Hinckley Historian Magazine

Hinckley Historian Magazine No.56 - Memories of St. Marys

St Mary's Church of England
St Mary's Church of England

In the last edition St Mary's School was featured on the cover and inside a brief article described the origins of the school. This season an exhibition on the subject of St Mary's was staged at the Museum. Visitors were invited to record their memories of their days as pupils or teachers and a selection of these is printed in this Historian.

Mr Arthur Moore, now one hundred years old, attended St Mary's between 1910 and 1914. He was at school with his sister and the two children ran away. The two truants were caught by Sketchley Brook and were taken back to St Mary's by the attendance officer. Arthur told me that he was terrified of the fate that awaited him on his return. Miss Harris, one of the teachers, gave each of the truants a sweet and told them never to run away from school, which Arthur and his sister never did again. A good example of applied child psychology nearly a century ago! In 1914 Arthur was bandaged up by Miss Mills in a First Aid demonstration at St Mary's.

Another Arthur, Arthur Tomlin, now Museum Vice - Chairman, attended St Mary's between 1927 and 1933. He travelled to school in the horse drawn trap which was used to deliver the milk from his father's farm in Wykin to Hinckley Station where the train took milk on to Birmingham. Later Arthur went to school on a pony. This horse transport to school earned Arthur a particular distinction. About 1930 part of the playground collapsed at the school. A brick lined tunnel was revealed leading from the Church to the town centre. In 1932, just before Easter, Miss Comley, the teacher who took the top class, collapsed and died whilst playing the organ in St Mary's Church for a School Service, an event which Arthur never forgot.

A number of ex-pupils remembered the late 1930s and the war years. Alan Coley started at St Mary's in January 1936 when Miss Ismay was headmistress. He remembered celebrations and a picnic tea for the Coronation of George VI in 1937. All the children received a 'Coronation Cup and Saucer'. In winter tortoise stoves fed with coke heated most of the rooms. Alan remembers that School Sports Days were held on the Vicarage Lawn. When war came evacuees arrived from Birmingham. The School Log Book records 43 Birmingham evacuees on 1st September 1939.

Jean Jones nee Lovett provided a most detailed account of her school days in the 1940s. "I started at St Mary's when I was almost 6 in Miss Phipp's class. I remember reading 'Old Lob' and then onto the Beacon Readers. I also remember doing arithmetic and writing on a slate.

My next teacher was Miss Goodman who was very much into cleanliness. I remember regular nail and hand inspections, she instructed us to push down the quick on our nails with the towel every time we washed our hands. As a nail-biter I was not the most popular pupil.

The Headmaster was Mr Warburton. There were medical and dental inspections held in his office, for want of space anywhere else. School assemblies were held in a series of rooms alongside the boys' playground where there were partitions which had to be pulled back to accommodate everybody. The 11 plus exams were also done in there so we could be well spaced out.

Most of what I remember is to do with the various craftwork we did. There was one teacher who taught us to spin wool and flax and also to weave. In Miss Meadow's class I did a lot of embroidery too.

In each room there was a large coke stove and in the winter the milk bottles were put near it to thaw out, especially in the bad winter of 1946/47. When walking to school, for me, meant negotiating six - foot snowdrifts and hauling myself up the railway bridge steps by the station and sliding down the other side.

Ink had to be mixed and class monitors would fill up the inkwells in each desk. Writing with a pen and nib was a messy business. Fingers were always black with ink as it slid down the pen stem, sprayed out from the nib and, of course, there were blots usually just as you had done a piece of tidy work!"

A contemporary of Jean Jones was Michael Lockley, who now lives in Adelaide. He started at St Mary's in September 1944 and travelled in by Midland Red Bus from Ashby Road. On his first day, having been taken to school by his mother, he stood on one of the class chairs and shouted 'don't leave me'.

During the War 'double summer time5 was observed in summer and 'single summer time' in winter so winter mornings were very dark when children left for school.

A favourite game which Michael remembers when he 'graduated5 to the boy's yard, was 'milk tops'. In the 1940s milk bottle tops were made of cardboard and boys would prop up one or two tops against the base of the classroom wall between the buttresses. Each player, and there were usually two, skimmed a milk top in turns against the wall to try to knock down the propped up milk top or tops. Those tops which failed to knock down the target top accumulated on the ground. The player who knocked over the target top collected all the tops on the ground and the target top or tops as well. The tops were carried around on a string by the players.

Michael also has vivid memories of children with painted purple patches of gentian violet as a treatment for impetigo. Many children including Michael himself had patched trousers and some others had shoes with worn soles, with holes covered by cardboard inside the shoe.

Barbara Blower, who later became Headmistress at Grove Road Infant School in Burbage, started her teaching career at St Mary's in 1951. Her classroom was on Station Road and at that time Miss Meadows had become Deputy Head. There were at least 6 or 7 other teachers.

Jill Beavin did supply teaching at St Mary's in the 1980s and 1990s and noted how overcrowded the school appeared to be as it had been nearly 150 years before. An assembly for the Chinese New Year had two dancing dragons in the school and there was just room for them!

Andy Cropp was a pupil at the school in the late 1980s. On his first day he hid under the piano and cried. He noted that the old toilet block in the playground had one cubicle reserved for the Headmaster, Mr Wyman.

Each week children went to an assembly where Mrs Williams went through a list of good and bad children. If your name was called you had to stand up in front of everyone.

Mrs Brettell’s class had a pond in the room full of frogspawn. It was also used to test tinfoil boats with marbles in buoyancy exercises. Andy remembered playing conkers. Some boys would come in with bags foil of conkers and throw them across the playground and shout 'scrambles' and boys would rush to pick them up.

Like most of the pupils Andy enjoyed his time at St Mary's and when the boys were bored, which was rarely, they would sometimes lie down and watch the clouds rush by the Church Spire.

In the last 30 years many alterations and extensions have taken place in staff, the buildings and the curriculum. Today there are over 290 pupils at St Mary's School with Carol Cooper as Head Teacher.

Thanks to all those who have contributed their memories of St Mary's School.

The Editor

Author: Hugh Beavin

Written for: Hinckley Historian Magazine