The Lydiard School Mystery

on Monday, 16 February 2015. Posted in Archives, Schools

I was editing some articles on Lydiard Tregoze for Wiltshire Community History( and after reading a good piece on the school, with interesting material from the log books, it struck me that it didn’t seem quite right. The school was Lydiard Park Junior and Infants but investigation showed that the logs books were for Bassett Down School; had there been two schools in this small parish? Wiltshire & Swindon Archives hold the log books for one, but nothing else, while the original deeds and two admission registers are held for Lydiard Park.

The Victoria County History for Wiltshire mentions Lydiard Park but has nothing to say about Bassett Down, where even the big house was demolished in 1958. Further research showed me that were indeed two schools in this parish for 100 years and this may have been brought about by the two main landowners founding and supporting their own schools. The original Lydiard Park School was attached to the Gate House on Lord Bolingbroke’s Lydiard Park estate and in 1860 he gave land for the building of a new school, a little further away, and continued to support it. In the south of the parish, on the edge of the grounds of Basset Down House a school was built in 1864; perhaps the Storey-Maskelyne family there felt, quite rightly, that their local children would not be able to walk the four miles each way to the Lydiard Park School.

Both schools continued into the 1960s with Lydiard Park closing in 1965 and Bassett Down in 1966; the story of both can be read on Wiltshire Community History. Then I found there had been another school in the parish in the 1950s.

After the Second World War a collection of wartime prefabricated huts in Lydiard Park were used by Swindon for housing families on their housing list who could not obtain a council house. In 1951 some of these buildings were converted by Wiltshire Education Committee and in September 1952 it opened with a class of 24 children between the ages of five and seven years. In May 1954 the school was reorganised for both Juniors and Infants and consisted of three temporary buildings separated by what were described in 1957 as 'uneven ill-kept patches of grass' but this was rectified in 1958. In two of the buildings were three classrooms, cloakrooms and a small office while the other provided toilets and washing facilities. There was a hard surfaced playground and a colourful garden created by the teachers and pupils providing the 'one attractive feature on the estate’ according to the one HMI report we hold on the school. This was Lydiard Park Temporary County Primary School.

This area, four miles from Swindon was very isolated, with little public transport and no telephone; some of the families were itinerant, some children aged up to nine arrived at the school having attended no other. It seems to have served the children of people displaced by the war who may have had difficulty coming to terms with post-war Britain.


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