Our Village 80 Years Ago: The Girls and School

Some eighty years ago, several children lived in cottages just opposite the Recreation Ground in Mackney Lane. This was their play area where girls would skip with long and short ropes, run hoops, and learn to ride any old abandoned lady’s bicycle. But above all they would run to meet Mr Stanley Kew and his cart because they know there were some “Tommy Loaves” for them for them. Mr and Mrs Kew also gave the children these small loaves from their bakery in the village street.

At this time most of the land around the village was permanent grassland. In spring and early summer the girls would go out into the meadows and pick bunches of cowslips, ragged robins, moon daisies, buttercups and other flowers to give to their mothers to decorate their cottage windowsills.

On school day, a mother would say goodbye to her five or six year old at the garden gate, but no further. He or she would then be on their own until other girls aged thirteen or fourteen would join them and safely escort them to school. The girls were very protective at all times regarding the infant. The infants’ small classroom was the nearest to the village road. It was almost unbelievable to state that when an infant wanted to use the toilet he or she had to come out of the large door facing the roadway then walk or run all along the outside of the school to the toilets back by the playground, then back again whether it was raining, snowing or bitterly cold. At 12 noon each day, because there were no school dinners, everyone had to go back home again. Infants, aged five and six, had to go back to Mackney, Sotwell and the High Road then back again for school at 1.30pm. If it was a rainy day, half the school would not return in the afternoon. The school had no electric light, no telephone and no mains water. At the age of fourteen, girls cycled to a school at Didcot for two years. The boys attended a Wallingford school. All these seemingly hardships were, at the time, accepted as normal. I wonder what today’s children would think of them?

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