The History of Our School
Mereworth School opened its doors for the first time in 1856. Originally it was a school funded by the church. Pupils began aged five and continued until they were thirteen years of age. Great emphasis was put upon reading, arithmetic, scripture, sewing, handicraft and gardening. Pupils were taught in the Victorian building seated at desks, which were bolted to the floor. The school took regular deliveries of coal for the open fires. Pupils were tested and reported upon by the local rector, the gardening superintendent and inspectors from Kent. Classes were large and sometimes as many as 100 children would be taught by one teacher with help from monitors (older ex-pupils who provided support).
In 1904 Mr Hodder, the newly appointed head teacher, had an annual salary of £120! The assistant teacher earned £90. If children were supposed to be better behaved years ago the punishment book tells a different story. Pupils climbed over the boundary wall breaking into a potato shed, were insolent to their teachers, set fire to paper in a pupil’s coat pocket and were often late for school. Attendance was a major issue with the school often having large absences due to nutting, hop picking and epidemics of chicken pox or measles. During the First World War many ex-pupils fought for their country and sixteen gave their lives. They are commemorated on a board in the school reception area. In the Second World War numbers were swelled by evacuees from London. These evacuees later left when the Battle of Britain was raging overhead. The school was given its own air raid shelter in 1940, which can still be seen today in the school car park.
In 1944 a V1 flying bomb landed very close to the school causing considerable damage. In the 1950s and 1960s the RAF continued to have a major impact upon the school with service families coming and going from RAF West Malling to all parts of the world. At that time pupil numbers were around 200 and it was in 1969 that it was felt necessary to build a new hall, infant classrooms and servery. The school retained the wooden HORSA buildings erected as temporary classrooms in 1946 right up to 2004 when the current new block was constructed. The school is now as large and successful as at anytime in its existence.
Throughout its life many pupils have been educated within its walls and many who return with nostalgic tales always say- it is a rather special place!