The Old School
Though the first stage of the present Water Stratford Church School was built in 1868, there are earlier mentions of education provision in the village:
1) An Abstract of Education Returns of 1833 lists a Sunday School in which 12 males and 14 females receive instruction at the expense of the incumbent, together with a Lace School for 14 females. This emphasis on lace is borne out by one of the older village properties being called Lace Cottage until well into the 20th century.
2) There is an entry in the Directory of Bucks (Musson & Craven) in 1853 where a Mary Watson is listed as mistress of an infant day school.
3) According to a description of Water Stratford parish by Sheahan in 1862, 'the school was held in a picturesque building, the walls of which were covered in ivy and the roof with thatch'. Together with 1) and 2), this suggests that a thatched house in the village was used as a school for up to 35 years before the present school hall building was erected.
4) There is an entry in the Post Office Directory in 1864 where a Mrs Buttrum is listed as mistress of the Parish School. She was probably born Alice Griffin and must have given up teaching here soon after marrying Philip Henry Daniel Buttrum in 1864, as they had their first child in 1865.
She was succeeded in 1865 by Sarah Ann Curtis (1842-1915) from Deddington, presumably initially in the picturesque cottage. But in 1868 the owners of the village had a purpose-built school erected, perhaps at Miss Curtis's prompting. The site was conveyed without charge as an endowment from the Parker family to the Rector and Churchwardens of the Parish upon trust 'to permit the premises and all buildings erected by them to be used for a School for the education of Children and Adults or Children only of the labouring, manufacturing and other poorer classes in the Parish'. It was stipulated that the school should be open to inspection at all times and conducted in furtherance of the National Society for promoting the Education of the Poor and to the principles of the Established Church throughout England and Wales. It was also provided that the building could be used as a Sunday School for religious and moral instruction, supervised by a principal officiating minister of the Parish, but otherwise the control and management of the day school, including the appointment of the schoolmistress and assistant, to be vested in and exercised by a Committee.
According to entries in Kelly's Directories, the school was built for the education of 48 children, the average attendance in 1883 was 34 and it varied between 22 and 27 from 1899 to 1911. The Buckinghamshire Advertiser and North Bucks Free Press of 20th February 1909 contained the following:
Record School Attendance
'The school registers show that for over four successive weeks the attendance has been 100 per cent. This means that not one of the scholars has been absent morning or afternoon during that period. Three of the children, Elsie Pearson. Annie Jones and Albert Edward Hilsdon, have not missed an attendance for the past 12 months; two others, William Pearson and Daisy Lines, have a clear record for over two years; whilst one of the older scholars, Thomas Walter Pearson, who entered the school nine and a half years ago, has been present on every occasion when the school was open. This is surely a remarkable record.' Sadly Thomas's virtue was not rewarded - he was killed in WWI in 1918.
A plan dated 30th March 1869 shows its site comprised 1,232 sq yards of part of the Dairy Ground at Town Farm, fronting the village street, and shows only the entrance porch and main hall; the smaller hall which abuts it to the south must have been added later, together with the present-day kitchen, to permit two classes to be taught. The plan also shows that the land to the south of the original building was designated for the construction of a teacher's house, but this was never built and the land is still an open space.
Sarah Ann Curtis retired in 1903 after 38 years of service and was presented with an illuminated testimonial, signed by villagers and others, a silver tea-service, and a 'purse of gold'. The testimonial, which still hangs in the building, was in copperplate writing by the Revd Louis Goddard and his daughter, Ethel Frances. Miss Curtis continued to live in the village until her death and is buried in the churchyard. Mrs Ruth Price (1853-1929), a widow who lived in neighbouring Tingewick, was headmistress by 1907 and was in post until 1920. At a village fete held in the Rectory garden in June 1920, Mrs Price was presented with a pair of silver candlesticks by Miss Peggie Hilsdon on behalf of past and present pupils.
Miss Anna Watson (1885-1963), the youngest child of Alfred Watson who was parish clerk for many years, is shown as 'elementary school mistress' in the 1911 census and again in 1924 and 1928, so presumably she worked under Mrs Price until 1920. The school closed in the early 1930s and in 1939 the building and land were given to 'the incumbent and wardens' of St Giles Church by Colonel William Frederic Parker, but it was reopened for a time during WWII to cater for evacuees who were billeted locally.
Since the war the church and the Parish Meeting have maintained it as a village hall and at one time it housed a library service run by Helen Hilsdon and at another time a village shop. It has gradually been improved with a modern kitchen and an indoor loo (the outdoor loos used by the schoolchildren were derelict for many years and finally demolished in the 1990s). The bell tower has wooden shingles which were renewed at around the same time. Someone who was a child here in the 1940s and 50s remembers shooting an air rifle at the bell to make it 'ping'.