Remembering old schools as term ends
- Credit: Mike Bullock
Because schools break up today for the Christmas and New Year holiday, reopening on January 4, it is timely to look again at local private and state education of yesteryear, reflecting interest stemming from readers of previous columns on the topic.
In August, I wrote about an elderly visitor to Yarmouth inquiring about a pre-war private school - Elm House, run by a Miss D Palmer. This puzzler was solved by local historian Colin Tooke chancing upon an advertisement for it while seeking something else: it was a preparatory school and kindergarten on Crown Road for boys and girls.
But, it transpires, there was another “Elm” pre-war private school. That was the Elm Grove School, taking the name of the Gorleston road where it was located. It operated in a converted spacious bungalow at the Poplar Avenue junction with Elmgrove Road, bought by an indulgent father for his two daughters to found an establishment specialising in an innovative curriculum seeking to develop children’s natural interests and activities rather than using formal teaching methods.
I am obliged to Mrs Maureen Edwards (née Reynolds) who was a pupil there from 1934 to 1937 and recalls: “It was very trendy and high falutin’, run by Miss Doris Burwood and her sister (Muriel?).
“They had trained as Montessori teachers in Switzerland and spoke fluent German and French. The premises were only two rooms of a large bungalow, plus the verandah. We had outdoor classes out on the verandah when weather permitted, and did dancing in the open air. I guess there were about 18 pupils.”
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They included Elizabeth and Billy Shipley, children of the veterinary surgeon on Southtown Road; Laurel Crawshaw, daughter of the Town Clerk; Elsie (Gilda) Deane, daughter of Dr Deane and sister of the famed swimming brothers Kenneth and William; Malcolm Evans, son of the headmaster of the East Anglian School for Blind and Deaf Children in Gorleston; and Mary Perrett, granddaughter of Councillor Mrs Perrett.
Maureen continues: “My father was Harold Reynolds, a teacher at the Edward Worlledge Senior School but soon to be head of the new North Denes School.” He was also a prominent football referee.
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“The Elm Grove School closed in 1939, I think. I am surprised that no-one else seems to remember it.
“Both sisters got married, and evacuation decimated the school. Later, when I was at Yarmouth High School in 1940, there were two refugee girls from Germany there, Elsa and Erika Frimeth, and the High School teachers asked for help in translating from the Burwoods, now married.”
From my own early schooldays I recall Mr Reynolds, who became a CBE, not because of his role in local education but from his zealous encouragement for all children and adults in Yarmouth and Gorleston to buy National Savings Stamps to help the war effort. Sticking the sixpenny stamps (2½p today) into the book convinced us youngsters that our contributions were helping to win the war.
Maureen and her husband, Russell, both aged 87, are retired teachers living in Beccles; he was a headmaster.
My recent feature about events in Yarmouth and Gorleston a century ago in 1916 included a photograph of St Andrew’s Church on North Quay, flooded when gales and a very high tide caused the river to overflow. Part of the church buildings was a school of the same name, prompting ex-pupil Valerie Tuttle (née Bassett) to send me a picture taken in one of the classrooms decorated for Christmas 1954.
“I can name almost all of the class,” says Valerie, who lives in Cherry Lane, Browston. “There were three classes. The first year’s teacher was Miss Kemp, the second year teacher was Miss Rainer and the top class was taken by Miss Brooks. The headmistress was Mrs Spandler.
“It was a lovely school and we all progressed to the Priory School in 1956. My late father took a few cine films of the outside of the school of us children playing in the playground but I haven’t watched them in years as they are still on the old spools!”
Harking back to my recent contribution about private schools hereabouts, ex-colleague Tony Mallion confirms that the Glanmor in Gorleston in 1899 “for the daughters of gentlemen” was on Cliff Hill, at the corner with Lower Cliff Road, opposite a general shop.
He continues: “It was, and still is, an imposing building with distinctive grey stone work. It was originally somewhat larger than the present size but some years ago a wing was removed from the rear to increase the back garden.
“The front garden, which commanded a fine sea view, was opposite, next to the Lower Cliff Road steps and separated from the school by the road.”
As for my mention of head teacher and founder Miss Marion Priestley Barrett’s Highfield boarding and day school at Cliff Hill and Avondale Road junction, later to become the long-closed council-owned Poplars old people’s home, Tony recalls a Radio Norfolk interview he once did with a former pupil.
“It was on another topic, but we somehow got on to the subject of Highfield School and the lady told me that Miss Barrett was a benefactor to St Andrew’s Church in Gorleston where she paid for a small separate door to be built so her pupils could have their own private access when attending services.
“I’ve never checked on the accuracy of this, though there was no reason to doubt it since my interviewee was at the school and remembered going through that entrance, a small door on the south side of the church, right next to the organ, which remains to this day though rarely, if ever, used.”
Another correspondent chided me for omitting from my list of local private schools the St Louis Convent on North Drive which closed in 1971, becoming the International High School and North Drive High School before demolition in 1990.