Friday, 16 September 2011

Telling histories

What would you choose to research the history of if you had the opportunity?

Before the days of computers and for my teaching course in the 1970's I decided to research my primary school. I imagine I could get most of what I needed on the internet now but it was such an exciting thing to do to seek out all the primary sources. The school had been built as a Board School in 1874 in response to the Education Act 1870 and was located in the middle of a common in Surrey. I found the old punishment book with its records of worrying sheep on the common - four strokes on the hand, or "dirty habits" or "prevarication". The school log played an important role in recording the changing curriculum, health issues, the changes during war time - digging for victory etc. I interviewed a retired caretaker who had been in post since the 1920s. I found the original map denoting the land to be used. Heady times!

map of land
timetable 1915
It was a very dilapidated building and we had a new one built which was ready for my final year at primary school. I once said to my Mum that the hamster had got out and that the teacher had said it had probably been eaten by the rats! The loos froze over every winter and were definitely to be avoided if at all possible at all times. But how compelling those memories are - memories of those rooms and the playgrounds - boys and girls - still abide. Sad that it was demolished and never used as a living building again but even though there is not a brick left of it on the common its 100 years of history is still very evident in the memories of people, in the archives and in the foundations it laid for current educational practice...and if I concentrate I can just see myself holding a skipping rope in that playground beyond the gate...
the school in the 1960s


  1. Last week I saw an article in the Leicester Mercury saying that my old junior school, Merrydale, was closing. In the photograph it looked just as I'd remembered it. That school also had outdoor toilets but I can't ever remember them freezing up. I suppose they must have done. It would be a major source of concern to me now-a-days!

  2. From FB Jan said
    Powerful memories. My old junior school's a car park now!

    Be good to get some pics of Merrydale before it goes - the spaces look so small when you see them again even at senior school. The imagination has no bounds!!