Bromley Common and its Schools

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Memories of
Bromley Common (C
of E) School
in the 1920s and 1930s

Two ex-pupils have written about their memories of the school before the war. The first, Stanley Hallworth, was a pupil from 1923 to 1929. This is taken (with the kind permission of the author) from a typewritten manuscript, "Bread and Jam for Tea", written in the early 1980s. A copy, together with other writings about local history and a tape-recorded ‘tour’ of Bromley Common, are part of the school’s local history resources. See also his account of Empire Day.

The second, Doris Turner (nee Rickets), was a pupil from 1932 to 1935. Her story was first published in Bromleage, the newsletter of the Bromley Borough Local History Society. It is reproduced with the kind permission of the author. See also her memories of Empire Day and school dinners.

From the reminiscences of Stanley Hallworth.

My education commenced at Bromley Common Church of England School after the summer holidays of 1923. I was taken to school by my sister who was six years older than myself, and a few minutes before 9.00 am, the hand-bell was rung and I lined up with several other ‘new arrivals’, after which we were taken into the ‘infants’, situated in the South Room. Our teacher was Miss Lowman, who, as I remember her, was a kindly lady, but, like all of our teachers, she would stand no nonsense.

"We took sandwiches with us in the morning which had to have our name written clearly on the packet. These packets were taken away from us and placed in a wicker waste-paper basket until playtime, when they were returned to us and we were let loose into the playground, where we quickly gobbled our lunches, and then indulged in games of different kinds, always taking care to keep out of the way of the ‘big boys’ (and the ‘big girls’ as well, come to that)!

"At 12 noon we were let out to go home to dinner and had to be back by 2.00 pm. I remember that on my first day, it came as a great shock to learn that I was expected to return in the afternoon. The afternoon session lasted until 4.30 pm. Later, the infants were let out at 4.00 pm so that they would not be injured in the stampede when the ‘big boys’ came out. By the time this rule was implemented, I was too old to benefit by it!

"Each year we ‘went up’ into the next class. I cannot ever remember any child not ‘going up’ although inevitably there were some who did not so well in the exams as others, but we could all read, write and do arithmetic. After the exams which were imposed upon us before the summer holidays, there was a prize-giving ceremony. Those who came first, second and third in the class were awarded a prize - always a book. There were also prizes awarded ‘for proficiency’ and I still have four books which I received in this category in the years 1926, 1927, 1928 and 1929. Incidentally, we were in mixed classes, two children sitting together at one desk. Sometimes if a boy didn’t do too well, or was naughty, he would be made to sit next to a girl, which in the eyes of us boys was a great affront!

"So we progressed up through classes which were taught by Mrs Moate, Miss Merchant, Miss Mugford and Miss Kemp, and finally by the headmaster, Mr De’Ath. In these classes we had to learn arithmetical tables by heart, from 2 times to 12 times. We would sit for a whole lesson sometimes, chanting: once seven is seven, two sevens are fourteen, etc. Reading was done ‘round the class’. I wasn’t very good at reading but I was capable of a fair composition and always got good marks for that. We were given a good grounding in scripture. We had to learn the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed and the 95th Psalm by heart. We had full-length lessons about Abraham, David, Moses and Aaron. We were taught to revere the Name of Jesus, and always to bow our heads when we mentioned Him.

"On Armistice Day, (November 11th) we all went into Holy Trinity Church to observe the two minutes silence, in those days from two minutes to eleven until eleven o’clock. Then we sang, ‘For all the saints who from their labours rest...’ We were taught patriotism with a capital ‘P’. The fathers of many of the children had been killed in the Great War, and Armistice Day was a solemn day for us."


From the memories of Doris Turner (1932/5)

My first day at this school terrified me only because of a picture on the wall. It was, "There was a little man and he had a little gun and he shot it right through the head, head, head." The picture showed a man with a deer stalker type hat on, standing in a small boat and the duck which he had just shot was falling from the sky. The other picture was, "Doctor Foster went to Gloucester.

I started this school in the ‘babies’ class; Miss Lonelam was the teacher. (This is probably the same teacher as the Mrs Lowman in Mr Hallworth’s account.) She was a small, thin-faced lady with her hair coiled in a bun at the back and wore long skirts compared to the other teachers. Her classroom then was second door from the left looking straight at the building and her class was partitioned with a red curtain from Miss Pound’s class. Whenever we passed in front of her desk, we had to raise our hand - probably an abbreviation of ‘excuse me’.

My next class was with Miss Pound (first door looking at the building). She later married, became Mrs Partridge, and left. Here we learnt to write. I remember beautiful, copperplate writing on the blackboard. Miss Pound was a lovely teacher, always smiling, and when we were cold, she used to take us all into the playground and throw a ball for us all to run and bring it back to her. She also let us make a garden, each about 2 feet square, near the vicarage which wasn’t there then.

(It was Miss Partridge who married and became Mrs Pound according to the minutes of the Bromley Education Committee. She had applied to continue teaching after her marriage but the committee turned down her application. She returned a few years later, probably when the school moved to Princes Plain.)

I remember about three girls having to sit to one side of the classroom because they had leg-irons up to the knee; and it was quite usual for girls to wear berets in class where they’d had ringworm and all their hair had been cut off.

Some of the games we played were "Farmer’s in his Den", "In and Out the Dusty Bluebells" (a girl weaves in and out of a circle of children until they stop singing then changes with whoever she faces), "Statues", "Lucy Locket lost her Pocket" (children sit in a circle with their eyes closed and singing Lucy Locket and someone walks round the outside touching them and they have to guess who it is). These games involved lots of singing and chanting.

Sometimes, not often, we would be given ½d by our Dad and we’d go to school by the road way and buy sweets from Mr & Mrs Masters’ sweet shop/post office in Magpie Hall Lane. Then we’d dawdle along Bromley Common where we had a continual view of the playground. When we saw the teacher come out and ring the bell, we would race along Bromley Common, past the milestone, down Church Lane, to arrive in time to get in the class queue and march into school. In the playground was a small lobby-type shelter where we would all try and crowd if it rained. I remember standing there with Edith Horn and others playing "One potato, two potato", a dipping up rhyme to see who was "he" in the next game.

My third class at Holy Trinity Church School was with Miss Marchant. Her classroom was in the part of the building close to the road. Miss Marchant was very strict. I can see her now, creeping up to George Whitehead and another boy who were talking and banging their heads together with a loud crack. If any girls chattered in class, she would rap knuckles hard with a ruler. If a child hadn’t got a handkerchief pinned to their dress or shirt every Monday morning, they had to stand on their desk while Miss Marchant took the register. The desks were quite tall and I felt unsafe up there. One time I asked Dorothy Pizzey - who had two handkerchiefs - if she would lend me one but she wouldn’t. Miss Marchant kept sprigs of barley, wheat and oats in the classroom cupboard as well as dried leaves and often got them out to see if we could name them.

I would normally have gone into the next class - Mrs Mumford’s and then on into the headmaster’s class - Mr De’Ath, but I left before that to go to Addison Road School, Bromley Common, as I think it was known that Holy Trinity Church School was soon to close. Mr De’Ath was well liked and respected but not feared. He wore rimless spectacles.

Sports Day… was held in Mr Norman’s field which we approached from Oakley Road. In 1933, I came first in a running race and won a coloured ball and Gloria Bell came second and won a skipping rope.