Education today is an accepted thing. Universities are open to all who reach the required levels, and the path to reach that goal is well-worn, but it was not always that way and the route to gain education was hard-won.

Just looking back to the 1960s it was accepted that the one who reached the heady goal of attending a university was very much the exception than the rule.

Back at the end of the eighteenth century, education for the poor was thought unnecessary and was resisted by the upper classes as ‘it would be prejudicial to their morals and their happiness’.

READ MORE: A little history behind Basingstoke's almshouses

This was stated by MP Davies Giddy. He continued that ‘instead of making them good servants in agriculture and other laborious employments and teaching [the poorer classes] subordination, it would render them fractious and refractory’.

Basingstoke Gazette: The British school Sarum Hill 1880 (Hampshire Cultural Trust)The British school Sarum Hill 1880 (Hampshire Cultural Trust)

Hence education for the masses was not immediately embraced by the authorities and provision was provided, albeit very basic, by the religious organisations, societies or individuals who had a heart for the poorer classes. This was not entirely benevolent, however, as it had been noted that new techniques in industry required a basic level of education.

The two main organisations were the British and Foreign Bible Society and the National Society, founded in 1810 and 1811 respectively, both centred round the teachings of the church.

Basingstoke Gazette: St John’s school circa 1905 (Alastair Blair)St John’s school circa 1905 (Alastair Blair)

Both of these societies existed in Basingstoke, and in 1838 the British Schools formed an infant school in the United Reform Church in London Road (previously called the Congregational Church), and later in the Sarum Hill Centre, previously the Kings School and Baptist Church.

It continued to be that specific buildings were not provided for National School use so, from the 1860s through to the 1870s, classes were convened in the Vicarage, Church Cottage (next to St Michaels’ church - known as the Malthouse) and the premises of the Richard Aldworth (Blue Coat) school which was in Cross Street. A statue now stands at the spot.

Initially there was no direct funding for these schools and debts grew. Parents were expected to pay 2 pence weekly for the first child and 1 penny for subsequent children.

There was no obligation for the authorities to provide finances so the schools management took to raising money in other ways such as gaining income from property.

This turned the tide and by 1877 reports were published that the schools were well equipped. By this time a total of 2,540 pupils were attending school in the Basingstoke area outstripping the facilities available and the decision was made to create a School Board which would enable the funding from the Corporation rates.

This was not well received by the public as it meant an increase in the rates required. What didn’t help in the argument was that fact that the National Schools had allowed the existing provision to fall into disrepair and fail the expected standards by the inspectors.

However by 1885 a School Board was set up and foundations were laid at an area South of Basingstoke called Fair Fields, the site of pig and sheep fairs.

Basingstoke Gazette: The Congregational church, London Street circa 1900The Congregational church, London Street circa 1900

This school would accommodate 1,300 children and be non-denominational which led one protester to state that it would be ‘Godless’. Nevertheless Fairfields school opened in 1888, and the building which still stands and is in use today, is an example of Victorian construction.

This site was chosen because, being at a high point in the town, it was believed to be a healthy option for the children. Fees were still being charged until they were abolished in 1918.

Twenty one years later another Council school was opened in Lower Brook Street but this did not stop the rise of private schools for those who were able to pay more for their childs’ education.

Basingstoke Gazette: Church Cottage 1920 (Alastair Blair)Church Cottage 1920 (Alastair Blair)

One school for ‘young ladies’ existed in Winton Square and another in Soper Grove. A ‘high-class boarding and day school’ existed in Cliddesden Road and an ‘establishment for young gentlemen’ was In Flaxfield Road as well as the Queen Marys’ School (then known as the Queen’s school) which had Latin as one of it’s subjects.

In 1901 St. John’s school was opened which some older readers will remember attending. This was situated at the junction of Lower Church Street and Lower Brook Street on the site of the previous Hospital of St John, founded in 1261. St. John’s school was demolished in 1966 as part of the new town centre construction.

Basingstoke Gazette: The vacated Blue Coat school building in the 1950sThe vacated Blue Coat school building in the 1950s

The Basingstoke High School for Girls started life in Lower Brook Street in 1908 before a new premises was built in 1912 at Crossborough Hill, now called the Costello School after Miss Costello who was headmistress from 1915 to 1935.

SEE ALSO: Basingstoke mum had cervix removed after shock diagnosis

Moving now into the more modern era, in 1960 the Charles Chute School for boys opened in Shooters Way, eventually to be amalgamated with Queen Mary’s School (next door) in 1970 and the Charles Chute building demolished with the new amalgamation renamed The Vyne School. The name of Queen Mary’s was transferred to the new sixth form premises in Cliddesden Road.

Message from the editor

Thank you for reading this story. We really appreciate your support.

Please help us to continue bringing you all the trusted news from your area by sharing this story or by following our Facebook page.