isolated and inward looking - they regarded every outsider, even from the surrounding villages, as foreigners. Up until this period their children had been taught by Mr. West, one of them. This attitude persisted for many years. As an instance of this, my mother-in-law, who was a Londoner and married into a Frieth family in 1913, told me that it took 30 years for a foreigner to be accepted by the locals. At the beginning of her married life she experienced some antagonism. Also Mrs. Ireland (nee Cutler) told me this interesting little story : When she was living at Ditchfield she and her brothers and sisters came to Frieth to school. Mrs. Guthrie said to her one day "Although you live at Lane End you don't talk like the Lane End people" to which she replied "That's because my mother came from Frieth" - the Bucks dialect varied between villages only a mile apart.