Maiden Newton School

‘There is a Charity School in Maiden Newton where are several poor children put to school by the Minifter and other private Perfons’ 1720. This statement is found in Cox’s History of Dorset. There were also Dames Schools, two in Dorchester Road, in the houses now called Rainbow Villa (Cheverells) and Turkey Cottage. There was also one at Tollerford, presumably for Frome Vauchurch children.

The present school has over a century of history behind it. The first headmaster was Mr. John Brown, a descendant of the well-known George Brown Esq., of Frampton, whose charity is still administered by the Rector of Maiden Newton. Mr. John Brown was appointed first headmaster of Maiden Newton School when only 18 years of age. This was in 1852. He then had more pupils than the school has now, or has ever had probably, 200 of them. He remained headmaster for 47 years, until 1899. He was an astonishingly vigorous and capable young man, and remained vigorous and capable to the end. For 51 years he was organist at Maiden Newton, and district choirmaster. He was a Sunday School teacher (as if he did not have enough of children on weekdays). He taught sometimes from 5.30 a.m. and also had evening classes! About 1860 Mr. Brown provided the school with a printing press, and produced a monthly Maiden Newton Herald (two copies exist in the church scrapbook). He started a Fife and Drum Band, which later became the Village Brass Band. O happy days! He also looked after 40 hives of bees as well as 200 boys and girls. As a boy, John Brown walked the 31/2 miles from Grimstone to Maiden Newton and back daily, which was thought nothing of in those days but is regarded as a hardship now. But there were hardships as the School Log Book tells from those early days:

All boys required to wear blue pinafores while learning to knit.

Girls are forbidden to wear curl-papers.

Non-attendance was accounted for by reasons such as these:

No money, no food, no boots, children in bed.

The family had a drop too much on Fair Day and did not get up in time.

Agone to plough in place of sick brother – aged 6!

Kept at home to help mother to breede – braid nets.

Younger child sent instead of usual child in order to get full benefit of fee paid – 2d.

Sent home from school for wearing too much crinoline – aged 4.

Until 1960, there have been six Headmasters of Maiden Newton School since Mr. Brown: W.H.M. Dodd, R. Twemlett, C. Baloos, J. Hounsel, F. Greenland and J.H. Dowell. The member of the teaching staff with the longest record of service was the late Mrs. E. Scriven. She was Miss Ellen Gale and when she married in 1924 she was presented with a silver tea service. She was on the staff from 1898 to 1948 and a scholar in the school before that, from 1883 to 1898 when she became a teacher. There is a memorial altar book in the Jesus Chapel in the Parish Church.

The School was built in 1841, a great deal of money being raised by a sale and fete. It was enlarged in 1865 and again in 1870, and the public clock over the front entrance was put there in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.

It is interesting that our Dorset poet, the Reverend William Barnes, Vicar of Winterbourne Came, whose memorial statue is outside the parish church of St. Peter, Dorchester, wrote a poem in the Dorset dialect in support of Maiden Newton School when it was in building. It was printed on glossy paper and sold at the fete. We have copies of it in the church. There are four verses and the poet called it, ‘The Fancy Fair at Maiden Newton’:

The Frome, wi’ever water’ed brink, do run where shelven hills do zink;

Wi’ houses all acluster’ed roun, the parish tow’rs below the down.

An’ now vor oonce, at least ov all the pleaces where the stream do vall,

There’s oone that zoome today mid vind do come the uppermwost to mind

An’ that’s out where the Fancy Fair is on at Maiden Newton.

Am vo’k a-smarten’d up, wull hop out here, as ev’ry train do stop

Vrom up the line, a longish ride, an’ down along the river zide.

An’ zome do beat, wi heels an’ tooes the leanes an’ paeths in nimble shoes

An’ bring, bezides, a biggish knot ov all their children that can trot

A-vlocken where the Fancy Fair is here at Maiden Newton.

If you should goo, today, avore a Chilfrome house or Downfrome door

Or Frampton’s park zide row, or look droo quiet Wraxall’s pretty nook,

Or elbow-streeted Catt’stock, down by Castlehill’s cwold winded crown,

An’ zee if volk be all at hwome, you’d vind ‘em out - they be a-come

Out hither where the Fancy Fair is on at Maiden Newton.

Come, young men, come, an’ here you’ll vind a gift to please a maiden’s mind;

Come, husbands, here be gifts to please your wives, an’ meake ‘em smile for days

Come, so’s, an but at Fancy Fair a keepsake vor your friends elsewhere;

You can’t but stop an’ spend a cwein wi’ leadies that ha’ goods so vine

An’ all to meake, vor children’s seake, the School at Maiden Newton.

In 1949 the Education Authority took over financial responsibility for the school; and it became a ‘controlled’ school.  This means that it is still basically a Church school, the Rector of the parish being chairman of the school managers, and two church or ‘foundation’ managers are appointed. In 1963 the school became a Junior school when all 11-plus children were transferred to the new Beaminster school. In the late 1970s, a new Primary School was erected in Chilfrome Lane in Frome Vauchurch. When completed, the old school building was sold and is now a private house.