THIS year marks the 75th anniversary since St Francis School in Pewsey first opened its doors to children in the area.

Founded by Phyllis Burden on September 24 1941, the school, known then as The Little Class, opened with just four pupils attending. Joanna Gilliat, Jill Lane, Humphrey Prideaux and Belinda Peall all started at the school in the Nursery at Pewsey Rectory, home of Canon Walter Prideaux.

In an extract from the diary of Miss Burden, dated September 24, 1941, it reads: “Early in 1941 I received a letter from a friend, Mrs Peall at Hatfield Farm, Oare, telling me her elder daughter Belinda was nearing school age and asking me to come and teach her. I went to see the Peall family, I was longing to return to teaching tiny folks again but I could only contemplate moving to Oare, providing Mr and Mrs Peall could find six young children to begin together and that accommodation could be found.”

During the first term of the school a further five pupils joined the class. By the following year, the school had outgrown the Nursery Room so Miss Burden found a new site in the house opposite St John’s Church which was used as a dental waiting room.

At the start of the 1950s St Francis had expanded so much that Miss Burden was in need of a dedicated building for classrooms. After bidding all of her money on three condemned cottages in Pewsey High Street, winning over Lloyds Bank and the Roman Catholic Church, Miss Burden secured the three homes. After borrowing a further £2,000 from the bank, Miss Burden fixed up the old cottages and converted the room above into a living space for herself.

By the time the 1970s began the school boasted 50 pupils on its roll, aged between three to eight for boys and nine for girls. When Miss Burden retired that year she received a radiogram as a leaving present.

Since then the school bought Haybrook House, housing the nursery, reception and pre prep, as well as Travanore House in the 1990s. Miss Burden, who had worked for 30 years building the school from the ground up, died in 2001, with several pupils attending her funeral.

The family legacy lives on with her great niece and nephew both attending the school. Flora Burrows, aged eight, and Bertie Burrows, aged four, both attend the school today.