Monday, 20 September 2021

Wargrave Local History Society

IN a change to the programme, society secretary Peter Delaney gave a presentation on the Robert Piggott junior and infant schools at May’s meeting.

He gave a history of the Piggott family, who came to England at the time of the Norman invasion.

William Piggott was a farmer born in Wargrave in 1682 who married Martha Turner, of another Wargrave farming family.

Only three of their children survived beyond childhood: John, born in 1720, Robert, born in 1724, and Ann, born in 1735.

John gave land for the building of a parish workhouse in 1770, with the buildings later used for the infant school, while Robert was a farmer and a churchwarden at St Mary’s Church who inherited several buildings, including properties in London, from his second wife Elinor Brookhurst.

When Robert died in August 1798, his will stated that boys at the village schools were to be taught “reading, writing, arithmetic and other useful learning”, while girls were to be taught “reading and sewing plain work”.

He also set out the rules for the management of the school, including the salary of the master and mistress and payments made to the parents of pupils for their maintenance and clothing.

The schools are believed to have been founded in 1794 and the trustees first met in April 1799.

They were housed in cottages in the High Street until 1828 and later another school was opened on land given by Lord Braybrooke in 1862 to provide for 100 boys and 100 girls.

As pupil numbers continued to increase, the infant school moved from School Hill in 1910 and then to the current premises in Beverley Gardens in 1963. In the Thirties the School Hill site was overcrowded.

Under the 1936 Education Act, if a community raised a quarter of the cost of a new senior school, the rest of the funding would be provided from public funds.

Wargrave vicar Canon Stephen Winter set about the task with the help of surrounding parishes, including Sonning, Hurley, Twyford, Hurst, Waltham St Lawrence and White Waltham.

The foundation stone for the new boys’ school, called the Piggott School, was laid in October 1939 by the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire and dedicated by the Bishop of Oxford.

The school was opened in September 1940. It was designed to accommodate 320 pupils and opened with 170, which rose to almost 300 by 1948.

Rural studies was part of the early curriculum, teaching students how to rear animals and run an orchard. The students were also taught crafts such as woodwork and metalwork.

Teacher Maurice Willis joined the staff in 1946 and under his guidance the boys built and ran a weather station in 1949, which was officially recognised by the Met Office and reported by BBC Television on Pathé Newsreel.

This was followed by the building of a telescope for astronomical work.

A separate dining hall and kitchen was built in the Fifties and an additional building followed in the early Sixties.

At the end of the decade, another building was erected after the school leaving age was raised and a sixth form was also started.

New housing in Wargrave and Twyford led to a need for more teaching space, which was put up on the school playing fields. The site was extended to both the north and south to create new sports pitches.

The first two new buildings opened in September 1970 followed by a pair of classrooms and practice rooms for music teaching, five laboratories, a suite of maths classrooms and a sports hall.

In 1983 the Piggott School was at risk of closure due to a plan by Berkshire County Council to re-organise secondary education in the Maidenhead area.

Following community support for the school, none of them was closed.

The school has recently expanded again with a sixth form teaching block and fitness suite, while it is also now a Church of England academy.

It has had just five headteachers since 1940: Clement Bush; Douglas Waghorn (from 1961); Keith Atton (from 1988); Hilary Winter (from 2007); and current head Derren Gray.

Mr Delaney’s presentation ended with a film made by the school in 1949 about its weather station.

The next meeting will be on Tuesday, June 12, when Ian Wheeler, author of a book on Fairmile Hospital in Cholsey, will talk about the history of the Victorian asylum.

The society will visit Dorney Court in Buckingham-
shire in July.

On Tuesday, September 11, Joe and Joy Haynes will speak about the history of Wargrave Theatre Workshop.

Meetings take place at the Old Pavilion in the recreation ground, off Recreation Road, starting at 8pm.

For more information, call Peter Delaney on 0118 940 3121 or visit www.wargrave

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