Castor CE Primary School as it is today has only existed since 1956. Before that, there were two schools in the village. Castor Infants School was on the present site in the part of the school that is now our hall , and the Fitzwilliam School was in the building that is now the Village Hall.
The Fitzwilliam School was founded in 1829 by the Earl Fitzwilliam and took the place of the original village school, which was held in the church vestry.
The Fitzwilliam School around 1890
Quote from an extract from a lecture delivered by Mr John Hales on Castor Past and Present on 28th April 1883.
"Where the present vestry now stands was held a day and Sunday School, at which I received a greater part of my earlier education. There was a door on the side near the chancel door for entrance from without and another on the inner side where the commandments now stand. These commandments were then placed in the school, between one of the arches. The schoolmaster used to enter the church by this door to ring the treble or smallest bell at nine o'clock, and at two, to call us scholars together. All the bells were then rung on the ground floor and were very dangerous. Our poor old clergyman once had an idea that he could ring one. There being the tenor raised for a funeral and the clerk being called away, he pulled it off and the consequence was it pulled his watch out of his pocket and smashed it on the slab floor and quite cured him of his mania"
Many people in the villages of Castor and Ailsworth remember Mr Albert Berridge, who was appointed headmaster of the Fitzwilliam School in 1944. He wrote an account of the history of the school.
Castor Infants School and the Fitzwilliam School were combined following an inspection report in 1954 that found that the premises of the Fitzwilliam School lacked many of the facilities expected by that time.
'There is no hall, staff room or store room, the artificial lighting is not good and the interior of the premises needs redecorating. Cloakroom and sanitary provision leave much to be desired, the washing facilities are particularly primitive, there being no sinks or tap water for the use of the children'
The comments on the education were more constructive!
'In class 2 the children are handled sympathetically by a mistress who is approaching retirement. She is interested in the pupils, knows them as individuals and has established a happy atmosphere in the classroom.'
The overall conclusion was that 'The school is a happy place where the pupils are friendly and ready to volunteer information on things which interest them.'
The new Castor Church of England Primary School was officially opened by the Countess Fitzwilliam on July 13th.
View the Log Book entry
In September 1956 there were 3 classes in the school:
Mr Berridge, Headmaster, took Class 1, with 25 children
Miss Bailey, Class 2, 29 children
Miss Hales, Class 3 (infants) 38 children, with Miss Hobbs as infant helper.
History of the school site
Castor is a well known and well documented Roman site. Two important roads, Ermine Street and King Street, met here, and Roman pottery known as Castor Ware was made locally. Much of the centre of the village is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and the school is within this area.
Evidence of a considerable number of Roman buildings has been found in the area, including a palatial building on top of the hill just behind St Kyneburgha's Church. Part of the palace can still be seen on Stocks Hill.
It is thought that some of the buildings were on what is now the school site. This certainly makes studying the Romans more interesting!
Archaeologists have worked on the site at different times. The first major investigation was done in the early 19th century by Edmund Artis, who was agent to Earl Fitzwilliam of Milton Park. A drawing from this time shows excavations of a bath house below the church just where our school field is now.
In the last ten years, several excavations have taken place around the school, finding remains of walls, bricks and tiles.
(Click on an image to view in full size)
Over the last few years the school has been extended and modernised. A new library was added in 2002, followed by a new classroom and outdoor area for the Reception children in 2004. Our new school hall has just been completed, providing much needed space for PE and other activities.
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