History Part 1

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The Village Hall was originally the village school. In 1869, Thomas Powell, a local landowner, conveyed a piece of land, 76 feet by 80 feet, to the Diocese of Chelmsford for the erection of the ‘Salcott and Virley Church of England School’. In the following year the school was opened, taking pupils up to the then school-leaving age of 13. This was increased to 14 in 1912, when a further classroom was added. (This was built of a single thickness of brick and, rumour has it, salt-water mortar, which we were to find out to our cost when our renovations started in 1996). Later, in 1920, Sir Anthony Abdy gave the land that we now know as the Meadow to the village, and this became the school playing field.

The school operated from 1870 to 1938, and was in its prime in the 1920’s, when nearly 60 pupils attended. There does seem to have been a problem at times with retaining teachers, as the School Inspector’s report of February 1927 states that “during the past year there have been five different Head Teachers in charge of the school”. We know this, and much more besides, as the Registers (from 1901 to 1938) and the Log Books (from 1909 to 1938) have survived, and are held in the Essex Record Office in Chelmsford. The Log Books in particular are a very useful source of information. For example, school holidays were based around particular village events, such as ‘Pea-picking week’ in June and ‘Blackberry-picking week’ in September. We also can find out who got caned, and who went home in a sulk!

 By the late 1930’s, however, there were less than 20 pupils, and in 1938, the Headmistress, who suffered a great deal from illness, committed suicide. The decision was taken to close the school with immediate effect, the remaining pupils transferring to Birch School.