In 2009, Cecil Road Primary School celebrated its 100th birthday and a special open day was held as part of the celebrations. But how did it all get started?
In 1989, the school celebrated its 80th birthday and a special project book was put together by the Year 6 children. This was recently re-
Some of the highlights from our archive are available here…
Here are some interesting facts about Cecil Road Primary School:
The cost of the school was £12,000 -
The school was formally opened by the mayor, Alderman H E Davis, in June 1909.
Cecil Road Schools was made up of two buildings. In the larger there was accommodation for 304 boys and on the first floor a similar number of girls. The smaller building accommodates 200 infants.
When Cecil Road Schools were opened, Kempthorne Street Higher Grade School was closed and the staff transferred to Cecil Road.
Below is an entry from Kelly’s Directory (1913) (with thanks to Mick Hamer for supplying).
This incredible picture was taken at the Perry Street end of Northcote Road around about 1910. You can clearly see the imposing Cecil Road School building in the background. If this photo is dated accurately, then the school would have only just been built. It is also very likely that the children in this picture would have been some of the first pupils at Cecil Road Schools.
Look at this animation to see how things have changed over 100 years:
Here are some selections from our archive…
Photos from Our History
Memories of Cecil Road
Click on each decade to read fascinating stories from some of our past pupils.
Memories of Cecil Road in the 1920s
By Mrs Carlebach
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since my tiny feet first walked through the doors of your school. It was in 1924, I am now 87. The school was called Cecil Road Infants.
As I remember there were four classrooms and I think I can recall the names of the teachers: Miss Bishop, Miss Winnie, Miss Bevan and Miss Mills. Miss Bacon was the headmistress.
I adored my first teacher, Miss Bishop. One day she came to school with a velvet band around her head. I begged my mother to make me one, and next morning I walked into the classroom looking like my teacher.
There were flashcards around the classroom walls to teach us the alphabet. We learned lots of little songs, but the one I remember the best went like this:
"Hop little rabbit, hop, hop, hop,
Hop through the clover,
Hop then stop"
During the song the children and the teacher crouched on the floor and hopped about like rabbits.
Two children come to my memory: Jean A who lived in Pelham Road, her family were photographers; the other one was a boy who always wiped his nose on his sleeve! I thought the name Jean was so lovely that I called one of my dolls, which I still have Jean.
Words fail me to tell of the toilets, except that they were the other side of the playground and one had to wear wellingtons to get in. The children talked about "going to the dubs".
Prize giving was a great day. I won the Mayor's special prize and had to shake hands with the Mayor. I still have this book.
Now, after all these years this little school stands out with many happy memories.
By Mrs Allen
I have tried to put together a few details of various memories I have about my time in your school -
The years to which I refer are about 1927-
You will note that all the teachers I list as "Miss" -
The staff desks were raised on platforms at the front, and the pupils' desks were double ones tierred to the back. Each contained a china inkwell -
A little about lessons -
All girls were taught to sew and knit. Sewing was often a great burden -
Playground Games -
Outings were almost unknown. On Empire Day -
Memories of Cecil Road in the 1930s
By Roy Carter
I was born in 1931 and attended Cecil Road School from 1936 to 1942.
When I started at the infants school the teachers were: Mrs Jarvis (Headmistress), Miss Harris, Miss Haggard (her father was our family doctor and a Gravesend Mayor) and Miss Rouse.
The teachers during my stay at the Boys' Junior School were, I believe: Mr Shuttlewood (Headmaster), Mr Tarbitt, Mr Williams, Mrs Ellis and Mr O'Keefe.
Two particular memories concerning my stay at the school were:
1) The Empire Day celebrations that took place on Waste Ground beside Old Road West and Dashwood Road.
2) The school evacuation which took place on September 3rd 1939. Together with my younger brother I was evacuated to Aldborough, Norfolk. The school was transported there on a Thames pleasure steamer (probably the Crested Eagle) from Gravesend to Yarmouth. On our arrival we were taken to Yarmouth Race Course where we spent the night sleeping in the stables. The following day we travelled by coach to Aldborough where we were delivered to our billets. We only stayed there until early December when my parents returned us to Gravesend and Cecil Road School.
During the early months of the evacuation in 1939 i.e. Oct - Dec, the Reporter in conjunction with Mr.A.E.Barnes, proprietor of the Rainbow Stores, Gravesend, organised an Evacuated Children's Essay Competition, for all the local schools. The first prize was a Raleigh cycle supplied by the Rainbow Stores, also hundreds of cash prizes, including one shilling (5p) postal orders for competitors who had their letters quoted in the Reporter.
As the 70th anniversary of the evacuation coincides with the 100th anniversary of the opening of Cecil Road school, I thought you might like to see the Cecil Road entries quoted in the Reporter. Here are just some of the entries:
Roy Carter (8), 54 Lynton Rd South, Gravesend
“On Wednesday we had rabbit for dinner. We have 7 pigs, 4 cockerels and a dog. On the Mill stream near us are two swans, and we see a lot of pheasants.”
June Blunderfield (9), 8 Lynton Rd South, Gravesend
“Tell Mummy not to send any more things, for she told me that she was nearly spent out.”
Lucy Cottington (11), 32 Overcliffe, Gravesend
“After our journey we were taken to a big hall where there were sacks with eiderdowns and blankets, and then we were moved into stables. But who minded sleeping in stables? Nobody, as long as they had a bed to sleep in.”
Yvonne Walker (7), 11 Lingfield Rd, Gravesend
“I like staying with “Aunty” but I would like to come home. We are sitting by the fire doing our letters.”
I think you will agree that they are a compliment to our English teachers at that time.
I personally cannot remember entering the competition, or perhaps more pertinently, receiving the one shilling postal order!.
I left Cecil Road School in 1942 and following a brief spell at St George's C of E school I attended Gravesend Junior Technical School from 1943 to 1946.
Roy also provided us with these images from the Coronation Booklet for 1937. The image relating to Cecil Road and 'New Zealand' is with regards to the school's contribution during the Empire Procession which involved all the local schools. The procession assembled in the Market Hall and proceeded via Queen Street, King Street, Windmill Street and Wrotham Road to Woodlands Park.
According to Roy:
"I have absolutely no recollection of the Cecil Road School contribution to the 1937 Coronation programme. My only memory of the day is being taken in the evening by an uncle to the fair in Woodlands Park, and that it was rather wet.. Gravesend Library has checked a report of the events in the Gravesend Reporter but there is no mention of the school children's parade. It may be therefore, that the school children's parade was abandoned due to bad weather, i.e. rain as according to The Times (see below) a depression was situated over the UK ----- ------- some thing's never seem to change!"
It seems that Roy is absolutely correct about the bad weather. Looking at the school log book at that time, Headmaster Mr Shuttlewood says for that day:
12 May 1937
"Rain commenced to fall at 1.20p.m. and caused the abandonment of the Children's Empire Procession from the Town Hall to Woodlands Park. The children dispersed at 5.15 having made the best of an unfortunate day."
It seems, however, that the parade did indeed take place at a re-arranged date about a week later on Empire Day. Again, Mr Shuttlewood writing in the log book says:
"Glorious day in blazing sunshine. The empire procession of children from the various schools representing the Home Countries and Principal Posessions was a great success and delighted thousands of spectators. The route from the market to Woodlands Park was thickly lined with people, while the park was surrounded by another dense crowd. The procession round the park arena was a delightful scene and brought forth round after round of applause."
Amazingly, we managed to find some photographs of Cecil Road's contribution to the Empire Procession:
By Frank Webster
I was born in December 1934 and attended Cecil Road School from 1939 to 1944 when, after not even trying for the 11 plus, I was despatched to St George's C of E School and thence to The Day Technical School for Boys, Gravesend.
I lived with parents and sister, Margaret, at 42 Lynton Road South and I remember Roy Carter (see his memories elsewhere) and his brother Eric, well.
As with Roy I agree the teachers were Mesdames Jarvis, Haggard and Rouse. I also recall Miss Rouse's mother, Mrs Rouse, had some input, though I can't remember what.
One abiding memory is skipping around the school hall to Miss Rouse ' thumping out ' Country Gardens' on the piano, and a poem we learned in Miss Haggard's class which went: -
' There are fairies at the bottom of our Garden, and its not so very far away'
At the West End of the Infants School building, a classroom was turned into a kitchen and my mother, as the School Cook prepared, with some help, a midday meal for the teachers and pupils.
In Northcote Road opposite the school gates was a small sweet shop and, with a ' captive audience ' of school children he must have been kept ' very busy' although, bearing in mind that for much of the war sweets were ' on ration' perhaps his trade was not that good.
The toilets were outside in the corner of the playground which meant that ' relieving oneself in mid-winter was more a freezing necessity than a pleasure.
With war imminent the school was evacuated on September 3rd 1939. I was too young to go, but my sister Margaret went, to Aldborough, Norfolk as recalled by Roy. In those days very few working class homes had telephones and so the only way my parents could get news was by a bulletin posted on the school gates. And so it was my mother, with me ' in tow' ,hurried to the school gates that Sunday morning to learn of their safe arrival.
On that same Sunday morning, Neville Chamberlain, the Prime Minister, made his historic announcement over the ' wireless…' consequently we are at war with Germany.'
After War was declared, we had the ' Phoney War' which meant that Hitler did not appear to be doing very much, so by mid-December nearly half the children were back at home either because of Hitler's absence or Father Christmas's approach.
However, in the Spring of 1940 the war started in earnest and the second mass evacuation of school children with their teachers was organised. This time I went with my sister.
Whole classes gathered at the Technical School to be processed and thence we were marched two by two to the railway station to say goodbye to our parents and entrain for Windsor, Berkshire (of all places).
It is only since being a parent myself that I now realise what a terribly traumatic experience this must have been for our Mum and Dad - but for us children, cheering and waving, it was an adventure.
Windsor was supposed to be ' a place of safety' but when a bomb landed close to our billet, our parents had no hesitation in bringing us home. We had stayed for about six months.
And so I saw out the War at Cecil Road. A corner of the ground floor of the main building was converted into a temporary air raid shelter and this is where we had our lessons during air raids. However, apart from gas masks, for us boys it was an exciting time and we were quite unaware of any danger.
By now I was in the Junior School and I certainly remember Mr O'Keefe, (one of the 'old school' shall we say). I have fond memories of Mrs Ramsey? who taught us to make glove puppets with paper mache' heads. We used to give puppet shows to the rest of the school and she fired in me an interest in entertaining which has stayed with me for 65 years and shows no signs of going away.
With the War drawing to its close it was time for me to leave the familiar confines of Cecil Road School and make my way, with horrific stories of initiation ceremonies ringing in my ears, to the unknown territory of St George's C of E Secondary School
I enclose two class photographs and although there are some familiar faces the names elude me. Nevertheless the ' scruff ' in the school photo is me.
Memories of Cecil Road in the 1940s
By Peter Lord
How nice it was to find out that the old school is 100 years old.
I am now 76 years old and I still have happy memories of my time at Cecil Road. I lived in Wrotham Road opposite Woodlands Park and used to walk to school through the park and then through the cemetary.
I was at Cecil Road at the end of of World War II about 1943-45 (can't quite remember). I do remember Miss Stringer was headmistress and two of my form masters were Mr O'Keefe who had a swishy cane which he used round the back of your legs if you misbehaved and Mr Tarbuch who had a thick cane and used to cane us on the hand. If you took your hand away you got two strokes - it did me no harm and the teaching was good.
I passed the eleven plus and went to Gravesend Grammar School for Boys. We had to do National Service in those days and after obtaining my commision in the Royal Air Force I obtained my degree and teaching diploma. I was lucky enough to teach science for 37 years in three different grammar schools.
I do wish the school every success in the future. I raise a glass to you all!
Peter Lord, June 2009
Memories of Cecil Road in the 1950s
By Mick Hamer
We were very lucky when Mick Hamer, a former pupil, got in contact with us to share his memories of his time at Cecil Road. Mick attended the school from 1951 to 1957 and we would like to say a big thank you to him for taking the time to record these memories.
My earliest memory dates from my first few weeks at the infants’ school. We were practising writing and I was still trying to work out which hand to use. I picked up my crayon with my left hand and started writing with it. The teacher, and I don’t remember who she was, slapped me, saying “you wicked boy” or words to that effect. The association of the devil with being left-handed was very out-of-date even in 1951 and I don’t know if I was more surprised then than I am now. Either way it was a life-changing event. I still write with my left hand.
The weather colours several of my memories. The smog was eerie and frightening. You could stand in between two street lamps and not see the light from either of them. Lessons were cancelled or cut short for a couple of days. I think this must have been during the great smog of December 1952, though there were others.
The school’s central heating sometimes struggled to cope with winters. It was the caretaker’s job to stoke the boiler and keep it banked up with coke, which was kept in a store behind the hall. The results could be erratic. I vividly remember one freezing morning in the third form before the start of lessons. A clutch of shivering kids were huddled around a tepid radiator, trying to extract some heat from it, before Mr Main came in and told us sit down. This was probably February 1956, a bitterly cold month when temperatures rarely rose above freezing point.
The hot days of summer brought different problems. Our school milk was delivered early in the morning to the playground in between the infants and junior schools. It came in one-third-of-a-pint bottles. After a couple of hours in the sun the milk had often begun to taste vaguely off when we came to drink it in our mid-morning break.
It was a beautiful summer’s day when Miss Spiers (I think it was) took us down Hog Lane for a nature study class. You’ll struggle to find Hog Lane on any map these days. It ran from the Battle of Britain pub, at the top of New House Lane, down through farmland to the Watling Street (now the A2). It seems extraordinary now to take a group of children, even in single file, down this road. With its high banks and hedges Hog Lane was a single-track road, too narrow for two cars to pass, but traffic was very rare then. We picked wild flowers from the banks and then turned off the road into a field of stubble, which became an impromptu classroom where we showed the teacher our collections of daisies and buttercups. A couple of boys found a spider, cupped it in their hands and took it to Miss Spiers. We all waited for her to shriek. But it had no effect, she’d seen it all before.
Mrs Senior, the deputy head, took the class of 2a on 5 May 1955. "What is today", she asked. Someone came up with Thursday, someone else with 5 May. "Yes", she said, "but if you write it out as figures it is five, five, five, and five. It will be a long time before this happens again", she said. It was scarcely the most profound lesson I ever learnt, but it stuck. I remembered it again on the 6 June 1966 and on every subsequent digital coincidence.
Summer was also a time for cricket. In 1957 Mr Lethbridge, our jolly and avuncular games master, organised a cricket match between Cecil Road and Shears Green. I was in the team and we trooped up to Shears Green one evening after school to play cricket on a proper playing field—one with grass. As I recall, Mr Lethbridge umpired and organised the Cecil Road team—an odd combination. But Shears Green had a far better team and won easily.
School discipline was mostly maintained by smacking errant scholars. There was a distinct bias to all this. Apart from my first weeks in the infants, I don’t remember a female teacher smacking anyone and although boys were punished regularly it was rare for a girl to be smacked. Were girls really better behaved?
The rooms at Cecil Road have extraordinarily high ceilings—even by the standards of grown-ups. The teachers needed a pole to open the fanlights above the doors and a cord to close them. The walls were painted with gloss paint. Up to radiator height it was municipal green, coupled with cream above. The school had an eclectic collection of tattered and torn illustrated children’s books which teachers sometimes handed out to keep the kids quiet, which is where I first read an adaptation of Beowulf.
In my year there were three classes streamed according to ability and each class had around 40 children. In spring 1957 when I was in 4a, the BBC broadcast a brilliant radio programme for schools called How Things Began on the Home Service. Each week the teacher went through an elaborate routine to prepare for the highlight of the week. She took a couple loudspeakers down from the top of a cupboard, unwrapped yards of cloth-coated flex from the back of the wooden loudspeaker cases and connected them up to a radio. She then tuned in the radio, adjusted an aerial, and with a bit of luck in amongst the static and the news from Albania there was the Home Service with stories about dinosaurs and other long-dead monsters.
It captured my imagination. But one week I was off with a cold. The teacher, possibly a supply teacher because I don’t remember who she was, told me to do some homework so I could catch up. I refused, saying that children didn’t have to do homework until secondary school. She sent me to the headmaster, Mr Lancaster, who caned me and told me to do the homework. When I continued to refuse, I was demoted to 4c, which is where I took (and eventually passed) the 11-plus exam. At this point Mrs Griffiths, who was not directly involved in any of this, saw my parents while shopping in the town and told them about it—I certainly hadn’t because I thought they’d side with the school. The upshot of this chance meeting was that I was put back into 4a—and I never did do that homework.
Wayward children didn’t help the smooth running of the school. But the teachers always had the last word. At the end of each year the children were given a sealed envelope addressed to our parents. You took it home with some trepidation (or anxiety if that was too hard to spell). I have just found three of mine in amongst my parents’ papers and I don’t think I had ever read them before. You’d certainly have to give the teachers full marks for observation and accuracy. Fifty years on you can still sense their exasperation in my final report. “Michael’s attainment test results bear no resemblance to the work produced day by day either in quantity or quality,” wrote Mrs Griffiths. “He is careless and untidy, and appears quite unconcerned about it.”
Even after more than half a century my six years at Cecil Road continue to influence my life. Britain in the 1950s was very class conscious. And I was one of a smallish group of middle-class kids, mostly living on the far side of Woodlands Park. Much of the school’s intake came from the large new council estate that had sprung up around New House Lane. They were mostly working class. Cecil Road broke down all these social barriers. It is a legacy that I am still grateful for.
So happy centenary old school. I hope that you’ll still be breaking down barriers in 50 years’ time—even if I won’t be around to see it.
By Alan Spooner
You may have read the memories of Mick Hamer - well we were equally lucky when he contacted one of his former classmates Alan Spooner who has been able to supply these fantastically detailed memories of his time at Cecil Road School.
1. GENERAL THOUGHTS
As a fellow class mate of Mick Hamer, I can confirm that his recollection of life at Cecil Road in the 1950’s very accurately portrays what it was like to be child growing up at a time when the population of Gravesend was less than half what it is now, and the lay out of a classroom was such that in excess of 45 pupils could, without any obvious difficulty, be taught with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of effectiveness.
Every pupil had their own desk, laid out in columns of 8, with everybody facing the teacher.
Strange as it may seem today, the requirement to “sit still, keep quiet and listen to what the teacher has to say” was something that we did automatically, and whilst we were certainly not paragons of virtue, abiding by this code of conduct was perfectly normal; it was just something that you did.
To ‘answer back’ when you were told to do something, was regarded as the height of rudeness, and to continue to show any form of descent meant a instant trip to the Headmaster.
Any child that was a either a braggart, a loudmouth or a troublemaker was generally shunned, and those that enjoyed making others feel small or unwanted, where in turn treated with the contempt they deserved.
Whilst bullying did exist, I can remember clearly that those of our number who were ‘on the receiving end’ were more than outnumbered by the majority who would stand together on their behalf, and physically fight off the ’low life’ who otherwise would have made their lives unpleasant.
If asked to summarise my feelings at this time, I would say as follows:
“At Cecil Road, there was an excellent mixture of disipline, fairness and fun. All pupils were treated with respect and individuality, and for my part, never felt pressurised to achieve for achievement’s sake”.
2. ON GOING TO SCHOOL AND MY FIRST DAY
As was no doubt the case with my potential classmates, I was given words of encouragement:-
From my mum:
“You will have a lovely time meeting new friends, be good, and I will be waiting by the gate when you come home for lunch”.
From my dad:
“Don’t let other boys push you around (I was small for my age), if anybody hits you, hit them back.”
All of their wise words proved totally accurate and lots of great friends were made, I did not knowingly rock the disciplinary boat, mum was at the gate as promised, and I certainly thumped a few boys who attempted to push me around!
Regarding my first day, three things linger in my memory:
(i) Being taken into a very dark and gloomy sweet shop in Northcote Road, owned by a Mr Stern, and buying a packet of sherbet.
(ii) Seeing a girl bawling her lungs out and hanging on for dear life to a gate post, resisting all her mother’s efforts to prise her away and get her into school.
Little did I know that this would be the same girl who would be sitting next to me for our final school photograph!
(iii) Being seated next to a blond haired boy called Colin Mackay, and being told by my teacher (Mrs Haggard) not to forget to sit in the same seat when I came back the following day.
3.HEADMASTERS & TEACHERS
During my time at the school, there were just two Headmasters i.e. Mr Sullivan at the time of my joining and Mr Lancaster* at the time of my leaving.
As for the Teachers, apart from Mrs Haggard (already mentioned), the following names come to mind:
Miss Spires (who became Mrs Wood) .. Mrs Main .. Mr Main .. Mr Lethbridge*.. Mrs Griffith & Mrs Senior (my teacher in the 4a class photo for 1957).
*Both had children in my class ie Gillian Lancaster & Peter Lethbridge.
4. IN THE CLASSROOM
(i) As biro’s had yet to be invented, three means were provided to assist a child in writing:
(a) A slate board and chalk
(b) Pencils that were kept in a wooden carrier box and then handed out when required.
(c) Pens with individual nibs, using ink that was made up in class, and carried around by the ‘Ink Monitor’.
(ii) Whenever glue was required, hard lumps of the stuff had first to be melted over a Bunsen burner, giving off noxious fumes that permeated the room.
(iii) A highlight of the week was when a radio was wheeled into the classroom and the programme “How Things Began” was broadcast. (refer also Mike Hamer’s account).
In this programme, a news reporter was somehow transported back to prehistoric times to report back all that he encountered. Whilst this programme was always extremely popular, it was the finale, where the aforementioned reporter always succumbed to a monster related mishap, that really had us on the edge of our seats.
(iv) Whilst the advent of classroom computers would have been regarded as pure science
Fiction, and the use of television as a daily learning aid had not even been considered, I can remember the one and only occasion when a reel to reel projector was proudly wheeled into the room on a trolley (by Mr Alan Lacey) and we saw a film of a steam train travelling from London to Brighton. For us, this was cutting edge technology and was the talk of the class for the rest of the week.
(v) Apart from providing items for the ‘Nature Table’, the only creative thing I remember doing was producing ’French Knitting’. I’m sure everybody know’s what that is.
(vi) For most of my time at Cecil Road, if you wanted to go to the loo, you had to put your hand up and seek the teacher’s permission before you left the class.
However, one enlightened teacher felt he was doing the liberated by saying that if we needed to ‘go’, just go.
Sadly for him (and ultimately for us) by the time that the lesson was 10 minutes old, almost half of the class went missing, seemingly suffering from a collective case of weak bladders, and by the time they had all returned, the remainder had also succumbed with the same call of nature.
Needless to say we had shot ourselves in the foot, and this was the last occasion at Cecil Road that I ever went to the loo without a teacher’s prior authority.
(vii) With regard to the overall learning experience, on thinking back, so competent must have been the teaching, I do not really remember actually be burdened with any degree of angst.
Although I was good at arithmetic, rubbish at spelling, hopeless at drawing, and fairly proficient at English, I do not ever remember ever being worried about how I was progressing. Learning was something we just did, a bit like breathing air.
Indeed, I was not even aware that my final (4th) year tests actually held any particular relevance. Had it not been for a friend of my mother’s asking her “How was Alan doing with his 11+ exams” I may not have ever known that I was actually undertaking this life changing examination at all!
Still, as all bar six in my class actually went to either a Grammar or Technical School, Cecil Road’s methods certainly bore fruit.
5. IN THE PLAYGROUND
(i) Either side of the central shelters, there were actually two playgrounds. The Girls (and all the infants) had use of the area closest to Pelham Road/Perry Street.
Also situated within this playground were two small (and quite smelly) toilets, one for ‘infant’ boys and the other for the girls. As toilet paper was somewhat in limited supply and absolutely no heating was supplied, a child had to be very desperate to make use of them.
As for the boys over 7 years of age on the other side of the divide, their equally as unpleasant toilet was situated in the Cecil Road/Salisbury Road corner of the playground next to a small wall that also doubled up as a football goal.
Consequently, it was nor unusual for a group of jostling boys to rush through these cramped premises, pushing passed the users as they did so, in their endeavour to kick their football goalwards.
(ii) In September every year, pupils from Cecil Road (including myself) used to migrate to the cemeteries adjacent to the Dashwood Road Recreation Ground with the intention of collecting a pocket full of conkers.
As the cemetery authorities took a dim view of this practice, and especially the practice of “throwing up” with sticks to detach the conkers in advance of their natural fall, they engaged an employee to patrol the grounds and chase off the offenders.
Whenever this official was spotted, the cry of “Run, the Man’s coming” would guarantee that the conker gatherers would disappear to the four winds, only to meet up later in the playground to see just how profitable our conker hunt had been.
(iii) Other games that took place in the playground were marbles and cigarette cards.
Both of these practices used to run in “seasons” and boys would either play one of these games or the other, but not both at the same time. Why? I haven’t got a clue.
(iv) Probably the most gruesome thing that I have ever seen occurred in the Cecil Road playground, and happened totally out of the blue.
A group of us were milling around in the vicinity of the large gate that used to exist at the corner of the school where Northcote Road met Cecil Road.
Everybody was playing happily when, over the clamour of voices, a piercing scream stopped everybody in their tracks. In the midst of the silent and motionless children, a boy was running around like a headless chicken waving his hand in the air wondering why a couple of his fingers were no longer in position.
Looking down on the ground we could see where bits of finger were laying, having been amputated by the gate having been swung to on the unfortunate boy’s hand!
Strangely, I cannot remember what happened next. Can anybody help me out?
(v) One day as I was playing marbles, I remember clearly two teachers hastily escorting a pupil out of the school, making sure that no child came anywhere near them. Why?
Because the unfortunate boy’s face was covered in blisters and sores (impetigo) and that was the last I saw of him for several weeks as the school would not allow him back until very infectious disease was cured.
From a long time after that I was terrified that I would catch the same complaint (which for some reason I thought was ‘Small Pox‘), because that would mean that I also would be kept away from school and not see all my friends.
Funny how a small person’s mind works!
(vi) When I was in the final year, we were allowed to have an official ‘after school’ cricket practise, overseen by Mr Lethbridge, in the girl’s playground.
This was always very popular and I had great pleasure of hitting a shot over the infants school with the tennis ball eventually bouncing off the roof of a house in Northcote Road.
6. IN THE SCHOOL
(i) Morning Assembly always took place in the main school hall, and it seemed that the only ever hymn we ever sung was “All Things Bright and Beautiful”. Naturally we had to sing all of its many and by the time we eventually got to the end the whole thing had the happiness of a funeral a derge.
(ii) The school hall was also the place where the annual Christmas Party was held. Sitting at long tables, we all happily got stuck in to piles of sandwiches, cakes and custard covered trifles. The wearing paper hats (hand made) was compulsory, and for those who could still move we had the special treat of watching ‘Laurel & Hardy’ films. Looking back, all this must seem very tame, but for us this was something special.
(iii) Also when I was in my final year, the school decided that it would put on a stage production, based on Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”. Before the actual event, auditions took place to choose who would take the ’lead ’ roles. Sadly for me (but probably not for the school), I was away sick, and by the time the only place left to be in was the ’Alice Choir’.
It was our responsibility, just before the performance began, to march upon the stage on the audience side of the curtain and sing begin to sing the refrain: “Alice in Wonderland, how did you get to wonderland over the hills and under land or beneath the deep blue sea”
As soon as the rest of the song completed, we had trooped off, the curtain would rise, and the main event would begin. Whilst I have only a hazy memory of children dressed as playing cards, and my mate Mick Worsfold wearing in his paper mache over wire ‘Cheshire Cat’ head, what I can still remember was the injustice the that choir felt when the man came to take official pictures.
Just as we thought that it would be our turn to “say Cheese”, a teacher came up and told us all “to go home as you are not necessary” (exact words). Don’t forget that in those days, what the teacher said had to be obeyed, without question, and although we felt very badly treated, there was nothing we could do, so we just went.
Funny how something so trivial an injustice like that can linger in the mind.
(i) Our School football team, captained by Keith West, played all the local schools both home (at Bowater’s Sportsgound) and away. Competition for places was keenly fought, and every Friday lunch time we would all rush to the notice board to see whether our names had been included on the team sheet.
Win or lose, we had a great time and I cannot remember ever feeling a failure when a result went against us. After all, it was only a game and their would always be another one next Saturday. Our pre world war two team shirts had lace up collars and the football itself was like kicking a bag of rubberised suet. The wetter it got, the heavier the leather ball became, and to kick it even 20 feet took great effort.
Our greatest success in the 1956/57 season was to go to Colyer Secondary School and beat a team of boys a year older and a year bigger than ourselves, by 1-0. The smile on Mr Lethbridge’s face remained all the time that he drove three of us home in his three wheeled ’Bond minicar’, and the fact that we had to drive in the middle of the road (because the car had a bias to the left) did not seem to bother him at all.
(ii) Our swimming lessons took place at the open air pool that used to be situated opposite the Gordon School for Boys, just of the town centre. The water temperature never seemed to rise much above freezing and the facilities, including the nauseous disinfectant pool that we had to wade through before being allowed to swim, were basic at best. Personally I was glad when the whistle blew and we could all go back to school.
8. DAYS OUT
It was only again when you reached the fourth form that boys and girls were taken on ’School Outings.
As far as my memory serves, we actually only ever went on three:
(a) Dover Castle/Canterbury Cathedral - where all day was very hot and several of the children were sick on the bus coming home, either from heat stroke or eating too many ice creams.
(b) The Natural History & Science Museums
(c) The Kent County Show - where I remember we had two competitions:
(I) Who could collect the most leaflets, irrespective of whether they were pinned down.
(ii) Who could bring their hand down fastest and hit a lever as soon as a green light flashed on a screen.
This was the first occasion I ever saw a hairy, long horned Scottish cow, and I was fascinated.
(9) Final thought
Opposite to the small gate that led to the ‘Boys’ playground in Salisbury Road lived a woman who hated kids with a passion, and would write constantly to the school’s authorities complaining about anything and everything she could think of. Needless to say the children hated her and no doubt the school office felt the same way.
As I have said earlier, we used to play football at Bowaters, which meant that whilst we were taken to the sports ground by one designated route, we could come back again to the school by using a variety of alleyways that were then in existence.
Sadly for the woman in question , one of these alleys ran down the side of her house, and the sound of happy laughing children was one thing that she could not abide.
On the day in question, she lay in wait and just as a group of girls and boys passed her property, she threw several buckets of water all over them from an upstairs window, shrieking obscenities as she did so.
Needless to say, an even longer letter of complaint winged its way in rapid time to our Headmaster which led to him giving us a stern warning in the next morning’s assembly not to go anywhere near the ladies house, nor to utter a word if we happened to walk by.
Unfortunately, this admonition was somewhat diluted by the fact that several of the teacher had beaming smiles on their faces. Happy Days!
Alan Spooner/16thMay 2009.
Memories of Cecil Road in the 1960s
By Ruth Thacker
I was prompted by a message on Friends Reunited to send some photographs of Cecil Road from the sixties.
I remember the May Pole and the May Queen Parade we held every year in the infants. My brother (Alan Buddin) had the honour of being the Herald one year and is in the photographs. My younger brother Richard is in one of the photos, looking at the camera and holding a drum.
In the juniors I remember lots of French skipping - lengths of elastic bands stretched around two people's legs while the person(s) skipping did lots of elaborate jumping about in and out and over the elastic bands. It probably won't be allowed now due to Health and Safety regulations! We also played hopscotch, British bulldog, What's the time Mr Wolf and similar games. There was a popular game using a tennis ball against a wall (in a range of different ways), which was also a counting game and and we even played proper marbles and those long lost clapping games.
I remember Miss Knight and a couple of teachers from the juniors. I remember the reading corner and discovering "Stig of the Dump". I also remember my mother as a supply teacher having my class for a few days having my class and thoroughly confusing me as I didn't know what to call her. I also vividly remember once in Juniors during Music & Movement that when the class was asked for words we could mime I offered 'constipation'. That didn't go down well and I was told that I had to write lines - an explanation of constipation. My mother met me in the playground and suggested I write a short essay on The Constellation which I did and when I handed it over there was a silence....and nothing more was said.
Hope the photographs are of use!
Ruth Thacker (Buddin) (1965-71)
Memories of Cecil Road in the 1980s
By Claire Clouder
I attended Nursery, Infants and Juniors at Cecil Road. I have numerous memories of my school days spent at Cecil Road. My earliest fond memory is of the Nursery where I always remember how proud I was that I had the only Rainbow sticker above my coat peg in the entrance. All the other girls had hearts of clouds, but I had a rainbow! As I attended the nursery in the morning I always remember being given a quarter of an apple with the other children in my group at story time even before we went home.
During my short years at the infants I was May Queen for the day. I remember dressing in the special outfit and the long speech I had memorised. I recall frantically searching for my Mum's face in the crowd for reassurance that everything was okay when it was my moment to walk out in front of the whole infant school. Remembering all the words from the speech from memory was difficult but the weeks of practice I had put in paid off and I didn't stumble once. I remember looking at my Mum's face and seeing her mouthing the words of the speech I was delivering - she was more nervous than me! This will always make me laugh. I was just glad that I didn't have to dance around the maypole as I was useless. All the dancing and celebrating was fantastic - each class doing their share. It made for a really unforgettable afternoon.
At my four years at the Junior's I remember my teachers well. I remember our lesson plans for the week were to do our English and Maths cards first and then our Arithmetic books. Once these were completed we could go on to more fun projects like science, art and cooking.
The sports days spent a the local sports ground evoke some lovely memories for me. I remember trudging up all the kit that would be needed for the day. The heavy benches, ropes, obstacles, balls, stilts and all manner of sports equipment each of us carried.
There were four teams for the whole school. St Andrew's (Blue) that I was a member of, St George's (Red), St. David's (Yellow) and St. Patrick's (Green). We did races and obstacles in our respective teams and I recall the amount of noise we would make for our team members and cheer them on at a tremendous volume.
I recall one race for myself where we had to run back and forth around two poles two times, then across a bench keeping our balance, the third part we had to use a skipping rope and skip to the next and final part, where we had to use stilts to finish the last stretch. I knew that I would be ahead of everyone else in the race as although I was very good on stilts I had never mastered the art of getting up on to them without the aid of a wall for balance!
I was first to the stilts and without too much fumbling I managed to be off and running on the tall stilts (approx 60cm off the ground!) before any of the other teams could catch. My mum remarked later how everyone was amazed I could run so fast on the stilts! To be honest - so was I! It just shows if you believe in yourself you can accomplish anything.
The wellie race was always fun with the children being made to run in oversized men's wellies in a relay race starting with the youngest year up the oldest year in one for each of your team.
By Ryan Paul
After searching the internet for the Cecil Road website, Ryan was intrigued to see himself in the "tug of war" photo featured in Claire Clouder's memories. It inspired him to send us some of his own...
Some memories that I've kept with me as clear as day more than twenty years ago were relived upon reading Claire Clouder's description of sports day. I vividly remember the Tug of War event of which Claire has a picture of me in it. I was on St. Andrew's team and I remember pulling as hard as I could and feeling like we weren't getting anywhere. I remember doing the sprint race... and coming in third - I got a bright green rosette of which I was extremely proud. Back then I didn't understand the prizes and so I thought I'd won because my rosette had a higher number on it (3rd) than the winner (1st). It's hard to explain - I got two third place rosettes and thought I'd won even though I didn't come first!
I remember stealing stationery more than a few times from the teacher's cupboard in the front office - I had one of those small plastic blue rubbish bins which I kept all my stolen loot. I had a master plan to make money by selling the stationery to the other pupils. Of course, I never made one penny. I had two other friends and we called ourselves 'The Terrible Threesome'. My two friends used to take our stolen loot into the alley on the west side of the school where we'd sort it. We (and a load of other pupils) scratched our names into that outer brick wall - I remember it being very easy to scratch and the brickwork being relatively soft.
I do remember a few different instances in class... one of them was we all took turns in a breath exercise. A bottle was filled with water with a tube inserted into it.. the bottle was then placed upside down in a container of water and we all took turns in blowing into the tube to see how much of the water we could empty out the bottle. I remember I was the only one who emptied the bottle and feeling very proud of that. I also remember sitting at classroom table and one of the other boy pupils stabbed me in the right palm with his pencil. I had to take a trip to the doctor and got this brilliant tasting pink medicine which I assume was penicillin.
I remember a punishment in the playground was to stand with our nose to the wall. Many a spot on that wall felt my nose as I was a deliquent! One of my friends had a neat trick and he folded up a piece of paper, put that against the wall and put his nose on that.
Some of the playground memories I had was the first couple of times I ever played cricket - cricket was always played in the southern end of the playground.
I remember that one of the railings at the north end of the main playground was completely loose - you could physically lift it out of its holes and pull it out of the fence. I remember feeling awesome thinking it was my secret escape route out of the playground - I don't know if any of the teachers knew it was loose though. It was in the first 'section' of railing from the north end, about two or three to the left of the first railing post.
I remember there was this one activity we did. We had to search ALL OVER the playground for these little sticky coloured dots of all different colours. Every time we found a dot we brought it back to the teacher and we were given prizes of sweets - each prize was different according to the colour of the dot. I remember finding a green one on the underside of a leaf in the trees in the northern end of the playground, and I remember finding a yellow one in the middle of a painted line on the playground.
I remember the swimming pool at the southern end of the school was ridiculously COLD and I absolutely hated getting into it. I always tried to skive off swimming.
The memories of Cecil Road are literally as vivid today as they were twenty years ago. What's funny is that whenever I'm reading a news story about any particular thing I associate images of Cecil Road with it. Just a few years ago I remember reading a news story about Prince Henry visiting a school, and immediately had a mental picture of the Prince standing under the trees at the north end of Cecil Road School playground.
Generally speaking the teachers tried to help me tremendously with my behaviour problems but obviously couldn't with the amount of children there. The life and class lessons and ways of behaving in school are lessons I try to teach my own children though.
Could you add to our archive? If you have any photos or memories from the history of Cecil Road School we would love to hear from you.