Ninfield C of E Primary School

Diocese of Chichester Academy Trust


Ninfield Church of England School – background history

Pre-Victorian times

A Parish School was held in the Chancel of Ninfield Church as far back as 1685.

Victorian Period

Before the Education act of 1870 elementary education was provided by the Church of England, with local financial support. Prior to 1841 a school and playground were established on the opposite side of Church Lane to the current school. It was built by The Reverend J Philips and maintained using pupil’s payments, subscriptions and his own money.

Records, from the 19th Century, show that a number of ‘non-conformist’ schools also existed in the parish.

In 1852 an application was made, on behalf of The Reverend J Phillips, for assistance to build on a new site. The new school was to consist of one room with a moveable division “to enable the girls to be alone with the mistress while at needlework”. The Ninfield National School was built in 1853 for 324 pounds, 18 shillings and sixpence (£324.92 ½).

The school opened on 30th May 1854, with Mr W Trigger as Headmaster and 79 pupils on the register. By 1859 Mary Vockins is assisting him as mistress. She is followed by her daughter Frances.

The Education Act of 1870 required “provision of efficient schools for all children of the labouring classes”. The charge to parents seems to have been almost voluntary, 1 or 2 pennies a week per child. School fees were abolished in 1891.

Henry Nutley was Headmaster from 1874 to1876. He was succeeded by John Gates in April 1876.

Charles Edward Woodcock as Master and his wife Matilda as mistress took up duties in June 1876. When Mrs Woodcock died suddenly in 1883, their daughter Laura took over as Assistant Teacher. Mr Woodcock was given notice to quit in June 1884; he had 9 children to support.

In 1881 a classroom for the use of infants was added to the northern side of the original building.

In July 1884 Mr and Mrs Joseph Ridel became teachers at the school. It appears they taught at Hooe prior to their appointment at Ninfield. Mrs Ridel died in 1896 and Mr Ridel remarried. Mr Ridel and his new wife taught at Ninfield School until 1920, when they went to teach at Ashburnham.

In the 19th Century children were often absence from school because they were needed at home. An official Harvest Holiday existed, from the end of August to the beginning of October, so children could help with the harvest. They would also be absent to; shave hop poles, pick soft fruit, cut beans and pick hops.

During the winter children would often be absent because it was too cold, or it was too far to walk - not all children had shoes.

Early 20th Century

By 1912 the number of pupils had risen to 180 and another classroom was built on the eastern side of the original room.

1914 saw the commencement of the school gardening scheme.

Primary Education became compulsory in 1918. There was a big advance in the provision of further education for all, according to ability, not means.

In 1921 Mr Ridel’s son Alfred became Headmaster. A position he held until 1946.

Post 2nd World War

In 1950 Ninfield School became “Ninfield Controlled Primary All-range School”, when it was taken over by the East Sussex Education Committee. “Normal” school leaving age became 16 years (although pupils could leave at age 15) and further education became accessible for all. Additional classroom space was required, so use was made of the Reading Room situated in Church Lane.

Mr L E Wood became Headmaster in 1946. He was succeeded by Mr Stanley Trethewey in 1954. Mr Trethewey was Headmaster until 1980.

The number of pupils was significantly reduced in 1955, when Claverham Secondary School opened. Until then the majority of local children spent all their school years at Ninfield School. From 1955 Ninfield School provided primary education only.

There was an increase of pupils in 1963 when Hooe Primary School closed and the pupils transferred to Ninfield School.


September 1874 – March 1876          Mr Henry Nutley 

April – June 1876                                  Mr John Gates (Acting Head)

June 1876 – June 1984                        Mr Charles E. Woodcock 

June 1884 – August 1920                   Mr Joseph Ridel (long-serving & successful)

September 1920 – August 1946        Mr Alfred T. Ridel (same as his father – keen musician & greatly respected – died December 1967)

September 1946 – November 1953  Mr Leslie E. Wood

December 1953                                    Mrs Vine (Acting Head)

January – April 1954                            Mr W.H. Bond (Acting Head)

April 1954 – March 1980                    Mr S. Trethewey

April 1980 – July 1982                        Mr B.R. Roberts

Sept 1982 – July 2003                        Mr Peter Bulmer

Sept 2003 – Dec 2008                        Mrs Karen Bye 

January 2009 – July 2022                       Mr Chris Brown

                                        July 2022 - April 2023                    Mr Mike Taylor (Interim Executive Head)            

   April 2023 - Present                           Mr Daniel Getty