A lasting evocative image of this period is beautifully encapsulated by Jane Shemeld, who was at Sibford when she was eight years old between 1846 and 1851. She had nine siblings who all went to Sibford over a period of forty-seven years between 1842 and 1889. In 1905 some sixty years after she left the School she wrote her reminiscences of that period.
“Almost the first thing that I have recollection of is hearing my parents speak of a Friends’ School that was to be established at Sibford Ferris, my mother’s birthplace.
It was soon decided that my sister, who was in her 9th year should he sent there and she was one of the first scholars. I distinctly remember being roused very early one Sunday morning in April 1842 and taken to my aunt’s house while my father, mother and the baby started off in a conveyance my father hired to take my sister to Sibford. They called for me on their return on the Monday evening. My Sister did not come home for any holiday until the vacation in 1844, but my mother visited Sibford during that time and took me with her. I walked in the school garden sometimes, with my sister and the other girls, and I was much impressed with the magnificence of the brass knocker on the front door! (Ed: It’s still there!)
1 called one day with my mother and an aunt who had recently lost her only little girl Lucy, through her clothes catching fire. My aunt showed me some little ‘stays’ (Ed: a kind of lace-up bodice) the child was wearing when the accident happened. I remember they looked scorched. I never knew this little cousin but she was my own age. This aunt was the mother of Oliver Harris of Shrubbery Cottage who made the School ‘stays’, for at that time the children were clothed at the expense of the Institution.
When my sister returned to School after her first holiday, my eldest brother accompanied her, he was in his 9th year, but he was so little he and another boy had for a time to go on the girls’ side to play. At the vacation of 1846 my sister and brother came home; it had been decided that I should go back with them. I was a little over 8 at that time but having a sister in the School I was admitted rather younger that some. I was busy for several weeks before they came in making and marking some of my underclothing at the day school I attended. I also knitted lace tuckers for our best frocks which were taken away from me as soon as my trunk was unpacked as it was considered they were too smart!
Father took me to Sibford and we started very early and stopped at a place called Towcester for breakfast. (I ought to have said that our home was in Northampton) where we had toast, and for a time 1 was foolish enough to think that was why the place was called Towcester! At last we arrived in Banbury and waited there until the Sibford Carrier was ready to start; when we got into the cart we found a bottle of turpentine had been broken in it. I can still feel the sense of nausea I had as tired and weary we jolted on. I have never liked the smell of turpentine since that time. On arriving at the School the first words I remember hearing Rebecca Routh speak were “Isn’t the little girl very tired?” and I was soon sent to bed.
Before we were dressed in the morning the nursemaid brought Rebecca Routh’s baby to show to the new girls. He was then 2 months old and called “little Richard” – he is now known as Dr. Richard Laycock Routh and is Sibford’s GP.
1 liked being at school, some of the girls let me play with their dolls, and my sister gave hers up to me, it had 3 frocks, a blue one, a buff one, and for best a white one which mother got made at the dressmakers and sent to my sister while 1 still lived at home. I had been taught to net as well as knit at my day School, and my new teacher was very anxious to learn, so for some days I sat by her in our play time and taught her thinking at the same time what a funny thing for a little girl to teach her teacher!
That winter there was a severe famine in Ireland and we made a great many garments to send to some of the families; warm stuff skirts and underclothing; one boy, Henry Minchin of Hook Norton, who could sew neatly came into our schoolroom and worked on unbleached calico; an opening was made in an imitation window at the front of the School and contributions solicited towards “The Famine Relief Fund”, the money dropped into a cupboard in the higher parlour and a collection was made amongst the children, I gave all I had which was a halfpenny.
In April 184? my Sister left Sibford, her 5 years having expired. At the vacation my brother and I did not go home, but James and Lucretia Cadbury of Banbury had a few of the girls who were remaining at School, on a little visit, two at a time. The Cadbury’s at that time had apartments at John Lamb’s at the Original Cake Shop in Parson’s Street and as they had no bedroom for us, we went every night to sleep at Lydia Gillett’s on the Green.(Ed: by Banbury Cross.) During our stay in Banbury, their canary bird died and Lucretia Cadbury kindly allowed us to have a funeral and a tea party. We made a pasteboard coffin laid ‘Dicky’ on his back and put flowers around him. Thomas Lamb (a nephew) dug the grave, Lucretia Cadbury tolled the bell, and we all followed in procession. James Cadbury composed an epitaph which was written on a sheet of paper and pasted on a board for a headstone; these were the lines as far as I can remember them.
“A stranger bird lies buried here,
His songs were sweet, his memory dear,
Fain we’d his life restore,
But death to all must come at last
In early days, or years soon passed
When we can act no more.
As birds for life & song were formed
Poor Dick, his little part performed
Was merry and was gay.
So little folks in love and peace
May spend their time till their release
In virtue’s happy way.”
We enjoyed our visit. Lucretia Cadbury was extremely kind and she bought us canvas and coloured wools for fancy work; at the present time that piece of needlework is in use in my home. I stayed one week, then another girl took my place, my companion remained a fortnight because she was an orphan.
During the vacation Frederic Richardson (the boy s ‘ teacher) made a small carriage to draw little Richard about in the garden. In August our mother came to Sibford, bringing a new baby brother to show us and the curly headed fellow who had been the baby when 1 went to school. She stayed with her sister in the house now occupied by John Lamb (my aunt’s grandson). When able, mother would come across to the School to see us before 9am in the morning, bringing the children and also a pocket full of apples which she had picked up in the orchard. So nice they were, crumpling Blenheim’s, that had dropped off the trees. She had an illness during her stay and her visit had to be prolonged. One Sunday morning I was told that my father was in the lower parlour, what could it mean? I ran off to see, and found that he had risen very early that morning and had driven by horse and gig all the way from Northampton, to fetch my mother and brothers. He found it difficult to get leave of absence on a week day and he did not think she was strong enough to travel by Carrier; on our way to Meeting I saw the gig under the trees but when we returned they were far away.
In the following January, Johnnie (John Routh) was born, another little pet for us, he was a quick little thing but not as lively as his brother Richard.
At the next vacation (1848) we went home. I had been at School two years, my brother for four years. A Wellingborough boy accompanied us and the first thing those boys did in arriving in Banbury was to buy a penny Jews Harp each – a bit of music they must have. I always suffered terribly from sickness when riding in a Carriers cart. They had only two wheels and jolted considerably. My seat was often a beer barrel with the Carrier’s coat folded on the top for a cushion but my uppermost thought all day was I shall see my mother tonight.
The Carrier only went that day as far as Bugbrook in which village he lived but he went into Northampton on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but our schoolfellow’s father met us with a conveyance and we rode with them until we met our father walking along the road to meet us. A special treat was in store for me which father said nothing about – a little sister had been born the day before. She was a lovely little thing, with large dark eyes, and I was the first to carry her into the garden, I abounded in brothers, but until this little one came, I had no sister younger than myself; it was a great trial when 1 learned of her death the following Spring.
Our holidays were lengthened from three weeks to a month, they were building a new dining room to the school, and they were not ready for us; until that time we had meals in the main entrance hall of the Manor, boys sitting near the staircase, girls near the front door. It was interesting when visitors came while we sat there. once a beggar man came at dinner time and Richard Routh said to him “see what a large family I have to feed” he replied “yes, but they baint all your’n Sir”!
The vacation over, my brother and I returned to School by ourselves on a Wednesday afternoon. Father walked with us about a mile and then put us into the horrid cart tor
Bugbrook (6 miles from Northampton.) the Carrier had to lodge us for the night; in the evening my brother amused himself by seeing the horse etc. attended to, while I sat in the kitchen with a lump in my throat, pining for my mother. We were called very early in the morning, (about 4am I believe) had strong coffee given to us for breakfast and off we started for a 20 miles ride to Banbury. We got in about 1pm and had to pass off the time as best we could until the Sibford Carrier was ready to start, so that we were from tea time one day until supper time the next getting from A to B!
At the next vacation we again remained at the School, I think about a dozen children stayed and our time was made as pleasant as possible. The girls could go into the garden at any time without asking leave, and we would sit out there with our fancy work feeling quite contented. Some of our time was taken up in gathering currants, and we would then sit round a table and strip the fruit ready for jam, asking riddles and reciting poetry. I was always extremely fond of figures and during this vacation I would sometimes take a number of slates (Ed: slates and chalk were commonly used for writing in those days.) and shut myself in a bedroom and go on with my sums. I was in ‘Partnership’ at that time, and it took more than one slate for a sum if there were several ‘Partners’, they were compound division sums, it was delightful. I had to show them to the teacher in charge of us and she made no objection to my doing it, and when the girls returned from vacation, I went above several who had been before me when they went home, it was not very long before I was top in the School in Ciphering (a few of the girls having left), but I was not top in other things until sometime after. We were glad to welcome our schoolfellows back and they willingly shared their cake with us. Richard Routh remarked when he looked at the tearful faces of those who had just come from home “those girIs who have bad no holiday have the brightest faces”.
Soon after the School re-assembled there was an outbreak of measles; I caught it and a little orphan girl from the Channel Islands (Myra Gallienne) and I, were put together in one bed, she was more poorly than I and I know my fidgets tried her, but the irritation was so great surely I must have had nettle rash at the same time! Myra was a pretty child. Barber Haines so admired her when he cut her hair that he named one of his children after her. (Years afterwards when 1 was visiting my aunt she called the maid “Myra”, I remarked, ‘1 have only known three Myra’s in my life, my schoolfellow, the barber’s child and this girl – my aunt replied “this is Myra Haines.”!) I was not out of the schoolroom long and quite sorry when I was considered well enough, for the ‘invalid’ girls had such nice puddings prepared especially for them! I don’t know about the boys.
In the early spring of the next year my grandmother died at the house opposite Dr. Routh’s. (Ed: he lived at Malvern House) It was the house in which my mother was born. Father came to the funeral and he told me many things about the little sister I had lost, he said he had bought a full sized grave in the cemetery which had been opened about two years, and her funeral was the first one to be held there. It was conducted after the manner of Friends. He said he had chosen a grave near to a flower bed, in the centre of which a young Cedar of Lebanon had been planted. He thought in years to come it would look so nice when the branches hung over the grave. That tree grew vigorously and it is many years now since my dear mother, father and the brother next to me, were laid to rest under its branches. My other brother and I had to follow with the mourners at Grandmother’s funeral with the rest of the schoolchildren behind, It seemed such a long procession as we followed the Carrier’s cart containing the coffin, for grandmother had many descendants in the village, my brother and I were allowed to go to the house directly after dinner to join our relatives.
A cousin from the same house only survived his grandmother a few weeks; He was in the School and had always been delicate. One Saturday in May, I was told to go and sit with him by the kitchen fire, he had become so much worse. In a few days his father carried him home in a blanket from school and before the end of the week he had passed away. The evening before his death Richard & Rebecca Routh, my brother and I stood by his bedside, and in the “Reading” that evening, Richard Routh spoke very solemnly to us about the boy who had so lately been playing amongst us, “And now”, he added, “volumes might be learnt from him”. I cannot remember much about him, for he was not at School long, but I know once when his mother had sent him a cake he came creeping round to our side to try and see me to give me a portion.
My brother and I went home this vacation, and as the time drew near the girls got very excited, some of us had not seen our homes for two years and we would stand in front of our desks opening the lids and slamming them down again, while we shouted in chorus:
Happy, happy is the day
Packing up and going away
Happy, happy is the hour
When we’re free from Sibford powcr.
When the coachman smacks his whip
Off we’ll go and away we’ll trip
When the coachman says gee! whoo!
Off we’ll trip and away we’ll go
Farewell to meeting house where oft we’ve sat
Farewell to Richard Routh and his broad brim hat
Farewell church without a steeple
Farewell all ye Sibford people.
and so on, until perhaps our teacher would come to the schoolroom door and say “girls, make less noise.” As our Carrier made the return journey from Banbury on a Friday, we could not leave on Thursday with the other children but John Barnes drove us to Banbury with ‘Dumpling’ the school horse. I was anxious to get home for there was a little sister a month old to see and as two more little girls were born after I left school I have never been in want of a sister since. My brother left at this vacation he had been at school six years and had only been home twice – I returned for another year. I travelled alone but as I then had an uncle who lived 2 miles from Bugbrook who drove into Northampton every day. I went back with him on a Wednesday evening and my cousins and walked to the Carriers early next morning. I stayed a few days at my aunts before returning to school. Dinah Paine, the children’s nurse, would call sometimes when out for a walk and tell me how things had been going on in my absence.
The meals at the School were perhaps a little different to what they are now. At 7am breakfast of hot bread and milk; at 11am we had a 15 minute recess and we had a piece of Bread and in the summer we would sometimes pump water on it to make it refreshing; dinner was at 12pm, supper at 5.45pm; we had meat and pudding each day Sundays excepted; two days we had suet pudding with a few currants in it; two days suet pudding and treacle sauce; on Tuesdays rice milk pudding was served in soup plates; on Friday barm dumplings with treacle. Each dumpling was weighed and put into the steamer about the time we started to Meeting. The puddings varied at times; we occasionally had jam roly polys and once had pancakes. Hannah Golder, the Laundry woman, volunteered to cook them for us, it was on a Friday so before starting out to Meeting some of us went to look for her – she had a fire on the hearth in the old washhouse, she had fried a nice few by then, she was still at it when we came back and we kept her going all dinner time!
On Sundays we had no meat. Sometimes we had bread and jam, with milk and water to drink, or butter and eggs and when apples were plentiful we had apple pie on Sunday. They were made on Friday in four large tins, and baked at Baker Holtones. On Thursday afternoons two boys sat in the kitchen and prepared the apples. It required a bushel and they were cored and sliced, not peeled, with sugar and treacle added in the morning and five quarterns of bread dough sent for, which was put into the kneading trough and a girl under Rebecca Routh’s superintendence worked in some dripping or lard. When baked the crust was about 3 inches thick, but it was very light and we liked them. Two boys had to peel the potatoes, but when they were new they would sometimes put them into the pump trough and scrub them clean with a stiff broom. We had porridge for supper when I first went to Sibford, but we all disliked it so much that the School Committee allowed it to be given up, and we often had rice pudding which was very nice. Sometimes we had bread with butter, cheese or treacle with milk and water to drink.
We had to rise pretty early in the morning, 6am in summer and 6.40am in the winter. In the summer we had class before breakfast except those girls who had offices.(Ed: household duties) In the Winter we had breakfast by lamp light which was turned out as soon as the morning reading was over. School was from 9am to 12pm and 2pm to 5pm and class in the evening at 6.30pm with a reading at 7.30pm, and we went to bed at 8pm. No talking was allowed in the bedrooms. We had candles for twenty minutes and had to wash before getting into bed, not in our bedrooms but in the washroom where there were only six bowls, so some had to wait until the others had finished. Two boys had to pump the water up into a barrel from the back kitchen, a waste pipe told when it was full, sometimes it seemed as if the poor boys would never fill it, then it would be discovered that a tap over the trough was running.
We occasionally went for walks. It was delightful in the winter with the hoar frost on the ground, and sometimes we saw the farmer’s men ploughing with a yoke of Oxen, but our great delight was to see the coach go by and hear the driver blow the horn.
No notice was taken of Christmas but we sometimes had a half-holiday on New Year’s Day, and at other times we had half-holidays or the evening. In begging for a half-holiday we would often make our request to Richard Routh and he would speak for us. Once we approached him in rhyme but I only remember the beginning “Dear master, dear master, give us this half day. For when thou wast young, thou didst like to play”
Our punishments were often rather severe. They consisted of being forbidden to talk; tasks of knitting; being shut up or sent to bed; standing of the form bench before the boys; having tickets pinned on us; gruel (Ed: soup) with only salt in it for dinner. I was only shut up once and this was how it happened: we were standing in the girl’s playground one Sunday morning ready to go to Meeting, where for a little amusement I picked a blade of grass and putting it between my thumbs I put it to my mouth and made a noise like a trumpet. Out came Rebecca Routh in a panic thinking that little Richard was choking. For my punishment I was to have gruel for dinner which I would have got over but one of the girls annoyed me by putting on a pious look and saying “For shame Jane Shemeld to frighten governess so.” I said “I don’t care” so off she went to Rebecca Routh “Please governess Jane Shemeld says she doesn’t care.” Rebecca replied “Then I will make her care. Send her to me.” I faced her in her bedroom dressing for Meeting. I had to walk by her side all the way to Meeting and back. I wouldn’t have minded too much only I feared my aunts and cousins would be going to meeting at the same time and see I was in disgrace. When we got back to School I was taken to a nursery and locked in. A girl brought me some gruel for dinner and my Bible. The window looked into the boys’ playground but the lower panes were covered with white paint which had been scratched off in places so I ‘improved’ upon it so that I could see out a little. It was a lovely summer’s day and the boys came out after dinner and walked about in little groups or sat reading. In the evening I had to walk to Meeting and back in disgrace; later a girl came and made me up some kind of bed as a lot of bedding had been stowed away there. In the morning my knitting was brought with the message that I was to do three tasks. One task was as much as a girl was expected to do in a knitting afternoon. My task at that time was forty-five rounds. They brought me gruel again for my dinner. In the afternoon two boys came into the playground to peel potatoes for the next day and that was all the diversion I had so by the evening I had faithfully knitted my 135 rounds. Then a girl came for me to go to Rebecca Routh. She smiled graciously on me (I believe she was pleased with the length of my stocking leg), she told me not to be naughty again, and added “Now go into the kitchen, and ask them to give thee some rice pudding”. So my troubles were over for that time!
Sometimes we were sent to bed in the day time. I can only remember having to go once but I might have been sent more often for I was always talking when 1 ought to have been quiet or laughing when I should have been serious. It was in the depth of winter and so many of the cllildren had colds that only a few could go to Meeting. I was one who was able to go and in looking round around in Meeting it seemed so comical to see so few there, that another girl and I smiled at each other. We had just taken our seats at the dinner table in the hall when Richard Routh told of us, and were sent dinnerless to bed. Fortunately our beds were in the same room, the one over lower parlour. After dinner one or two girls brought us a bit of bread they had saved from their own dinner. When all was settled for the afternoon I got into my companion’s bed (hers was by the window) and we read about Sir Philip Neri in an ‘Olive Leaf’, but it soon became dark and we settled down for the night and were beautifully asleep when a girl came to say we were to get up and come into Reading, which was far worse than being sent to bed.
I was often forbidden to speak, and when that was the case I had to go so many times a day and say “Please governess, I haven’t spoken, half spoken, hummed, sighed or motioned.” I often had rounds of knitting to do, the School must have benefited by the amount of knitting I did! My brother was such a good boy at school and was held up as a pattern to me but I was forever getting into a scrape. Once my brother said to me “When we go into Reading, thee looks sometimes as if thee had been crying, and it makes me feel as if I should cry too.”
Girls who had brothers in the School might speak to them once a fortnight on alternate Sundays. In summer we might walk in the garden up and down the path next to the orchard, girls without brothers keeping to the other paths, and in winter we met in the girls’ schoolroom, but we were so shy, and hardly knew what to talk about, so my brother played tricks on me. “Did thee know father had bought a horse and gig?” I said “No” to which he replied “Neither did I!”
Once a quarter we had to write letters home. We could write more often if we liked but these quarterly letters were compulsory. We wrote firstly on a slate and then on paper which was looked over and corrected. The next day we wrote them out in our best style on ruled paper; if a boy put anything in a letter that was odd, Richard Routh would bring it into our schoolroom and read it out. Once a boy wrote “We have taken an excursion to Edge Hill where the battle was fought in two wagons” – he meant to say that we rode there in two wagons!
Our hair had to be cut once in six weeks. Barber Haines came on a Tuesday and it took him nearly the whole day. As soon as it was cut we went into the washroom where a senior girl poured cold water over our heads then rubbed them dry. If anybody was not well enough for the water they had flour dredged into their hair, which had to be brushed out. All this was to prevent us catching a cold.
The Sibford postman used to walk from Banbury every week-day morning and usually arrived about 11am and handed the postbag in at the girls ‘schoolroom door. (Ed: near the passageway where the dining room leads off.) He walked back to Banbury in the afternoon. A boy used to take the postbag over to Burdrop for there was no post office in either of the Sibfords. If Richard Routh forgot to send the boy in time and letters of importance had to go, two boys walked to Banbury with it. My brother would be chosen sometimes and he told me they would call on Lydia Gillett and tell her they were Sibford boys and she would ask them in and give them tea.
I believe it is many years since the girls helped with the washing, but in my time four girls helped each Monday. The washerwomen came about 4am and Richard Routh dropped them the key out of his bedroom window. I was anxious to be allowed to wash but it was sometime before I was old enough and when I first began I had to stand on a block of wood to reach the tray. The women were fond of hearing us recite poetry. Only one of those ladies is living now, Lucy Padbury. I met her when I was in Sibford lately, and we talked of old Times. The girIs who heIped to wash had ‘washer’s’ cakes for supper, which was thought to be a treat then.
Before the new dining room was built, (Ed: the original dining room was the Manor entrance hall.) the visitors who came to the General Meeting had to dine in the boys’ large bedroom, the fourteen bedsteads were carried out and two long tables put there, and the cloth laid a day or two before the great day. The meat was cold, but there were plenty of hot puddings and cold pastry. Six of the older girls waited at table and they had special slippers provided that they might trip lightly about. The children did not assemblc for dinner, but apple or jam turnovers were made a few days before, and each child had one wrapped in a sheet of paper taken from an old exercise book, We put them in our desks, but it was such a temptation to break a little bit off for a taste. I fear some of us had very little left when the proper time came for eating them.
With regard to our lessons we wrote in our copy books from 9 to 9.45am then grammar or geography until 11am, and from 11.15am until 12pm we had ciphering. On Monday afternoon we had knitting, (we knitted of the stockings used by the children) and on Tuesday afternoons we had plain sewing. We made all our under clothing and the boys shirts & collars, we stitched their wristbands and collars along twice (two threads forwards and two threads back). Wednesday and Thursday afternoons we repaired the clothing that came from the laundry, stockings first, and on Friday afternoons we repaired our frocks that were not washed. On Saturday afternoons and evening we had the time to ourselves. After we had done a number of little offices in the way of cleaning and afterwards being thoroughly washed ourselves, heads as well, for we had no bath in those days. The boys were allowed three clean collars a week and they were made of linen, but a very ugly shape and buttoned to their shirt button. The boys cleaned all the knives and forks every morning, twice on Saturday ready for Sunday, and twice a week the boys cleaned the girls’ shoes and if they could find out which shoes belonged to the girls they most admired, those got an extra polish!
In wet weather if we were well, we seldom stayed from Meeting, we wore cloaks and at one time hoods made of dark coloured stuff drawn over our bonnets (cottage shaped straw bonnets without trimming), but these hoods were soon given up, as we must have looked hideous, but our pattens we kept to, real pattens with Iron rings, and what a clatter we made walking down the meeting-house lane for that path was especially stoney. I think we carried umbrellas when we left off our hoods.
Meeting-house had a stone floor, (Ed: this was the original Meeting House built in the 1600’s and replaced around 1862 to the present one.) and we never had a fire, 1 have often watched the steam coming out of the boys’ mouths. We only had one ministry given by Joshua Lamb (Ed: great grandfather of Arnold Lamb) he would generally speak towards the close of the Meeting and tell us to “Yield up your whole hearts unto the Lord’s disposal.” Friends who lived nearby would come sometimes. Martha Gillett junior, of Banbury, frequently repeated the text “Fear not little flock for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Her father, Joseph Ashby Gillett, generally used the words “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth”, (to the end of the verse).
Sometimes we had nice visits from Friends’ who were travelling in the Ministry. Once Daniel and Eliza Hack of Brighton, J. B. Braithwaite of London and Martha Gillett junior of Banbury, all came together so we had a Meeting in the boys’ schoolroom and we were told when they came that J.B.B. was going to be married to M. G. – their family have been remarkable, as all the nine children (there has been no death amongst them) are engaged in Christian work, many of them are recorded Ministers. At another time an American Friend Anna Almy Jenkins had a meeting with the girls in their schoolroom. She returned to America soon after, and in a short time her house, described as a mansion, was burned down and she and one daughter perished, another daughter was badly burned and rescued.
Rebecca Routh was so distressed when she heard the terrible news, that she forgave us all our punishment work. E.O. Tregellis, William Ball, John Hodgkin, Josiah Forster, Sarah Hicks, Sarah Squire and others came while 1 was at school.
The Annual Meetings of the British and Foreign Bible Society were always held at the School. James Cadbury and perhaps one other gentleman would accompany the Deputation and a platform was erected in a corner of the boys’ schoolroom near the partition that divided it from our schoolroom. This partition was opened and the girls sat on the desks with their feet resting on the bench forms. The audience sat in the boys’ schoolroom, the girls repeated a piece of poetry at the commencement all in chorus, once it was “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed”, another time it was “Precious Bible what a treasure,” once it was some lines brought by the Deputation the previous year, with a request that the girls might learn them and recite them when he came again. We liked Monthly Meeting days as we had a half holiday and wore our white pinafores. We usually wore coloured ones except on Sunday.
Twice a year the Committee came to examine us, a class at a time in the lower parlour. Sometimes Richard Routh would give us Prizes, the highest I remember was threepence, more often it was a penny. The threepenny one was for writing what we could remember of a Lecture on “Peace” by Edmund Fry. My paper was the longest and I got the threepence; Esther Lamb got two pence’ and several girls got a penny. I have my paper with me now; I don’t think I’ve read it for thirty years. Another time I gained the prize of one penny by being the first to correctly answer the following question – “ A snail wanted to climb up a wall 20 foot high, he climbed 5 foot every day but during the night he fell back 4 feet so how long was he in reaching the top?”
We had an Australian Aborigine boy in the school, he came during my first winter and remained for five years, he was the son of an Australian Chief, their names were Warrulan, (Pic) but this boy had the additional name of Edward given to him after his arrival in England, he was not black like a negro but a nice shiny bronze black. He and several other boys were sent to England to be educated and taught trades that they might return home and teach their own people. I was told that our Government paid for their education, but only one of them was sent to a Friends’ School. Edward was very friendly with my brother, who went to see Edward when the latter was an apprentice in Banbury. Poor fellow, he did not live to return home, but I read that he made a very happy end.
I must not omit to say how kind and fatherly Richard Routh was to the girls. The boys thought him severe, and we thought Rebecca Routh severe. He would come into our schoolroom and play with us when we had the evening. I have seen him carry five girls at once around the room; when we played Oranges and Lemons he would let us pull him over, surely he did not put out all his strength. ‘Little’ Richard had hair the most like what is called “golden hair” I ever saw, it was curly too and his nursemaid encouraged it to curl. His mother tried to brush it straight. At last there came a day when Barber Haines was sent for, to cut the curls off, it was done in our schoolroom, and as the little curls fell on the floor we all tried to secure one, I believe we put them in our Bibles. I am sorry that I eventually lost mine. We all had small gardens. Ours were around the girls’ playground, two girls joined with one garden. The one I joined with had a nice border of double daisies, once 1 counted over a hundred in bloom at one time. There were three rose trees in it, the middle one a “York & Lancaster.” The boys’ gardens were near the orchard, they could grow radishes and lettuces as well as flowers, we sometimes managed a little mustard and cress.
Our games were very simple – “Hide & Seek”, “Skipping” (John Harlock gave us a new long rope), we used to skip, figure eight, and we were rather fond of “Here comes three Dukes all out of Spain etc” and “Drop Handkerchief”. Indoors we would have “Blind Man’s Buff, “Twirl the Trencher”, “Thread my Grandmother’s needle”, “Cap Verse”, Oranges & Lemons”, “Hunt the Slipper” etc.
When my walking companion to Meeting was Lizzie Gillett of Charlbury (now Mrs. Dreg of Evesham) we named the places we passed, but I only remember a few of them; the road leading up to John Lamb’s was “Miscellaneous Avenue”, the gates at the entrance were “The Fie Gates” because the village children would swing on them and their elders would say “Fie Fie!”. “Mannings Hill” was changed to “Leafy Hill”, for it was thickly covered with leaves in the autumn. If we went round Burdrop there was “Stony Well, “if through the Church Fields there was “Marshy Plain”, between the Church and village school was “Violet Bank”.
The boys would go blackberrying more often than the girls, if they got enough to make a little stew they were allowed to go to Sukey Fardon’s for some sugar, and if the blackberries were plentiful the boys would get enough to make jam for the whole school. Sukey Fardon had her shop when my mother was a little girl, she was still in it when I left school, it now belongs to her faithful servant, Maria Paine. When my mother was a girl the school premises were unoccupied except on Sunday afternoons when Sukey Fardon’s daughter had a “Sabbath School” in the kitchen which my mother attended.
William Minchin and Ec Pumphrey of Hook Norton were very kind and would have us over to tea occasionally, and they would let us get under an apple or pear tree, boys under one, girls under another, the fruit would then be shaken down and we had all we could scramble.
We had one death while I was at school, a niece of Rebecca Routh (Maria Whitten). She came for the benefit of her health but got worse. When well enough she had a Bible Class in lower parlour. I was in her Class and to this day 1 have treasured up one of the lessons she wrote out for me, before this young Friend died she requested that we might learn the hymn “Just as I am” by Charlotte Elliot, I think it had only recently been published, she died in 1848 or 9 I think, but her gravestone will show.
We were not allowed to sing. Once I was caught humming a tune and Rebecca Routh said “If thou dost persist in singing I shall call thee Jenny Lind” (a popular Singer just then), but another girl did not come off so well, she had a ticket pinned on to her, with the words written on it in round hand “1 am not allowed to sing”. Now, when I pass down the village and hear the piano tuning away I think, times are changed.
Although I have said we thought Rebecca Routh severe, she was often very kind and she would not always listen to a ‘tell-tale.’ Once a girl told her that I was looking off my sewing, she replied “If thou had’st not been looking off thy own work, thou would’st not have seen her.” When I had the measles she told rue that she liked me although I was often a tiresome little thing! Perhaps she thought she ought to say something kind just then. Once when Richard Routh was asking us to spell words before the usual morning reading, no one could spell ‘Diachylon’ but Rebecca Routh spelt it to me on her face, so that I could give the right answer, he had his suspicions and made a curious scriptural remark.
When I first went to Sibford I was asked what I knew, 1 said “the 23rd Psalm and the multiplication table to 12 times 12,” there were three Classes and of course, I was put into the Third, but after a time I got into the Second through spelling ‘Ipecacuanha’. No girl in the Second Class knew it – I believe I had been studying the medicine bottles!
Sometimes Banbury Friends’ would send us a box of gingerbread, or a box of oranges, and occasionally we had half a pound of muscatel raisins given to us and now and then tea and plum cake for supper. Once when I was forbidden to speak I was going up to my aunt’s to tea, I asked Rebecca Routh if I might speak whilst I was out and it amused her greatly. I am sure she thought me rather green. My father would not let me write on paper before leaving home, so I began like an infant with pot-hooks and hangers. At the half-yearly Exam in September I was in round hand, (Ed: handwriting) my show copy was “Gaming is a wicked custom”. Richard Routh wrote under it “Came to school in seventh month, and could not write,” I often wondered why they allowed us to play games, if it was so wicked, but sometime afterwards a girl explained to me that it meant gambling!
I do not remember anything particular happening during the last year I was at school. We went for a walk on the first of May, and meeting someone in a field, the conversation turned to the “Great Exhibition” that was to be opened in (or near) London that day. About the last thing I remember in connection with my school days was having to stay away from week-day Meeting to mind ‘Little Richard’, who had been poorly. He was to have an egg cooked in any way he liked, so I asked him if he would have it boiled or poached, he hardly understood me, but said it was to be a ‘standing up egg!
My mother came with her youngest child to fetch me from school and we stayed about two weeks at my aunt’s, then father came for a few days, and took us home by Train! the line having been completed between Banbury & Northampton via Bletchley. I did not sec Sibford again for two years when 1 went on a visit to my aunt and I discovered that the greatest novelty at the School being some Cuchin China fowls which Richard Routh It. took me to see; father, mother and one chick, although they had set the hen on thirteen eggs. During that visit Charles Simms of Chipping Norton was married. It was the first Friends’ Wedding I had seen. The feast was kept at Prospect Vi 11a, now the residence of John Wells, (Ed: former renowned Secretary to the School) the house was hardly furnished but they hung branches over the inside walls. It was a teetotal wedding and Joshua Lamb addressed the company in the afternoon, alluding to our Saviour being present at a marriage in Cana of Galilee, where he made the water turn to Wine. My aunt and elder cousins were invited to the house, but I stayed at home with uncle and the children. In the evening he took us for a walk and as I was fifteen and felt grown up and had to take his arm, we met these schoolboys on our return and my uncle threw some money on the ground to be divided between them.
My brother next in age to me was not strong enough to go from home, but I think my next brother (Henry) would have been sent to Sibford had not the Crimean War broken out. My father who had been exempt from paying Income Tax until then, was called upon to pay on his salary and on the house he had built with his savings. Provisions were dear, our Baker’s bill for a time averaged fifteen shillings (75 pence) a week. I remember my mother saying to us one day “Your father has nearly as much to pay for Income Tax us would send one of the boys to Sibford School” and it was quite true, for at that time the School fees were very low and Income Tax very high.
After my dear mother’s death my brother Albert was sent to Sibford for two years and was then apprenticed to Edwin Pumphrey of Hook Norton, and after my dear father’s death the four younger ones were sent to Sibford as they became old enough, so that 1 was again very much interested in the School. At one time I had three sisters there at the same time and Richard Routh. used to call me “Mother Jane”.
My youngest brother was apprenticed to some Friends at Hertford; one of the masters was my old schoolfellow Samuel Graveson. This brother afterwards became one of the School Committee. Eight of our family were educated at Sibford School making a total of thirty-six years and cousins, too numerous to count, I should think there must always have been one or more of my grandmother’s descendants in the School from its commencement to the present time. Three cousins (big lads!) were nearly ready to leave when I went and they all made good business men thanks to Sibford School, for where else in the village would they have been educated? A cousin from Northampton also went for a time, she was cousin ‘German’ to us, her father was my father’s only brother, her mother one of my mother’s sisters, I possess a letter which she wrote home in 1843 one of the earliest Sibford School letters to be found now I fancy. Although my brother Henry did not go to Sibford he sent one of his sons, but this dear boy did not live to leave school.
I will now only add that Rebecca Routh got me the situation which I remained in for nearly 37 years. I was on a visit to Sibford about the time that Richard Routh received a letter from a Friend in Croydon This Friend had become blind and wanted a young person who had been educated at Sibford School to wait upon her. I was then eighteen-and-a-half and looking out for a situation.
I paid many visits to Sibford during that period and Richard & Rebecca Routh were always very kind and cordial, and gave me every opportunity of seeing my young sisters while they were there, but Rebecca Routh died before my youngest sister left school, I visited Richard Routh when he was at the farm and he was as friendly as ever. I was not able to go to the School’s Jubilee gathering (1892), as the Friend 1 was living with was in her 96th year and did not like my being away a night, but 1 bought the photo and it is near me as I write.
I have let my pen run on but I hope I have not wearied you. It has been amusement to me. My eldest brother who is now an old man, delights in talking of his schooldays.”
Jane Shemeld Banbury 25-04-1905.