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The Old School ....
Jenny Pennell & Liz Gilding

It is important to point out that some of these pages are peoples memories and may not be completely factual.

As mentioned most of the below is of peoples memories but thanks to Anna English who is presently research the records she has very kindly added the following corrections.

Re-reading the article, the following points occur to me:


[1] The opening sentence is misleading: The school opened in 1872 and, at that time, schooling was for children from 3 to 13, but you could leave school at 10 and most did.

[2] The next paragraph suggests that the sinks and cloakrooms were there from the start, but water was not laid on in school until 1949.

[3] Heating was by open fires and a tortoise stove until the late 1960s. Mrs. Bash, who started working there in 1961, remembers the tortoise stove. Children could bring a potato to be cooked in it for lunch and the school milk was heated on it to give the children hot drinks. School milk was a post-war, welfare state introduction. The price of coal was an ongoing problem for the Managers.

[4] Electricity (24 electric lights and 4 plug points) were fitted in 1950.

[5] Third paragraph takes us back to the 1800s – slates etc. Initially, the infants sat on “forms” and wrote with slate pencils on their slates resting on their knees, until in 1891 Inspectors insisted they should have desks. The use of slates in Norfolk Schools was reluctantly abolished in 1909.

[6] Headteachers: Miss Anderson, 1872-1879: Miss Johnson 1879-1914: Mr. Brayley 1915-1945: Mr. Leeder 1945-1958: Mr. Sanderson 1958-1978.

[7] Lavatories: According to Mrs. Bash, the urinals were at the front of the school, without a roof and the boys would vie to pee over the top into the road! The girls’ toilets were roofed but had “half doors” and were at the back of the school – this differs from the paragraph about the loos. There were no separate staff loos.

[8] The cookery van was itinerant. It first came to Mattishall in 1906 and continued until the Managers thought it an unnecessary expense.

The school was opened in 1872. The children started school at the age of three and left at the age of 13 years.

There were three porches to the school, one each at the back, front and side with two little sinks in each porch where the children used to hang their clothes. The classrooms were heated by radiators and two boys used to get to school early each morning to stoke the boiler. Lighting was provided by oil lamps until 1950 when the school was connected to the electricity supply.

The infants sat at tables seating 4-6 children. They used to write with coloured chalks on slates and in sand trays. There were cupboards for books. The subjects taught included drawing, writing, arithmetic, history and geography. There was no school uniform. The girls used to wear mainly white pinafores and most of them had long hair. The older boys and girls sat at desks and wrote with pencils or pen and ink. The boys used to dip the girls' pigtails in their inkwells. Both boys and girls used to wear black lace-up boots with metal eyelets. One boy used to chew the end of his pencil which ended up like a brush which he dipped into his inkwell and then sucked it.

There was a school bell which was rung just before 9 a.m. to warn latecomers and it was considered an honour if you were chosen to ring it. Persistent boy latecomers were punished by Mr. Brayley with a whack across the hands. There was no main assembly in the mornings, the children kept to their own classrooms and each had their own individual assembly with just prayers and hymns. At the end of the day Mr. Brayley gathered the children together before going home, but when the war came the children were not allowed to be all together. There were no school meals and you either went home or brought something with you to eat. No milk was given out to the children.

The cloakrooms were cold and draughty with two wash basins supplying cold water only which used to be pumped up to a header tank each day. Any hot water had to be bled from the radiators. The boy's toilets were very primitive (earth closets) and situated at the back of the yard which was covered in gravel. The girls toilets were at the front of the yard backing on to the road. The buckets from the lavatories used to be emptied on the gardening plots. There was no septic tank. There was a pump with a wooden cover and an iron handle which was very worn in the main yard where the children could get a drink at playtime. You had to pour water down it to prime it before you could start to pump. It was fed from a header tank that had to be topped up. There was also a drain in the middle of the yard which got blocked in wet weather and caused a big pool of water which would stay for days on end. The children enjoyed themselves splashing each other and getting wet. When the weather was fine the children used to do 'drill' outside in the yard and the teachers took them for 'stool board' which consisted of a board attached to a pole, a ball was thrown and you had to try and hit it with a wooden tennis bat and not let the ball strike the board (similar to cricket). Mrs. Blanche was the school caretaker; she was a big woman and quite capable of carrying out the hardest tasks.

The school had the best garden in Norfolk which was split into plots and each plot was worked by two or three boys. The garden is now part of the school playing field. There was a Murrabella hedge between the garden and the playing field and the boys used to stick their heads through the hedge. If Mr. Brayley caught them he would whack them with a cane. They grew vegetables which they sold to pay for their cricket bats and footballs; they were not allowed to take any produce home. The seeds and pea sticks used to be obtained from someone in the village. They also grew raspberries and strawberries and when he sent the boys to pick them he pressed their cheeks and made them stick out their tongues to see if they had eaten an d it was the cane for anyone who had a red tongue. During the war a section of the playing field was taken over as an allotment thereby doubling the size for growing vegetables.

In the autumn the boys used to collect fallen leaves in wheelbarrows which they borrowed from Mr. Arthur Horne and Billy Rayner and used to spread them over the plots as compost. At the end of their gardening session Mr. Brayley would inspect all the garden tools to make sure they were spotlessly clean. Up to this day you can still see where the boys used to sharpen their penknives on the school's brick gateposts. The girls used to do embroidery, lacemaking, needlework - making pillow cases - and knitting, mainly socks. Once a year they had a cookery van visit the school which used to park on a meadow next door. Twelve girls aged 12 were picked to attend lessons. One week they did cookery, the second and third week housewifery. They also had a washing week when the girls had to bring their own garments to wash. One of the girls, Hilda Gunton brought in a red petticoat and boiled it with all the whites and everything came out blushing pink.

Each year there was a project called 'Bird & Tree Scheme' set by the Norfolk Education Committee to encourage pupils to take an interest in nature. Notes were taken throughout the year about the habits of birds and how the trees changed during each season and the work was sent off to be marked. If a pupil could add a small drawing to the notes this was an advantage. The best work got a prize and the school displayed a shield for the year.

The books from the Education Committee had a coat of arms of the county printed on the front and the words 'whatever is worth doing is worth doing well' On the back of the books were the times tables. The pupils sat 11+ exams and there used to be a board hung in the school showing who had won scholarships.

Children from Hockering used to come to the school when they reached eleven years. The school had about 150 pupils, 30 or 40 of them coming from Hockering on cycles supplied by the Education Committee.

There used to be school concerns and plays and all the parents attended. The stage was made of planks of wood on trestles in Miss Edward's room and the folding screen between the two rooms was drawn back for the performances. Each class put on a performance and dressed up in homemade paper costumes. When electricity was available in the village, Mr. Littlemore who used to work for Mr. Grief who had a shop opposite the school, brought across a generator which used to stand in the corner of the hall covered with a black sheet. Lighting, otherwise was provided by oil lamps hanging from the ceiling.

The Teachers ......

Miss Johnson - Headmistress from 1884 - 1914
She was always dressed in black and was very strict. The children were terrified of her and she used the cane frequently.

Mr. Brayley - Headmaster
Mr. Brayley a Yorkshireman became headmaster on llth January 1915 some two months after Miss Johnson left. He lived in a cottage opposite Mattishall Burgh church for a little while then moved and remained in Mattishall until the 1930's when he went to Welborne until 1948 after which he moved to Westfield where the boys used to go and tend his garden. His first wife died in April 1938 and is buried in the graveyard of Mattishall Burgh. He then married Miss Coates, a teacher at the school but had no children. He used to smoke a pipe at the school gates and he was very strict. The parents were frightened of him and if they went to complain about him caning one of their children he used to march them backwards out of the playground stating that he was in charge of the children while they were in school and what they got up to outside the school was up to the parents. He used to throw wooden blackboard wipers at the children if they misbehaved. Behind the desk where he sat was a cabinet which held all his canes which could clearly be seen by the pupils.

He was fond of music and taught the pupils tunes in tonic sol fa from a long waxed sheet which he hung on the blackboard. The children had to keep repeating the tune until they knew it by heart. He used to produce the school concerts and short plays and at Christmas time when there was entertainment in the village hall he used to sing 'On Ilkley Moor Ba Tat' and 'Stop your tickling Jockl.

Despite his strictness the children respected him and thought the world of him. He used to play cricket and football with them and if the pupils got into a fight he used to referee to make sure they fought fair. When cars were first introduced he had a tiny two seater with a dickey seat although he preferred to walk. In later years he was wheelchair bound.

Mildred Edwards - Second teacher
She used to teach needlework making nightdresses and pillowcases. She also taught knitting and the girls mainly knitted socks which they used to sell. They worked in twos and used to swap their knitting which resulted in change of stitch tension and the socks ending up all shapes and sizes. On one occasion Miss Edwards stepped back on to a large sewing needle held by one of the pupils which gave her a nasty surprise. She was a good disciplinarian and used to hit a naughty child on top of the head with a steel thimble which she wore on her middle finger - this action was known as 'thimble-pie' and invariably produced obedience. She used to wear knickers that came down to her knees where she put a hankerchief

Mildred's father was Knacker Edwards who lived in Arthurtons old house with her brother Billy and sister Sabina who used to keep house. They later moved to a bungalow that used to be the post office). Her nickname was 'pedal freewheel' because she used to pedal once then freewheel continuously. Her brother was a bit simple and used to tell everyone he heard a cuckoo in the winter and used to imitate it. On one occasion he was taken by bus to Yarmouth, left there and had to walk home.

Miss Coates
She married Mr. Brayley the headmaster after Mrs. Brayley died at a young age which gave rise to a lot of talk. She was a small dark lady, slightly overweight and was strict with the children. When you moved up to Miss Coates' class you were able to write with pen and ink.

A lad called Erie CIarke who was aged 10 or 11 fell into the pond behind the school and his friend Dick Osmond ran into the school for help. Miss Coates tried to rescue him but unfortunately he drowned before being pulled out. The onlookers said she stripped right down to her knickers because of her long skirts and dived in several times trying to save him.

Miss Holly
She was very well liked and was kind to the infants who she used to teach. She lived in Wymondham and used to travel by train to Thuxton and then cycled to school. She played the piano well and had a wind-up gramophone with a record especially for country dancing. At the start of the record there was a big introduction chord that dragged the needle and slowed the record down. The girls had to curtsey and the boys bowed before starting to dance. She used to keep in touch with the children she taught after they left the school. She was a teacher at the school for over 20 years.

Miss Bonnick - edited by Ray Taylor - May 01, 2015
Born Annie Muriel Bonnick in the Dec quarter of 1891 the daughter of Joseph Richard Bonnick Landlord of the Black Swan Inn at Horsford, Norwich and Sarah Jane Orange Packham. Miss Bonnick taught the 4- 6 year olds and was liked by the children who used to sit on little chairs alongside folding tables about four or five to each table. She and Mr. Brayley used to have a few cross words as he kept scribbling on her register. Miss Bonnick who was known a Muriel at this time married Alfred J N Gay in the Sep quarter of 1921. Alfred was the son of Alfred John Gay a Farmer of Mattishall and Florence Sparke. They lived at Harrison's farm.

Mrs. Polly Wright (1920's)
She lived in Honingham and taught the infants. She was very strict and was a real tartar. She used to give the children an orange and a penny at Christmas. She also took sewing classes for the older children. She had a son who went into broadcasting.

Mrs. Smith
She was a school teacher in the early 1900's and was drowned in a shallow well.

Miss Fowler
She was the music teacher.

Other teachers
Miss Williamson who was very nice but didn't get on with Mr. Miss Willett who was known to be irritable. Later in the 1940's Beryl Butler taught at the school.

Other School Visitors ..........

Nit Nurse
She made periodic visits and examined all the children's heads for lice and hands for sores or serious spots. Notes were sent to the parents on any discoveries. If any child was found to have nits they were given a little white comb and a foul smelling application after which the head used to be wrapped up to keep it warm.

Every year a school dentist used to turn up in a van and check the children's teeth. In the early 1920's the dentist was a man but in the 1930's it was Miss Howe who was an enormous woman with large muscles. If treatment was needed a note was sent home to the parents. Injections were given and extractions undertaken.

A school nurse used to visit the school on occasions.

School inspectors attended the school at regular intervals and there was also an attendance officer who used to chase up any pupils who were absent.

On occasions various people such as magicians used to visit the school to put on small shows.

When the school photographer came the children used to wet their hair and plaster it down to look smart.

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