Tag Archives: Ravenhurst Primary School

Scrap Book Project – Houses, Chislehurst Avenue, Leicester

Chislehurst Avenue Leicester

Around the end of 1958 the family left the semi-detached house in Ledwell Drive, Glenfield and prepared to move into a brand new house in Braunstone South near the Narborough Road in Leicester.

The house wasn’t ready until the following Spring so for a few months we lived with my grandparents in Cleveleys Avenue close by.  What I remember most about living there was getting a train set for Christmas.

Christmas morning in the front room there was a square metre of sapele board and a simple circle of track, an engine a tender and two coaches in British Rail burgundy livery.  There was a level crossing, a station and a bridge made out of an old shoe box that dad had cut out and made himself.  He was good at making things for Christmas presents and at about the same time I had a fort with some US cavalry soldiers that was made out of an old office filing box that he had constructed into a pretty good scale copy of Fort Laramie or wherever, later I had a replacement fort, this time from the toy shop but it was never as good as the cardboard box.

Early in 1959 we moved to the new house in Chislehurst Avenue.

Chislehurst Avenue, March 1959

In the early twentieth century Braunstone  remained a small settlement until 1925 when the Leicester Corporation compulsorily purchased the bulk of the Winstanley Braunstone Hall estate  in what was known as Leicester Forest.  Today the nearby service station on the M1 motorway is called Leicester Forest East Services.

Building commenced in the late 1920s and between 1936 and 1939 the estate of North Braunstone was built to accommodate families moving from slum housing within the city which were being demolished.  When the poorer families had lived in the centre of the city there had been an appropriate infrastructure to support the community but none of these facilities were provided on the new estate.  It was generally assumed that providing better housing conditions was a complete solution by itself.  Some of the poorest of families from Leicester moved into the North Braunstone Estate and the concentration of these particular low paid and needy families earned the estate the title of ‘Dodge City’.

I mention this in a snobbish sort of way because Chislehurst Avenue is in South Braunstone which is a middle class, private ownership area where even today the residents take care to cling on to a separate identity from that of the social housing area of North Braunstone.

I have always been curious about the name. I assume that it was named after the town of Chislehurst in Kent because the neighbouring streets were Brokenhurst and Ashurst (Hampshire), Fieldhust (Berkshire), Fenhurst (West Sussex) and Stonehurst (Leicestershire). Naming of new roads and streets has to be approved by the local authority and that is why they are not always very imaginative. When I worked for a Council I remember a long conversation by the Members over the proposed name of Apple Pie Court which after an hour or so of tedious debate was eventually rejected as unsuitable.

There are a number of Chislehurst Avenues in the UK and two in Australia.  The first is in Stratham, Western Australia, south of Perth and the second is over the other side of the country in the town of Figtree, south of Sydney in New South Wales.

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We lived at Chislehurst Avenue for just over a year.  Dad built a new rockery, I made friends with John and Michael Sparks who lived opposite, had my fifth birthday and started going to school at the Ravenhurst Primary where my first teacher was Miss Bird. Dad continued to cycle fifteen miles each way to work in the town of Hinckley.

This was not sustainable of course and in the winter of 1960 it became too much for him and he had to concede that he might have to consider leaving his beloved home town of Leicester.  The only sensible thing to do was to move closer to his work so in the Spring the house was put up for sale and probably two years later than they should have done my parents prepared to move to Hinckley.

In 1960 a visit to the hairdresser was obviously regarded as an unnecessary expense and the basin cut was the fashion…

Birthday Party Celebration

Hillmorton Infant and Junior School

Until I was five we lived in a variety of houses in Leicester and in 1958 we had moved home from Ledwell Drive in Glenfield to Chislehurst Avenue in Braunstone and in September 1959 it was time in life to go to school.

The Ravenhurst Primary School was about a five hundred-metre stroll across land waiting for houses to be built on it and I used to walk there with my friends John and Michael Sparks who lived on the other side of the road.  The teacher’s name was Miss Bird and her classroom had alphabet pictures on the wall, ‘A’ for alcohol, ‘B’ for beer, ‘C’ for chablis and so on and it was here that I started to learn to read using the ‘Dick and Dora books’.

In the 1950s, Dick and Dora were supposed to be average kids, living a typical English life with their parents and their pets, Nip the dog and Fluff the cat. (You will notice here that even in a children’s book the dog has a name that implies that it will bite you.)  Their unexceptional and almost idyllic middle-class existence of playing in the garden and once a year going to the seaside was the basis of a series of books designed to teach children to read.

I liked Dick and Dora but I didn’t get long at Ravenhurst School because after only a couple of terms we moved to Hinckley where I went to the Grove Road Church of England Primary School and very soon after that moved to Rugby and went to the Hillmorton County Junior and Infants school where they had ‘Janet and John’ books instead which were very similar and taught four to seven year old children how to read by progressively incorporating and repeating key words in the development of reading skills.

With three shools in the first year I wasn’t get a good chance to settle in and I blame this for holding me back and making me a disappointing pupil for the first ten years or so of school.

The Hillmorton County Junior School was an old Victorian building with high ceilings and partitioned classrooms with rows of old fashioned wooden desks and attached lift up seats. The classrooms smelt of furniture polish and chalk dust and the in the corridors there was an ever present odour of carbolic soap seeping out from under the washroom 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 of course and with segregation a thing of the past we were free to choose the most convenient.

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 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 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 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.

In Mrs Bull’s class it was time to learn arithmetic and to prepare us for adding up and taking away we would sit and chant out the times tables over and over again until we knew them off by heart.  That was boring but useful because I have never forgotten them.  Doing sums was a lot harder then because we were still ten years away from decimalisation and had to add things up in pounds, shillings and pence.  There were twelve pence in a shilling and twenty shillings in a pound and that was difficult let me tell you. Try adding this lot together and you will see what I mean:

£4.12.06

£1.15.11

£   19.11½

—————

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.

Free school milk was discontinued in 1970 by the future Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and which earned her the unflattering nickname of ‘Thatcher, Thatcher, Milk Snatcher”, but I think she was called far worse than that later on!  Actually however she only stopped free school milk for eight to eleven year olds because Harold Wilson’s labour government had stopped free milk for secondary schools two years earlier in 1968 (notice how Wilson, Wilson milk snatcher doesn’t have the same newspaper headline appeal) so perhaps Oxford University was a bit mean when in 1985 it prevented her from receiving an honorary degree because of her history of education spending cuts.

More late morning lessons then lunch break with a quick dash home 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.

Like most things in life going to school was a completely different experience from that of today both for the pupils and the teachers.  Years ago I had an ambition to be a teacher but am so glad that I didn’t pursue it.  How proud I am now however that Sally has done just that but I wonder just how different she would have found teaching children like us in the 1960’s from the modern teaching methods that she is accustomed to now.

The answer to the sum is seven pounds, eight shillings and fourpence ha’penny.  I told you it was hard! 

This is the school in about 1900, a long time before I went there but looking much the same and with the barbers, ‘Chopper Hall’ , the house next door.