Prior to the Education Act of 1870, education in rural areas was a very hit and miss affair, and school records, particularly in the case of Oxhill, are almost non-existent. Local report (unverified) says that the house now known as Croftdown and situated immediately opposite to the Church was once a school, and the architectural appearance would seem to lend credence to this. Kelly's Directory for 1850 lists William
Groves as school master, and again unverified local report says that he lived in this particular house, so it would seem to be not unreasonable to accept local report in this instance.
Another belief, firmly held to locally, is that the house now known as Payn's House was also a school, and one of the outbuildings of this house has been known to its various owners through several decades as “the schoolroom”. One of the Shirley family, Selina, who became Lady Huntingdon, was a great pioneer in the field of education, and is believed to have had an interest in a small school at Oxhill where her family had held land for many centuries. Diligent search has revealed no detailed information on this matter, merely a passing mention. The Lady herself never resided here, but spent the larger part of her life at Bath. However, in view of her family connections with the parish, it is not unreasonable to assume that she took a charitable interest in a school here, and that it was probably at Payn's House.
(Note- As a result of viewing this site a descendant of a pupil who is known to have spent some time at school in Oxhill has recently been in touch with the Village Historian providing details of a letter sent to Richard Edmunds at Oxhill. He was sent to the school with his elder brother Frederick in 1833.
The Board School in Oxhill (now the Village Hall) was opened in January, 1876, and cost £375 to build. The first Board was comprised of five well-to-do farmers and landowners, a Clerk to the Board, and the Rector who held this seat by reason of his office. There were thirty-three pupils from this small parish, but by the end of the year, the number had increased to seventy-six. The school log books are at present at the County Record Office, and give an interesting picture of Victorian and Edwardian school life so far removed from our present day standards.
One of our first teachers was a Mary Jane Clifford who had been educated at Cheltenham Ladies College. Reading between the lines, Mary Jane did not appear to be too happy. She writes that the children were dull and backward, but at that time she herself must have been very young. The children too had a very hard life, often having insufficient to eat, living in extremely overcrowded conditions, and very probably having to do an hour or two crow-scaring in the frosty dawn before coming to school on a sparse breakfast of bread and tea kettle broth.
She writes of children staying away from school to see the hounds meet, and the fact that on several occasions she was forced to visit the parents and remonstrate. She also had to send children home for coming to school “uncleanly” dressed. She faithfully records punishments for swearing, for telling an untruth, and for obstinacy.
There are reports of floods in the village which prevented children attending school, and on several occasions the schoolroom floor was several inches deep in water, necessitating temporary closure of the school. At least twice a week, Mary Jane gave the children lessons in morals. Honesty, truthfulness and obedience figure largely in these, and especially obedience to those in authority over them.
The School Inspector was a frequent and rather to be feared visitor. The children learned special songs for his visits, to which he would dutifully sit and listen, with how much pleasure is not recorded. The songs included "Home Sweet Home", "The Ploughboy", "The Farmyard", "Lightly Row", "The Father's Return", and similar ballads of the time. By the end of the year, the log books record that the Inspector was gratified by the good progress made.
The Rector at this time was the Rev. V. H. Macy, and he and his wife were frequent visitors to the school. He put the children through their catechism, and she inspected the girls' sewing. They also took along with them any visitors who happened to be staying with them at the time, which conjures up a mental picture of gracious ladies elegantly inspecting hemstitched handkerchiefs, and patting small aproned girls on the head.
Four of the older girls were appointed as Monitors at the rate of 1/- per week, to take it in turns to help out with the younger ones. This would seem to have been very necessary indeed if one school mistress had to cope with seventy-six children of varying ages all at once.
The log books continue until just after the war when the school was permanently closed. The school in the next village of Tysoe has been enlarged, and children from several surrounding parishes are now transported there by the school bus. The Education Committee made over the school by a Deed of Trust for use as a Village Hall.