Reckleford board school

Reckleford board school


Yeovil's first board school was built in direct consequence of the Education Act 1870. Reckleford Board School, or to give it its full name, the Reckleford Infant and Elementary Schools, opened on 10 January 1876 with an initial intake of 33 children. 

The Yeovil School Board purchased a half-acre site with a dwelling at Reckleford for £500. In May 1873 the board had acquired a loan for £3,374 from the Public Works Loan Commissioners. In an urgent attempt to curb costs at the new school, the Board determined not to install hot water and also decided not to build playing sheds and a covered way.

The school, with a capacity for 300 pupils, had three separate entrances, one each for boys, girls and infants. It initially consisted chiefly of one large room with a couple of small additional classrooms and two cloakrooms. It was heated when required by coal stoves and enjoyed gas lighting.

On 14 October 1875 Robert Higham was appointed headmaster of Reckleford Board School, Yeovil, at a salary of "£170 for the first year, not including gas and coal." The photograph below, taken in September 1880, shows Robert, with a very healthy beard, seated with his wife Louisa, also a teacher, and the rest of the Reckleford School staff.

In 1876 the Yeovil School Board fixed school fees at 2d a week per child (two old pence in 1876 is worth about £1 at today's value) at the infants school and 3d a child attending the other schools. Frequently fees were remitted in cases of hardship. In 1885 Robert Higham recorded in the Reckleford School logbook "Stanley Dobson today received such a caning as is not often given in this school for spending a penny of his school money every week for about 12 months. Mrs Dobson had always given Stanley 3d a week to pay for his fee which is only 2d and today she arrived at school to complain of being overcharged." He added the note that Mrs Dobson had also promised to give Stanley a "damn good hiding when he got home."

A perpetual problem of this period in all schools was absenteeism, since many parents remained unconvinced of the value of education and frequently gave it second place to household chores, and so forth. In October 1876 Robert recorded that several parents had requested their children be absented from school since they needed help in "getting up the potatoes." The next year almost half the school were absent following a 'great storm' in order to collect wood scattered by the storm.

The school clearly by this time had accommodation, since the 1881 census listed Robert and Louisa, together with his son Vivian, living at Reckleford Board School. Robert gave his occupation as 'Certified Teacher & Certified Teacher of Natural Sciences', Louisa listed her occupation as 'Certified Teacher' while 16-year-old Vivian listed his occupation as 'Articled Pupil Teacher'. At the occasion of the census Robert's son Robert Jnr, also listed as a Certified Teacher, was visiting.

The table below shows the 1886 time-table for 'Standard Two' at Reckleford School and gives a  very good impression of the activities of the school week with, as might be expected, a 66% concentration on the traditional 'Three Rs'. It was, in fact, reading, writing and arithmetic that attracted government funding grants and therefore the bulk of the school week was devoted to these three subjects primarily for their greater earning capacity than other subjects.


  9:15 to 9:55 9:55 to 10:30 10:30 to 10:45 10:55 to 11:20 11:20 to 12:00 2:00 to 2:30 2:30 to 3:00 3:00 to 3:10 3:20 to 3:50 3:50 to 4:25
Mon Reading Writing Mental Arithmetic Spelling Arithmetic Tables or English Reading Mental Arithmetic Arithmetic Writing
Tues Arithmetic Reading Mental Arithmetic Drawing Spelling Tables or English Reading Mental Arithmetic Arithmetic Writing
Weds Writing Drawing Mental Arithmetic Copy Books Spelling English or Geography Reading Mental Arithmetic Arithmetic Writing
Thur Arithmetic Reading Mental Arithmetic Spelling Writing English or Geography Reading Mental Arithmetic Arithmetic Writing
Fri Reading Writing Mental Arithmetic Arithmetic Drawing English or Geography Reading Mental Arithmetic Arithmetic Drill


The urgent need for more places at the school meant that the board had to enlarge it in 1888 to accommodate 600 children.

In the early 1890s W Mate wrote of the school "The Reckleford School consists of a Mixed School under Mr John Reid and an Infants School under Mrs Reid both of whom are College-trained certificated teachers. This block has been recently enlarged and can accommodate nearly 600 children making it by far the largest school in the district. The mixed department has six rooms, separate entrances, playgrounds and offices and allows 10 square feet of area per child whereas older schools only provide 8 square feet. The Infants Department is the best lighted and ventilated school in the neighbourhood.

Although in common with other schools in the town Reckleford has a very high percentage of passes the Headmaster here particularly stresses the importance of quality of work and scientific methods of teaching. This school has been the only one in the town where drawing was taught and that has been done so successfully as to gain a mark of excellence from the Science and Art Department at South Kensington. Mr Reid who had three years experience as assistant master in a large London Board School was the first to attempt to teach singing from notes in the Yeovil Board Schools and now this is done in all board schools.

To inculcate habits of precision and obedience Mr Reid organises military drill and on Friday afternoons he may be seen drilling his first class in Reckleford, Kingston and along the Preston Road. The boys with their bright faces, clean collars and smart bearing give one a very favourable impression of the influences brought to bear on them in the classroom."

During the Second World War, from 1942, the school became an 'Assembly Place' and a  'Rest and Feeding Centre', one of four schools used as such. The Centre was available for the benefit of people whose homes had been destroyed or made uninhabitable by enemy action, or who were required to vacate their homes temporarily on account of danger from unexploded bombs. It was also available for the benefit of people whose normal means of cooking meals at home were cut off owing to damage to the public gas or electricity supply systems, or of wage earners who had migrated from the town to adjacent areas for a few days but who required their mid-day meal in Yeovil. No charges were made for meals supplied at the Centre for the first 48 hours after an air raid, but thereafter payment would be required.

On the front of the former school, now the Yeovil Centre, a large yellow 'S' is visible indicating the location of a Second World War public air raid shelter. To the right, the words '13 Persons' can still be made out and, just below, is a concrete structure that may cover steps into the shelter itself.


Map based on the 1886 Ordnance Survey showing Reckleford running across the map with Kiddles Lane (now Eastland Road) at right. The Board School is at centre, next to Dampier Street.



This photograph features in my book 'Secret Yeovil'

The staff of Reckleford School photographed in September 1880. At centre are the Headmaster, Robert Higham, and his wife, Louisa (on his right) who was Headmistress of the Infants School. It is likely that one of the young men is their 15-year old son Vivian who, in the census of the following year, was listed as an 'Articled Pupil Teacher'.


Reckleford School staff and pupils of the Infants School, circa 1892.


Reckleford School staff and pupils of the Infants School, circa 1895.


Pupils of the Infants School, in 1905.


Courtesy of Roger Freeman

Reckleford School orchestra, photographed around 1905.


Courtesy of Patricia Ann Smith

Reckleford Boy's Football Club, Season 1923-4.  Back Row: Mr Whale (Sports Master), W Singleton, R Hutchings, Sam Tucker, Mr Southall (Headmaster). Middle Row; J Sumsion, W Carvill, N Slade, A Dyer. Front Row; M Wright, E Smith, H Berkley, C Parr, V Gilham.


Courtesy of Pete Scriven

Reckleford Boy's Football Club, Season 1927-8. Back Row far right: Mr Whale (Sports Master).
Only other person known is Reginald Scriven at far right of the middle row. Can anyone name any others? - please contact me if you can.


Courtesy of Janie Vincent

Reckleford School, 1928. Back Row, left to right, Unknown Sims, Kenneth Bird, Jack Way, Wreford Sartin, Jack Cousins, Sid Jeffery, Phil Eason, Percy Day, Fred Matthews, Charlie Strode, Reg Jeffery. Second Row, Mr Edward A Stagg (Headmaster), John Norman, Fred Wareham, Norman Windsor, Les Higgins, Jack Featherstone, Unknown Norris, John Harris, Kenny Dodge. Third Row. 'Patch' Peaty, Harold Gill, Alec McDonald, Eddie White, Mervyn Mitchell, Mr Brown (Gardening Teacher), Harold Phillips, Roy Pearce, Vic Tavener, Unknown Wright, Kenny Chapman. Front Row, Harry Ridout, Fred Bishop, Sid Heathcote, Victor Hockey, Ken Sibley, Roland Davis, Hugh Gardner, Gordon Hosie, Fred Moore, Eric Bolton, Stanley Parsons.


Miss Naper's Class, Central Infants School, Reckleford, circa 1930.


A photograph of Reckleford Board School taken in the days before Reckleford was widened. The school bell, housed in the gable structure seen at right, was in use up to the First World War.


An almost-aerial view of the Reckleford Board School - I'm guessing it was taken from the fire station tower during the 1960s.


Photo courtesy of Jack Sweet

Dampier Street, with the Reckleford Board School at the left. Photographed in 1993. 


The Reckleford Board School, now called the Yeovil Centre, little changed except for the removal of all the chimneys. Photographed in 2013.