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Remembering Great Yarmouth school days

PUBLISHED: 09:22 03 June 2019 | UPDATED: 09:22 03 June 2019

Austere - but with a handsome clock on the mantelpiece of a classroom at the Gorleston Preparatory School for Boys!

Austere - but with a handsome clock on the mantelpiece of a classroom at the Gorleston Preparatory School for Boys!

Archant

Despite the claim in an old song, school days were never the happiest days of my life.

The tranquil Priory Gardens in Gorleston, close to a private preparatory school where a correspondent's father was once a pupil.The tranquil Priory Gardens in Gorleston, close to a private preparatory school where a correspondent's father was once a pupil.

But presumably, I would not be penning this weekly feature if some of the teaching did not make enough impact to equip me for a journalism career.

All my tuition was in schools hereabouts overseen by Great Yarmouth education committee: Stradbroke Road infants and junior, briefly Alderman Swindell infants, and Yarmouth Grammar.

I seldom enjoyed school, although I can clearly remember many fellow pupils, staff and occurrences - even Peter Woods' opening rhyming lines of a Stradbroke junior pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk.

Before allocating his meagre possessions to them, he said: "Come here, my boys, my fine sons three - come here, and listen well to me. For 40 years I've worked my best. Now is the time for me to rest."

Bells Road in Gorleston perhaps in the 1930s or earlier. Just off this road was Upper Cliff Road where there was a private school pre-war.Bells Road in Gorleston perhaps in the 1930s or earlier. Just off this road was Upper Cliff Road where there was a private school pre-war.

Me? I played The Ogre, wrapped in an old blanket, ready to burst in shouting: "I am the ogre!" I rehearsed the line, each time emphasising each word in turn. When my grand entrance came, I fluffed my four words.

My theatrical career ended perfunctorily, never to rekindle. Perhaps the pupils at the several private schools hereabouts before and just after the war would have been better prepared in this situation.

Recently I mentioned that a reader asked me if I had any information about his old Gorleston private school which had relocated to Ludlow in Shropshire, an inquiry solved by local historian Colin Tooke - Gorleston School for Boys was housed in Clarence Road in 1936.

When prominent Gorlestonian Les Cockrill read this, he told me: "This sent me checking what my late father had dictated to me as his childhood memories. However, Dad did not go to that school, but it may be of interest to see what his memories bring back for other readers.

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"In the mid-1920s Dad went to St Monica's in Upper Cliff Road, Gorleston. It was run by the two Misses Oreur in a house that is still there immediately behind what was Spain's shop in Bells Road.

"According to Dad, there were about 60 pupils. The boys generally left aged about 10 but many girls remained there until school leaving at about 14.

"What sounds even more intriguing is that in about 1928-29 Dad left St Monica's and went to the Priory Preparatory School, which was in a house in or adjacent to what is now Priory Gardens. It was run by a Mr and Mrs Baxter and, apparently, was a waste of time.

"Dad reckoned that the most useful thing that he did there was to chop masses of firewood!

"Then, after about three months there, he turned up one morning and found that the Baxters seemed to have done a 'midnight flit'. Subsequently he went for several years to Duncan House and had a very good and happy education.

"If this were to trigger additional information or memories it would be interesting."

Duncan House was founded in Yarmouth's Camperdown in 1896, moving to Albert Square but relocating perhaps after the 1939-45 war to Scratby, renaming itself as Duncan Hall, I believe.

In the early years of the last century, there were several private schools in the borough, the subject of two of my columns in 2016.

Until the outbreak of the 1939-45 war, there were several private schools in Yarmouth and Gorleston. My 1937 Kelly's Directory lists at least half a dozen.

In Yarmouth there was a girls' school in Walpole Road run by Miss E Alexander; a day and boarding school for girls in Camperdown (Miss Annie Jarvis); a private school on Crown Road (Miss D H Palmer); and a private school for boys in Albert Square (Bernard Eaton Pledger).

Gorleston had at least two: Mrs William Bensley's ladies' school on Beccles Road, and Miss Marion Priestley Barrett's esteemed Highfield Boarding School and College for Girls on Avondale Road.

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