Frieth School

Mr & MrsDerry 1906 - 1930

Mr & Mrs Derry were well liked by Managers and Parents [ but see also Note 21b ]; they had excellent reports from the Diocesan Inspectors who came yearly and, at first, good annual reports from HMIs. 

Post war [ WWI of course ] reports tended to be more critical of teaching methods used in the school, but this was a period of countrywide change in education and the HMIs tried to implement the changes. e.g. Phonics were  introduced into the teaching of reading, a new Physical Training syllabus was printed, a round script form of writing was favoured instead of cursive (looped).

The names of Standard I, II etc. (Note 19) were being dropped and the children grouped in classes. The syllabus for the over 11 year olds was being widened to include technical subjects and selection at 11 years through a competitive examination for free and assisted Grammar School places was introduced (Note 20).

Unlike his predecessor, Mr Derry was not a keen sportsman, although he did take football/cricket practice (on Saturdays?). Mr & Mrs Derry were ardent in church work and observance. On Sundays Mr Derry took Sunday School in the schoolroom from 10:00 - 10:30, read a 'suitable' story to the children from 10:30 - 11:00 and then marched them into church from 11:00 - 12:00 unless they produced a written note from their parents to the contrary!

Sunday School prizes were given yearly, for good attendance, presumably these were provided by the Church or philanthropic parishioners. Good attendance at school was rewarded by having one's photo taken in a summer group. The pupil's mother was given a copy to keep.

Mr Derry with the children who achieved perfect attendance 1908 -1909
Image from John Harris's collection

A member of the Cripps family usually distributed these prizes at an annual prize-giving in July and Squire Cripps continued to provide a yearly Christmas Party, first at Parmoor, and later in the Village Hall on Boxing Day, when the schoolmaster ran it.

Parmoor House at about this time

As can be seen from the preceding paragraphs, up to this period the village schoolmaster was still expected to work six days a week. School teachers nowadays put in many more than the 9am to 4pm hours they are actually in school but this is on a voluntary basis.

Both Mr & Mrs Derry were strict disciplinarians but as one 'old pupil' 1910-24 said : "He used to cane us boys, but we deserved it." (Note 21 [and 21a] ) During the 21 years Mr Derry was headmaster there are only three recorded instances of parents who objected to their children being punished [Note 21b].

Mr Derry was obviously interested in singing and dramatics. He organised a concert of some sort most years, sometimes to raise money for  a specific cause. Often performances were given in the Village Hall.

May 1st 1907 : This evening the children gave an Entertainment in the Village Hall in aid of the School Piano Fund (Note 22) Everything passed off satisfactorily. The total receipts amounted to £7-19-8d

May 24th 1924 : Empire Day observances this year took the form of the rendering of the cantata entitled "Britannia Queen of the Ocean" which the scholars have been learning during the past two months. The performance in the Village Hall in the evening was most successful and was much appreciated by the audience. £9-13-0d was taken at the door. After deducting expenses the remainder will be placed to the credit of the fund for taking the elder scholars to the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley

An old pupil at school in 1926 (now [1985] living in the USA and returned on a holiday to visit her sister) told me that the children performed a play called "A Blade of Grass" at Lane End. This was a concert arranged by the Bucks. Education Authority as a joint effort by schools in the surrounding villages.

In line with the majority of schools in the early post war period Mr Derry celebrated Empire Day with national songs and a ceremony, saluting flag etc. Unlike his predecessors, Mr Derry does not mention maypole dancing although the older villagers tell me maypole dancing was done at the annual Parmoor flower show. May 1st was never mentioned as being celebrated in school although the log book records :

May 1st 1908 : Some children absented themselves to go Garlanding

Certainly during WWI some parents organised a May Day Garlanding to collect money for comforts for the troops. Possibly Mr & Mrs Derry considered "Maying" as a "heathen" custom.

During Mr Derry's time as headmaster the school numbers dropped from 111 in 1906 to 50 in 1928. This must have been somewhat depressing for him as the decline was remarked upon in the yearly reports, but was due to circumstances beyond his control.

Firstly, Skirmett Infants School was closed shortly after WW1. Skirmett parents chose to send their little ones to Turville school, a much easier, level walk and many of the older Skirmett children accompanied them. Some parents chose Hambleden School as the public bus service ran via Skirmett to Hambleden.

Secondly, the birth rate dropped all over the country and thirdly, there was a drift away from farming to better paid work in urban areas.

Judging by the entries in the Log Book, Mr Derry made several attempts to secure another post, but either failed to do so or did not like the schools he was offered. By this time scales of pay were established countrywide, but Bucks was on the lowest pay scales.

Neither Mr nor Mrs Derry seem to have enjoyed the best of health. In fact Mrs Derry  had long periods of absence, e.g.

March 1921 : During the last term the work of the Upper School has been carried on under very great difficulty since Mrs Derry has been absent ill throughout the whole term

Supply teachers came and went during these periods of illness, inevitably this added to the workload of the headmaster.

From 1903 to 1925 Miss Elizabeth Barksfield, who had first been a Monitress and then a Supplementary Teacher, took the infants class. She seems to have been well thought of and became a good teacher, trained and guided by three successive headmasters and two of their wives.

Mr & Mrs Derry (centre and left) with Elizabeth Barksfield (1886 - 1951)

The school curriculum remained much the same as before, except that facilities for pupils over 11 years were improved. Light woodwork was introduced in 1910 and, as the number of pupils dropped in the post war years, the south end of the third room, partitioned to make two classrooms, was used as a woodwork room (Note 23) At one period the older boys had small plots of garden to cultivate.

Needlework for the girls appears to have reached a high standard, and good reports were received after each yearly visit from the Needlework Advisor.

Courses in cookery, housewifery and laundry were organised for the older girls, first in the Village Hall but later, together with other girls from the surrounding villages, at Lane End. When the Domestic Centre was transferred to Wheeler End School in May 1922, Frieth parents objected to their daughters having to walk so far. Two days later the Attendance Officer called and informed the headmaster that Arrangements were being made for providing a conveyance to bring the girls attending the Domestic Instruction Class back in the afternoon (Note 24)

The following extracts from the Log Book show the general progress taking place in Education :

1907 :    A conference of Managers and Teachers at Aylesbury. (This became a yearly event)

1907 :    Complete schemes of work were written out for all classes

1910 :    The Village Hall was used for dancing lessons, play rehearsals etc.

1910 :    42 Nelson's Scripture Wall pictures were purchased (Note 25)

1919 :    Teachers went to Lane End for a meeting with others about the New Education Act

1920 :    From HMIs report : Physical Training is being conducted on the old lines. The New Syllabus should be obtained as soon as possible and the recommendations they contain should be adopted without delay

1920 :    On the recommendation of the HMI Script Writing was introduced instead of ordinary handwriting (Note 26)

1922 :    County Drill Instructress visited the school. (These visits continued regularly after this date but, in spite of her efforts, boys were still wearing coats during drill lessons in 1929!)

1924 :    Yearly Record of Progress Examinations were held in School. (These tests were held yearly before and after this date. They were set by the Education Authority at one period)

1926 :    HMI recommended more Free Expression and private study for the older pupils

1928 :    Fire Drill. (Mentioned for the first time)

1929 :    A set of Prayer Books presented by Viscount Hambleden

[ William Henry Smith 3rd Viscount Hambleden grandson of WH Smith the bookseller ]

Regular visitors to the school were :

School Managers to  sign the registers

Rector and Curate to take prayers

HMI came every year

Diocesan Inspector came yearly

Attendance officer

School Nurse and Medical Officer

Physical Training Instructress

The Log book does not record when the system of leaving by passing the 'Labour Exam' ended, but mentions pupils taking it in 1913 and 1917 when they had to go to Marlow for an examination. Soon after this date pupils could only leave at the end of the term in which their 14th birthday occurred.

In 1914 the Log Book records a case of a parent who altered a birth certificate to make it look as though her son was 14 and not 13 and was taken to court at Marlow for doing so. Instances of children being kept at home to help (Note 27), or of truanting, are less frequent.

1915 :    Two boys came too late to be marked this pm having gone cow minding on the Common.

Illness and inclement weather seem to account for much of the absence from school :

23rd Jan 1907 : Although a good fire has been kept all the morning the ink in the ink wells was frozen hard

1907 :    Talk on "The Band of Hope" (Temperance).

The Medical Officer is recorded as visiting the school

1909 :    Children over 11 weighed. New admissions and leavers examined by School Medical Officer

1910-11 Perfect attendance

[This is the back of the above picture, in Mr Derry's own hand. The later pencilled annotation says Alice Janes is "second from left in back row"  Postcard kindly sent to me by Peter Janes (Alice was his mother, I think) December 2012. Does anybody know who the rest of the children were? ]

1912 :    School Nurse examined the children's heads and 10 children were excluded

Children suffered from Mumps, Whooping Cough and Ringworm. 22 families and 60 children were involved and the school was closed for 2 months including the Christmas holidays

1913 :    11 children went to Fingest (Note 28) to have their teeth attended to.

An outbreak of Scarlet Fever recorded

1915 :    School Oculist visited the school and examined the children.

School closed for 10 weeks, including the Summer holidays, due to an outbreak of Measles.

1916 :    Children went for adenoid and tonsil operations at Marlow Hospital.

1918 :    An outbreak of 'itch' (Note 29) reported (scabies)

Measles and Whooping Cough cases in school.

School closed by an outbreak of Diphtheria.

School closed for 3 weeks with an Influenza epidemic (first mention of this complaint)

Winter 1918 - 1919 : A bad winter, also lack of fuel for lighting fires. Outbreaks of Scabies, Impetigo and Influenza [ Note 29a ]

1923 :    Still no provision for physically or mentally handicapped children, the latter were retained in school until certified.

School closed for an outbreak of Measles and Chickenpox.

2nd class 1925

Mrs Derry ? ? Fred Barksfield  'Tiggy' Newell  
Queenie Newell  Lilian Nixey ? Nancy Austin
    Cecily Newell  Doris Clinkard  Faith James ? Joy James  
      Jack Ilsley  Ted Barksfield       

1926 :    Only nine children came to Frieth School from Skirmett - all were excluded as Diphtheria contacts

1929 :    Outbreak of Scarlet Fever in Skirmett, children excluded.

The pattern of School holidays remained the same between 1906 and 1928, with a break at Easter, Whitsun, summer and Christmas but no half-term holidays are mentioned until 1921. However there were day holidays for Ascension Day and Henley Regatta

The school was closed for epidemics of infectious diseases or when the percentage attendance was low due to bad weather.

As stated previously, the school roll fell during these years.

1916 :    Owing to diminution in numbers, the staff is reduced to 3. (64 pupils aged 5-14)

1930 :    Owing to diminution in numbers, staff is reduced to 2. (50 pupils aged 5-14)

No new building was added after 1905, but the HMIs' yearly reports pointed out defects in the building which should be remedied.

1905 :    Painting the inside of the building is an urgent requirement (The school was painted throughout in 1910 - 5 years later! )

1906 :    The gallery in the Infants Room should be removed (Note 30)

1907 :    The ventilation of the larger classroom is unsatisfactory. The condition of the two small playgrounds (Note 31) is not at all satisfactory, their rough surfaces are quite unsuitable for Physical Drill.

1908 :   I am glad to find that an efficient system of ventilation has been installed (Note 32) in the classroom complained of last year. The provision of suitable playground space (Note 33) appears as far off as ever, and yet the necessity is most urgent. It is not right, nor safe, that the children should be compelled to play in the high road. The larger classroom needs a glass and wood partition (Note 34) if teaching is to be carried out with comfort and full effect. The curtain now in use is of no value whatsoever.

1911 :    The absence of a playground is a serious drawback. It ought to be possible to secure a plot of the garden ground (Note 35) at the rear of the school for this purpose (see Plan 6)

Plan 6

[ The plan shows the position of the School relative to The Village Hall and The Gables, and the potential for expansion at the rear.The boundary of the plot on which the school stood allowed only a narrow pathway beside and behind the school.  This was still true in 1965 when I left the school.]

1915 :    The lighting is by no means ideal at the west end of the main room and in the Infant Room the sill (Note 36) of the south window should be lowered. The 'offices' were far from clean.

In 1914 Mr Derry had recorded that the light was too poor for woodwork and needlework on winter afternoons (Note 37)

However improvements were recorded :

1911 :    18 new dual desks for Infants and Class III delivered

1913 :    The playground has been railed off from the road

1926 :    The interior of the school was redecorated

1927 :    Exterior of the school repainted and the roof repaired. 

School cleaner paid 30 shillings per month. School scavenger paid £7 per annum (Note 39)

The Great War (World War I)

Mr Derry does not mention the outbreak of war in his log book. "The War that would be over by Christmas" but which dragged on for four years. As the war progressed one feels the depression caused by bereavement and suffering. Mr Derry kept a "Roll of Honour". This was a sheet on which was recorded the names and regiments of all Frieth scholars and residents he knew of who had "joined up". A pencil cross beside a name indicates loss of life.

Click here to see the Roll of Honour

The following extracts from the log book are worth recording :

9th September 1913 :    5 boys played truant to watch a regiment of soldiers

9th -19th Sept :    Military manoeuvres on a large scale have been taking place all around the neighbourhood.

17th - 19th Sept :    School closed for 3 days because of manoeuvres (Apparently Mr Derry gave up the unequal struggle to keep his pupils in school!)

Oct 1914 :    By this date the older girls had knitted helmets, mittens and scarves for the Royal Bucks Hussars

1916 :    Girls knitted socks with wool provided

1917 :    Victory potato plot began to be cultivated by oldest boys (Crop produced was 8cwt)

Lessons on Patriotism

Empire Day :    Sang "Flag of Britain". Ceremony of Saluting the Flag.

Lessons given on saving food, especially bread.

Blackberry picking. Six afternoons. 674 lbs picked.

Horse chestnuts collected 2cwt

1918 :    Armistice signed - hoisted flag and sang the National Anthem

1919 :    Armistice Day observed (and each year afterwards)

On December 22nd 1927 Mr Derry wrote: School closed for Christmas Holidays at the end of the afternoon session

During the Christmas holidays he died.

A tribute to Mr Derry was recorded by the Managers in the Log Book :

... Mr Derry's influence for good has been widely spread, not only in the School but in the neighbourhood where he lived so long. His services to the School and the Parish should be long remembered. His place will be hard to fill ...

Then followed four months of supply teachers until Mrs Derry took the post of Headmistress in April 1928.

Upper Class 1929

John Bond Harold Wing Harold Woodward Wilfrid Hollis Fred Barksfield Ted Barksfield
Mrs Derry   Nancy Austin Joan Clinkard May Keep Joyce Care  
  Cecil Woodward Marjorie Shaw Doris Clinkard Cecily Newell Jim Keep  

Mrs Derry carried on the School much as her late husband had done until she retired in July 1930.

Click to go on to the next chapter "Mrs. Hinton 1931 - 1941"


Comments in [ square brackets ] are mine or contributed by others, the rest is my mother's original text.

(19)    Standard I would contain children of the ability of an average 8 year old - hence Standard III would have mainly 10 year olds, but also bright * & 9 year olds and less able 11 & 12 even 13 year olds

(20)    In 1912 one boy gained a scholarship to Sir William Borlase school.  Often parents did not see the necessity for further education even when it was offered free. In 1920 Mr Derry considered 5 scholars worthy but only one would enter for the exam

(21)    A group of older boys were punished for a misdemeanour - one of them retaliated by throwing a stone through a school house window!

[ (21a)  Derek Collier contributes a reminiscence of his father, recorded about 25 years ago, who was a pupil at the school during Mr Derry's time : "Mr. Derry was a very cruel man and would often thrash the living daylights out of the children with a hazel stick which had been cut from a hedge by one of his favoured boys.   He would take the children to the front of the class and jump up in the air when thrashing them just to get extra height to his swing.  He would lift the girls skirts up so it would hurt more"

  (21b)  Derek further comments on the fact that there are only three recorded complaints about Mr Derry "...parents would not have been able to complain unless there was proof that he had been unduly strict, and who would have dared speak up against the Headmaster of the Village School, the children in his class certainly wouldn't as they knew they would be next for the stick.  In the social scale of the times, the Schoolmaster was just under the Vicar, and he in turn was under the Lord of the Manor.  You would have to be pretty brave to put a complaint in writing against either the Headmaster or the Vicar for that matter.   For him to only have three official complaints ... confirms how frightening he must have been to the children and their parents".  I agree with that but, riding one of my hobbyhorses, these events took place up to 100 years ago and I caution against judging actions taken and opinions held in the past by the standards of today.  If anyone has further contributions for possible publication on the site please go to the Contact page ]

(22)    The piano cost 20 guineas and was delivered in October 1907, it was replaced in 1965

(23)    This partition was erected in 1912. The lower portion was removable. In later years part of it was used to make 'lockers' for the Infants Class. (see Plan 4)

(24)    This is the first time any form of school transport is mentioned, but the entry does not specify the conveyance or who provided it

(25)    They were still in use in 1950!

(26)    Mr Derry's experiment lasted a year. The School reverted to the cursive (looped) style of writing and continued to do so until 1965

(27)    The attendance figures were often low and this was blamed on illness. However the School Attendance Officer had been, and still was, very active and parents had been fined for keeping children away to help at home - doubtless a convenient 'cold' served as a good (and permissible) excuse for minding the baby.

(28)    Possibly a 'travelling' clinic

(29)    This was a wartime contagion brought into country districts by soldiers home on leave

[ 29a    The flu pandemic of 1918-1919 killed over 200,000 people in the UK it would have been unlikely for Frieth not to have been affected ]

(30)    This accounts for the window in the south wall of the Infants Room being so high up.

(31)    At the time there were two small playgrounds, at the rear and in front, enclosed by iron railings. However the children were allowed to play on the Village Green, where they wore a patch bare of grass, which was muddy in winter and dusty and stony in summer.

(32)    Probably the Tobin's Tubes were installed then. [ see, for example, for a description of the Tobin Tube. They were still there in 1965 when I left the school ]

(33)    No further ground was acquired by the school until 1973

(34)    The partition was provided four years later in 1912

(35)    Present school playground brought into use Feb 1980

(36)    In 1985 the sill has still not been lowered!

(37)    See paragraph on 'lighting' under entry dated April 1940

(38)    The 'railings' referred to were the white posts and chains provided by the Cripps family. The village never conceded the sole use of the playing space on the Village Green to the school. During the 1950s Mr Bond would walk right through the PE class to get to his allotment carrying his fork over his shoulder. Mr Ted Collier would walk into the PE class and laughingly join in (1960s)

(39)    The scavenger emptied the bucket lavatories into a pit at the rear of the school by the allotments.