The earliest mention of a school in Charmouth is in Dunn’s Day Book. Samuel Dunn was a builder who had his workshop between Peria and the Court on The Street. In 1834 he made a blackboard for the school. There is also reference to the school being used in 1836 for Church Services during the period when the church was being rebuilt. However, there is no record of the name of the founder or date of founding.
It is thought that the school was originally a Church School, but by 1842 it must have become a National School because a Thomas Richards’ daughter was christened that year, and his name appears as ‘National Schoolmaster’ in the Church Register. There is also mention of George Miller, 1846, William Mansfield, 1848, and James Peck in 1851, in the church register as Schoolmaster; William Mansfield is also mentioned in the 1848 Edition of Kelly’s Directory under the heading National Schoolmaster.
The original school building had two storeys: the Schoolmaster lived downstairs and the children were taught upstairs. Entrance to the upper floor was by means of an outside stone staircase. In June 1867 a girl fell down the stairs and so a Monitor was appointed to stand at the bottom of the steps `on going in and out of the children’. His salary was £5 per annum!
The old building, on the same site as the original, was first occupied on 27th June 1870. Mrs. Breton, wife of the Rector had laid the foundation stone, on 26th August 1869. During the period of construction the children were taught in `an Old Shop’ opposite the end of Lower Sea Lane. The classroom off the existing hall was added in 1881 at a cost of £350, the school enlarged in 1891, and the boys’ and girls’ porches built in 1904.
On 1st May 1878 the school became a Board School for the united district of Catherston, Leweston and Charmouth. The salary of the Headteacher was £105 a year at that time, and the Assistant Teacher received £20 per year. On 1st September 1891 the payment of fees was abolished; they had previously been 1d. per week per child.
On 17th July 1903 Managers superseded the School Board. The School Managers met only four times a year, whereas the Board had been meeting once or twice a month. The school became a Council School in 1905.
On 10th September 1946 the school at Stanton St. Gabriel, Morcombelake, was closed and 15 children from there joined this school. On 23rd July 1970 the schools at Whitchurch Canonicorum and Wootton Fitzpaine also closed, feeding in 22 and 23 children respectively at the beginning of the Autumn Term. The school had 4 full-time teachers and 125 pupils at that time; we now have 177 pupils and the equivalent of 7 full-time teachers.
The first existing School Log Book starts on 1st April 1863 when Mr. Thomas Bunston was Headmaster. There have been only seven other Headteachers between Mr. Bunston and the present Head, they being Mr. George Trott for 12 years; Mr. Henry L. Jones for 38 years; Mr. D.M. Knight for 5 years; Mrs. Alice N.K.B. Stewart for 14 years; Miss Nellie I. Meade for 25 years, Miss Thelma Pascall for 16 years and Mr John Broadhurst for 21 years.
The present building was started in 27th April 1992 and opened for the children on 23rd April 1993. It was built at a cost of £865,000 on the land previously used as a sports field and was officially opened by Lord Digby, Lord Lieutenant of Dorset on 23rd June 1993.