The Hillmorton County Junior School was an old Victorian building with high ceilings that soared into the sky and partitioned classrooms with rows of old fashioned wooden desks with years of scratched graffiti and attached lift up seats on squeaking hinges.
The picture above is from about fifty years before I went there but it looked very similar in 1960.
The classrooms smelt of furniture polish, dark blue ink and chalk dust and in the long corridors there was an ever present odour of carbolic soap seeping out from under the wash room doors. There were two entrances, one said boys and the other girls but these were from a previous time when the sexes were carefully kept apart. This was no longer the case by 1960 and with segregation a thing of the past we were free to choose whichever was the most convenient.
These pictures are of my grandchildren visiting a similar school at Beamish Village Museum…
I rather liked going to school! The day started as early as possible with a bit of a play on the way there and then there was fifteen minutes of activity in the playground behind the building, two playgrounds one for the infants and one for the juniors. At the back of the playground were the outside toilets with no roof and completely exposed to the elements. I think it is possible that the girls had inside facilities, I can’t remember, but for the boys it was the most primitive of arrangements.
After the whistle blew we lined up and took it in turns to march inside to hang our coats and bags in the cloakroom. In winter there were several rows of identical duffel coats with gloves on strings dangling through the empty sleeves and underneath in neat rows, wellington boots with puddles of water seeping from the compacted ice in the soles that was melting and spreading over the red, cracked quarry tiled floor.
The Headmaster was Mr (George Edward) Hicks and he generally led an assembly with a hymn and a prayer and a short address. He was a decent sort of chap but he never seemed to take to me and in days when favouritism was acceptable I found him to be quite unsupportive. I just enjoyed being at school, especially the play times, and wasn’t terribly bothered about the learning bits in between so I think he wrote me off at an early stage as being a bit of a no-hoper and advised my parents to buy me a pair of clogs and prepare me for a long dull working life in a factory, as he was certain that I was destined to be one of life’s academic failures.
I met him years later when he came knocking on the door collecting for the RNLI and I think he was genuinely shocked when I told him that I had been to University and had a nice office job with good prospects at the Council.
For slow learners there was no such thing as special educational needs, classroom assistants or additional support mechanisms of course and the class was set out in a strict hierarchy with the fast learning favourites at the front getting all of the attention and the dimwits at the back making table mats out of raffia. I suppose I would have found myself about two thirds back from the blackboard. I was a late developer!
I can remember two other teachers, first there was Mrs Bull who taught year three and had a ferocious look that made our knees knock with fear and then Miss Roberts who taught year four and was a bit of a pin-up who made our legs turn to blancmange when she looked our way. Oh and Mr Etherington, who always had a cold sore and a drip on the end of his nose, I think he took the top class in juniors but I can’t be sure.
After morning lessons there was break time with more play and a bottle of milk for every pupil courtesy of the County Council. The 1946 School Milk Act had required the issue of a third of a pint of milk to all school children under eighteen and this was a nice thought if not always a pleasant experience. In the summer it stood outside in the sun and it was warm and thick because this was full cream milk, not the semi-skimmed coloured water that we have today, and in the winter it had a tendency to freeze and pop through the foil cap in an arctic lump that had to be sucked away before you reached the semi-liquid slime underneath.
No one knew about lactose intolerance in those days and it was compulsory for everyone and there were always teachers on hand to make sure that everyone finished their drink of milk whether it made them ill or not.
More late morning lessons then lunch break with a quick dash home for lunch and return as quickly as possible for more recreation in the playground. Afternoon lessons and then it was soon all over and we were released onto the streets to make our way home.
Outside the school at the end of the day there were no rows of cars clogging up the streets because everyone walked to school in those days. And we weren’t kept inside, in a state of paranoia until we were collected either. There was no need to worry, you see, children knew instinctively to keep away from the strange people in the village and there were not nearly so many cars on the road at that time to knock us over.
The friendly little Hillmorton County Junior and Infant School was demolished sometime in the 1970’s and a featureless replacement was built at the top of Watt’s Lane. They built some houses on the site and my sister Lindsay lived in one for a while which surprised us all on account of her previous history of serious allergic reaction to anything to do with being anywhere near a school building.
Hi there, loving your blog. A great way to preserve the past.
Great post Andrew! ls that you in sandals and striped shirt ? (OMG roofless loos, too warm milk; iced up milk,those were the days )
That’s me, front row towards the right!
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I’m impressed you can remember so much about primary school.
My visit to Beamish open air museum and a reconstruction of a similar school helped kick-start the memories Peggy!
Always great to relive the school years. What is it with some teachers? One teacher told me my son was a waste of time. We changed schools. He now supports a wife and 4 kids, supervises a team of 40 heavy construction workers building bridges, dams and roads. I wonder who really was the waste of time! Of course, there are some awesome teachers as well.
Teaching was different 50 years ago I guess!
I meant to say, you were a real cutie!
You had hot gravel for lunch? You were lucky! We didn’t have lunch. We just……….
School dinners were pretty awful as I remember. I pleaded with my mum to be allowed to go home for lunch and luckily she agreed!
I read this ancient history with enjoyment. Thanks Andrew.
Thank you Michael – Ancient History Indeed!
I enjoyed the reminisences, Andrew (and the photos of your grandies at Beamish 🙂 ). Interesting the point about lactose intolerance. Killed with mistaken kindness?
I can identify with all this, the outside toilets, the gill of free milk, teachers who never thought you’d amount to much, etc. At grammar school (!) dinners were ok except cheese pie on Friday. To this day I can’t face bloody cooked cheese! But steam puddings, snake and Pygmy pie, tatie pot, were all brilliant and have been made and consumed in this household ever since. With an Asian wife that’s no mean feat 😂😂
I was just a fussy eater Brian, even at secondary school I used to spend the morning lessons worrying about dinner time. Eventually I was allowed to cycle home for lunch.
Such a pity you felt no one read your blog in its early days. Maybe they did but were too shy to leave a comment? Nice memories. Did you keep a diary? I’m sure your old headmaster is now swanning around town claiming benefit for educating you to University standard. That’s what they usually do!
It took a long time to get any attention for the blog but I guess this is quite normal.
Poor old Mr Hicks is long gone I imagine, he was in his 50s when I was under 10!
Sounds very similar to my school – and I can assure you the girls had outside toilets too! One of my abiding memories is running across the playground to the toilets with my friend during a wet “indoor playtime” and being spotted by the headmaster who was NOT a nice man. We had committed the terrible sin of not putting our coats on, so he stood us in the hall and called the whole school out to witness us being dressed down for it. I was 7.
I have mostly good memories of school but teaching methods were rather different fifty years ago!
Yes, I recovered from that, but I’ve never forgotten or forgiven. I also related to your point about being seated in order of attainment. We moved seats every time there was a test to sit in order of our scores. I was always near the front and got anxious if I slipped too far back – I can’t imagine how the children at the end felt. I was also once punished by being sent into the “C class”. Appallingly insensitive!
I always did badly in tests and exams. Never passed a thing until I was 16 – an unexpected triumph which came as an enormous shock to my parents!
A late developer obviously!
It’s good you survived the roofless loos! There are just some folks who should never be teachers. The good ones are worth their weight in gold! Thanks for the rerun. I enjoyed it.
We had some monsters at secondary school, some real bullies!
I loved going to school, trouble was my mother thought I’d be better off to hurry up finish it and get a job and pay board. She would not let me accept the scholarships that were offered, and even stopped me going as an exchange student for free to France in 1947. Back then we did as we were told or got a clip round the ear.
Instead of going to Barking Abbey Grammar when it was a grammar school I was sent with the dimwits to the Park Modern Secondary School. I was dragged from there and sent to work on the 17th April 1950. my 15th birthday. Lucky for me we were not allowed to work before turning 15, otherwise I’d have been climbing up the chimneys
Sounds very familiar. I left school at 16 and initially worked in a foul stinking tannery cutting up slimy fresh cow hides all to “pay board”! But …. went to university at 21 …. MSc + PhD + wife! Teachers wrong, parents wrong, etc
So many lost opportunities in those days Brian! Now there is an obsession that everyone should go to University whether they are up to it or not!
Great photos! Remember the school milk bottles it tasted disgusting!!
It was so horrible, I can remember it even 50 years later!
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Is the picture of the children just one class or is it two? It seems a large number of children even for a school in the early sixties.
I think it just one class. I seem to remember class sizes getting close to 40.
I remember those days well. We had the milk and the hot weather that turned it and then somewhere somebody invented a straw that had a chocolate insert and as you drank the milk it became chocolate flavoured.
What an excellent invention.
Nicely evocative, Andrew
Thank you Derrick
Reading your post brought back good memories of infant and junior school.
Indeed they were. I loved school.
Being just behind you in age, I started infant school in 1962, but your description sounds very familiar even though my first two schools were new builds and not traditional school buildings like yours. I have a theory about school milk. I think it was so full of bacteria, in summer in particular, that we all developed significant natural defences which children today don’t develop. Hence the explosion of allergy type health issues. There’s no way I could bring myself to drink the yellowing, rancid, foul smelling stuff these days though!
I think you might be on to something there Phil. I never drink milk and always take my tea black.