Victorian School stories

Folk drawing

Monica Sweeney, nee Lawrence, born 1930s
My brother, Roy, and myself are by the wall of the Victorian School in the photo. I'm the little girl second from left and Roy is the little boy in the pale jumper with his arms over the wall. Old Ken Rockall lived in the cottage on the right of the school. And we lived in the end house of Archlee Terrace opposite the Temperance Hall.

Malcolm Ludlow, born 1930s
Monica Lawrence, my next door neighbour, and I both went to Loudwater School when we were old enough. Wed go down through the wood, through the Drum as we called it (a large dip) and the path would be worn out because we all used it. Then through the gate of the railway, across it (putting a penny on the track to squash it flat) there was no health and safety in those days. When you got over the railway line there were air raid shelters and on the right were allotments. And everybody had to dig an allotment and had to know what you put in it and how to use it.

John Oldale, born 1930s
We all went to the old school in Flackwell Heath until we were old enough to go to the one in Wooburn. (There was one for boys and one for girls down in Wooburn). For some reason my name doesn't appear in the old school register for 1945 and yet I was still attending the Flackwell Heath School at that time. I remember that you could get behind the wall that housed the toilets (which were very primitive really) and with a bit of luck you could wave a nettle and catch a girl's behind! After we reached a certain age we'd walk down Juniper Lane to Wooburn School and go that way, but the girls went down Whitepit because that was closer to their school along by the Bell. Joan, my sister, had TB when she was 10 or 11 and had to go into an isolation hospital over in Henley and I went to visit her a couple of times.

Joy Nea, nee Weedon, born 1930s
I got TB whilst I was at Wooburn School, a lot of us did. They say it was because we drank unpasteurised milk. I went to convalesce with a rich aunt in the country until I was better.

Geoff Gibson, born 1930s
We all went to the Victorian school in the village and then, when we got older, we went down Juniper Lane and walked along to Wooburn School. In the winter when it was really cold there were springs down there and the ice used to form and we would slide all the way down. It was a boys school originally and then they made it boys and girls. We had allotments there which we had to tend and there was a good wood working class down there which put you in good stead for the future.

Barbara Murfin, nee Sarney, born 1940s
My first school was Flackwell Heath Infants School. We, the Sarney family lived on The Common in 4 Virginia Cottages. We moved there when I was 3 and a bit and brother David was 2. Being born in November, I started school aged 4. Dad always insisted we crossed from our house to Common Road at the bottom of the War Memorial, Treadaway Hill end, because of the traffic, traffic in 1952!!!!! There were no pavements in those days, and going pass Mr. Walter's (Jennings) house could be a bit tight should there be anything coming. We crossed the road, past the other houses, a waste piece of ground, past the flint cottages where the entrance to the British Legion is now, and Jennings Brothers stores. Then round the corner and we were at the school railings. They seemed huge to a 4 year old.

Into the gate and an L shaped arrangement of railings, this apparently was to stop children running into the road. The school building was on the left, typical grey, red bricks. There was a small door, children's size, with a pointy top and a large key hole. Neither my brother or I ever saw this door open, from the playground, or from inside. Children had to go round to the back of the school. In through a normal door and immediately left. This is where you left your coat on a named peg. The other side of the room there were hand wash basins, there seemed at the time a great row of them, there were probably 4 or 6. The toilets were across the concrete yard.

The first daunting year was in the big room, on the right of the entrance door. Desks/tables were around the perimeter of the room. If I remember rightly we each had a desk of our own. Every desk had a name written on it, that would be yours for the rest of the year. In the far corner at the front of the school was a door, I now think that it led to the little door seen from outside. Looking up the room from the back of the room, on the left hand side was an enormous Tortoise Stove, far taller than any child, our heat during the winter months, it also did a good job of defrosting our 1/3 pint bottles of milk. Luke warm milk was not too pleasant but some times it was really cold which we all loved.

Our teacher, sadly I don't remember her name, was very kind but if you were naughty you had to sit still with your hands on your head until forgiven. We also, after dinner (lunch), had to put our arms on the desk and have a short nap. On a Monday at register time, when your name was called, if you ate school meals, you would get up and pay the one shilling for your meals for the week. Living around the corner I went home for meals, but I had my shilling to buy 2 sixpenny national savings stamps. These had the head of Princess Ann on them, the one that cost 2 shillings and sixpence had the head of Prince Charles printed on them. The stamps were stuck into a special book and could be redeemed at the Post Office. We, David and I saved ours for holidays and Christmas.

After lessons at the end of the day we all pulled our chairs up to the teacher's desk, near to the stove for story time, we were all given a sweetie and home we went. I must admit that for my first days at school I was always accompanied by Ted, my moth-eaten Teddy Bear.

Year 2. Next to the school on the right looking from the road, was a prefabricated building the canteen, with the kitchen at the Cherry Tree end. Year two was spent with a blackboard at the kitchen end in front of the big roller shutter. We sat at the canteen tables with our slates, yes, slates and slate pencils not chalk, to learn our stuff. Lessons always finished a little early as it was the task of the class to set the tables for the school dinners. I doubt if there is a child in my class who could not lay a table's knives and fork correctly. You held 6 knives in your right hand and 6 forks in your left, walking around the table setting places as you went. Although the room was painted bright cream the constant condensation was not a great help health wise. I think there were radiators from the boiler room beyond the kitchen. Outside the kitchen doors were some apple tress, for some reason two had branches at child height at 90 degrees which made ideal counters for shops. We endlessly played selling apples from the ground.

Year 3. Back into the school, into the little room to the right of the school from the road, sat Miss Darnell the Headmistress. Miss Darnell, should she send a note home with you, would fold it in such away, if you (the child) undid it there was no way you could refold it properly. If you did your mother would know you had opened the letter. That was just not done in those day. It's in this room I remember singing our times tables every morning to start the day. Desks now for were for two. The room was very tiny, there must have been well over 30 children in the room. On our birthdays we were allowed to bring one present to school to show what we had been given. My birthday was the same day as the Aires twins, Linda and Lorraine, poor Lorraine was epileptic, which frightened us all when she suffered a fit, there was no help, the poor soul had to just get through it. I wonder what happened to them?

It was during this year that I first remember Beaches fair coming to the village. Some of the lads were a bit restless and kept trying to see out of the windows, but these were too high. At last play time and we all rushed out, "the Conk's coming" "the Conks coming" "the Conks coming". Sure enough trundling painfully slowly from Sheepridge to the players (playing field) was Sally Beaches fun fair. The Conk was a squat powerful looking lorry, pulling a brightly coloured wagon and a caravan, followed by more lorries, vans and wagons. We were so excited, hanging as much through the railings as we could. The lads with dirty battered knees below their shorts (no lads wore "longs" until senior school) and girls waving their arms through the railings. Nowadays I don't think anyone has any idea how special the yearly fair was in the village. I'm sure that day we had a much extended play time. I don't think much work was done that afternoon either, all the children could not wait to get to the players to watch the fair unfold.

Around the school was the play ground, the toilets were across a yard and behind a wooden fence, girls to the left from the door, boys to the right, then back to the cloak room to wash your hands. I'm sure more germs were picked up from the loop of towelling hung beside the door. At one time we had to bring our own towels because of an outbreak of dermatitis, what a surprise. We were lucky enough to have a small grass area, we could use in the summer time, and behind the toilets was a vegetable plot, I wonder whose that was?

Once a year was photo day. We went to school dessed to the nines, sat at a desk placed by the hedge that separated the boys toilets from the field, and one-by-one at a time, or if there were two or more siblings then two or three posed for the photo. Afterwards we were all treated to an ice cream.

Year 4. We were now the big boys and girls. Our class room was over the road in the Methodist Hall. This is also the year we took home pieces of paper, then took them back to school, then a few weeks later we would be marched in a crocodile down to the Temperance Hall to have injections and 'stuff'. Miss Agnew was our teacher whom we loved dearly, she was young and bright, so different from our other more soberly clad teachers before. The Methodist Hall was also used as the local library, so we were surrounded by books. Now we were the big boys and girls, should one of the smaller children have an accident, one of us was nominated to take the " poorly" child home. We were just 7 year olds. Those were the days.

Four years later and we left the village to be taught, some to Wooburn some to Spring Gardens near Wycombe. And I'd still never been through that little door. I was at the school from 1952 to 1956. Brother David from 1954 to 1956 I think.

One strange thing while writing this piece. I don't remember any of my cousins going to the school. Two lived in Oakland Way, the other two lived half way down Straight Bit. Two would have been two years above me, one in my class and one in David's class. That is something I shall have to find out.

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