Bengeo Infants School was opened in 1869 when the population of Bengeo was around 1,500 people. The pupils who attended Bengeo Infants School were normally the children of local Farmers and many often had a very long walk to school so registers often taken later, to allow these pupils time to get into school.
The school does still exist currently exist alongside the Junior school as Bengeo Primary School.
Back in the 19th century the reasons for being absent differed greatly from what acceptable reasons are now – for example many pupils would have the day off if there was bad weather, for example heavy rain. This is because back then poorer families would only really be able to afford one set of clothing, and getting them wet by walking to school in the rain would mean that the clothes would be wet for days to come. Children also got to miss school during periods of snow, as modern day students often do, although not for the same reason regarding travel today, because many would have walked to school in the 19th century.
Lessons were also slightly different as the pupils in the infants school would often be taught ‘object’ lessons from a list of lessons given by the Government. The most amusing lessons which I have found to have been taught at Bengeo are on; the umbrella, the whale, the use of a knife and fork, the elephant and paper folding. There were many more lessons, often on the topic of animals, nature or minerals, which were normally followed by a type of quiz.
Many of the holidays given to pupils were different to holidays which modern pupils get now, for example on the afternoon of Ash Wednesday holiday was given, as well as a day off for the Bengeo flower show. Occasional holiday was given in the form of a half day off, called the ‘Bengeo Treat’ or if there weren’t enough pupils in school (this often happened if something happened at Panshanger). Then there are the normal holidays such as Christmas and Easter, and the summer holiday which was known as the Harvest Holiday – presumably givent so that pupils could help their families with the harvest.
The illnesses which the pupils suffered from were very different to nowadays, with many cases of measles and whooping cough cropping up year after year, often meaning more than half the school was away ill during the epidemics. It would be unusual to find more than 3 or 4 students off at any one time with the same illness at Bengeo School now!
Log books provide us with an idea of what kind of interesting events happened at the school. One example is where the key to the school got stuck, and broke in the lock. This meant that the school could not open and let pupils in until 2:15! There are also entries in the log book which tell us that the pupils would often sing to their visitors (normally the vicar, or those who paid money towards the school to keep it going) and learnt many songs in lessons including; ‘the dunce’, ‘the ducks’ and ‘the snail’.
Bengeo infants school really was very different in the 19th century to how it is now, in 2012, not least because it now includes the junior school.