High Days and Holidays

Shelagh Ryan

Six children behind a boy holding a flag with HOLIDAYS on it. The banner is above all the children with the last one holding the end of it

Easter Term
Jan 10th to April 14thJan 4th to March 21st

½ day Ash Wednesday

1 week half term

½ day holiday

Summer Term
April 29th to Aug 3rdApril 6th to July 1st

½ day Miss Parker’s wedding

1 week half term

½ day holiday

1 day May Day holiday
1 week Whitsun

½ day holiday

½ day for Treat

Winter term
Sept 5th to Dec 22ndSept 5th to Dec 20th

½ day for clothing club

1 week half term
1 day Occasional Day
5 ‘Inset’ or Baker days
2 Election Dyas
Total Holidays
71 and a half days103days

As you can see, the children of yesterday put in a lot more time in school that do their great great grandchildren.   It was a rural area and the long summer holiday, called the harvest holiday, was always timed to coincide with the harvest so that the children could help out. If the harvest was delayed and the gleaning went on too long, a job specifically for women and children, then attendance at school was low in September.

As well as the odd day off granted by the managers in the early days of the school, the children also got the afternoon off of there was a flower show in Hertford, a Royal wedding or anniversary or if there was a bazaar or sale of work being held in the village. The wedding of a member of one of the local big families was also an good excuse as was Guy Fawkes day. Sometimes the children took a half day holiday on their own account. Numbers were always low when the circus came to town! Every summer there was an annual ‘Treat’. This took place either in the rectory gardens or more usually at Goldings, home of the Smith family who had built the school. Games were played, races run, prizes given out and buns consumed. The Treat died out in the 1920s.

In 1905 a new holiday was added: the Attendance holiday. If the average attendance for a month was over 90%, the children got a half day off the following month. It was basically a bribe to get the children to school; come to school and we’ll give you an afternoon off! Half term holidays as we know them did not come into force until 1907 and then they were only a for two days to break up the long autumn term.

Being a church school in the early days, church holidays figured in the calendar. As well as attending church on that day, the children quite often got the afternoon off as well.

In May 1905, Empire Day was introduced. At first it was just another half day holiday but it gradually acquired traditions. In 1909 they spent the last hour of the morning singing, marching and playing games. In 1911 they marched round the playground. In 1928 they were ‘addressed by the Mayor’ in the Boys playground. They never again scaled those heights. Usually the programme was a talk on the Empire, a patriotic song or two and a march round the schoolroom waving flags before enjoying the afternoon off. Empire Day died with the Empire and although Commonwealth Day was popular with schools in London, it did not seem to have found favour in Bengeo.

This page was added on 16/12/2023.

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