Staffordshire Working Lives
Freehay school log book

Extract from Freehay school log book illustrating the work undertaken by children to help their families, 1867.

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Children helping on the farm: school log books

Freehay school log book extracts, 1867.

Freehay is in a rural area near Cheadle to the south of the Staffordshire Moorlands. The farming calendar dominated everyone’s life, including those of the children, and hence of their school teachers. These extracts illustrate the work undertaken by the children to help their families, including the girls’ staying at home presumably to look after younger children while their mothers went to market. The teacher was accepting of the situation that attendance had to suffer and was interested enough to include regular weather reports as relevant to farming.

In June the potatoes were weeded, followed by the picking of bilberries. In 1865 the teacher commented “Bilberries determine our holidays”. July was the month of the hay harvest, and there was a break for a midsummer holiday from about the third week of July, with school resuming in the last week of August. Freehay had a Wakes Week in early September (this was originally a local religious festival used as a holiday mainly in rural areas), and then the corn had to be harvested, followed by the potato crop in October.


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