Tavistock Museum

Publication of The School Punishment Book

Stowford School's 1935-1946 punishment book, on sale via Tavistock Museum

Of all the exhibits in Tavistock Museum the one which attracts the most interest is the School Punishment Book from Stowford Church of England School, a small village school, near Lifton. The book was completed for the period February 1935 until November 1946 and records the names and misdeeds of 105 pupils between the ages of 6 and 14. As so many visitors have asked for a copy of the book the museum decided to publish it and now has copies available for sale from the museum shop and on the Devon Museums website.

From 1900 it was a requirement of the Ministry of Education that a Punishment Book was kept by schools in which ‘every case of corporal punishment inflicted in the School should be entered’. Corporal punishment was only stopped in state schools in 1987 so there are still many of us who can remember those good old days when teachers maintained discipline by punishing unruly, disrespectful or lazy pupils with stokes of the cane on the hands, legs or bottom. Fortunately most victims can now shrug it off with the comment that ‘it did me no harm’, and of course it always makes a good story, especially the time you were ‘whacked’ in school, and, back at home, got a ‘clout around the ear’ from your father for being in trouble at school.

Roderick Martin, manager of the museum, stated that he was pleased that the museum had decided to publish this excellent booklet since it was social history from within living memory, but of a time when attitudes were so very different. Many of our visitors are astonished at the severity and inconsistency of some of the punishments which, by today’s standards, were often for relatively trivial misdemeanours. Roger aged 6 received 4 strokes on each hand for swearing having been warned on three previous occasions, Daniel and Eric aged 11 each received 3 strokes on each hand for giggling, Annie aged 12 received a stroke on each hand for talking one minute after a warning, Peter aged 10 and Graham aged 11 each received two smacks on seat for fighting with their exercise books, Francis aged 10 and Roger aged 13 each received 4 strokes across legs for bad behaviour in lavatories, Margaret aged 12 received three strokes on each hand for insolence and lying, and so on. The maximum number of strokes recorded was ten, administered to Peter aged 8, five on each hand, for carelessness after a warning.

The book shows that some pupils were frequently in trouble and their names keep re-appearing. Others have the same surname as previous offenders so were probably brothers or sisters keeping up the family tradition. Punishments were usually given after a verbal warning, and in some cases several verbal warnings. A large number were for throwing objects. There were some occasions when groups of children were in trouble for throwing objects, resulting in a mass caning. Donald, Brian, Cedric, Norman, Roger and John aged 9-12 each received 3 strokes on each hand because they jumped over the school hedge into the road, threw stones and caused a horse with wagon to bolt. Joan, Jean, Phyllis and Monica aged 8 to 12 each received 2
strokes on each hand for being late for school
because they were throwing stones at a bird’s nest.

The head teacher who carried out the canings, and recorded them in the book, was Marjorie Allen. She joined the school in 1935 and left in 1947 to take up a post in the North of England. It is recorded in the Western Morning News of the 5th August 1947 that on the occasion of her leaving she was presented with a wallet containing notes in appreciation of her service. The school closed in July 1950 and its pupils were transferred to the Lifton County Primary School. The former school building is today the Stowford Parish Hall.

The book is available from the museum and from our online shop.

Stowford School in 1938 - Head teacher Marjorie Allen is on the left.

Stowford School in 1938 – Head teacher Marjorie Allen is on the left.

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One Response

  1. Hello Tavistock Museum
    I tried to send you a mail yesterday, but it did not work. info@tavistockmuseum.co.uk . What is the problem?
    If you send me some better email adress, I can send you the same text in a word.doc.
    Let me try again in this form:

    Gesendet: Donnerstag, 15. Juni 2023 um 22:26 Uhr
    Von: “Martin A. Bühler”
    An: info@tavistockmuseum.co.uk
    Betreff: German version upgrade, Museum Tavistock

    Hello dear museum team

    Here are Martin and Anita, Switzerland.

    Some days ago we visited your museum and we talked with a lady at your counter about the german translation paper. Now we found time to write it down in a better German. You can see it in the attachment, ready for print out – if you like.

    Many greetings from the tourists
    Martin and Anita

    Here is the same text:

    Museum Tavistock


    Der Eingang zum Tavistock Museum liegt im Torbogen Court Gate, dem ehemaligen Nordeingang der Abtei, zwischen dem Parkplatz und dem Stadtplatz.

    Das Museum ist von Mittwoch bis Samstag von 11:00 bis 15:00 Uhr geöffnet.

    Im Jahr 2023 steht wegen Bauarbeiten leider nur ein Zimmer zur Besichtigung offen. In der Ausstellung sehen Sie:

    The Duke of Bedford Cottages – Die Behausungen des Herzogs von Bedford.

    Wilminstone Quarry Locomotives – Lokomotiven des Wilminstone Steinbruches.

    Old English Currency – Alte englische Münzen.

    Wartime Air Accidents – Flugunfälle aus der Kriegszeit.

    The Coronation of King Charles III on 6. May 2023 – Die Krönung von König Charles III.

    Die Stadt Tavistock entwickelte sich rund um die wohlhabende Benediktinerabtei (974 – 1539).

    1539 bemächtigte sich der König Henry VIII aller kirchlichen Besitztümer und Ländereien und verteilte sie an seine Günstlinge. Tavistock kam in den Besitz der Familie Russel, später Grafen und Herzoge von Bedfort.

    Die Gebäude in der Stadtmitte stammen aus den 1850er Jahren, als der 7. Herzog, dessen Statue auf dem Parkplatz steht, durch die Einnahmen aus den Kupfer-, Zinn- und Arsenminen reich wurde. Er liess ein Rathaus, einen Gerichtshof, eine Polizeiwache und viele kleine, gutgebaute Arbeiterhäuschen erstellen.

    1911 versteigerte der 11 Herzog Herbrand aufgrund finanzieller Engpässe hunderte von Häusern und Ländereien als Privatbesitz an die Bürger.

    Für das Rathaus und die umliegenden Gebäude wurde «Hurdwickstein» verwendet, das verleiht Tavistock sein heutiges Aussehen.

    Update version 15.06.2023.

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