On Tuesday 7th of November Year 5 travelled back in time to 1897 and visited Sevington Victorian School. We arrived to the sound of the school bell being rung by our new teacher Miss Squire (in Victorian times only unmarried women could be teachers) We lined up in separate lines (for boys and girls were never to mix.) We had a hand and shoe inspection before heading into our classroom. It was a very small room, with a blazing fire at the front. We sat in rows, girls at the back and boys at the front. Girls were allowed to keep their hats and bonnets on, but boys were asked to remove theirs and place them on the special shelf below their desks.
Miss Squire called out our Victorian names on the register and we had to stand and answer ‘Present Ma’am’. Our first lesson was copying onto our slates with our chalk. Miss Squire told us we all had to start together and she would say ‘Pencils Aloft’. Using the slate and chalk was hard and anyone who was left handed was made to write in their right hand. After copying out, ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ the monitors collected in our slates, chalk and cleaning rags. This was difficult as we were squashed in rows, therefore we had to pass everything up and down the row.
During our day at Sevington girls and boys had separate lessons. Girls made lavender bags, with fresh lavender and learned to polish brass. In Victorian Britain, girls were taught the skills they would need to run a home: cooking, cleaning, sewing and washing. The girls went to the wash-house at Sevington to learn about the long process of washing. Monday was often set aside for clothes washing and doing it by hand it could take a whole day or even two if it was raining.
Boys at Sevington learned about the oil lamp and drew a labelled diagram. Boys in Victorian society were taught a trade that would be useful. Boys who attended Sevington school were taught either to be a farmer or to work in the manor house as a butler or gardener.
In arithmetic, we learned how to complete sums in pounds, shillings and pence. These were quite tricky as there are 12 pence in a shilling. We also had to recite our 12 times table. In Victorian classrooms, children were often asked to repeat and chant sayings and poems as a way to learn them. We learned a poem with Miss Squire:
‘Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Till your good is better and your better is your best.’
Schooling has certainly changed a lot from its beginnings in Victorian Britain. We learned a lot on our trip and we will be using this in our lessons back in 2017. Thank you to Mila’s Mum for accompanying us on our trip.
Miss Gurney & Year 5