LIKE all good stories, the tale of Holy Trinity School has three parts - a beginning, a middle and a happy conclusion.

The third Holy Trinity - Holy Trinity CE Primary School and Community Nursery - was opened by the Bishop of Sherborne on May 9 this year.

To coincide with the opening a commemorative book by Geoff Pritchard, Three into One Will Go... The Story of Holy Trinity Schools, Weymouth was published and is now for sale at the school office.

The story began on May 23, 1853 when the foundation stone of the first school in Chapelhay was laid. The school opened on Trinity Monday, 1854. For his research, Geoff went through the school's logbooks from its opening to 1992. "They might say something like, It was a wet day today and a large number of children were absent,' " he said, "Or when the King and Queen came down for a fleet review, a lot of children went missing.' "

Does the history of the school reflect the history of the time?

"Yes, at the time Chapelhay was an interesting area with the historic High Street, which was just above," said Geoff.

Some of the details recorded in the logbooks sound positively Dickensian, reflecting an England of widespread poverty in which the shadow of the workhouse loomed large in the lives of the less fortunate.

"The Rev Vincent Ransome, who had been curate from 1867 to 1878, wrote in 1920 in Holy Trinity Parish magazine that the parish abounded in children," said Geoff. "In the 10 dwellings of Weston Cottages, for example, there were 45 children."

The first report of the School Committee in 1855 stated that the average attendance had been about 250 children - the cost of schooling was one penny a week but a number of parents were unable to afford this.

The report of the School Committee the following year reads: "In addition to other useful work taught in these schools, the children, whose parents wish it, have an opportunity afforded to them of learning to knit gloves, an occupation likely to be useful to them in after life."

Despite the constant struggle for money and problems with overcrowding, the school went from strength to strength through the efforts of its fundraisers. In 1869 Crickmay, the local architect, was instructed to prepare plans for an extension to accommodate the infants' section. Further extensions were built in 1876 and 1894.

But on November 17, 1940, disaster struck. A parachute mine exploded in the area between Franchise Street and Chapelhay Street, destroying many houses and putting the school building out of action, as it became apparent later, for good.

The post-war replacement schools - Holy Trinity Church of England Infants and Junior Schools, were designed by Crickmays, and opened in Cross Road on September 1, 1952.

At this second' Holy Trinity School, Geoff himself was a pupil in the 1950s and he returned in adulthood as a school governor. His attachment to the school and interest in local history - he co-wrote Images of England: Weymouth and Portland with Andy Hutchings - put him in a strong position to write the book.

"In the logbooks from when I was a pupil there are things I had completely forgotten," said Geoff. "We also got reminiscences of various people. One in particular was Mrs Ashton who is 94 and still takes a keen interest in what's going on. She started teaching in 1937 and taught until 1974. It was nice for her to be a guest at the official opening of the school and she wrote a particularly interesting reminiscence of her time."

"Sometimes the siren went,' wrote Mrs Ashton, "and off we all hurried to the trenches near Spring Gardens and waited for the All-Clear to sound.

"At times the schools were used for other purposes, like looking after mothers and babies from the East End of London before they found billets in the local area. We housed some of the poor French soldiers after Dunkirk, until they were rested and sent on to another location. I also remember some of the Channel Islanders - covered in coal dust - those who were lucky to escape before the Nazis arrived."

One important change in the new school, recorded by Mrs Ashton, was that for the first time boys and girls would be educated together.

Another highlight of the book for Geoff is the memories of Eleanor Cozens who went to the infant school as a pupil in 1908 and came back after the First World War in 1922 as a student teacher.

For the 125th anniversary of the school in 1978, Eleanor wrote: "In the Baby Room as it was known and ruled over by the Misses M Board, P Board and Bullen, we began to read and write and do simple numbers.

"We used slates and slate pencils. Arms folded and everyone listening, no talking except to teacher and so we learned but it stuck in our memories."

What becomes evident from reading Geoff's book is how prominent a place Holy Trinity School has held in the heart of the community over its 154 years.

"They've had a continuity of good teachers," said Geoff. "Mark Cheesley, the present head, is only the fifth headteacher since 1892."

"It's a very, very popular school," he added. "Estate agents use being in its catchment area as a selling point."

Three Into One Will Go... The Story of Holy Trinity Schools, Weymouth is available from the school office and costs £5.

  • More Holy Trinity pictures in next week's Looking Back.