The first recorded entry of the St Mary’s Hook with Warsash National School log book is dated 9 September 1872. In it the head, Mr Alfred Cooper, states “Opened school in the New School Room. Number present on the first day 56.” The school attracted a number of visitors in its early days, including the local Vicar who taught scripture, plus his wife and daughter (or maybe sister) who taught sewing and knitting to the girls on a regular basis.
Behaviour at the school left something to be desired, at least by Victorian standards. In the early weeks several of the children had been reprimanded for “impropriety of conduct”, and the Vicar had decided to expel the next offender! A number of the children also gave “constant trouble during the two hours that they have for dinner and play”. Two hours is, by today’s standards, a long lunch break and indeed the headmaster decided to shorten it to just one in an attempt to improve the situation. He later reported that “I find the new arrangements of the school hours work admirably”. Unfortunately that was not the end of the lunchtime problems as there were “complaints of the children’s dinner being constantly stolen from their cloakroom” (a recurring problem over the next three years). Mr Cooper lectured the children on the sin of stealing and threatened the culprit with being “ignominiously expelled”.
On 21 December in that first year, the school broke up for a fortnight’s holiday. Each child was presented with “a woollen comforter as a Christmas present form Mrs. Hornby”. The Hornbys were a very important local family who provided the money and land to build St Mary’s Church. They lived in Hook House, an impressive Georgian building located at the Warsash edge of Hook Park, and which was destroyed by fire in the early years of the last century.
It must have been a bad winter, because after Christmas came the first school inspection and only 19 children were present due to the snow. The Inspector suggested that the teaching of Geography begin, but for some reason several parents objected. The children didn’t take to it either as the head reported that “they seem to have no memory for it whatever.”
As many people know, the long school summer holiday that we still see today was then due to children being needed to help with the harvest. In 1873, only a few of them made it back for the first day of term on 1 September, “the Harvest being hardly over”. During the autumn term there was a general improvement in arithmetic in the school, possibly following the introduction of tables during the previous term. The children had an incentive, however. Table recitation was left until the end of the afternoon just before going home, the head allowing “…those to go home who answered best.”
A second inspection was held the following February, and the children were given a half day holiday for doing “fairly well”. The head must also have been performing well by the standards of the time because in April he received his Certificate from the Education Department and became a Certified Teacher of the 2nd Class. Not all of the parents were happy though, as three children left the school after their mother complained of “some of the other children’s heads in this school being unclean.”
On 1 November 1875, Mr Cooper sent his resignation to the school managers writing “Finding the air of the South too strong for me my medical attendant has recommended to try and procure a situation further inland.” The school log reports that he had a number of absences caused by “indisposition” leading up to this event, and it seems that Mrs Cooper suffered similarly. The records kept by Mr Cooper over the course of his three years with the school showed scarcely a word of praise for any child. However, one’s heart must go out to him when reading the entry for 6 December 1875 which records “Owing to the very sad accidental death of my little boy on Tuesday by Fire the Vicar together with the Pupil Teacher and Mrs Gaman have carried on the school for the remainder of the week”. On 20 December he and Mrs Cooper finally resigned from the school to take up an appointment in Leicestershire. Hopefully they were both happier there, and that the pupils were more to his liking that those at St Mary’s Hook with Warsash National School