Barnham Primary School

Barnham children fortunate enough to attend school had to walk to Eastergate village where there had been a National School since around 1830. The school had been founded by the National Society for Promoting Religious Educationto provide elementary education to the children of the poor based on the teachings of the Church of England. Set up in 1811, the aim of the Society was to have a school in every parish but one in Barnham did not materialise and at times the Eastergate school struggled to stay open due to a lack of pupils and staff.

As Barnham village grew and the number of children increased, it seemed appropriate that Barnham would have its own school at last but there was surprising opposition to the scheme which was first broached by the Parish Council in 1895. William Chandler in his 1949 history reports that “One farmer said the only thing the children would learn would be to ‘swing on gates’!”  And, of course, the local ‘rates’ had to rise to pay for it. However, in 1905 a plot of land in Yapton Road was purchased by the County Council from Barnham Nurseries and building work began.

Barnham Primary School

Two young Barnham lads, Harry Dart and James Walder both born in 1899, and who had walked to the Eastergate school from a very young age, were amongst the 59 pupils attending the opening of the new school on 5thSeptember 1906. (Harry Dart says 36 children, William Chandler in his 1949 scrap book says 59 and another account refers to 59 with 29 of those in the Infant class – memory is not always accurate) The new school was a modern building with two classrooms, exercise books instead of slates, pencils and pens with ink. Outside the classroom the boys and girls were separated by a fence in the playground and in the covered play-shed which was used in wet weather. The headmistress was Miss Mary Bradshaw and her sister Isabella looked after the Infant Class.  As there was no schoolhouse the sisters rented a house in Church Lane. Sadly Mary Bradshaw died in 1916 and there followed:

1916    Miss L Currie

1919    Mr Hamilton Lindsey

1943    Mr King

1949   Mr Herbert Stanley Hooton

1965    Mr CV Baker

Mr Hooton is fondly remembered by many villagers who attended the school before 1965 when Mr Hooton died suddenly at his home in Marshall Close. He was known for project-based learning which involved the children investigating, researching and interviewing as a way of encouraging interest and self-expression. The school set up the Barnham Broadcasting Corporation(BBC) with tape recorded programmes devised by the children, including interviews with local people, broadcast to other parts of the school. The work of the school was widely covered by the media at that time and the methods were studied by educationalists.

The school had been built with very little outside space for sports and links were forged with Barnham Court House and Farm where the Forse family allowed events such as the Annual Sports Day to take place. In the late 1940s there was a Young Farmer’s Club to which many of the children belonged and photographs show the popular Gardening Club in the 1920s. All these pursuits encouraged the children to become involved in and knowledgeable about their local rural community.

The new Barnham Primary School:

In 1968 with 115 children on roll it became clear that the accommodation at Yapton Road was at its limit and the site too small for modern needs. A new site was sought and land was purchased by West Sussex County Council in Eastergate parish within the postal area of Barnham to accommodate the Infant Class children but retaining the Yapton Road site. Further building work followed until most but not all children were based at Elm Grove and the three classes at Yapton Road (two classrooms in the grounds and one in the main building) with no sports facilities, had to be bussed to Elm Grove once a week for Physical Education. This unsatisfactory situation prevailed until 2000 when the Yapton Road annexe was closed and sold for housing following the enlargement of the school at Elm Grove to take all the pupils.

The new school was built in the orchard of a house called Woodcot(now March House). The house was built by West Barnham Estates in the grand Edwardian style favoured by that company. It was the first house to be built in the extended lane called Elm Grovethat was no more than a track and which formed a junction with another track, Downview Road. The first resident was Edward Hartley who produced mushrooms in a huge shed in the field behind the house.

By 1920 Woodcot was owned and extended by the Wentworth family: Herbert Wentworth, his wife Katherine, son Herbert and daughter Dorothy. Mr and Mrs Wentworth died in 1942 and 1941 respectively and are both buried in St George’s Church, Eastergate. Herbert junior married Enid Collins, daughter of the local doctor John Boniface Collins who lived at The Pines, Barnham Road (now Abbey Dean, a retirement home). The couple lived for many years at 99 Barnham Road. Dorothy remained a spinster and continued to live at Woodcot although much of the land was sold. Wentworth Close, part of the nearby housing estate, is named after the family and the road to the front of the school is named Orchard Way.

A History of Barnham and its Inhabitants – a memoir by Harry Dart, founder pupil

Some of the above information has been taken from a memoir written by Harry Dart, a Barnham resident who was born in 1899. He was a founder pupil of Barnham School in Yapton Road that opened in 1906. Harry’s father was a builder who built many of the houses in Barnham and Eastergate and also the Eastergate Parish hall and the old Barnham hall that was demolished in 2013. Harry left Barnham School in 1911 and travelled by train to Colebrook School on the seafront at Bognor (no Regis in those days). He tells us that the return fare was 4 ½ d in old money. Harry Dart’s family lived at No.1 Fishbourne Cottages in Elm Grove before moving to Bankside in Church Lane (known at that time as The Street). He married Gladys in 1925 and moved to Moreton, the house next door to his parents. Here he lived until his death in 1983. Harry and Gladys did not have children but were very involved in village life including the church and the school.

Harry wrote:

“In early September 1906 when I came to live in The Street [Church Lane, Barnham] the new school was opened on Yapton Road, local children up to that time [having] attended at Yapton or Eastergate schools.  As I was living previously in West Barnham I had my first schooling at Eastergate – a very old building in use since 1836 – and under a much-loved head teacher, Mrs Harvey, I had good basic instruction. We had only slates for writing and no individual reading books. Each morning we opened school with prayers and a hymn conducted by the Rev. Mr. Fraser, whose Rectory was nearby, before and after the “dinner” break we sang “grace” to the tune of The Old Hundredth, our hymns and songs being accompanied by the teacher upon a squeaky old American Organ. Those of us who brought sandwiches, living some distance away, ate them sitting round the Tortoise coke stove. Now in 1906 some 36 children gathered at the new [Barnham] school which consisted of two classrooms, the larger having a central movable partition contained Standards I to VI and the smaller housed the infants. Teaching and strict discipline was maintained by the Misses Bradshaw. Miss Mary, the elder, being the “Head” and Miss Isabella the Infants’ teacher. Those of us who had attended the older, primitive schools gazed wide-eyed at the combination desks each seating two, at the exercise books, pencils and pens and real ink and the grand maps and instructive pictures on the walls. It was a Council and not a Church school but our Vicar called quite often and questioned us upon our Scripture lessons; he was correspondent to the board of Managers.

“A high fence divided the playground, one half for boys and the other for girls and infants. There was also an open play shed (also divided) for use in wet weather. Organised drill and games became part of the daily curriculum, singing and dancing was accompanied with a piano, I fancy the only one existing in Barnham in those days.

“We had extra long holidays in the summer to enable older children to help in the harvest fields and after the farmer had collected all the “shocks” and made them into ricks for threshing we younger ones were allowed to “glean” all the loose stalks and ears for our fowls. Nearly every house had its backyard fowl-run and with the help of the lovely crowing rooster my mother raised a brood of chicks every year. Other school holidays were shorter, a week at Christmas and only a few days at Easter. No half-term breaks but if the average attendance had been good we were given one whole day a month; for personal good attendance (never absent, never late) we were presented with a coloured picture card on Friday. I remember collecting in this way a series of pictures of butterflies – I wish I had keptthem. Half-day holidays were observed on Ash Wednesday, Ascension Day and All Saints after we had attended service at the Church in the morning. We also made holiday on May 24thSt. George’s and Empire Day after assembling at the school to sing patriotic songs and “God Save the King” (Edward VII).

“School leaving age was fourteen but a boy or girl who could pass an examination in the three “Rs” conducted by H.M. Inspector was able to go to work at twelve. This advantage was frequently taken by those from big families to augment the weekly income for wages in rural districts were low, families of six to ten children were fed and clothed for thirty shillings a week. There was cheap farm and garden produce available but few saw meat more than once a week and a present of a bowl of dripping from one of the larger houses was eagerly accepted.

“The Misses Bradshaw took up residence at “Moreton” [in Church Lane], there being no school house, remaining there until 1911… [Then] the Misses Bradshaw built “Ingleton” … and resided there until 1916 when the elder of the sisters died quite suddenly.

Upon Miss Bradshaw’s death Miss L. Currie from East Sussex became head mistress, remaining until 1921 and living at “Moreton”. She was followed by Mr H.M. Lindsay, our first head master, for by then there were seventy children at the school. He left in 1942 and thereafter for six years the school had several short tern heads. In 1948 Mr Stanley Hooton came, he will always be remembered for his kind, genial manner, his hard work for educational improvements and the foundation of the Annual School Sports and Christmas Parties. He also took great interest in all village activities. His sudden death in 1964 [1965] was a sad blow to the parish, we who had had the pleasure of working with him felt a very great loss.  My late wife, who was Chairman of the Board of Managers at the time corresponded with Mr C.V. Baker, a former assistant master, who graciously consented to apply for the post and obtained it. He still [1978] carries out his duties most efficiently at both the old school and the new Primary complex at Elm Grove built in 1968 in the grounds of “Woodcot” [now called March House] which … had been Miss Wentworth’s Orchard. What changed conditions to those existing in 1906 – there are now nearly 300 pupils and Mr Baker controls a staff of ten teachers plus four canteen workers.”

A PDF of Harry Dart’s memoir in full is on this website.  Although memory may not always be accurate, it is a wonderful insight into the lives of real villagers in the 20thcentury and covers both Barnham and Eastergate parishioners.

To view short video clips of the Barnham School in action in 1957, visit and search for Barnham.

The Barnham Primary School is now part of The Oak Academy Trust and the school’s website is

Sandra Lowton

April 2016