14th May 2024

Beryl Chumbley

School Memory

I started at Churchfields Infants in January 1953. I remember the first day we had to sit at desks in the hall. We were given a small blackboard and chalk to draw with. I sat next to a girl who had drawn a lovely Christmas tree, I couldn’t draw that tree now certainly couldn’t do it then!


The old infants building was ‘L’ shaped with three classrooms parallel to the road. I think I started in the one nearest the top, but did use others as well.


I can remember some teachers names who actually taught me. The headmistress was Miss Hollis. I also remember the secretary was Miss (Doris) Marchant. A teacher I got to know in other circumstances some years later was Doreen Hunt. I seem to remember classrooms in prefabricated buildings on the far side of the playground that ran down next to the field. I think there are four in total a couple for the Infant School and  several for the Junior School. On the edge of the playground was the toilet block. I presume there was no heating.


Several things I remember that happened – one was when the police used to come and give road safety advice.  You must remember that this is back in the days of the early 1950s when there wasn’t as much traffic on the roads.  The High Road certainly wasn’t as wide, and Gates Corner was a single carriageway crossroads.  Children were taught how to use a zebra crossing, where to cross the road and not to run into the road if your football runs in the road and all this was demonstrated by the police in the playground. They somehow managed to get police cars through the gaps between the buildings into the playground and I seem to remember we liked to keep an eye on how long the skid marks from the cars stopping lasted on the tarmac.


The school field didn’t exist as such when I first started. I think the land at the back of the Junior School as well as the back of the Infant School that formed the school field had been used for allotments during the Second World War and that hadn’t been given up until I presume the end of the 1940s and then it took a while for the land to get sorted out and grass sown. What we did use was a piece of ground at the far side of the field that backed onto the County Library and the Clinic so I presume this was all local authority owned land and there was a small field there not big enough to do running tracks or anything but I remember we used to go over there perhaps on summer afternoons and sit either be read to or read our books. It was also the way that we got to the library because we were taken there and given instruction on how to use the library especially how to use the reference library. I remember walking along a muddy path at the top of the field to get there.  A couple of things that we would have passed on our way were single story brick buildings that had no windows. They seemed to be roughly built; I think they had a connection with the war effort storage. I’ve never followed up about these, there was also one at the bottom of the junior girls playground and another in the boys playground. I think that one was used by the maintenance men to store lawnmowers.


I have a photograph of a production.  These were done in the hall with a stage that was modular. I can name some of the people in the photograph and find myself.  It is obviously Christmas because I seem to remember I’m dressed as a Christmas cracker, no idea what the story was.


I am not sure when the school canteen was built at the bottom of the site. Until then the infants lunch was served in the hall having been brought from who knows where. It did mean that any p.e. equipment had to be cleared away to accommodate this.


When I moved on to the Junior School I was in one of the classrooms on the top floor very much lighter and brighter than the downstairs classrooms. I started off with a Miss Franklin I think, Mrs Mumby, and Mrs Coles . Eventually I think at the top of the school I was down in a ground floor classroom with Mrs Lemon. We had mostly female teachers. There were I think 4 male teachers and Mr. Williams the headmaster.


I seem to remember that there were a number of ladies who acted as playground attendants we all knew most of them because they lived locally. I know I used to see at least one of them during the holidays as well.  One of them used to be indoors in case of accidents. There was a cupboard that had the small amount of first aid equipment that was needed, plasters and sympathy mostly I expect.


At the time there was a music education organisation presumably based in London called the Earnest Read Music Organisation. They organised concerts in London on a Saturday morning specifically for school children. They were mostly held at the Royal Festival Hall although when I got to secondary school I seem to remember going to the Royal Albert Hall and Westminster Hall. Mr. Williams used to take us if we wanted to go. They weren’t very long but they were an introduction to different types of music with a big name orchestra and soloists as part of the concert.  Mr. Williams like to take us somewhere before the concert and I remember short trips round Westminster Abbey and into the Palace of Westminster going downstairs to the crypt Chapel as well as walking through the big hall where Queen Elizabeth lying in state happened.  I remember that being very cold.


A couple of visits I remember are no longer possible. Heathrow Airport used to have the Queen’s Building. This had a viewing area on its roof so people could view the planes movements. The other was a boat trip round some of the London docks. There were still many large ships using the port then and we were told the cargos that were being loaded and unloaded.


I don’t know which year but there was a partial eclipse of the sun when I was in the junior school. Several of the teachers decided the best way for us to view it was to take a window and smoke the glass, fix the window to a ladder and we could stand in small groups to see the phenomenon safely.


Mr Williams used to take the oldest pupils for occasional lessons using a publication called the Childrens Newspaper. We had a copy each and had to find an item of interest to write about. One that I remember was about the Diamond mine in South Africa, the Big Hole at Kimberley. Somehow this stayed with me and years later I lived in South Africa and did stand on the viewing platform at the mine.


I have four school reports. One thing that I was reminded of in these was our class size – between 46 and 48 pupils.


Beryl Chumbley, now Venables