Traditionally one of the centres of village life was the local primary school to which children walked, often over quite long distances. However the increase in motor traffic made it less safe to walk to school in all weathers and since the 1950s many village schools have closed.

Hampshire County Council was founded in 1889 and was made responsible for the overseeing of schools under the 1902 Education Act. This meant not only supervising what was taught in the schools, but also examining the buildings and facilities.

In 1903 the County Surveyor produced a report on all the schools under the County’s jurisdiction. This report included the accommodation, ventilation, water supply, drains and dilapidations. The Surveyor was rightly concerned about drinking water. For example at Crampmoor School, then held in St Swithun’s Church, the report stated that the drinking water was good, but ‘the contamination with lead is serious’ and the well was ‘not far from the privies’. At Houghton the water was said to be ‘highly charged with nitrates, chlorides, sulphates and phosphates’ and unfit to drink. There is no mention of drinking water at Melchet Court, while at Ridge (on Pauncefoot Hill) the report stated that “This is not a wholesome water for children to drink. The organic matter in solution is much in excess, as also the chlorides”. The water supply to the British School in Romsey (now English Court) was satisfactory as was that at the Boys National School (now the library) although the Surveyor recommended that the building should be connected to the mains as was the Girls National School (now Romsey Abbey School).

In 1957 another survey of Hampshire schools was made with particular reference to the arrangements for sanitation. For example work was already proceeding to connect Awbridge, Lockerley and Plaitford schools to waterborne systems. Meanwhile the villages of Timsbury, Michelmersh, Wellow and West Tytherley were getting mains drainage to which the schools might be connected. Mottisfont and Rownhams would need new cesspools if they were to have waterborne sanitation.

It was thought that Cadnam, Crampmoor, Ampfield and King’s Somborne could be upgraded by the provision of cesspools but they would need emptying more often. “In the year 1956 there were 115 schools with cesspools and 3057 loads were emptied at a cost of £4,300 which averages £1 5s (£1.25) per load. This expenditure was met by the Ministry in its entirety as a mid-day meals charge.”

There was a general comment that most schools lacked an adequate number of washbasins, usually because there was not room for them in the cloakrooms.

Phoebe Merrick August 2019