Memories of Highbridge School
In 1942 during WW2, my family fled from Bath after the two nights of bombing there. We had nowhere to live but my mother had grown up in East Huntspill, at the School House, where her Aunt and Uncle, Richard. and Linnie Hurley lived, both being teachers at the village school (1913-32). Her old school friends, farmers‘ daughters and still living in the area, arranged for us to lodge at Kidner‘s Buxton Farm on New Road and our furniture was stored in a cowshed. My older sister, Daphne, attended East Huntspill School and shortly afterwards, so did I, even though I was only three. Perhaps that was because my mother had been a pupil there in 1917, two of her teachers, Sybil and Dolly Short were still there and, after all, it was wartime. I don’t remember learning much except not to suck my thumb.
In 1943 we moved to Isleport House in Isleport Lane, Highbridge, the home of Mrs. Watts and her daughter, Joan and our furniture moved with us. For a while we continued at East Huntspill School, which meant travelling on our own, on what was probably the one bus a day. Eventually Daphne transferred to Highbridge School. It was a long way to walk with few pavements. The American soldiers at the Fuel Dump Camp at the end of the lane were quite friendly and introduced us to chewing gum. Our neighbours in Isleport Lane in Highbridge were Mary and David Parsons. David Parsons and I were too young to go to school so we passed the time ‘playing schools’ and because of my short experience of it I taught him about the school routine and at ‘break-time’ we drank pretend milk from empty beer bottles through ‘knitting -needle’ straws. I often say that something tastes like knitting needles and no-one knows what I mean! Actually it’s a bit like TCP.
When I eventually started at Highbridge School I thought the Reception teacher’s name was Miss Baalamb. This may have been the Miss Bowering, mentioned in others’ memories. She wore very long dark skirts and didn’t seem to like me very much, I thought, because on my first day, whilst performing’ Sally goes round the Sun’ I couldn’t hop in the right place – which you have to do when Sally’s going round the chimney pots!
Sally goes round the sun.
Sally goes round the moon.
Sally goes round the chimney pot ( hop)
On a Saturday afternoon.
In Miss Sellick’s class, it was different. I remember receiving two sweets one Friday because I had been rubber monitress all week. I did struggle with learning to tell the time as we had a German pendulum wall clock at home with Roman numerals, so it was confusing. The clock had been a wedding present to my Grandparents in 1907 and originally had an eagle on the top, which they removed during WW1 when Britain was at war with Germany. Listening to its soothing tick brings back many memories, for it hangs on my dining room wall now, still minus the eagle.
We all had the craze of sitting on our hands. I have a photograph of me doing this. One day I wore my best dress to school, possibly for the school photograph. It was red with white spots, which were raised as if they had been painted on. Another girl and I spent the whole break-time trying to scratch these spots off. We didn’t really succeed. The dress may have come from America in a ’Bundles to Britain’ parcel. My aunt was a nurse in London and sometimes managed to acquire one of these parcels for my family, though we were not desperately poor, just struggling, with rationing, like many during the war.
The playground seemed huge. The only game I remember playing there was ‘Lucy Lockett’. We stood in a circle – it must have been just the girls – and sang the rhyme:
Lucy Lockett lost her pocket.
Kitty Fisher found it.
There was not a penny in it
But a ribbon round it.
while one girl ran round the outside of the circle carrying a purse or bean bag which she would suddenly drop on the ground behind a girl in the circle, tapping her on the shoulder. This girl would then pick it up and run round the circle in the opposite direction, trying to get back to her place before the other girl who had continued running round. Whoever got there first, won the place and so the game continued. I am told that a similar rhyme was used for this game – ‘I sent a letter to my love’…, but I think we used the first one at Highbridge School.
There was a gate leading into the churchyard from the playground. It did seem strange on the Sunday my younger sister was christened in the Church to look over and see the playground empty and silent. Madge Wilkins of Malthouse Farm, East Huntspill, an old school friend of my mother, was one of the Godparents, that day.
We must have experienced VE Day in Highbridge in 1945, but I don’t remember it. At the end of the War we returned to Bath in time for VJ Day and a new start at yet another Infants School.
Janet and Daphne Llewellyn Highbridge School 1943 – 45
Janet Cann (Nee Llewellyn)
I started school between three and three and a half. I remember, the teacher being very kind to me, when my Father died, he was only thirty-one. Mr Wood was the Caretaker at St’ John’s School.
In the afternoon we slept on raffia type mats. Miss Bowering had a large wicker basket where she kept everyone’s lunches, all duly labelled with our names.
I often wondered if her family were the large ‘Bowering’Mill’ firm in Bridgwater who were only ten miles away. Miss Kelland was another teacher I remember, that may have been linked to a large agricultural concern in Bridgwater. When I was nine Miss Kelland had worked her way up to Headmistress, this was in 1938. Miss Knight was also a teacher I remember. When she wasn’t teaching Miss Knight helped her sister Hilda run, ‘The Copper Kettle’ a little café in Church Street. Outside there was a large replica of a Copper Kettle hanging above the café.
I remember lots of happy times at school and can picture, Miss Bowering with her hair plaited and woven into ‘bun-like’ circles over her ears. Her cheeks always seemed rosy and when she looked at you with her beautiful smile, she put her head on one side, full of compassion. Miss Sellick was also very kind and a very pretty young woman, I enjoyed being taught by her.
I started at St. John’s School in 1944 at four and a half years old. I can clearly remember my first day; being shocked at the children who cried, and the one who wet himself! I wasn’t worried at all. My Mum would take me on her bicycle (at the beginning on a seat behind the saddle), as we lived on the Highbridge Road, near Half Way House. Once outside the school a chow dog ran into the road and Mum and I ended up on the road too! (Unharmed luckily). Mum always feared Chow dogs particularly after that, because she said he was going to attack her. Maybe he just hated bikes!
My clearest memory at school is that of Miss Sellick’s class, probably the 2nd class. Miss Sellick asked me to go to another teacher with a verbal message, but I didn’t understand what she’d said and I was too scared to ask her to repeat it. I went out nevertheless, but had to return to ask her to repeat the message. I was slapped across the face and called a stupid child! Later my Mother went to the school, and so unlike her gave, Miss Sellick, ‘a piece of her mind’.
My Dad was born and grew up in Worston Lane, next to the Railway Line. The only time this caused problems was when the trains didn’t run due to a strike, too quiet! No one could sleep. He was a choirboy in St’ John’s Church and St’ John’s school was the only school he attended. He wanted me to go there as my two brothers, seven and nine, went to St’ Joseph’s. I remember quite often if someone lost even a penny, we were kept after school to search for it. I would often have a really bad headache at these times, and suffered migraines as an adult. Also time to say, some of the children were very poor, and never seemed to have time for washing. I remember two boys in particular, that I had to help, being a ‘sensible’ girl. Both had dirty faces and lice and consequently so did I. Mum had to wash my long hair every night with black soap, the only remedy for lice in those days. These boys must have been cold at times because I never remember them having the luxury of socks, only boots.
One boy I remember was Neal, and I guess he was my first boyfriend! I remember sitting next to him in the playground. Once after school I went with him to his house. Mum arrived and couldn’t find me. Eventually she caught up with me near the Cinema, or the ‘Flea Pit’ as we called it. I was only going to play with him, so I told her.
One girl I remember was called Maureen. She had very dark eyes, (as did Miss Sellick), and lovely dark curls that I envied. Unfortunately she used to pinch me if I didn’t let her copy my work! Maureen was never a name I favoured after that.
One other girl I recall had a glass eye, how she managed always fascinated me. Sometimes she came without the glass eye; maybe it was irritating, I really don’t know.
I remember being very happy at school, until Miss Sellick slapped me. I was always a bit scared of her. I guess she was just stressed that day. I remember she was a good teacher, bringing wild flowers into school. We learnt the parts of the flower by looking at Celandines. She also read to us a lot; the old books she brought into school fascinated me. So, slapped face apart those early years with Miss Sellick probably were the foundation of my love of flowers, nature and books!!
I recall I won a prize at a handwriting contest. The Headmistress wanted me to stay.
I left St. John’s and went to St. Joseph’s in Burnham, as my Mum thought the Nun’s ‘calmness’, would suit me better. At St. Joseph’s Mother St Anthony would ask me to write programmes for the Reverend Mother’s visits.
Annette Moore(nee Hooper)
The teachers we remember were, in the Infant School, Miss Brice Headmistress, Miss Penny teaching first years and Miss Sellick the second year’s.
In the Juniors Mr Albert Mason was the Headmaster, Mr Grimshaw and Miss Jones were teachers. Miss Thompson taught in the final year. Mr Witney was the geography teacher.
The girls who were taught sewing bought bus tickets to Burnham to learn under Phyllis James at the Technical College, she lived at Brightstowe Road at the time. Her husband was Graham James who taught woodwork to boys over the age of eleven. Miss Lavicore shared her skills of cooking and ironing here. I remember making jam tarts and Cornish pasties and ironing. I was looking at all the jars in the store cupboard one day, when Miss Lavicore came in. I quickly popped this little red preserved vegetable in my mouth before she saw me. This was my first experience with chillies.
We had ‘Houses’ where we all competed to win the most points which we got in all areas of schoolwork, each had it’s own colour.
A weekly chore was Mr Mason checking the exercise books. The cane followed bad work.
Mrs Maidley I believe was employed to collect the dinner money. I remember it was two shillings and sixpence, (half a crown) every Friday. The Dinner Ladies, were, Mrs Hand, Miss Cross and Mrs Dredge, amongst others. Mrs Haggett did the boilers and cleaning and had a daughter Valerie as well as sons, Keith and Eric.
As the school was crowded we had extra accommodation at the Baptist Church. We marched across from school. There were collapsible desks, which stacked at the back. Work was kept in shoeboxes. Chris and Brian Hawkins were sent out to get these by Mr Mason.
By 1951 the sweet ration (2oz) had finished and everyone cleared out, ‘The Bon Bon’ the local sweet shop The ‘Jade Garden ‘ was then a wooden shack run by Mrs Dunbar who supplied coloured drinks for one penny, and tins of Horlicks tablets for 9d.
We earned pocket money by picking blackberries for local shops and hunting for ‘Corona’ bottles to redeem the few pence deposit charged on each one. Waste paper was taken to Cooper’s Yard where we received a few pennies or a goldfish. Cowslips were gathered and taken to Knight’s greengrocer to be sold.
Living in a shop opposite the school had its problems. Whenever young Sylvia Swift was stood on a chair or sent outside her mother could see her. She managed to find a four-inch recess in the wall, where, if she breathed in, she could hide. In those days anyone with hiccups had to stand outside until they stopped. Unfortunately one time each time she returned to the class, so did the hiccups, which had the class in uproar.
Sylvia Meaden(nee Swift)
I remember my first day at school because a boy dropped his bottle of milk and cried. I remember, being very cold, girls didn’t wear trousers then. Long socks with garters, these inevitably, kept falling down. Miss Brice was Head Mistress and Miss Pasmore, I supposed was the School Secretary. Miss Grimshaw, Miss Sellick and Miss Frost, were the teachers.
Every year a van used to visit the school with fresh strawberries.
One of my worst memories was, having to lie down on rough mats every afternoon, inside in bad weather, or in the playground when the weather was fair, when we were in the Babies Class. It was such a bore. Punishment was standing in the corner with your back to the class and sometimes the teacher threw the blackboard duster at you and even the chalk. Sports equipment consisted of Hoops and Bean Bags.
There was a club called ‘The Busy Bees’. We used to save ‘Ship Halfpennies’, which I think went to charity. Mr Silver, was the Music Teacher, he played the violin. We always performed our School Pantomime at the Town Hall, Michael Hooper often played the Dame, and he was brilliant! It was a lot of fun. Holidays were spent at Street. When I went to St. John’s, I got sent to the Headmaster for the cane. My offence being, I ran after the whistle went at playtime.
Myra Spice (nee Singleton) 1947
At Infant’s School, as age five or six, I fell in the playground, right at the edge of the veranda, where the rain gully was, (and probably still is). Unfortunately for me, my head struck the concrete edge of the veranda walkway and I split my forehead open. It really needed stitches and other checks, but the teacher Miss Grimshaw, put a plaster on it and made me lie on the coconut mats we used for P. E., under her teacher’s table to be away from the other children. I stayed there all afternoon. Afterwards I had a nasty scar just above the hairline as a result. However, today 57 years on that scar is now several inches below the hairline! Still much in evidence.
In my third year at St. John’s, while ‘cramming’ for the 11+ exam under Stan Bick (who was actually our second year teacher, perhaps Millie Thompson was ill) I remember being told that if you get the question, “If a pound weight of lead and a pound weight of feathers were to be dropped from the top of a leaning tower, which would hit the ground first?” the answer we must give, is that they will hit at the same time. Assuming we passed and went to Grammar School, we would then learn about ‘Mass’. But as we had not learnt about such intricacies our answer would have been guesswork!
I remember at St. John’s we used to sit in iron desks, which were designed in pairs, so that two pupils had to sit closely side by side. We always sat in the same places as we kept our possessions in the desks, which had ’lift up tops’. The person who sat next to me was Janice; she used to pinch my bum or bare legs, (we used to wear shorts in those days). I was always too much of a gentleman to complain or pinch her back, so I suffered in silence! Of course all boys of that age (8 – 11) hated girls anyway.
Miss Thompson (third year juniors) lived in Walrow.
Miss Grimshaw (I think 1st year infants) lived in Oxford Street Burnham.
Miss Brice (Headmistress of Infants) lived just opposite the Highbridge War Memorial.
Graham Haytor taught Science at the upper Junior School (year 4 onwards). He taught us Cycling Proficiency and marked out roads and junctions on the school playground to practice on. We all received certificates. At playtime at St. John’s, we used to slide down the slopping parts of the playground wall. Over the years, the heels of our shoes wore a groove in the wall’s capping stones and you can still see those grooves in them to this day. I dread to think what it did for our shoes!
I was in the School Choir; we were entered in a lot of competitions, and won a few cups. I think Mrs James took us for that. I was also in the School Hockey Team and remember going to Burnham to practice on the beach.
The Girls also went to B. O. S. Tec. For cookery (Miss Lavacore). She was getting on a bit and also taught my Mother, (I still can’t cook) we used to pocket the 3d for the bus fare and walk to B. O. S. and were always in trouble for being late for class.
I broke my leg when I was about 10/11 years old and thought I’d get out of going to school, but my mother, (Bless her Heart) borrowed an old pushchair and took me to school every day (How embarrassing). I believe the School consisted of four classrooms and the Main Hall, with playground around three sides.
Thinking about dates, when the King died, we were all taken into the Hall for assembly and were told he had died. Was that really 50 years ago? I remember living at no.19 Poplar Estate with lots of friends and neighbours around. My cousin Terry Arnold lived with us. Our neighbour Mrs Faulks had a new fireplace and Mum (Kitty) and I went in to see it. I remember it was ‘mushroom’ and I wondered what it would look like. I was surprised to see a beige tiled fireplace with not a mushroom in sight! I can still see that grate more than fifty years on.
Pearl Rawles (nee Dubin) 1947-48
I remember Mr Silver, our Music teacher. His trousers always seemed to go way past his waist held up by braces. His hair was brownish with a lovely moustache. He wore glasses; thick glasses and he made us all laugh playing his violin and doing tricks with it.
Mr Witney taught us Geography. He was in the R. A. F. and the lessons sometimes drifted into exiting tales about his exploits around the world in his aeroplane.Stan Bick was handsome I remember. I had done something wrong one day and Miss Thompson held my hand and gave me a hard slap to the arm. Miss Lavicore was our cookery mistress. She always wore a smart pinstriped suit and tie. Her hair was white. We learnt home-making skills such as cleanliness, ironing and cooking. I had an award for ironing a tablecloth without one crease in it. We seemed to make a lot of Yorkshire puddings and jam tarts. Part of the time we helped Miss Lavicore with her washing, learning to do it by hand.
Loom weaving to make scarves was something I did with Maureen Jeffries and Annette Hooper. We used pale blue and dark blue, the school colours.
Once a year, a lady across the road from the school, rented out her front room, so that the School Dentist could examine everyone. This was the most unpopular day of the year!
Pearl Coulton (nee Baker)
I started school when I was five, it was 1930 and I was in Miss Bowering’s class. All the children who could read had to stand up. There were just two of us, we both had to read a piece out. I was so glad my Granny had taught me at home. Each day we had to lie on coconut mats at rest time, they hurt my hands and back.
In the playground we marked out Hopscotch to play and had fun with hoops and spinning tops.
War started when I was nearly nine. The field we used nearby was dug over. Everyone had a plot and grew something, flowers, vegetables and lettuce. One year we had too many there were lettuces everywhere. The boys dug up the potatoes.
I learnt to swim in the Marine Lake on the beach. After walking to Burnham, the lesson would commence by us diving into the lake. Unfortunately once I dived into a silted up area and was lost to view for a while. I remember being dragged out eventually and being banged on the back. When I sat up I had silt running out of my nose and eyes. Keep fit exercises daily kept us all in trim.
One of my favourite memories, was sitting listening to wonderful stories on the radio, like King Solomon’s Mines and the history of Samuel Pepyes, they are still favourites.
When ‘Rock and Roll’ and ‘Bopping’ started Mrs James made us jive in the hall, perhaps she was a bit of a rebel! Market Day in Highbridge was so busy we had to walk on the road, when going to the sports field or the Baptist Church for lessons.
The cinema was also a favourite, I remember Mrs Flo Paget directing us down to the nine pennies quite loudly. She was a large woman with a severe haircut who you didn’t argue with but we called her Auntie Flo. There were some double seats at the back, ‘love seats’ any hanky panky and you would feel the tap of Flo’s torch on your shoulder. This was also used to control the noisier children at the front who she couldn’t quite reach. In the August holidays our treat was to roller skate to Mark to buy fresh delicious doughnuts and eat them by the stream.
Where the Haines factory was there was a farm previously. Gangs were very common. To be in one usually involved initiation. This was climbing over the wall and stealing an apple, which I wouldn’t do, much as I wanted to be in ‘The Gang’. I went home and my dear Mother cooked a batch of homemade toffee, that filled a ‘cone of paper. Sweet rationing was in force at the time, so when I walked down to friends they quickly agreed I could join if I gave everyone a piece of toffee.
Heather Carver (nee Stradling)
KING ALFRED SCHOOL MEMORIES
The school was split into 4 houses named after surrounding hills – Brent, Mendip, Steart and Quantock. All houses had their own colour – I was in Quantock House and our colour was a yellowy gold. Each year, a number of individuals were chosen to act as “Prefects” to do so you had to be honest and trustworthy and be prepared to look after others. I was lucky enough to be a Prefect for Quantock House. Pupils were not allowed in the school buildings at break or lunch times the role of the Prefect was to “ man the doors” to ensure no- one entered until the break finish bell had gone. Or to man certain areas of the school ‘out door’ areas to ensure pupils were generally behaving and looking after each other.
We had an excellent Library which served as a social meeting place, once you became a 5th former you were allowed to go to the library at break and lunch times – It served as a good way of keeping out of the cold and had an area where a quite chat was allowed! Can’t actually remember reading a book though! We played different sports in the winter term and summer term – In the winter we did gymnastics, Hockey and Netball and in the summer, Rounders and Athletics.
I had several teachers of whom I have fond memories Mr. Moore was our English teacher and he had a way of making stories come alive. On occasions he would read aloud – particularly when we had a new book, and he would speak in the character of the people in the story which was excellent – I particularly remember him reading “Of Mice and Men” – a story of 2 strong men – one of which however had the mental age of a child but enormous strength. Miss Bacon was a Maths teacher who was the only teacher where I felt I actually understood the Maths – Unfortunately she did her job too well and I got moved up a class only to then suffer again as no one could explain and teach the way she did! School dinners. I remember my favourite pudding – Chocolate crunch with mint custard – yummy!
Friends. I made some lovely friends – Liz Draper, Gillian White, Nicola Hancock, Rachel Gass and Katherine Riley to name a few and for whom I have very fond memories.
On a Monday morning we have Physics; Miss Morrish said “Mark, I want to see you at break”. I thought I was going to get told off, for doing something wrong. John Lee was also there, we had orange and biscuits – we couldn’t have been that bad! We were then called into Room 8; in there were about twenty young persons, both men and women, plus an older man. We couldn’t understand what was going on, but we had been chosen to show the visitors around the farm unit. because we knew a lot about the farm and Mr. Endall said we had worked hard.
The visitors were student teachers from Cardiff University and wanted to know how a school farm unit was run. We enjoyed the morning off work but found we actually worked very hard talking to them and showing them around.
I think they liked our school very much: they gave us a cheque for £10.00 towards the farm unit . Mark Lavis
Feeding the hens and collecting the eggs was probably the best job during a tutorial session. A couple of us would go down to the School Farm, it needed two as one person had to go in with a metal dustbin lid and corner the cockerel before it was safe for the other to go and collect the eggs! Getting the eggs back to the classroom unbroken could sometimes be a problem, especially the first day back after half term, there could be twenty eggs or more. We were never organised enough to go down with a container, so it was a case of fitting as many as possible into our blazer pockets and carrying the rest in our hands. Some did get dropped I remember, and Antony Jones once ended up with a broken one in his blazer pocket.
During 3rd year Maths, Mr Buttery treated us to a lesson with the school’s new and only computer. This was wheeled in on a trolley, with a full size television as a monitor. Mr Buttery typed in the program, which was little more than a small series of basic calculations. We had to be suitable impressed when he then input a number and the computer came back with the answer. I think we all appreciated the potential of the machine; it was just that we all had our own calculators with which we could all have worked out the answer just as quickly. Anyway, the computer was then wheeled away again and kept in a storeroom (renamed The Computer Room) at the back of Mrs Keast’s classroom, never to be seen again by anyone other than members of the Computer Club. This was only 1978-9, but looking back at it now, I feel like one of my Grandparents, retelling their first experience of seeing a motorcar!