Whilst today Forncett has just one school, located in Forncett St. Peter, there have in the past also been primary schools in Forncett St. Mary and in Forncett End.

Forncett St. Mary

In Forncett St. Mary a National school was established by the Rev. Thomas Jack who served a rector from 1805 to 1844. The school was built on Low Road, almost opposite St. Mary's church. The land for the school was originally purchased on 28th May 1814 from William and Elizabeth Doe and conveyed to the Rector and his successors.

Forncett St. Mary school
Forncett St. Mary school

The Revd J. E. Cooper, who was rector of St. Marys from 1853 to 1908, also ran a preparatory school in the rectory, with scholars from the UK and overseas. In later years his daughters helped to run the school and in 1901 there were 11 girl boarders, aged 11-17.

Forncett St. Mary school closed in 1919 with much protest from parents who did not want their children to have to walk to the school in Forncett St. Peter. In November 1919 nine parents were charged at Long Stratton Petty Sessions with not sending their children to school. They were ordered to pay 1 shilling per child if they failed to comply with the order to send their children to Forncett St. Peter.

What happened to the building in the decades following the closure of the school is not clear, but on 10th April 1952 a trust deed signed over the former Forncett St Mary School (the property of the Church) to the Trustees of Forncett Village Hall for the sum of £200. The deed stated that "the building was many years ago closed as a school and is no longer used as such". The building has served as Forncett Village Hall ever since. 

Forncett Village Hall
Forncett Village Hall

Forncett St Peter 

The first school in Forncett St Peter was started by Dorothy Wordsworth, sister of the poet William Wordsworth. Dorothy lived at St. Peters rectory from December 1788 to 1793 with her uncle, William Cookson, who was appointed to the living on 17 September 1788.

In February 1789 Dorothy wrote to her friend Jane Pollard:

Did I ever tell you that I have got a little school? ... I have only kept it six months. I have nine scholars. Our hours in winter are, on Sunday mornings, from nine till church time; at noon, from half-past one to three; and at night, from four till half-past five. Those who live near us come to me every Wednesday and Saturday evening. I only instruct them in reading and spelling; and they get off prayers, hymns, and catechism. I have one very bright scholar, some very tolerable, and one or two very bad. I intend in a little time to have a school on a more extensive plan.

The idea of the school had no doubt originated from her uncle, and at one time, as Dorothy mentioned in her letter, there was a movement afoot to procure a house for a more extensive school which Dorothy and her aunt were to superintend. Nothing came of it, however, and when there was an outbreak of smallpox in the parish, it was deemed inadvisable for the village girls to visit the rectory in case they carried the infection.

The primary school in Forncett St. Peter was built in 1848 and was originally a one-roomed school with a teachers' house attached. It was later extended in length to include a second room, and a flat-roofed extension was added in 1895. The photograph below shows that in the 1930s the building was essentially unchanged, and the original structure can still be seen today.

Forncett St Peter school c.1930
Forncett St Peter school c.1930

Forncett End

In 1873 steps had been taken at the Vestry Meeting to open an infant school in Forncett End.

Vestry Minutes 20 Feb 1873

Meeting in National School Room chaired by Rev W G Wilson (12 others present). "It was unanimously agreed that the vacant shop belonging to Mr Spratt be hired for the purpose of an Infant School at Forncett End, to accommodate 25 young children under 8 years of age, at an annual rent of £7 to commence on the 1st of April next..."

Mr. Spratt's former shop front at Maltings Farm
Mr. Spratt's former shop front at Maltings Farm

This was perfectly understandable, as there in the hamlet adjacent to the main road to Norwich a large concentration of population had developed, where a large number of tradesmen were operating; carriers were also available to ferry goods and passengers to the county town.

The teacher at the new school was Mrs. Martha Caston who had been an infant school teacher since at least 1851. Martha was the wife of carpenter Charles Caston and, very conveniently, the couple lived in a cottage next door to Maltings Farm! Almost 20 years later, on 23 Nov 1892, Martha Caston retired after long and successful service (She was 74!).

From the accounts of 1893 it can be seen that Mrs Caston was paid £8.6.8 and received £1.5.0 rent and coal allowance. Agreement was also reached on hiring the Baptist Chapel School Room at a rent of £4. (This building stood next to the chapel but was completely rebuilt as domestic accommodation in the late 20th C.)

A meeting of the Infant School Committee was held at Forncett St Peter Rectory on 3 Apr 1893 when Miss Edith Rye was regarded as the most suitable candidate. However, by January 1894, when the Infant School Committee met again, the accounts for the previous year were presented and a deficit of £14.16.0 was highlighted. "It was generally agreed that to carry on the School was impossible." Miss Rye's salary for 8 months amounted to £23.6.8.

The following resolutions were passed:

  • That the Infant School be continued until Easter 1894 under Miss L. Williams and then be finally closed and
  • That notice be given to the Trustees of the Baptist Chapel that the agreement for hiring the School would be determined at the April quarter day.

Income for running the school came principally from rent from the Town House (£9) and School Land (£2.15.0) plus annual subscriptions from the following: the Rector, the Dean of Wells, Sir F. Boileau, Lt Col Unthank, A. Day, H. F. Wilson, Messrs Steward & Patteson, Thomas Palmer and F. H. Jollye. These were mainly landowners in this part of the parish, as stipulated in the original agreement on the Infant School.