Friday, 21 October 2011

Sepia Saturday 97

Raggedy little kids, I was one of those.  My first school was built in 1908 to accommodate the kids from East Walton, that were considered outside the "Pale" of the Church School in the Town.   It was situated about 3/4 of a mile from the Church in what is now know as Terrace Road, but then may have still been known as Hampton Court Lane.  Next to the Church Cemetery and into Terrace Road was Miskin's Timber Yard, and it was, according to a "local Lady" where "Civilisation ceased (with Miskin's)".  The School was over half a mile beyond this point and was, for a while, known as the Gypsy School, because many of it's pupil came from Apps Court Farm..

By the time I attended, in 1948, it was 40 years old and known as the Tin School or the "Tin Rattler".  This picture shows it in the 1050s shortly before its demolition.  It was made of corrugated iron, it leaked, bird's nested in the roof spaces, in hail it rattled.  In summer it was hot and in winter cold, the only heating was a coke boiler at the back of each classroom.

I have one or two memories that are actual and real and some others which maybe amalgams of several events merged to form the single memory.  And, if for no other reason than I feel that I want to and it will add to you overall understanding of post war Southern England (and perhaps too, me), I intend to relate them.

This is my very first memory of actually being at school, and it has stuck in my mind for the ensuing 63 years.  Even with this I am prepared to accept that there maybe some amalgamation of the first two or three days.  Around the school were iron railings, they were about 3 foot 6 tall and resembled 1/2 inch thick paper clips stood in a row.  The mothers' would let their little darlings go at the gate - anyone older than 6 would have been struck by a thunderbolt from God had they crossed the line.  On that very first day - as happened every day - at 5 minutes to nine precisely, the whistle went and we all lined up outside the three doors in the picture.  The older kids to the the two on the right and the new intake to the one on the left.  As you would imagine us little 'uns were a bit confused but quickly marshelled into position. That was everyone apart from some little "Herbert", (cannot recall name or what happened to him after this day) who clung to these railings as if his life depended upon it.   Him in tears on this side, Mummy in tears on the other. He hung on with white knuckles, bravely resisting the efforts of two or three teachers to prise his fingers from those railings. As one was lifted, it immediately snapped back in as they moved to the next.  Many new Mothers stood in tears, and so too new kids, but they stood away from the fence to let their youngster go into class.  I think this was only resolved when some "older" mothers dragged her away.

The other involves an old wooden house that stood on the opposite corner just across a Lane to the left of the picture.  It was a detached ship-lap building covered in creosote and pitch.  Dark, black and according to playground speculation - haunted.  

One day an awareness that something was happening spread throughout the school, and then sounds of cracking, ringing bells, shouting and smoke.  The old house had gone up in flames.  The kids rushed out into the playground to line up by the railings to watch the flames pouring from the roof, the smoke, so black and acrid darkening the skies, the fire-engines and firemen rushing about with hoses aimed on the building.  What I do not recall is any great concern about Health & Safety.

 The Tin School 1923 - no I'm not in there - this was taken from a Pictorial History of the town.


  1. Wonderful memories Mike. It may comfort you to know that these days children rarely cry on their first day at school as they are used to it and know what to expect. They’ve probably aready been at Nusery for anything up to 18 months before and then they would have had dozens of visits to get acclimatised.

    Lovely stories anyway; it’s funny how health and safety wasn’t a thing to concern us then!

  2. Great memories. Funny how different children and mothers reacted based on the child's birth order. The first was traumatic. By the third, fourth or fifth, the mothers were practically dancing away!

  3. I always think of old photographs as being midwives of memories (which would be quite a good title for a book if I ever got around to writing it) and your post about the Tin School is a perfect example. Fascinating to read, great stuff.

    (There seems to be a problem with your link from the Sepia Saturday page Mike - check it out and if the link is bad put a new one in and let me know and I will remove the old one)

  4. Fascinating stuff. Can you imagine the uproar there would be if today's children had to attend school in such buildings.

    Mike - I came via your profile as the SS link didn't work.

  5. The school sounds very primitive. I am always surprised to hear about schools like that existing so late, because I started at a large city school.

  6. What an incredibly vivid look back - and a totally relatable experience for those of us whose own childhood schools fell far short of modern-acceptable construction standards.

  7. I love this post. It brings back such memories.

    Our school had a few huts like that in the early 60s. Second or third years had to have a year in the huts but as luck would have it, I managed to hit both second and third year rotations. I still feel annoyed.

  8. It's sometimes strange what things we remember from our childhood, and don't know whether our memories are perfectly accurate or a mix of several events. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Your tale about the tin school is so vivid that one hardly needs the photographs to envisage it. The "tin school" has a reverberance of "tin tabernacles" and reminds me of my own early school experiences. Although my boarding hostel was grand, in a colonial sort of way, the sheds in which we did our homework were similar huts made of corrugated iron, probably of post-WW2 vintage, with well worn floorboards and crude tables with benches. I don't recall any windows in them, although presumably there were some.

  10. Can't imagine how any learning got done in those rustic conditions. But since you seem to spell and write so well, I guess it didn't matter. Wonderful memories.
    Nancy Javier
    Ladies of the grove

  11. Many of you commented on the state of the building, but they weren't that bad. So it leaked a little, and we had a bit of guano, nesting materials, egg shells and an occasional dead chick. School milk, in those days - for anyone not familiar with British Schools before Maggie Thatcher was Minister of Education - kids got a third of a pint of milk a day, was often froze solid in the bottle in winter and sour when it was left in the sun. A part from that things were OK. The picture shows them worse than my memory.

    It also needs to be remembered that until the 1960s British education of the poor was designed to produce Canon Fodder in War Time and Factory Fodder in Peace Time. Spending too much on facilities wasn't a consideration.

    Thank you all for your comments, they has given ideas for one or two extra pieces,

  12. Very interesting post. I get very frustrated with our current school administrators because they are always pressing for newer, better, shinier, yet I often fail to see where such extravagances actually help to teach children. I sometimes think those of us who studied in a simple building may have had an advantage. Thanks for sharing your memories with us!