The lucky children who were the first through the new Hillside School doors
PUBLISHED: 11:00 28 July 2017
The schools have now broken up for the summer holidays but, forever the spoilsport, my theme today is... education! It results from a reader’s letter informing me that one local school is celebrating its golden jubilee this year.
That correspondent is Jean Samuels (née Brooks), of Yare Road, Belton, who was a pupil at the £55,000 Bradwell Junior School in Lords Lane when it opened in April 1967; it is now Hillside Primary.
She tells me: “We were only there for two years, then went to grammar school or secondary school, depending on whether or not we passed the 11+ examination.
“We had all started school in September 1961 at Homefield Avenue Primary School in Bradwell but the expanding population meant it was no longer big enough to accommodate so many pupils and, as part of a Government plan to build more modern infant and junior schools, Bradwell Junior School was erected on a field called Hungry Hill in Lords Lane (the long-gone railway line to and from Great Yarmouth ran through that field and across a bridge).
“I was told the land needed a lot of fertiliser to make crops grow - hence the Hungry Hill name.
“A light and airy building built to a plan used all over the country was our new school and I considered we were lucky children to be the first through the doors. The light flooded into the assembly hall when we stood there for morning assembly.
“The headmaster, Jack Eagle, came with us from Homefield as did his wife Olive, our school secretary, and Daisy Newnham, cook in charge of the kitchens and her husband, Binky, our caretaker.”
Years later Daisy wrote a detailed book, Bradwell Schools – 100 Years History.
Other teachers included Douglas Bliss, David Peppiatt, George Skipper, Miss Lewis and Ralph Brackenbury, Jean’s form master in her final year and “firm, fair, and with a good sense of humour.”
Jean and her brothers Edward and John stayed for school dinners because their home was in Browston, two miles away.
“Lunches were better because we were not forced to eat every single item put on our plate whether we wanted it or not as we had to at Homefield,” she continues. “This included salad cream which I cannot eat to this day!
“At Homefield we had been forced to sit in the assembly hall until every morsel was devoured. The only way I could eat the wretched stuff was to mix it into the mashed potato!”
According to Jean, headmaster Eagle was keen on shinty, “a team sport much like hockey played by boys and girls with crude wooden sticks similar to hockey sticks”.
He always wore long baggy khaki shorts when playing shinty and loved demonstrating how to bully off.
Jean had a bad experience when she fell into the Homefield temporary swimming pool, developing an aversion to swimming, but was encouraged by Mr Brackenbury - “thanks to him, I can swim enough to save myself if I fell into the water, and do enjoy it now.”
All her classmates are aged around 60, some of whom she has not seen since the day she left after taking the 11+ exam. Those who failed went to secondary school - Lothingland at Lound, in Jean’s case.
“I felt an 11+ failure all my life and did not think it was a good idea to take an exam that labelled you at such a young age - it pigeon-holes you at an age when you need encouragement to succeed.
“They say your school years are ‘the best days of your life’ - either that, or the mists of time make it seem that way. I certainly gained a lot from my time at both schools and a love of learning which I have even now at 60.”
Jean, married to John, was once a window dresser but is now a van delivery driver.