One hundred years ago this year, in a medieval manor house, two tiny rooms were opened to a few lucky youngsters from Spalding and the surrounding countryside.
They were the first pupils in what became Ayscoughfee Hall School, South Holland’s only Independent Primary School, now housed almost opposite its original home in accommodation that includes a large hall, ICT suite, Junior library, art room and a brand-new Infant Block.
The first pupils spent break times playing in Ayscoughfee Gardens and having swimming lessons in a garden pond at what is now the Cley Hall Hotel
Children as young as five travelled alone from Holbeach by train and fish and chip lunches, purchased from a local shop, were the highlight of the week.
However, the school soon outgrew these rooms and moved to new premises in Church Street, and from there, approximately 30 years ago, to the site of the old Spalding High School in Welland Hall.
This beautiful Georgian building had been unoccupied for some time and much effort – and not a little money – was spent bringing it back to life.
The main building now houses the Junior children, offices and specialist rooms, whilst a new Infant Block was officially opened in September by the school’s oldest ex pupil, Mr Ian Smith. Now in his 90s, and a regular visitor to his old school, Mr Smith clearly recalls his school days.
“They were delightful years. A solid grounding in the Three R’s as they were then termed,” he said. “There was creative work too. I recall making a bamboo pipe which I can still play and bows and arrows for Robin Hood.
“There was dancing to English folk music played on the head’s wind up gramophone.”
Mrs Clare Ogden, the school’s current headteacher, said: “The opening of the Infant Centenary Block was a really exciting occasion for us all.
“It has allowed us to provide fantastic spacious classrooms for our children, a dedicated Infant Library facility and an amazing area for group work and our Kid’s Club’.
Evelina, age five, put it rather more succinctly: “It’s really colourful with lots of fun stuff,” she explained.
A host of exciting celebration events to mark Ayscoughfee Hall School’s centenary are being planned for later this year when the school reconvenes.
In the autumn, the school plans to launch a beautiful scented rose, named Ayscoughfee, after the school and its original home.
Created by a rose breeder from Sheffield and “brought on” by Baytree Nurseries of Weston, the plan is to create a tribute to all who have made the school what it is today.
“We like to think of ourselves as one big family,” explained Mrs Ogden.
“With small class sizes we can make sure that every
child receives individual attention, makes great progress and thrives in a caring environment.
“That’s what it’s all about really.
“And it is worth celebrating!”