MEMORIES OF YOXFORD SCHOOL - 1953 TO 1957
From the age of eleven I attended Yoxford School from 1953 to 1957. I lived at Darsham. Darsham School was a school for primary pupils from the age of 5 to 11. Any pupil who failed their 11+ examinations went on to Yoxford School until the age of 15. Those who passed went on to Leiston Grammar School travelling by bus.
In those days, pupils who lived a certain distance from their school got supplied with a free school bike by the Education Department. I was not one of those pupils as I did not live far enough away. I rode my own bike to the school. Police Constable Swallow would come to the school at least once a year to check all the bikes of all the pupils were roadworthy. Any worn tyres and brake pads were pointed out for our parents to fix. In winter when the snow was too thick on the ground and roads too dangerous we would walk from Darsham to Yoxford School, taking a short cut through Cockfield Hall Park from the A12 gatehouse to the gatehouse near Horner's shop.
The teachers I remember at Yoxford were Mrs Clover and Mrs Cornish who taught the infants, Mr. Jack Revell of Saxmundham, Mr. Wheeler, Mr. Kemp and headmasters Mr Charles Hacon and Mr Peck.
Mr. Revell and Mr. Wheeler were both very popular teachers. They both taught me from the age of 11 to 13. Mr. Revell was a champion chess player. He had fought in W.W.2 and had lost one of his hands at Tobruk. During the last period on Friday afternoons he would read the class a chapter or two of a mystery story. Usually leaving it on a cliff hanger for the following week. Which usually prompted cries of “Oh Sir” from everyone wanting to hear more.
One book I particularly remember was The Invisible Man. Mr. Revell taught us to play chess which I much enjoyed. I wish I had kept it up in later life.
During the classes of Mr Revell and Mr Wheeler we were taught the regular subjects of the day. There was a singing class from the radio one morning a week. We learned many things parrot fashion such as the alphabet backwards, which I can still recite. Much to the amazement of my younger nieces and nephews. We learned the order of long lists of words on the blackboard. When the blackboard was turned around we had to reel them off in the order they were written. On at least one occasion I recall us all going into the back playground and watching an eclipse through a piece of smoked glass.
When any of the boys gave any cheek they got adept at putting up the lids of their desks to avoid any pieces of chalk or blackboard rubbers that got flung in their direction.
There was a school garden at the top of the back playground where vegetables were grown. They were used by the school canteen for school dinners. There were also bee hives. The gardens, and especially the hives, were looked after mainly by the boys who wore the full protective hats and nets when attending the bees.
The school canteen was in what was originally the old school in Brook Street, across the A12 from the bottom of the road that went down from the Village Hall. To get there we used to walk through a little copse at the top of the playground/football field, past the side of the Village Hall, onto the road opposite the cricket ground and down to Brook Street. Not very pleasant when it was pouring with rain. Riding one's bike down there was not an option – it had to be in a crocodile line. I think Mrs. Childs was the head cook. My favourite dinner was always on a Friday when it was a roast, with lovely crispy roast potatoes. The beef suet puddings and toad in the hole were good. One day there would be fish. For desserts there was “spotted dick”; jam steam pudding; semolina with prunes or jam and another we used to call “frog spawn” - neither of which I liked and tried to avoid or offload to someone else; and sometimes jelly. I cannot recall the rest of the selection. If there was anything left over we could go back for “seconds”. Yoxford canteen also supplied Darsham school with their school dinners at Darsham Village Hall. The cost I remember was 1 shilling a day.
During my years at Yoxford School we attended Saxmundham School one day a week. We were taken there by a Whincop's bus. The girls were taught cookery by Mrs Walker. We had our own list of items to take, along with our own apron and cake tin in which to take our results home. Often we had to go to Mrs. Backhouse's shop in Rendham Road for any extra ingredients not in the school store cupboard. We learned to make cakes, sponge cakes, butterfly buns, cream horns, scones, fruit pies, pork pies, stuffed tomatoes and baked potatoes, sausage rolls etc. In my last two years we were living with my grandparents at Darsham and my grandfather always looked forward to the results on cookery day. Mrs. Walker's husband was a Schools Attendance Officer. They lived at Cliff House at Sizewell. The boys also attended Saxmundham School the same day and were taught woodwork.
One summer we were taken to Sizewell by bus to be taught to swim. An abject failure in my case as I just could not get the hang of it. On occasion we had nature walks. But not on a regular basis.
Sports played at Yoxford School were cricket and football for the boys and hockey for the girls. Plus various athletic sports. I was never any good at sports. We also had a dancing class in the village school. I rather enjoyed that as I loved dancing. I believe most of the boys hated it. Many had two left feet.
Mr Kemp was my teacher when I was aged about 13. The class was in a chapel type building across the road from the school. At the end of the room was a raised stage also occupied by desks. My desk was on that stage. Half way along the side wall was a “tortoise stove” for heating in winter. It was not very efficient as it was such a large room. I remember always feeling cold. We often sat there with our coats on. Mr. Kemp was an ex-army man and very strict. I think we were all a bit scared of him. He was short, stocky, with a very red face. A typical ex-army R.S.M. I remember him “picking” on Margaret Leveret for something one day and she stood up for herself – something no one else had ever dared to do. We all thought she was justified in doing so. Nevertheless, we sat there open mouthed. I cannot remember the outcome. I think Mr. Kemp's special subject was history.
My last teachers at the age of 14 and 15 were Mr. Charles Hacon and Mr. Peck. My classroom was then in the room at the front of the school. Some pupils disliked Mr Hacon as he was strict. He was known to use the cane on the boys. Some were repeat offenders who never seemed to learn. I always got on well with Mr. Hacon. He had a bit of a nervous habit whereby he often shrugged his shoulders on a regular basis for no apparent reason. (Perhaps on account of his wartime experiences). I was rather quiet and shy. I was happy with my head in a book. English essays I enjoyed and had never finished when we were told “pens down”.
I was sorry when Mr Hacon retired. I remember being surprised when he got very emotional on his last day. There is a class photograph taken with him that afternoon. And another with a little girl presenting Mrs Hacon with a bouquet of flowers.
After Mr Hacon retired Mr Peck took over as headmaster. He came from Ware in Hertfordshire. We knew people who lived at Ware and who knew Mr. Peck from their local school. They had told me ahead of time that he was a very nice teacher. They were correct.
I was due to leave school at the end of March when I turned 15. I had set my heart on hairdressing. I could not get a position or an apprenticeship so it was decided I should go to Ipswich Civic College to do a secretarial course. Several others from Yoxford School had done the same before me. As the course did not start until September it was decided that in the meantime I should return to Yoxford School. As I was officially due to leave the school the headmaster said rather than do lessons I could assist Eileen Phillips, the School Secretary. Eileen had her desk in the main classroom near the side of the headmaster's desk. She had quite a lot of tasks with which I could assist her. Some included running errands between the school and the cook down at the canteen. Eileen was very kind to me and I really enjoyed my time assisting her.
I left Yoxford School when the term closed for summer holidays in July 1957.
Mary Felgate (nee Baillie) 2019.
Mary is the grand-daughter of Frank and Gertrude Baillie, who kept the sweet shop in the High Street (next to now Ratty’s Retreat).
Mary married Tony Felgate and they emigrated to Australia in 1967. Ann is now there too.
School in the 1950s
The 1950s were a period of big changes for the school and the country. For the school there was a change of leadership and with the death of King George VI the country had a new monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. Following The Butler Education Act in 1944 that introduced the tripartite system of Grammar, Technical and Secondary Modern schools for children aged 11 to 15, Yoxford school changed from an ‘All Age’ school to a Primary school with a reduced number of pupils.
In 1950 the school had 146 pupils and space was short in the school buildings. As well as using the old school for a canteen, the Village Club (Village Hall) was used on a number of days during the week. A year or so later in 1952 the school was reorganised into six classes, one of which was accommodated in the Wesleyan Chapel schoolroom across the road.
During the early 50s it became obvious that the school buildings were too cramped and deteriorating.
‘The County Architect visited this afternoon to inspect lack of washing facilities, inadequate accommodation and appalling state of the playground.’ (8/12/52)
‘The rooms in the school are very cold, the temperature at 9.30 a.m. being as slow as 36 degrees F in the Infants’ Room and rising to 50 degrees F in the afternoon. This is due in my opinion to poor quality coal, primitive fire places and droughts. The Managers have been informed.’ (29/1/54)
Mr. Charles Hacon had been Headmaster of Yoxford School since 1935.
Many of a Headmaster’s day to day tasks would be taken up with daily administration, including the maintenance of the school, heating, staffing for the school and canteen and orders and deliveries of coal and other goods.
‘Canteen cook reported potatoes delivered were short in weight in two sacks. 20 lb in each. I telephoned suppliers who promised to investigate.’ (12/5/50)
On another occasion the meat delivery was a problem.
‘Reported to me that 17lb of Chuck steak delivered to Yoxford School Canteen by *** of Leiston was ‘fly blown’. Company informed.’
For the pupils, besides the daily three Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic) there were other activities.
There was the Pig Club. During the 50s the school would regularly take delivery of pigs to rear:
‘Two pigs received by the School Pig Club and housed in the Pig Sty built by the Senior Boys.’ (14/9/50)
Blackberrying was an annual school event. The whole school would take an afternoon off in September and the proceeds from the berries and the resulting jam would go towards the Sports Fund. In 1954 £4 15s 6d was raised.
There were swimming lessons held at the beach at Sizewell; swimming certificates for swimming from 10 yards to 220 yards were awarded to pupils. These lessons were cancelled in poor sea conditions.
‘Children attended swimming instruction at Sizewell Beach under Headmaster (Mr Peck) who braved the foam (heavy swell) himself.’ (18/7/58)
The children also received talks and entertainment from visitors to the school. A Mr. Marsden gave a talk on Pond Life to the whole school at the Village Club and the children were also entertained by a string ensemble at the school:
‘Miss Bryer, with Misses Churton, this morning gave the school the privilege of hearing music on the violin, the viola and the violin cello.’
Visitors from abroad also spoke to the children: Mr. Kem Yu Sion gave a talk on Borneo and Mr. John Badcock of Freemantle talks on Australia.
In December 1956 Mr. Charles Hacon retired as Headmaster. There was a presentation to him at the Village Hall Club by old students and parents.
In January 1957 Mr. W. B. Peck became Headmaster with a roll of 143 pupils: 73 boys and 70 girls. As the new Headmaster, Mr. Peck introduced many changes to the school. These included:
- No more lining up in the playground before entering school.
- In future, marking of children’s work by teachers while the pupils were in class would stop. Teachers could either mark work alongside individual children who did the work or they were to take marking home.
- There was to be no more smoking in classrooms.
He also made changes to involve parents and community in the school more. On 4th June 1957 there was an inaugural meeting of the new parents’ association, the AYPA.
Instead of having an Open Day the school would now have an ‘At Home’, where parents would be invited to meet the staff, and pupils’ work would be displayed.
In March 1957 a House system was introduced for the first time. There were three Houses, with colour names and the idea was that it would be an added stimulus to encourage sporting, field and academic achievements. The system included House Captains and Prefects.
Mr. Peck also started a choir for pupils that was well attended. In January 1958 the Headmaster said that the choir practice had been additionally interesting because he had borrowed ‘a record-maker’ and made recordings of the children’s efforts and then played them back to the choir afterwards.
There was a successful school concert in February 1958. The dress rehearsal was attended by 50 pensioners as guests and each lady was given an egg cosy and each gentleman an ashtray, gifts made by the children. The concert was very well attended with around 200 friends and family gathering in the school room. The Headmaster praised the pupils for a very high level of performance and said that the atmosphere had been ‘most cordial’. The concert raised £11 7s 0d towards the children’s Christmas parties.
Another milestone in the history of the school took place on 1st April 1958. This was the last day of the school in the form of an ‘All Age’ school and the beginning of the school consisting of children aged 5 to 11. Mr. Peck considered this an event of such importance to the village that he arranged for a Valedictory Service to be held at St. Peter’s Church.
This change to the school had consequences for the number of children on the roll of the school. When Mr. Peck became Headmaster at the beginning of 1957 there were 143 children on the school roll. When the school reassembled after Easter in 1958 there were only 85.
Class 1. Mr. W.B. Peck 27 children
Class 2. Mrs. J.M. Peck 26 children
Class 3 Mrs. E.M. Cornish 32 children
Another change at this time was the introduction of a school uniform. The Headmaster writes that
‘The school has now adopted the colours maroon and light blue. Mrs. Horner has kindly co-operated by obtaining Blazers, Cap, Berets and Badges etc. The children so dressed look most attractive and it is a great improvement on the ‘Multi-coloured Fancy Dress’ suffered by this school in the past. (23/4/1958)