Victorian Powys for primary  schools
Powys Digital History Project
         
Knighton and district
Victorian school days
 
  Gone to the fair, the circus, the races...  
 

It was a real nightmare for many Victorian teachers when they tried to increase the numbers of children turning up regularly for school. Many were away helping parents with farming jobs at busy times such as the harvest, but there were often lots of other things going on which were more fun than going to school...

 
15th-17th
March
1874
School diary entry "15th - Holiday for Races.
..16th - Holiday for Fair.
..17th - Holiday for Circus".
Drawing by
Rob Davies
The example above is from the Log Book of Knighton Infants School in 1874. Often the schools knew that they couldn't compete with local fairs and other attractions, so they simply closed the school and gave the children a holiday. The teachers probably went there too !
The two entries below are from Knighton National Girls School in August 1898. They are typical of most Victorian schools, as you can see from other districts on our website.
Empty classroom
8th August
1898
School diary entry "More than half the girls were absent today, whinberry picking being at its height".
23rd August
1898
School diary entry "More than half the girls absent this afternoon. 'Gone to the Circus' ".
 

The girls who were away picking whinberries were probably helping the family income by collecting the berries from the hills for sale in the local market. Many poor families needed all the extra money they could get.
An entry in the diary of Heyope National School from May 1889 reads "Several children absent this week being in the wood picking up bark". This was a regular occasion when bark was stripped from trees being felled. It would be used in the tanning of leather, and the children would be paid to help with gathering the bark ready for collection by cart.
There are more examples of problems with attendance at local schools on the next page...

The teachers are getting fed up...

 

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