Posts Tagged ‘school’

The Silver Oak

July 4, 2016

Ifield Grammar School must have opened in 1955 as Ifield became a part of the new town of Crawley. My sister, born 1944, must have been amongst the first full intake to the school. I followed in 1959, a year after my brother.

For the most part I’d say none of the three of us served the school well. I didn’t think it served me all that well but these days I can accept that most of the problem was me. My sister, I think, was happier than I was there. She took more part in school life and at the end of that first year she purchased what looks to be a classy and stylish school magazine. It was called ‘The Silver Oak’.


An explanation for this name was given as the first item in a poem by a first year lad.

image004Yes, this was the first edition of this magazine proudly proclaimed on its title page.


Inside there are more than 50 pages of content, mostly written by the pupils but some by staff. There are some photos like this montage.image008We can see the building (which is now demolished) under construction. There’s an aerial view of the school which looks totally familiar to me and various views of activities.

Local businesses helped pay for the magazine by inserting adverts.image010I used to get my hair cut at Hayes and Browns was the favourite shop – a place where you could buy all those dreadful, childish sweets like ‘flying saucers’ at four for an old penny.

My sister got the staff to autograph her copy of the book.


By the time I was at the school it was much bigger and there were many more staff. Quite a few of these had left. G W Avery was the head and M H Lee was senior mistress. Mr Gooder was the music teacher.

We now have to remember that this magazine was published 50 years ago and that means even the youngest at the school are now 71.

Milton Lilbourne School

May 27, 2016

At the beginning of the month it was the Urchfont scarecrow weekend. This is a wonderful event, not least because it is very friendly and you can chat with perfect strangers.

I found myself in conversation with a man who lived in the little village of Milton Lilbourne. It brought back memories.

Back in the 1970s, my wife was a teacher at the school in the village. She left in the early part of 1977. Our first child was expected.

But the following year we were at the school for a celebration. It was 100 years old. We have a commemorative mug.


I fear the glaze was always crazed. This mug has been kept as an ornament and never used. It outlines the facts. Milton Lilbourne School opened its doors back in 1878 so celebrated its centenary in 1978.

A small leaflet with some school history was produced as well.


There’s the school – typically Victorian. It is semi-detached for the far end was designated as the schoolmaster’s house although by the time we knew it the house was occupied by others.

Inside there are extracts from the school records from those 100 years.

This little leaflet ended with a look forward to the next 100 years.

But the school didn’t make it. Pupil numbers dwindled – not because of any problem at the school. The number of possible children just got less. Inevitably, the school was closed with the end coming in 1985. The village has now been without a village school for more than thirty years.  The children my wife taught are now well into their 40s. The oldest children from when she started at the school will be in their 50s now.

Time flits by!

Hadlow Down School on a postcard

January 7, 2016

I have no idea if any of my family ever went to Hadlow Down School. My great grandparents often lived in the area, but the knowledge I have is that my grandfather went to Blackboys School. However, the school was the picture shown on a card to Grandad’s sister, Ruth.

image002 Maybe I’d have relatives in that photo which is said to date from 1906 (according to the wonderful weald site at ).

There isn’t much of a message on the back.


The card was sent to my Great Aunt Ruth in 1907. The message sender has only given us initials.


No. That doesn’t convey much to me.

But, if nothing else, I know where Aunt Ruth lived in 1907.

Toasting Forks

September 1, 2015

I had the fortune, good or otherwise, to attend a Grammar School between the ages of 11 and 16. Actually, for various reasons, that Grammar school and I didn’t serve each other particularly well. I have, on this blog, mentioned one teacher, Mr Cole of geography who I found inspirational.

Another subject I enjoyed was metalwork. I still have this thought that it was typical of the place to teach boys metalwork, rather than the far more useful woodwork, but when all came to all I did enjoy metalwork. I loved using the forge. I loved turning things to precision standards on a lathe. I enjoyed working copper. I could even enjoy routine things like using saws and files.

Of course, the school knew best as to what we should make. We had no choice in the matter. And one object we had to make was an extendable toasting fork. I still have mine!

image002 I couldn’t tell you when this was last used for holding a piece of bread in front of an open fire. Most of the time, the poor old thing hangs up in an out building. It still works as an extendable item. This amazes me considering age – 55 years now and rust!


But in a way it spawned a second toasting fork, made by me as a youthful adult. I attended a metalworking evening class and was able to refresh some blacksmithing experience from school days. This toasting fork is fixed in length but has been made from one piece of mild steel, mostly just using heat and hammer.


I wish words could explain just how enjoyable it is to get your piece of metal really hot and then twist it. Fantastic.

Like its friend it hangs up in an out building. But maybe, come the winter months I could try them out again.

Dad in the string septet

May 17, 2015

I never really discovered if my dad was a good little boy at school or whether, perhaps, he used his brain to be a tad troublesome. I suspect he was probably OK and it certainly looks like it in this photo.


Dad, the boy in the centre, is the only one I know although they all look like a neat and tidy bunch.

This was photo was always described as ‘The Down School Orchestra’. The Down School, in Bexhill was the school dad went to up to the age of eleven. After that he had a place at the Bexhill Grammar School.

Dad was born in 1919 so I’d guess this photo dates from around 1929.

I’d better say here that Dad did not keep up with violin playing. He may have done better than me though. I had lessons foisted upon me for one school term when I was about eleven. I loathed it, took any opportunity to miss lessons and was relieved when allowed to abandon that particular activity. Actually, I do get pleasure out of making music – but on my terms which means I need to avoid standard musical notation which my brain has never managed to cope with at anything like a reasonable speed. But give me a keyboard or a guitar and I can pick out tunes and find appropriate chords to go with them. And that’s fun.

School Reunion

November 7, 2014

I had some happy years at school interspersed with other times which weren’t so grand. It all depended which school I was at – and for a person who never moved house during my school years, I had more schools than might be expected. For various reasons, I went to five different schools between the ages of 5 and 18. I won’t name them all, but I was most unhappy at school number 2 and happiest at schools 3 and 5. And I will name school five. It was called Hazelwick School and is in Crawley in Sussex.

From time to time we have had re-unions for that school. The most recent one was to mark the people of my wife’s age reaching retirement age. My wife and I went to that same school but she was a school year younger than me.

A few members of staff were able to attend. It follows that they are getting on a bit, but sort of depressing to find that in many ways they are now much the same age as us now.

I was only at this school for what we called 6th form and which would now be years 12 and 13. I didn’t do that many subjects so didn’t really know many teachers there. But my old chemistry master was there, full of bounce and bonhomie and with a staggeringly good memory.

But I want to talk about a Domestic Science (as it was called then) teacher who never taught me or my wife. She was at this school for all seven secondary years. We had a lovely encounter with her. She was drawn to us by my wife’s maiden name on her name sticker. She had known a really helpful chap of that name when she first moved to the job and had nowhere proper to live. She was just married and she and her husband struggled to find accommodation. This very kind man helped them find a good home and helped with transport because they did not have a car. And yes, it was my wife’s father who died suddenly and unexpectedly when my wife was still a teenager. It moved us to hear such heart-warming things said about the man who I knew, but who didn’t live long enough to be father in law.

So thanks, Marion. You made what was already a lovely evening very special indeed.

Of course, we could look back at events from those long ago days. This photo was on display.


That’s us off to a Victorian dance at the school

And here’s me as Bertie Wooster as we go to a 1920s dance, also at the school.


Happy memories, but I’m just as happy now.

Third Place in the Four Legged Race

March 29, 2014

Paul Piper was my mother in law’s cousin. He was a man I knew for as an adult he left his native Cornwall and came to live and work in Sussex, not so far from my home or that of my then girlfriend.

That he, like his father, had kept a scrapbook, I had no idea until after he died and other members of his family ended up in forms of residential care.

Then, out of the blue, his scrapbook came to us. I have picked one item from his scrapbook here, mostly because it brings a smile to me.

Paul was awarded a certificate for coming third place in the four legged race at his school sports.


His school was the St Austell County School with its motto of ‘learn the power of true labour’. If you judge by the images on the certificate, the sports day must have been a varied event with everything from sack races…


…to karting…


…and what’s this? Bobbing for sausages?


The certificate seems to carry a date of 1925. If that was the year in which Paul won it, he’d have been barely five at the time. I think 1925 was the year the artist drew the certificate which shows the school itself at the top and a view in St Austell at the bottom. Paul would have been a pupil at the school in the 1930s.

What a great certificate – such a fun family item. The school itself has evolved and changed but memories are kept alive on its web site.

A thoughtful bird table

September 19, 2013

Yesterday, whilst really writing about a boat, I got waylaid and talked about early computer days.

That theme will continue today. Some of it will be technical and nerdy, but mostly it isn’t so do read on.

I mentioned that I was a teacher. I got involved in what became known as Information and Communication Technology. And part of this was controlling other devices.

We ICT teachers used to meet up regularly for courses. It was a new subject and there was a lot to learn. One course – a week long in duration, was about control technology. After some learning sessions we were teamed up and had to make a device which showed we had learned our lessons.

Now my team had some bird nerds in it and we decided we’d make an intelligent bird table.

Before going any further I’d better say that course members had been told to bring as many coffee jar lids as possible. One of them would form the base of our feeder.

We were a great team. A couple of us were already reasonably experienced programmers and I had already dabbled in the world of control. I knew the wonderful array of ports on the good old BBC computer and understood what they were capable of. A couple of us were also decent solderers and a couple were expert sketchers of ideas. One appointed himself honorary boss and tea boy. In case that sounds like a big team, there were, in total, four of us.

The sketcher, taking advice from programmers, came up with a kind of flow chart.


It may not make much sense, but our basic idea was that we’d weigh the bird and if it was a heavy one we’d knock it off the perch. It was to be a bird feeder for small birds.

Then came the hard work of building devices, writing the program, testing and tweaking until we had it just right. Our sketcher produced this plan.


As you’ll see we produced model birds and had them attached to a motor on the ceiling. Amazingly, it all worked. Heavy birds got biffed by the arm whilst light birds were given time to feed. We built in a delay before the ceiling motor hauled them up. As we had a computer we wrote some music (OK we borrowed the Wurzels ‘Where be that Blackbird?’). It was just great fun

Other groups had also made devices but sad to say I don’t remember all of them.

We had the show and tell session and then the course tutors awarded marks. None did brilliantly. I seem to think a climate controlled camper van scored four whilst we scored just one. We were outraged, and so were all the course members but our tutors had made a very good point that all teachers ought to consider. We had not been told what the assessment criterion was – and there was only the one. They had decided to give marks according to the number of coffee jar lids used.

We understood, from further courses that the tutors organised that our bird table was touted around for years as a fine example of what could be done.

As an afterthought, the impact on schools was, in most cases, little more than nil. The cash needed to set it all up was not forthcoming. But it was great fun for us on the courses.