Sarah Wright, who had a staff of two sisters, Eleanor and Elizabeth, ran another private school about this period, at Harvey House. A little later this school was taken over by Henry Goodwin, a Curate of Saham Toney, who with his wife Catherine educated five pupils who's ages ranged from 7 lo 18. In 1877 Harvey House became a boarding school run by the Misses Knopwood. Dating back to the 17th century, "Six bright boys from Watton" were entitled to free education at Saham College, an important independent school through which these facilities were available by Trust.
Going back to the National School, we learn that Chas. Smith was the headmaster in 1854, but in 1871 Mr, Stace arrived from Sussex to take over the headship. By 1879 the schools most renowned and controversial headmaster of all time had been installed, while Mrs. Toombes, the wife of the instigator of Loch Neaton, became the assistant mistress. Yes, Charles Lintott was loved and respected by some pupils, disliked by others and feared by all. By the time I had progressed to the National School, Charles Lintott had retired, so I cannot give a personal account of him as an active schoolmaster. From what I have been told by many of his ex-pupils he was a strict disciplinarian, a supreme judge of their character, a great sportsman and merciless in his punishment for anyone who misbehaved. By this time much progress and change became apparent in the administration, and at a School Managers Meeting held in 1890 it was decided to revise the existing school fees which brought about some increases, thus: —
(a) Tradesmen and Farmers were to pay 3d. weekly for each child,
(b) Mechanics and journeymen to pay 3d, for the first child and 2d. for each subsequent child,
(c) Labourers, 2d. each for the first two children and any subsequent children to have free schooling.
However, the following year the Managers adopted "Free Education", and carried out many improvements and additions. Separate teachers were appointed for each class, and an entrance door added for the younger children, new toilets were built and bay windows were built into the north wall.
An Infants School was built in the West End of Church Walk in 1876 with funds raised by public subscription. This accommodated about 60 pupils from the age of 5 to 7, when they were transferred to the National School. It was at this school that I started my education, at Easter 1917. The one large room was divided by a curtain drawn across a rail to form two classrooms with Mrs. Sykes, the Headmistress in charge of the 6-7 year olds.
There are one or two pupils still living in Norfolk who will remember our first morning at school when that kindly teacher, Mrs. Preston, gave us our first lesson, how to make animals from plasticine. Our two most memorable days at this school, were without doubt, the first and the last. The first was naturally a day of apprehension, the last because it so nearly ended in tragedy.
It was about a week after my 7th birthday in February 1919 and I remember it so vividly. We had only been back in school ten minutes after lunch when the late Ernest Codling thrust up his hand in desperation, saying, "Please teacher can I leave the room". No, replied Mrs. Sykes, you should have used the toilet before you come in". With his face becoming whiter every second, he repeated his urgent request, to which the head mistress replied, "Well, be quick boy, if you must go". During the few minutes he was away a few of us heard a faint rumbling noise close to where I was sitting, at the east end of the room. Upon his return he immediately called out, "Please teacher the school is falling down". This remark annoyed the teacher and she threatened him with the cane, whereupon another boy and myself informed her that we had just heard a rumbling noise. Even then she was not convinced of any danger, but no doubt observing the serious look on our faces, left the room to investigate. Dashing back into the room she ordered everyone out immediately. Leaving us in the care of Mrs. Preston, she set off to inform the Rev. C. Nash, who was chairman of the school managers, but before she was fifty yards away the whole of the east end and a large part of the north wall had collapsed,
Had Ernest Codling not have had a "call of nature", I am certain that several girls and boys would have been killed that afternoon. All the scholars were given temporary accommodation in the Parish Room until Easter, when we were transferred to the "Big School" as the National School was known to us youngsters,
A year in Standard I with Mrs. Toombs as our teacher was followed by a further year with Miss Gaze in Standard II, before being transferred once again to what was officially known as "The Temporary Provided School". This was a series of ex-World War I wooden army huts where everyone was roasted in summer and frozen in winter - hardly the best environment to study for examinations. This is where my age group finished our schooling, at Easter 1926, Those pupils who resumed school at Watton after Easter were fortunate to go into a fine new brick built school with what was at the time, the very best in school facilities.