Mar 18 2011

Welldon Park School 1910-1985 Celebration (Part VIII)

Part eight in our ongoing series on Welldon Park School…


Mrs DaSilva (formerly Josephine Jeffery 1926-1931) recalls her days at Welldon Park:

“Miss Dan, our Headmistress, taught us sewing, the basic stitches running, hemming, etc. on our samplers. We wore also taught to knit. Our first attempts were kettle holders then graduating to grey socks, and oh, those heel turnings were dreadful.

We all learned our times tables; parrot fashion. I still do all my calculations that way to this day. The awful squeaks of slate pencils on the slates when we diligently did our sums. And what a mess we made when we were ink monitors, filling the ink wells from the stone bottles of ink. We also learned to read with Dick and Jane.’

Mrs DaSilva remembers travelling to School from her home in King’s Road down the Long Mile. Mostly she and her friends walked to School but there was a taxi if parents could afford it. The taxi was run by two brothers Grundle. The children were packed inside, the bigger children hanging on the outside with a precarious foothold on the running board; the charge was 1/2d a ride, each child. The brothers later progressed to a single decker bus until London Transport bought them out.

Charles Kimber, who was in the same class as Josephine Jeffery, also remembers the Grundle taxi which on Saturdays took the children not to School but to the Elite Cinema at Harrow on the Hill for the matinee performance. He also remembers the delights of the annual Christmas Shove and going Carol singing round the neighbourhood. Farmer Rose always insisted that the children sang three Carole and then rewarded them with a piece of cake and a crisp £1 note. Another memorable event was the Annual Sports Day; especially the Inter-Schools event which was held at the Football Ground at Lower Mead, Wealdstone. Free time in the summer months was often spent in the vicinity of the ‘haunted house’ down the Long Mile. In the surrounding fields wore two island ponds called ‘Duck and Chick Island’ and children of those days spent many happy hours swimming and boating in the ponds.

Mrs Margaret Back (formerly Sevenoaks) who was a pupil from 1929-35 has vivid memories of her school days at Welldon Park:

‘It must have been September 1929 when I started my first day at Welldon Park School. There were  no preliminary introductions, play school or kindergarten. We were brought by our respective mothers’, just after 9 a.m. to allow the rest of the pupils to get to their classrooms first. Our names were entered on the Register and then our mothers went home. I was reasonably happy as I had come with my friend Gwen Curnick and we sat together at a wooden desk with tip up seats. Each desk had a slate, a slate pencil and a bristly sort of pad for cleaning the slate. Quite a few were in tears but our teacher, Miss Day, who was a jolly round little person, soon had us organised. We were taken on an expedition to find the toilets – out in the open across the playground, and very cold in Winter. During the ensuing weeks there were some who did not ask in time, and they were in dire disgrace. All round the walls were cards with pictures illustrating the letters of the alphabet, and also the numbers 1-9 illustrated with large red dots arranged like the dots on dominoes. We drew pictures with coloured chalks, green fields, high hills, and always the sun with yellow rays sticking out all round.

At play-time we went out into the playground and played all the games of childhood. Skipping was very popular. When we were due to go back to the classroom the teacher on duty blew a whistle, and we all stood stock still. Then at the second blast we formed into lines and marched back in order into our respective rooms.

At Christmas time we made paper chains at our desks, with flour paste and strips of coloured paper and these were pinned up across the classroom. We also painstakingly made Christmas cards for our parents. We learnt all the Christmas Carols and sang them every day in the Hall. On May Day we danced round the maypole in the playground, the girls in white dresses, the boys with clean white shirts. Another half holiday was on Empire Day, when we all brought something, whether a humble cabbage from the garden, or fruit. I presume this was all taken to the local hospital eventually. Slowly we progressed through the school. Every morning up to playtime we had arithmetic, chanting our tables and learning the intricacies of ‘problems’ and all the basics of adding, subtracting, dividing and writing. The afternoons varied, we had general geography and history, scripture, knitting and needlework and games. There were singing lessons and occasionally in the summer an expedition to the Harrow open air swimming pool. We also had a school outing and I well remember going to the Zoo.

The headmistress was Miss Davy, a strict disciplinarian but very kind. I cannot remember the names of all other teachers, but the names of Miss Duligall, Miss Whetnore, Miss Weir, Mr Tibbles and Mr Goodhead, stand out. For the last two years we were separated into boys and girls only, and Kr Goodhead took the top boys and Miss Weir the top girls. Mr Goodhead taught us arithmetic and was very thorough and clear in his explanations; so I never had any trouble with trains going at different speeds over different distances, or baths being filled from two taps while the plug was out. On Friday afternoons Miss Davy came to read to us while we got on with our knitting. I remember “Little Lord Fauntleroy” and being in despair at the end of the lesson with a whole week to wait for the next instalment. We were all expected to make a pair of socks, on four needles, during our last year. When we got to turning the heel, we were brought into Miss Davy’s study, sitting on high-backed chairs, so that she could keep an eye on us. As a sewing exercise we made our knitting bags, embroidered with our name.

At eleven years of age we all sat for the Crammer School entrance exam. I cannot remember a lot about the written exam, there was no stress as there has been more recently about passing the 11+. Those who did well then went on to take the oral exam, and for this I and my friends went to Harrow County School for Girls – now Lowlands Sixth Form College. Here we had to read a passage and then answer questions on it, and do some mental arithmetic. Then it was all forgotten in end of term activities, until one day Mr Goodhead cane quietly into our classroom, and wrote on the blackboard how many girls and boys had passed.

When I was about seven, I remember bringing one of my brother’s pet mice to school in a shoe box, to show the teacher. I do not think now that perhaps she was very keen, but she peered in to show interest and then got me to put the show box on the window ledge until we went home at dinner time. The top class used to produce some sort of entertainment for the parents and in my year we did “A Christmas Carol”. I was Mr Fesswig. I think we did very well. I know that my parents went through my lines with me at home until they must have known them better than I did. Respective mothers also made all the costumes.

There was also a prize giving day. I once got a story book which I loved, but the last year I got the complete works, of Shakespeare, which I did not appreciate at the time at all.

I do not know if today’s pupils have so much fun, but I thoroughly enjoyed those five junior years, even Sports Day in the field behind the school buildings. It was on quite a slope but we ran our egg and spoon race, crosswise. During the last week of my last year, Mr Goodhead arranged a cricket match between the girls and the boys. Not that many of the girls a thing about cricket. However a young man due to join the staff the following September came to give the girls a hand. We were all thrilled with this handsome young man who could actually score runs for us, – it was Mr Pitcher who went on to become a headmaster in Harrow.


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