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Log Books – more than school life

  • 22nd November 2018

School log books can provide the researcher with information on the day-to day running of a local school but also how national events affected school life. Here we explore some of the varied information that be found in our collections.

As anyone will know, who has tried to find out about the life of the common man in the nineteenth century, original sources are few and far between. Historians have had to speculate about how national events have impacted upon the working classes.  In this way it is taken that the ordinary man from Lincolnshire, for example, has had the same life experiences, as the same class of man from Yorkshire.  If the account of the lives of working men are hidden from history then how much more so are those of working class women and children?

Increasingly historians are looking to discover how the nature of locality has shaped the experiences of the people who lived in them.

The problem still remains how can this research be conducted when there are so few resources?

  • census materials show the size of households and the relationships of their residents and
  • parish registers show the average age of marriage and give an indication of mortality rates

 

Where can the researcher find out about the daily life?

The study of school log books may provide some of the answers!

Log books were kept by the Headteacher who legally had to make at least one entry per week. They rarely list children’s names (only those who won prizes or required harsh punishment) but they do provide an insight into school and community life.

  • The nature of work– Seasonal absences illustrate how often children were called upon to work upon the land. School holidays were often staggered according to the demands of the harvest.   During WWI the absence of those boys over 12, to carry out farm work, was positively encouraged.   As this entry from Bishampton school shows, the head teacher was concerned about the effect of this on the children’s education and well-being:

  • Despite the Victorian ideal of ‘the angel of the home’ and ‘seemly’ work for women this entry from Bishampton log book in 1910 shows that these ideals had not spread as far as rural parts of Worcestershire!

 

An entry from Drakes Broughton School, in 1869, records “Admission refused to children under two years.” The mother was out all day occupied with field work.

 

  • The role of charity – Wealthy ladies regularly visited the schools, usually with the vicar, to hear the children sing and would often bring bolts of cloth with them. These were for the girls to use in their sewing lessons but they were not mere exercises in preparing the girls for adult life but also provided desperately needed warm clothing for the girl’s families.   This entry from St Peter’s Boys illustrates how important charity was:

Mrs Allies was a respected visitor to St Peter’s Infants. This entry of 1897 shows why:

 

  • The nature of the community – One imagines the school forming part of a deferential         community but this entry taken from Bishampton log book, in January 1914, shows that this was not always so: “Both Mr G’s children came in late. The father came into school and using bad language threatened violence if I caned them”.

 

  • Social life: The log books record a vibrant and self-contained community whose experiences were wider than one would have expected. Bishampton log book of 1910 records:

  

  • Life was ruled by a regular round of events:

       

If you would like to conduct your own research using log books then look at our website to see which volumes WAAS hold: http://e-services.worcestershire.gov.uk/HistoricSchoolSearch/

Please note that whilst log books are wonderful resources there are some restrictions to access.

In the light of the Data Protection Act of 2003 we have set a closure period of 100 years on school log books. For further advice on how to proceed, please contact Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service:

http://www.worcestershire.gov.uk/info/20257/contact_the_archive_and_archaeology_service

 

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