(May 1986) Our Victorian schoolday

On Thursday we decided to have a Victorian Day at school. We all came to school dressed as Victorian children and played in the playground until the teachers came out. Everybody started laughing, Mrs Francis was ringing a bell and wearing a black shawl and a little pair of glasses, she looked very good. Mrs Stanford also had a little pair of glasses, she looked very good too. They all carried canes! Mrs Stanford said in an icy voice “Standard One girls line up here.” They did as they were told. “Standard One boys here, Standard Two girls here and Standard Two boys here.” We filed into the hall and stood in rows . All three teachers came round looking at our hands. Those children whose hands were not clean were rapped lightly on their palms with the canes. After hand inspection we repeated a prayer and then sang the hymn ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’.

Then the funniest thing of all happened – Mrs Stanford had an ink-well and a pen and started to write with the pen but it would not write. She was laughing herself, we were also laughing and Mrs Amphlett was looking out of the window. Mrs Francis did her register and we all called out “Yes Miss”. After a boy was punished for showing off a catapult we all filed into the classrooms and sat at our desks, which had been re-arranged to face the black-board. Mrs Francis gave us each a little brown book for us to write in. We began our handwriting and it had to be in copperplate. We wrote the alphabet and then wrote some sentences. When we had finished handwriting it was nearly recreation so some children said a few recitations of poems and went outside. We played with hoops, hop-scotch, skipping rope and blown-up pigs bladder as a football.

We had break until eleven o’clock, then we were told that the Inspector was coming. The Inspector was Mr Wimbush. He came in and said to us “Good Morning, children,” and we said “Morning, Sir,” and he said “See whether you know some of these questions.” We answered a few of them but not all. We had that until a quarter past eleven, then we went back up to the classroom and had some more recitations from Standard One. We then had to write out a money table and do some sums. Before anyone had time to finish the sums we had to stop and have dictation which Mrs Stanford read from a book about Victorian children. After this Mrs Francis asked us all some questions about Queen Victoria and her family. More children recited poems and we went down to lunch. The children who brought sandwiches wrapped them in a tea-towel. For dinner we had pork, cabbage, potatoes, carrots and gravy. It was nice, for drink we all had water, even packed lunch people.

We went outside to play on the grass and I got my hands quite muddy, but luckily there was not another hand inspection, and I had time to wash before we went back to class. We then went over some dates, but this lesson was disturbed by boys flicking pellets around the room, although Mrs Francis soon put a stop to that!

After learning about dates we went through our tables. One boy got a lot wrong so he had to wear the dunce’s hat. Our last lesson before the boys had to go for football was drawing. In this lesson, we were allowed to draw anything we liked in the centre pages of our little books. Then the boys had to go off for football so the girls packed up and went into the hall. We played lots of Victorian games like oranges and lemons and ‘Here we go Round the Mulberry Bush’. The teachers joined in with some of the games.

For Victorian Day I wore an old dress of my mums and a mob-cap with an apron and white socks and black shoes. We enjoyed our Victorian Day but I don’t think it would suit us all the time!

Extracts from work by the Junior Children at Sibford Primary School