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Entries from the log book of the Cowper School, Hertford, 1863 to 1890

Schooldays in the 19th century were a little different to now. This selection of entries from the log books of the Cowper Testimonial School give a flavour of school life in our grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ days.

These entries are from the month of September; we will be publishing entries from October next month.

If you can’t wait for the next installment, you can see a full transcript of entries for the Autumn term by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.

‘School as usual’

1863: September 14th: School as usual: Visitors Rev. G. Borrett morning and the Rev J. W. Birch in the afternoon.

1864: September 21st: Morning school as usual – afternoon the whole school went for play in Balls Park.  

School treats and harvest

1865: September 14th: School treat. Children assembled at 2.30. Marched to Bailey Hall Field. Played a cricket match between the two schools. Had tea at the Corn exchange at 6 o’clock.  

1867: September 9th: Attendance 50 & 51. Several boys not yet returned from harvesting. Cater and Ephgrave left for the Workhouse. Catlin and Smith gone to work.  

The circus comes to town

1868: August 31st: Resumed school after a month’s holiday. 75 present. W Chaplin knocked down by a runaway horse and dangerously hurt, not expected to recover.  

September 7th: Chaplin after a serious relapse on Saturday is again progressing favourably. 75 present in the morning. Powel’s Circus exhibited in the town. Small attendance and no registers in the afternoon. Fitzjohn and Ephgrave said to have run away from the Union because Mr. Wheeler had limited their food for loitering about the circus.  

Academic progress

September 10th: James and Charles Wackett punished for carelessness in writing, and for insolence.  

September 25th: Noticed a great improvement in writing and arithmetic throughout the school. The boys were more backward in spelling than any other subject.  


1870: September 21st: Burleigh played truant all day. This boy has become mixed up with bad associates, and his father is bed ridden.  

September 26th: Liggins admitted from Bengeo. He has been very well taught. He will stay here but a short time as the family are about emigrating to America. Burleigh played truant in the afternoon. This boy’s behaviour is exceedingly good at school; but he is easily led astray by bad associates.  

1871: September 13th: Houseboys treated to the Rye House this afternoon.  

September 26th: Numbers present 110 and 108. Boys becoming more punctual since all late boys have been detained.  

1872: September 9th: John Cannon admitted. He is very backward like most boys from St Andrew’s Parish.

Apprenticeship and ineptitude

1873: September 16th: George Wilson a 1st class houseboy left for apprenticeship at Ware as a shoemaker.  

1874: September 29th: William Winstanley, 2nd year pupil teacher, received six months notice that his services would not be needed after next Lady Day – on account of his general dullness and want of aptitude as a teacher.  

1875: September 10th: Annual school treat in Balls Park. School in the morning.  

September 8th: Hutchinson, a houseboy, left for employment. His brother going to teach him the haircutting business.  

A school outing

1883: September 22nd: Took 50 pupils and teachers (17 female and 33 male) to Fisheries Exhibition at South Kensingon. Cost to each aged under 14 1s.7d; over that age 3s.8d each.  

1890: September 17th: Circus in the Town. Holiday in the afternoon.

This page was added on 01/09/2010.

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