Rare photos of Nunney school

Nunney National School

Old photos of Nunney National School at the Church Rooms, taken in September 1879, have been bought by Visit Nunney. The National School later became Nunney First School.

Old photos of Nunney National School

Castlebrook House, Nunney
Castlebrook House (left) and the church rooms (right) were built in 1820.
Old photos of Nunney are extremely rare. Visit Nunney has already acquired photos of Nunney Church dated to 1860 and 19th century glass negatives of Nunney scenes of an unspecified date.

The National School existed before Nunney First School’s current building was opened. It was based in the Church Rooms, next to All Saints Church.

Its history was documented in Visit Nunney’s articles on child labour and education in Nunney and in an exhibition held in the church last year.

Nunney long struggled to establish good education for all. A Parliamentary commission was told in 1869 – just 10 years before these photos were taken – that Nunney was one of the parishes “in which great ignorance prevails”.

“There are quantities of idle children always about, and many of them have never been to school. There would have been little schooling at all if it hadn’t been for a local charity.”


The Turner charity (which is still going today) provided a house for the schoolmaster (Maudsley House, now called Castlebrook) and an annual salary.

Thomas Turner, a Nunney resident, had died on 21 May 1839. In his will, he left £14,467 to be applied “to the instruction of youth, the alleviation of suffering and infirmity, and the solace of old age.”

The charity still exists today. The ‘instruction of youth’ resulted in bursaries, boarding places at the local school with fees paid for by the Turner charity.

The school was known locally as ‘the Turner school’. The schoolmaster in 1860 was Mr Adams. He wrote: “In the school there are 45 boys, and nearly as many girls. There are two other schools in the parish, containing perhaps 30 between them. There is no night school. One was kept some time ago by Mr Cotton, a super-annuated exerciseman, but it abandoned now. Few children attend school in the haymaking and potato-setting time, but I deny that there were 20 boys in the parish who did not go to school at all.”

Many children in Nunney had their school fees paid by the charity, and given an apprenticeship after that. According to the Bath Chronicle of 19 October 1871: “In no village in England has the passing of the Education Act been the means of doing more good than at Nunney.”

Nunney National School

The school in the Church Rooms next to Castlebrook House was extended in 1871 thanks to a large donation from the Earl of Cork and Orrery, the local MP who lived at Marston House.

According to the Bath Chronicle of Thursday 19 October 1871: “When the old trustees were unwilling to introduce Government inspection to the school he offered to cancel the lease of the premises, which had still twelve years to run, and to re-let them at half the rental (£20) to a new school committee, thereby losing no less a sum than £240. The trustees consented to this arrangement.”

“Feeling that the school accommodation was utterly inadequate for the requirements of the parish, Lord Cork decided upon greatly enlarging the premises at an outlay of £300, the committee agreeing to pay interest on that sum.”

“But when the work was completed his lordship instead of increasing the rent, reduced it as before stated, doubled his annual subscription to the funds, added a new infant gallery to one of the class rooms, presented a set of educational works to the committee, value £10, and assisted them in securing a certificated master and mistress.”


In 1878, the Compulsory Education Act helped reduce the numbers of child labourers. English children under the age of 10 were required to attend school, not work. Subsequent laws raised their age and made working conditions safer.

In 1883 the average attendance at Nunney school was 130-140. There were places for 70 boys, 70 girls and 40 infants, but the average was only 45 boys, 42 girls and 40 infants.

This suggests that in addition to the usual absence through sickness there were still a fair number of children working in the fields or elsewhere.

The newly enlarged school was renamed ‘The Nunney National School’. The school moved to its current, purpose-built building in 1896 as Nunney First School. It celebrates its 120th anniversary with a series of events this year.

In 1895, the year before Nunney School moved to its current location, the head of the school reported: “Nunney Board School (boys, girls & infants), for 70 boys, 70 girl & 50 infants; average attendance 43 boys, 46 girls & 38 infants; 10 boys are educated free, clothed & receive 1s. 6d. per week for maintenance out of Turner’s Charity & also £20 each for apprenticing them, with free permission to choose their own trades & masters; James Rees Griffiths, master; Mrs. Elizabeth Griffiths, mistress; Miss Ellen French, infants’ mistress.”

The old photos of Nunney National School will be added to the Visit Nunney archive.