The earliest reference we have to any form of education in the village lies in an advertisement in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal of the 17th December 1781, informing its readers that in Fovant
‘The Rev. James Evans of Wadham College, Oxford, proposes to take a few young Gentlemen to Board and Educate on the plan of Private Tuition at the Parsonage House, which is exceedingly convenient, and in an eligible situation for his purpose their airing ground being immediately under his inspection. They will be instructed in the Classics, French grammatically, writing and arithmetic with every other useful and polite Literature. Salary £20 per annum. Entrance a guinea and a half.
As his wishes are only for a few, parents and guardians may assure themselves the greater care and attention will be paid to the health, morals and improvement of his pupils.
A Dancing Master (if required) will attend.
N.B. On the premises is an exceedingly good cold bath. The School will open on 21 January 1782’
The following notice in the 28th June 1830 edition of the same publication advertised that a similar establishment existed in Fovant for the opposite sex.
‘Mrs Bidwell’s Boarding School for YOUNG LADIES (and gentlemen under eight) will open on Monday, 12 July 1830.
Board and Tuition for 4–10 years of age. £12.0s.0d. Per ann.
Above 10 years £16.0s.0d.
N.B. For further particulars apply at the School’.
Despite the rigours of the cold baths for the boys, all the children who attended either of these schools received an education suitable for their status within the privileged classes. Since all these pupils seem to have been boarders, it is reasonable to assume that they came from outside the village. Following the same logic, it is highly likely that children from the more wealthy Fovant families, unless they had a resident governess, were sent elsewhere to school. Obviously only a handful of Fovant children enjoyed the luxury of such an education, so what educational provision, if any, was made for the rest of our juvenile population?
Dame schools are reputed to have operated in the village at various times, but we have no evidence to confirm their existence. In the early 19th century the Chantry Chapel at the east end of our church, now the vestry, was being used as a schoolroom. This room is shown at the top right of the displayed plan.
Whether this room was for a Day school or a Sunday School, what the curriculum was, or who did the teaching is open to conjecture. However, there is no doubt that it is thanks to the Church that the ordinary children of the village got any sort of education at all before our own school was built in the mid 1850s.
The whereabouts of the earliest school logbook is unknown, so information about the school’s beginnings can only be an educated guess based on gleanings from other source material. Kelly’s Directory for 1885 says that the school was built in 1847 for 150 pupils. The 1841 census lists 141 children between the ages of 4 and 13, but since that particular schedule did not list ‘scholars’, we have no idea how many of these children attended the school when it opened a few years later. A decade later, in 1851, the census detailed 82 children as ‘scholars’, but there is no mention of a resident schoolmistress. So who taught these children in the very earliest days of Fovant School and where the teaching staff lived is a mystery still to be solved.
Click on the links below to find more information on the history of education in Fovant:
School Staff in the 19th Century