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Infants Find Themselves Back in an 1877 Classroom

Monday, 13 June 2016

Thanks to a History Alive project, Year 2 children at Beech House, the Infant Department of Bolton School, found themselves transported back to a school day in an 1887 classroom. Miss Banks was the authoritarian School Mistress who inspected each child’s hands before they were allowed into her classroom. Once inside, the children initially had to stand in silence and had to ask permission to speak. Girls and boys were interspersed before being given their outfits for the day – Monday the 13th day of June, 1887.  Boys wore waistcoats which would have been made out of old fabrics, a muffler (which would have been known as a cravat in London) and a flat cap. The girls all wore an apron so that their dress would have been protected and a mop cap, which kept the head lice in; all pupils would have had head lice and would have only bathed once a week at best. 

Miss Banks gave each pupil a name tag, which they had to keep on show at all times as they sat down in silence with feet on the floor, their hands behind their backs and their gaze firmly towards the teacher.  Each had to stand as they answered their name in the register and any tardiness was criticised by the teacher, threatening the finger stocks for anyone who was disobedient three times. Miss Banks picked up one boy who called her Mrs Banks, explaining that she was a Miss and that if she was to marry she could no longer be a teacher. The girls and boys learnt that the law in Victorian times said that each child must go to school but must also pay a penny each week towards their education. If they did not, the teacher did not get paid and Miss Banks did not like this and was more inclined to cane children. She explained how the average family would have earned £39 per annum back in the 1890s and each pound comprised 20 shillings, each shilling being made up of 12 pennies. A penny could be split into two half pennies or ha’pennies or four farthings. There were 240 pennies in a pound. 

In what was a fascinating experience for the children, they also learnt about some of the other classroom accoutrements of the Victorian period including slates, chalk and blackboard, the cane, the strap, ink pens and blotters. 

The “School in the Past Experience” is one part of a week of celebrations at the Infant School, which reflects upon the 100 years that the Bolton School Foundation has been in existence. On Friday, children are allowed to dress as a character from any decade from 1915-2015.

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Children stand up straight to answer their name as the Register is read out

Children stand up straight to answer their name as the Register is read out

Children learnt about what like would have been life in the Victorian classroom

Children learnt about what like would have been life in the Victorian classroom

Miss Banks demanded the full attention of each and every child

Miss Banks demanded the full attention of each and every child