A Brief History of Bredhurst C/E Primary School
“I am glad to find that a very good school has been built which is of great advantage to the Parish and of material benefit to the rising generation.”
(Julius Deedes, Rural Dean, 1867)
Bredhurst village has existed since Neolithic times, but it was not until 1867 that it had a school. Following enlargement and restoration of St Peter's Church by the altruistic Rev. H .C. Day, he decided that the rural community would benefit from a school. To this end he procured land from the Chatham brewer E. Winch, Esq. and arranged conveyancing of the site in 1865 and the eventual completion of the building in 1867. The original school is still very much in evidence today in a fairly structurally unchanged form. It consists of Kemsley Class, the ICT suite, the office, stockroom, Kemsley cloakroom and the upstairs offices.
The school was typically Victorian with high windows in the schoolroom to avoid distractions to pupils, a central stove to provide heating and the Schoolmistress' accommodation adjoining. The earliest log book shows that Mrs S.Belcher was Headmistress and was supported by two assistant mistresses and the Vicar who lived in the Rectory, an imposing edifice which stood where Fir Tree Grove is now situated. The curriculum differed greatly from today's and included drill for the boys, knitting and needlework for the girls, recitations and object lessons on subjects as diverse “The Tongue of a Bee” and “Dairying and Cattle Feeding.” These object lessons were sometimes given by the Managers of the School or the Vicar and were illustrated by lantern slides. Bredhurst has always been a Church school and as such the regular three hour Scripture lessons were very important. The Vicar attended very frequently to teach the children Bible stories, Catechisms and Psalms.
Many of the issues faced by the Victorian school remain the same today; financial restraints, heating, maintenance, behavioural problems, visits from the School (nit) Nurse, dentist etc., etc. In those days, however, there were more holidays in which to recover the equilibrium. There were holidays to accommodate hop picking, fruit picking, harvesting, Ascension Day, Whitsun, Empire Day, Independence Day, school treats/picnics, Sunday school outings, choir outings, Bank holidays, all ‘Royal' events and even ‘whim' holidays granted at the Managers discretion! All these in addition to the regular Christmas, Easter and summer holidays!
Over the years the school has had a varied career, apart from being an educational establishment it has also served as a billet for soldiers during World War I, polling station, Parish meeting place and evening school. A special meeting of the Parish took place in June 1903 to appoint Mr H Chapman as Manager for the School for a period of three years. The school also housed a museum with various exhibits originating from the Victorian era which were used extensively during object lessons.