William Warwick Hawkins, a wealthy Colchester timber merchant who lived in Alresford Hall, built the original school in 1846 which was located in what is now a private house immediately opposite the school.
Alresford in the 1800s was very rural and quite different from today. The children walked miles to school in all weathers and it seems like the weather was harsher in those days as there are many instances of the school being closed due to snow. Rain too was a problem, before the days of tarmac roads wet weather could make the roads impassable making it difficult, if not impossible to get to school.
Life was harder for everyone then and school was no exception. Heating was by open fire until a stove was fitted well into the 20th century and one of the most common entries is “2 tons of coke delivered!”. Gradually improvements were made, a well was dug in the playground to provide running water, electricity was connected and the telephone was installed in the 2nd World War to help give early warning of V1 rockets.
Throughout the log books events outside Alresford are recorded. The celebrations of Queen Victoria’s Golden and Diamond Jubilees, and later her death. Songs were sung for the relief of Mafeking and in the First World War the children had a day off school to go blackberry picking for the Ministry of Food. The Second World War records the arrival and gradual departure of evacuees from London.
Gradually the books start to record things which are more familiar to us today. The Summer Holiday stops being called the “Harvest Holiday”. School trips are arranged and football matches played against other schools, there are fewer treats provided by the great and the good of the village, a burglary is recorded in detail, all part and parcel of modern life.
Much of what is recorded in the Log Books is mundane, visits to the school by people whose names are written down but with no explanation of who they are or why they came and the Victorian copperplate handwriting is very difficult to read. However, what we are left with is a feeling that those of us who are at the school now are following in the footsteps of generations of pupils and teachers and will soon become part of the history of the school as it continues into the future.