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The photo below of the school at Chawleigh, taken before the safety fence was erected around the building, shows quite clearly how the original building has been adapted to various uses over the years.


Ignoring the two gable-roofed extension on the left-hand side, we see a long rectangular building. Its back wall adjoins the churchyard which lies behind and at the right-hand end is a gate giving access to the church and the churchyard. This is the outline of the original building - the Church House - used for a variety of activities from meetings to housing the parish poor.


In 1806, a schoolroom and a small amount of accommodation for the teacher were created on the right, leaving the remainder of the building for use as a poor house. By 1866, Workhouse Unions had put the whole business of providing for the poor on a different footing and at this point the whole building was converted into a two-storey school with a house for the Master and his family. The School Board took control of the school in 1873 and in 1893 there was an optimum roll of 120 children, the average attendance being 36 boys, 40 girls and 27 infants. The Infants' classroom was added on the left in or around 1894 - before this, the Infants had been taught in an upstairs room over the "big room".  In 1937, the senior pupils were transferred to the school in Chulmleigh leaving this building, as it is today, a primary school.


Chawleigh Village School

Chawleigh Village School c.1950


One of those named for their leadership at the time of Chawleigh's great fire was Richard Gough,  the schoolmaster who had been born in the village. The 1841 census shows him in office, as a bachelor aged 30, living at the home of a local woman named Rebecca Gough. By 1851, he had married Rebecca's daughter, also named Rebecca (29 in 1851), who had returned to the village as a certificated teacher and who had become the Infants' Mistress. By 1851, they had two children - Richard (3) and Helena (1).  Richard's service record ran from some time in the 1830s until his death in 1874 and must have rivalled that of John Baple. He was buried in the tiny graveyard of the Congregational Chapel opposite the school, now the Jubilee Hall. The 1891 census shows Rebecca then aged 69 living at St. Sidwell's in Chawleigh.


Gravestone of Richard Gough

The burial ground of the former Congregational Chapel

The Chapel was adapted to other uses as a Jubilee Project in 1935 and the gravestones were cleared back and made safe so that the exact location of individual graves is no longer known. Second from the left is the gravestone of Richard Gough and his wife Rebecca - most of the inscription has weathered away but their names and the word "schoolmaster" can still be made out.

© Richard J. Brine


The school was to have one of Devon's longest-serving Masters - John Baple who served there from 1882 to 1924 along with his wife who was a certificated teacher and  had been appointed Mistress.

John Baple was born in Chawleigh in the September Quarter of 1860, the son of William Baple, a sawyer, and his wife Mary. He was to attend the same school he was later made Master of. We don't have a complete listing of all the Masters and Mistresses before his appointment but if Chawleigh was anything like other Devon villages, there would have been plenty of comings and goings - good teachers were very hard to find and even harder to keep.

The 1861 census shows Richard and Rebecca Gough as Master and Mistress of the school and they were still there in 1871 although by that time, Richard Gough was 60 and must have been thinking about retirement. The 1881 census shows George Challice in charge and since his youngest child was born in Chawleigh and was 3 years old, we can time his arrival for the mid 1870s. the same census shows John Baple in Exeter, where there was an excellent College for the training of teachers - St.Luke's Diocesan College. All teachers trained on the job at this time and he would have been teaching under supervision for 2 years before gaining his certification. The appointment at Chawleigh must have been his first and last job interview for he never taught anywhere else!

In the Spring after his arrival in Chawleigh, he married Elizabeth Ellen Nott who was also a certificated teacher and eventually, she was appointed as Mistress to take charge of the infants, some of whom were barely two years old. Village schools played a very important part as child-minders in those days. A large proportion of women in Chawleigh were engaged in lace-making, working as as outworkers - work that would have been impossible to do with young children present all the time.

The Baples had two children - Ellie ( 1884) and William Henry (1889). John Baple retired in 1924 at the age of nearly 65 after 42 years of service to his community.



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