There were three classes. After I’d been there a little while the dentist came round and he had a treadle drill. Luckily there wasn’t too much wrong for me. Also there was an officer he had a full time job and if you didn’t go to school he would come up and see your parents and see whether you were ill or not. He had quite a lot of authority. He did all of the schools in the area that was his job. You could be in quite a bit of trouble.
The three classes in the school were infants, middle and top. All teachers were ladies. In those days they come from Stroud but they had to walk up the hill from Toadsmoor. We would be in the playground and used to watch and if the headteacher was walking in front we knew we were in for a bad day. If she was walking along with the others and chatting it was much easier. The toilets were outside and there were two playgrounds so us boys commandeered the back one so we could play football and the girls we soon got rid of them.
There’s Bussage church and Bussage school so we used to go quite regularly to school and church because it was the church people that paid for the school. We didn’t go on any school trips, but if there was a coronation or anything like that we always had a big bonfire with hot potatoes and things like that. There were several of those over the years.
I went to Chalford Hill School and when I was ready to leave, I didn’t pass the “Scholarship” as they called it to go to the High School or the Central School, so I went to the Technical College in Stroud and took a commercial course for office work.
Teachers in Chalford Hill School: Miss Harburn, Miss Ward, Miss Phelps who I hated, Miss Crook, Mr. Harris, Miss Mills who lived up Middle Hill. Her father was a farmer where Duncan Young used to live. When he died it got sold and she had a bungalow built on the other side of the road. She lived there until she couldn’t stay on her own. The headmaster was Mr. Ashmore and we had Mr. Powell. Then they were all called up for the war and Mr. Sherratt came on the scene, he lodged with Miss Hurrell down towards Rack Hill, then he was called up. They gradually drifted away. We used to go into the school garden and do gardening and in the summer we would sit in the garden for lessons. We mostly grew flowers, lovely pinks. We had a big border of those and cut them and sold them in little bunches. They got us picking rosehips and catching cabbage white butterflies because they were eating the cabbages. Everyone did a bit of gardening in the war. On a Friday we used to have bible class in the old France Lynch church rooms and Mr. Richards, the vicar, would come and take us. Most pupils were Church of England.
We always had a dog and we had one in particular that followed me to school and one particular Friday Sapper followed me into the bible class and sat under my chair and the vicar didn’t want him there so he went to get him and he snapped at him and I was sent home with the dog in disgrace!
We all used to come home for lunch except if it was a very wet day and my mother used to make me a dinner put in a suitcase and my father would bring it along for me to the school. I’ve still got the little dish for the custard pie. There wasn’t a canteen in the school but down underneath the school we girls used to have cookery classes.
My father was a teacher. He came to Stroud in 1921 to take up the Headmastership of what was then called the Boys’ Central School, part of Marling now. I don’t know how many years he did that and then he became Principal of the Technical College in Stroud. For a while when we were at High School we used to get taken in in the car which was then put up during the war. KO 523, that’s imprinted on my memory We used to drive into Beards Lane, it was a great big tourer so there were children from every angle getting out. Though my two brothers, who were at Marling School, they used to cycle in. About three boys from Chalford Hill would come down to our house where they kept their bicycles and they would all set out in convoy to Marling School, all winds and weathers with their capes on in the wet.
Chalford Hill School was reckoned to be a very good school and I think it still is, isn’t it? So, walk up through Pools Ground for 9 o’clock, and the bell rang when we started. 12 o’clock came out and dashed down the hill for lunch, then for half past 1.0 you were dashing back up again and then dashing back down again at 4 o’clock. There was the baby’s class, I went there just before I was 4, Miss Benjamin was in charge of that and then we moved into Miss Crook’s class and that was for the infants. I was reckoned to be quite bright in those days and Miss Phelps who was in Standard 1 in the big school, she sent down for me and when I got up into her classroom she was standing over this hapless girl, I won’t say who she is, and she was saying ‘Anne Fuller will know’, that put the onus on me, and she said to me “what are four fives” and I said “twenty” and then she said “what are five fours” and I thought, oh crikey, can’t be the same, so I kept thinking about this, I said “ I don’t know” in the end. I got worse as I went on at school.
There were about 30 in the class but they kept good order in the class, you didn’t muck about. Some of the teachers got married and you thought fancy them getting married, they’re so old, as children always do think I suppose. They were very happy days then.
I liked arithmetic, I just closed my mind to algebra and geometry. I didn’t want to know about those things. Slow but straightforward maths, I still love it. When you think about it, decimalisation is so easy. Pounds, shillings and pence were quite tricky and I don’t think I could do it now. I enjoyed school very much.
You took your eleven plus in your 10th year and then you moved on. You always took your first (last?)report for High School for the teachers.
To get to the High School, in the first years Dad used to take us in the car and then after that it was on the bus. Some children used to go on the railcar. If you got assisted travel you went on the railcar, you were given a season ticket for that, in those days things were means tested and so if your salary was over so much you didn’t get any help, the fact that there were 11 children didn’t come into the equation. So we had bus season tickets, my father didn’t think it fair to get petrol for the car with the war. Someone had to ferry it across the oceans, so he wasn’t one of those who tried it on or anything. There was a bus at the bottom of the garden every half hour or twenty minutes so it wasn’t right to get petrol.
There was always a school outing, every year. You could pay in a penny every week but they were very cheap, though, of course, it was hard to find the money. We went to the Houses of Parliament on one occasion and our MP at that time was a Conservative, name of Bobby Perkins. He showed us around but I suppose you don’t really fully appreciate it do you? We went up Big Ben, then we went up the river. That was the most memorable trip I suppose. We went to Bristol Zoo. They were supposed to be cultural things, not just going to the seaside, that would have been from Sunday School. At one time at Sunday School, Smarts, who owned the coal down at Chalford, used to sweep out the coal lorry and take us up to Aston Down. We would play games and run races and things and have a good tea. Whether we ended up covered in coal dust I don’t know. I think I remember one or two outings to Weston. From the High School we went to the museum at Cardiff and then out to somewhere called Rest Bay and had an hour or so on the seaside.
I went to Chalford Hill Primary until 10/11 and then went to Stroud school. We had to take the 11 plus and an oral when they asked you what you wanted to do. The people that didn’t go there, a lot of them stopped at Chalford Hill until they were 15 or so. Then some went to the Poly at Brimscombe where they learnt woodwork for the boys and cooking for the girls. We had season tickets, double deckers, 8.20 bus and be at school for 8.50. We walked from Stroud to the schools. We had school dinners there and we got home about 5. O’clock by the time we walked back up the hill. It was a long day – with doing the milk from quarter past 7.
We used to get round batch cakes (round and flat bread) when we were at school, at dinner times. Threepence for one which we all shared – about a halfpenny each. We used to take it up to school gardens and break it up when it was crusty and hot. We used to get cocoa powder and mix with sugar and water instead of chocolate which you couldn’t get (due to rationing).
I went to Bussage School in 1935 and then down to Chalford School. Father made friends with the Headmaster down there and got me to go to that school. The Headmaster was cruel. He was always caning people like you’d expect in Victorian times. I went home one time and had some weals across my hands where I’d been caned for some trivial thing. My father questioned me about it and I told him then he patted me on the shoulder and said “it won’t happen again”. He went down there the next day and sorted it out. I never had no more. Other children were still unfortunate. The other teachers were normal but this one was vicious. There was cane nearly every day for someone. Can’t put my finger on what the offences were. It was dreadful.
I enjoyed Bussage School, I didn’t want to leave. All women teachers. I learnt to read and write there. I walked there. Sometimes stayed for lunch. Mother used to put a sandwich in my satchel – mostly in winter time. Summer time I walked home and she’d have a meal ready for me. We had to pay a penny a day for milk. It was a special amount, a third of a pint. We drank it through a real straw!
I went to the local secondary school, the boys Central School, as I passed the exam to get there. My sisters went to Chalford School then finished up in the Central School, higher than ordinary school, not up to the class of High School. We went on the railcar. We had a season ticket and we didn’t have to pay anything. We always had fun in the railcar. It stopped at every halt. It took 20 minutes or so. There was leg pulling and all good fun, no bullying. There were buses as well. Marling School was higher school. They used to have tickets for the bus as there were always punch ups!
I had to do an extra year at school. I wasn’t one who liked school very much. I only liked the holidays. We played football, rounders and ‘dangerous longball’ as they called it. You got in a line, you took it in turns to hit a ball. One side doing the fielding. Similar to cricket but used our hands for bats. Just boys played.
Mrs. Parker’s daughter who got married was called Nash and I used to go and collect the 4 Nash’s boys (on the way to school) then collect Pauline as they looked after my Auntie Polly. I then picked up a King boy, then Wendy and Mike Harrison and take them all to school, bring them all home at dinner time. We had a baker’s, Workmans, on the crossroads just up from the church and we used to go and get a loaf of bread for twopence halfpenny and they hadn’t had no breakfast so I used to let them eat that on the way to school. Then I’d take them home and fetch them again the next day.
We used to call the school France Lynch School – what’s now Chalford Hill. I went when I was three and my brother said he couldn’t look after me, poor boy, he had rheumatic fever three times, but a relation to Pauline who lived over the road from us, Hayward, said he’d take me to school.
Miss Walker was the first teacher, a lovely lady. A great big rocking horse in that class. She taught us to read and write then we had to go into Miss Crook’s class, she was very strict. There was a bed where we slept every dinner time. We were playing French tag in the playground where you put your hands out; the toilets we L shaped and someone opened the door one end and I was stood by the other door and smashed my thumb. They didn’t stitch it then they just stuck it back on. I had to go to Doctor Dill, the school doctor. When I did my thumb I can remember having a lovely little blue dress on and mother had to cut it off me. It took a long time to heal.
We went up into the top school then. There was a cookery class there where they had the dentist and doctor who came they used that room and then they started doing school dinners. Girls from Oakridge and Eastcombe used to come over there and do cookery lessons. The boys used to go over to the Polytechnic in Brimscombe on a Friday, which is where Bensons is now. We used to do the knitting for the soldiers’, socks, balaclavas, helmets and gloves. My Auntie in Somerset taught me to knit. My Mum couldn’t knit, she could sew. I taught my sister to knit.
Then we went up into the top school. It was Miss Phelps in the top school and there was a kettle there and we had Horlicks at lunchtime made by the older girls – all free. Then we had Mr. Sharrat. He went in the army then came back and went to live on the end of the British Legion lane. People by the name of Flights had a sweet shop there so that was handy! At Eastcombe they had a girls’ orphanage and when they got to a certain age they all came to France Lynch School from Eastcombe, Bussage and all round there – all the older ones before they went to High School or wherever. All lovely girls. Sometimes we took a packet of crisps and a piece of bread and butter for lunch and made a cup of oxo when the weather was bad. Otherwise we went home for lunch and back again.
We were warm in the Infants class because we had the boiler underneath but there was radiators in the other class. We could hang our coats on there if we got wet.
Then we had Miss Mallett. They had the shop at Eastcombe. Harold Mills and his wife, she was a Mallett. Her sister and her brother in law got killed in an airplane so she was adopted. Then we went right through the school. In her class we were then picked to go to High School or Marling if we were bright enough and I refused to go so the Headmaster said he wanted to see my mother. Mother said “if she doesn’t want to go she doesn’t go”. I didn’t want to go because my brother Tom went to Stroud College then to Marling, Mildred went to High School but Raymond was ill so he couldn’t take his exams so I said I didn’t want to go because it wasn’t fair if he couldn’t.
So I went right through school until I was 14. We had Mrs. Mills, then Miss Mills that was Mrs. Whiting And she was strict. They lived down the valley. We used to have those great big history books. My God if you were talking Miss Mills could aim that across the road. I ducked one day and the boy next door got it. I got into trouble. Nearly everybody laughed. You could also have the cane. We had a Mr. Ashmore headmaster then. A very, very nice man and he would tell you off but never give you the cane. He died then a Mr. Webster came. He was really vicious. He would hit boy or girl. Also when we went up from the Infant School, Mr. Sherrett used to call me ‘Whatnot’. I got quite cross one day and asked why and he said “it was a compliment my dear; I know my grandma had a mahogany Whatnot”. This was a set of tall shelves and that was the colour of my hair. So that’s why he called me Whatnot.
I hated sport. We had to go to play rounders at the playing fields and we used to go on the bus to Stroud then walk to Stratford Park and they tried to teach us how to swim. They put me on the side and pushed me in. Trouble was when I was little I had bad ears and was frightened of water.
I left school at 14. When the girls went to cookery and the boys to woodwork, Miss Mills used to sit in the garden with just me and another girl. I used to just knit all the time. I knitted all my own cardigans and made all my own dresses.
Jenny David & Vesta Rock
(Jenny): When I was three I was shoved off to school. I think my mother was fed up with me. There was a lot of us that was three at primary school. We went with ages. At three, you just went in and you played and you had a teacher but not necessarily what people think of as a teacher. She was with them. And then there was reception class and that was your next class up. You went there to a certain age and then when you were six you went up to the main school. That was separate.
I wasn’t really interested in school. The only thing I liked was in the infants school when I was three, was the teacher there, Miss Walker, and I don’t know what it was, but she used to love me. I used to have very blond, very curly hair and she used to comb my hair every morning because she loved it. I remember when we all dressed up – and all the boys and the girls were dressed like ducks but I as the fairy queen! I came out of there and they were all plainly dressed but Miss Walker always liked me – she made me little sandals with socks and tinsel and she wove all that in. I had a lovely white dress on with a skirt and wings at the back with the tinsel round the outside. And a wand. I’ve got the photograph somewhere and when you look at it it’s quite embarrassing because there’s me, sat with wings and everything, and then you had all these ducks in brown and yellow.
Christ Church was our local church and in my time the school and the church were just inseparable. If you went to school you went to church, Sunday School, and you were expected to join the choir!
There were three classrooms at school when I went. I’ve got a feeling that pupils used to stay there till they were thirteen before they moved on. The headmaster was called Mr. Cox. I can remember the tortoise coke stoves which they all had. They were very smelly. The boys used to have to go and fill up the coke buckets and keep the stoves stoked up. It really used to smell.
I remember a third of a pint of milk if you liked milk. Very often they were delivered frozen in the winter. No idea where it came from, probably from Stroud, or how it was delivered, probably by lorry by then. They were always there when we arrived. I remember them being put round the stoves if they were frozen! No school uniform. My earliest memory of school is the first week I started school the school dentist came and he decided to take out four of my milk teeth just there and then. I was four. No parents there and they found my gums bled a lot and I had a new yellow knitted cardigan to start school and it was covered in blood. I don’t know what my mother thought when she came to pick me up. I always remember this cardigan covered in blood! The nurse came to look at our heads seeing we didn’t have nits!
Gerald Gardiner (born 1933)
I went to Chalford Hill School. I don’t think we were all in the same class. I think there was more than one teacher, Mrs. Mills, Miss Mallett, and I forget the headmaster’s name now. They were all right, I was an averagely behaved boy – used to get the cane, once for trying to climb on the roof and things like that – a quick smack on the hand or the edge of the ruler. My friends were Tony Dean, retired policeman, Godfrey Dean – he died, Ken Staddon – he’s still about and Michael Mills and Phil Baglen. I think Michael is a few months older than me, I’m not sure.
Margaret Mills (born 1934)
I was at school all that time, in the war, Chalford Hill School, me and my sister. Right through the war. In ’46 I went to the High School in Stroud.
At school we had one third of a pint of milk free I think. I can remember running up and down for lunch but later on we stayed for lunch. There was a kitchen at the school before I left. We studied just the sums, reading, writing, some geography and history but just the main things. I always liked English and books. I loved books as a child and drawing, puzzles.
The teachers were really quite strict at school. For punishment you got a ruler on the back of your hand. It was mostly lady teachers – the men were doing service. Mike’s mother was a teacher.
John Hemmings (born 1934)
I went to school in Chalford Bottom. I was as blind as a bat but they didn’t discover that until I was 8, so I missed all my early training and never caught up, and once you get the reputation of being thick, you get clobbered at school, but it did me no harm. It broke my heart because the year I was due to leave at 14, they put the leaving age up to 15 so I had to stay another year.
Beryl Freebury (born 1941)
I had started school (Eastcombe) when I was three and a half. There were no nursery schools or playgroups. I went to school in the village. There was never more than 40 pupils. I remember the infant teacher, Miss Rogers, a Welsh lady, as being very tall, well dressed and always wore a hat outside. She did playground duty as well as teaching. For many years the Headmistress was Miss Hemming, a big lady, not very tall and didn’t smile very much. For a couple of years there was another Headmistress. Not very popular especially with our parents. One day after school the majority of the mothers came into the playground demanding to speak to the Headmistress. There was raised voices protesting about something the Headmistress had changed.
The visitors to the schools were the nit nurse and Mr. Bettridge the health inspector, who I think lived in Oakridge, and of course the dentist. The Baptist pastor frequently called in as the school belonged to the Baptist chapel next door.
On Friday afternoon all the pupils would go for a nature walk, usually down to Bismore where we were told the names of many of the wild flowers and trees. We walked in twos on the way down quite happily but not so good coming back up!
We did a simple cross stitch and some knitting in school in the top class as well as music and movement lessons from the radio as well as reading, writing and arithmetic. I didn’t do well with knitting as I was left handed and the teachers couldn’t help me much.
We always started school with a prayer. In the infant class there were always things hanging round the walls made by the pupils and paper lanterns, especially at Christmas. We grew up with boys and girls in our class and as there were no more than 10 in a class we were all friends. We were not allowed to play with the older ones when we first started school My best friends were Janet and Judith and the three of us passed the 11 plus examination and went to Stroud Technical School for girls at the age of 11. I was going to be 12 in the October.
Derek Freebury (born 1938)
I was born in 1938 and I went to Eastcombe School and when I was 11, I went to Chalford Hill School for 2 years because you couldn’t go to the Secondary School until you were 13. Then I went to the school at Brimscombe where the port is, for 2 years. The school bus used to start from Edgeworth, come all the way through Miserden, Bisley, Oakridge, over to Chalford Hill and we were the last ones to get on so when bad weather came you never went to school. It was a 55 seater and there was usually about 70 on it – we used to stand on it. You never got a seat when you got on up here. We used to walk when the weather was bad. One year we heard about a bus stuck in snow drifts at Stancombe so we walked up there and back down into the school at Brimscombe.
I left school at 15 and started work on 10th September at George Waller and Sons.
Audrey Bishop (born 1932)
I remember going to Chalford Hill School. There was a playground attached to the school, of course. And of course there was no traffic about in those days. And if there was, everybody ran out to the gate to have a look. So you could play out in the road and play marbles or ball or whatever, up and down the road, and if a car came everybody sort of (sucks in breath), ‘ooh, it’s a car!’ We had separate playgrounds for boys and girls – and then there was an infants’ playground as well. And outside toilets – bit cold!
May Smith (born 1924)
I went to Chalford Hill School. I left at 14. I never liked maths at school, I can do adding and taking away and all that but could never do fractions! I was hopeless, I never passed my 11 plus. I liked all the rest. There was Miss Mills, Miss Phelps, Miss Crook. I think Miss Phelps in the infants was quite nice. I went to school at three years old, for the whole day. We used to run along home for ‘our dinner’ then come back.
Outings from school: we went to Weston for the day every year. Mother used to give us a halfpenny or farthing a week to take along towards our fare to go to Weston. We played on the sand, walked along the pier and that. The other farthing I used to spend at Mr. Stair’s and get some sweets. You got loads of sweets for a farthing, loads!
From school we never used to go in the village very much. I can remember playing hockey but can’t remember where and then we used to go over the other side of the road where there was a garden and have talks about nature and all that.
Chalford Hill School: Pupils in the 1940s (as today) started school aged 4 years. It depended on their date of birth whether they began after Easter (March/April) or after the summer break, in September. Pupils came from all the local villages, France Lynch, Chalford, Chalford Hill, Brownshill, Bussage and Eastcombe.
The building on the left (looking from the school gates) were the two infant classes. The infants played in the lower playground away from the bigger children. The boys in the ‘upper’ school were separated from the girls at play times.
Pupils stayed at Chalford Hill School until school leaving age. The 11 plus exam was also taken. The girls who passed (after an oral examination at the higher schools) either went to Stroud High School or Stroud Girls’ Technical. The latter was for eventually preparing pupils for office work, i.e. shorthand, typing and bookkeeping or what was considered ‘practical’ work. Pupils who wanted to be teachers or work with science went to High School. The same system worked for the boys. It was either The Marling School or Boys’ Technical. For those who did not pass there was the option to try once more aged 13. The others stayed at the school until The Brimscombe Polytechnic became a secondary school. This then moved to a newly built school at Eastcombe, originally named The Manor School but is now known as Thomas Keble.
Milk was available at morning break but one had to take their own tin mug and either a penny or halfpenny to get this drink.
Where the porta cabins are now was the school gardens and each class was allotted time to tend these gardens. I am uncertain, but think the older children may have grown some vegetables.
The infants were ‘bedded’ down each day after the dinner break on truckle beds or blankets on the ground. It was compulsory.
Meals: a dinner was provided for those who lived too far away to travel home, the local ones went home for theirs.
As well as the 3 Rs, the girls were taught how to knit. Possibly basic sewing but I can’t recall that. I remember the older girls and boys went for a day (not at the same time) to Brimscombe Polytechnic School to learn what was considered basic skills to help them in their futures. For the girls it was definitely cookery and I think it was woodwork for the boys and possibly metal work.
I can remember seven classrooms. The two infant ones. At the top of the school was another, next to which were two classes but the partition could be folded back to make one big room. There were three others round the corner from there. The kitchen/canteen was down some steps to a lower room which must have been under the upper classes.
I am not sure if it was the advent of the NHS or not, but a dentist used to visit the school and set up his ‘surgery’ in the infant classes. This was a dreaded occasion. The district nurse also visited to check pupils over, especially for the dreaded nits. Any cut or abrasions were treated with iodine.
The teachers I remember were: Miss Crook (infants), Mrs. Mills, Miss Mallet, Miss Margaret Ollerenshaw, Miss Mills and a Mr. Dyer. Miss Ollerenshaw had to give up her post at the end of the war (as did a lot of teachers) when the Forces returned. Apparently, this was due to the fact their qualifications were not as good as the returnees and they were only allowed to teach because of the shortage of staff during war time. Miss Mills married Austin Douglas Whiting (a local man). Miss Mallet married ? Mills and left school. Miss Crook and Mrs. Mills I believe stayed.
If a pupil was away from school for some time, a School Attendance Officer would be sent to their homes to find out why, and when they would return.
Almost every day when school finished a local baker would be outside the school with his horse and trap selling his currant buns – one penny I believe.
I can’t remember a school uniform as such but we did have to wear berets and caps with the school logo.
I can remember just one school trip which was to the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels and a trip on the River Thames.