The Hurst and Ruscombe National School was opened on the 31st August, 1818 and could accommodate 80 boys and 80 girls. In 1843 it moved from the original site in Tape Lane to its current site in School Road, which was donated by a Mr Robert Palmer.
The school building was originally intended to be used with one side for the girls, one for boys and the master’s living quarters in the centre. The building and fitting-out cost was £783 13s 10d (£783.69)!
The school was formally divided into boys and girls in 1870 and as the school was both a Day and Sunday school, attendance at Sunday morning services was an integral part of the week.
In 1881 a separate school was opened for the boys some 200 metres away and closer to the church, which is now a private dwelling. Log books show that truancy was often an issue with boys away “watching a ploughing match” or “following the hunt”!
In 1906 the schools became known as the St Nicholas Hurst CE Boys School, Girls School and Infant School and ran as individual schools, only to join together again as St Nicholas Hurst CE Primary School in 1949.
The school log books show many recorded incidents of the time. In the autumn of 1917 all schools were given “holidays” to pick blackberries “for making jam for the Army and Navy”. The Hurst schools collected 50kg.
In 1924, the year of the Great Exhibition at Wembley, “61 children and teachers from the boys’ and the girls’ schools went to Wembley by charabanc” at a cost of 5/6d (27p) per child. They took with them “gifts of buns and cakes from the village baker”.
In 1939 the opening of school was delayed after the summer holidays due to the declaration of war on 3rd September 1939 and the arrival in the village of evacuees from Camberwell. From 12th September Hurst children attended their school from 8.50am until 12.30pm, while the Camberwell children and their teachers had the building from 1.00pm to 4.30pm. This arrangement was probably welcomed by the children of both schools!
The history of St Nicholas School, gathered from school log books and other sources, reflects many of the changes that affected the growth of education from the first attempts to teach children to read and write, to the 1949 Education Act when secondary education was made available to all children, to when the school became a Primary School and beyond.
The headteachers’ comments in the school log books reveal the frustrations of their time, the high points and the tragedies, and reflect the events of the world that impinged on them.
In 2011, Wokingham Borough Council spent approximately £2million updating our school. The work included bringing all five classrooms together and building a new school hall into which all the children can now fit!
As the school has already done so for nearly two hundred years, it continues to look forward to future years of providing the children entrusted to it the best preparation for their secondary school days and beyond.