The Schools

During the latter part of the 18th century, education was provided for those boys who were able, and those whose families could afford it.

The Free Grammar School was held in the pebble and thatch building known today as Tithe Barn, and was the oldest school in the village.

Lower Happisburgh School, built by subscription for the children of Happisburgh and Lessingham, was opened in 1770. It was situated at the lower end of Whimpwell Street in the area known as School Common. Robert Summers was the master for sixty one years. His salary was £10 per annum plus the penny or two each pupil paid weekly. He appears to have had complete charge of the school from its opening until his death at the age of 85 years. His son then claimed both building and land as private property. Other masters followed, but by the mid 1860’s the building was in ruins.

The Church of England or the National School replaced the Free Grammar School in 1811. It occupied the same building, but admitted girls as well as boys, if their parents could afford to pay a few pence each week. Several children received free education through the bequest of the Rev. Jonathan Chaloner.

A New National School was built in 1861 to accommodate the increased number of pupils. The ‘large and handsome red brick structure’ (White’s Directory) cost over £600. This was raised partly by public subscription and partly by a government grant. There was said to be room for 140 pupils, although the average attendance was 95. At this time there were only two rooms. A succession of single ladies ran the school, assisted by a pupil teacher and a monitor. The head-ship changed hands six times during the first fourteen years. Children could leave upon reaching the age of thirteen, or earlier if the required standard had been reached.

The five week summer holiday always coincided with harvest, for the children’s help was needed in the fields. In one very late season school did not break up until September 4th. In the early days Easter was not always marked by even one day’s holiday, although school was closed for Christmas, and Trinity Tuesday was observed as a holiday so that all might attend the annual Fair.

Truancy was common during haysel and at turnip thinning time, or when a wreck off the coast meant that coal and wood could be picked up on the beach.

In 1896 a master was appointed, with an assistant mistress and an infant teacher to help him. By this time all fees had been abolished.

Today Happisburgh School is Voluntary Controlled. In 1938 it became a Primary, with children moving onto Grammar Schools in North Walsham or to the Secondary Modern at Stalham at the age of 11. It is now a First School and takes

Some of the pupils in 1907. Mr Barnes, the newly appointed Headmaster, on the right: his stepson, a pupil teacher, on the left.

The younger pupils in 1907. Miss Bessie Thompson on the right. (Paid monitress in 1889, pupil teacher, and then infant teacher until 1933).

Plate 3 – Some pupils in 1914 Plate 4 – Happisburgh School in 1996

Extracts from early Happisburgh School Logbooks

Feb 11th
Very disorderly throughout the day endeavoured to discover the cause, found it arose in the morning from some boys having concealed dead mice in their pockets. Offenders kept in till 6.30p.m.
May 19thSpoke to 1st Class on necessity of paying respect to “age”. Learnt texts on subject.
June 15thLeft school from 10-11.15 owing to the sudden indisposition of Alice Cutting, … on returning, spoke to children on the illness and expected death of their school fellow – many of the girls much affected
June 26thChildren’s attention arrested and voluntary silence throughout the . school by the bell tolling for the death of Alice Cutting.
July 30thMr. Slater spoke to R. Clipperton of his mischievous conduct with Books.
June 29th
Boys rather disorderly in afternoon disputing over their knitting pins.
July 1st Boys much interested in their knitting. 10 can do the plain stitch fairly well.
Oct 15thMiss Slater taught a new school song tune – Auld Lange Syne.
Jan 1 – 5th
Poor school – partly due to small pox in village.
July 15thBoys wanted for carrying of the hay.
April 26th
Another child-Sarah Bronwick died of scarlet fever. (7 children died during this epidemic.)
NovChildren away to pick up coal from beach.
Oct 14th
Several older children absent picking acorns.
May 19-23
Several children absent this week shrimping.
July 14-18thMany children absent turnip-picking.
Nov 23rd
Usual order of lessons interrupted by Duke of Edinburgh passing through the village.
June 22-23
Wed & Thurs am holiday to celebrate Queen’s Jubilee.
April 15th
Bessie Thompson commenced as paid monitress.
Nov 13thLydia Cutting away – no boots.
June 13th
Edwin Smith, 13 years, left to serve a Thatcher.
July 6thHalf Holiday given on the occasion of the marriage of the Duke of York.
May 16th
Children attended Mr. Slater’s funeral at 12 am
March 2nd
Half holiday given in afternoon in honour Of the Relief of Ladysmith and our victory over Crongi the Boar (sic) Leader. The Vicar kindly gave tea to all the scholars in church Room.
May 21stHalf Holiday to commemorate the Relief of Mafeking.