MEMORIES OF THE SCHOOL
Here is a collection of old
pupils' memories of the school from
letters, emails and guest book entries we have received.
I'm mentioned in Sue
Elleker's (nee Ogbourne)'s entry. Her mother was my mother's best friend. My
best friend in the school was Mike Stevens.
I loved my time at the school. Sue mentioned that we spent 2 years in Class 8
and so I think I may have had a bit of a record by being a (GOUGH House) Vice
Prefect in the first year and Prefect the next year. I remember that Mrs Virgo
(Class 2) was surprised that I could tell the time when I joined the school. I
don't remember having any problems with any of the teachers, even Revell the
devil, whose class I was in for 2 years.
How times have changed. In the big hall was a metal climbing frame, which was
pushed back against the wall when not in use. Whenever a class wanted to use the
apparatus, a pupil was dispatched to Class 8. "Please can we have 2 big boys to
put up the climbing frame?" Mike Stevens and I always grabbed that job and
headed to the big hall. There, we had to pull the two sides of the frame away
from the wall and then climb up one side each, whilst carrying the ends of the
cross bar, which we had to slot into the metal slots, located about 12 feet
above the floor, so that the apparatus was locked. In due course, we would have
to take it down again. Can you imagine 10/11 year olds being allowed to do this
Another scam we had was that we hated country dancing and so volunteered to sort
out and index the class library of reading books. Mike had very neat writing but
just when it looked as if would finish this task (and have to rejoin the
dancing), Mike would unfortunately make a mistake and we would have to start all
I was so excited one day to
have found my old school online, I looked at the pictures and read about the
things the children do there now, was very different in my time.
I would like to tell you some of my memories of Middle Street School. I attended
the school, not quite sure of the year, but I think I started there when I was 4
years old, it was in the 1930s, I was there during World War II.
Mr. Pinale was our Headmaster, or something near to that, we nick named him Pine
Apple, I can't remember how to spell his name. (this would have been Mr
The class used to be given musical instruments, we had triangles, drums,
tambourines, etc and I was often the conductress, we had such fun.
I remember very distinctly during the air raids walking across to the Hippodrome
and taking shelter in their basement. We had to be very quiet, walk in line,
class by class, the teachers took our school work with us, so we still had to do
our lessons. Also, I remember taking our gas masks to school and practicing
breathing through them in the class, a lot of the children made noises in them.
I remember playing in the school grounds at play time. and I think we were given
milk to drink every day. I lived in Brighton where my parents had a dress shop.
When I went back to UK a few years back I looked up the school I wanted to go
in, and just look around, but wasn't sure if that would be allowed so I didn't
do it, but I did stand outside and remember. I now live in America . I have
tried to find anyone that went to Middle Street school in those days, but so far
have not been lucky.
Anita Lewis, (Maiden name)
Sue Elleker (nee Ogbourne)
I started at Middle Street in
1958, at the age of 4. My sister Julie started at the same time; she was 3 and
was in Miss Wentzel's class. I was with Mrs Custance.
In the picture with Miss Virgo (on the 60s & 70s page here)
I am the 3rd from the left in the middle row-with the spotted dress. The boy to
my left (right in the picture) is Paul Hooton. He, Jackie Davies, myself and and
Michael Stevens went up the school together, As we were quite bright, we skipped
a year and ended up doing 2 years in class 8 before we left.
I was on the trip to Belgium- we stayed in a youth hostel in a place called
Knokke. The food was odd-one day they served us plain spaghetti, with no sauce.
None of us had ever seen spaghetti out of a tin! They took us to visit Waterloo,
but we were too young to appreciate it.
I was in Miss Revell's class-I agree she was a tartar, but she could teach. I
remember a teacher called Mrs Gascoigne-her daughter Gina was at the school. I
believe they emigrated to Australia.
I attended Middle St from the
early 50s - not quite sure when. I seem to remember starting at age 3 is that
possible? In which case it might have been a late 1952 start at three and three
quarters. I remember sitting on the old oak parquet floor for lessons and
regularly cuddling my two girlfriends Susan Buck and Valerie Hobson in
class. They would take turns to sit between my legs in lessons which I
thought was very decent. Does anyone know of them or have photos? At my sister's
house back in the UK I'm pretty sure I have a photo or two of Middle St, of a
group of us in fancy dress.....I was a cowboy complete with six-shooter. Next
time home I shall look it up and send a scan to you. Do I remember going up to
Preston Park to play football once a week? I DO remember having a choice
between cod liver oil or a sort of orange juice vitamin concentrate every day.
Mum and Dad had a lunch restaurant, I think mostly office workers, in King St.
For the record, we emigrated to Australia then came back and I ended up at
Eastbourne Grammar, then Reading University (Physics, Maths). Travelled a lot
and long time Chelsea-based (Arts Club member) and once had a pub, two actually,
in Germany. I am still pretty fit and healthy at a pre-dotage 61, and I live in
Thailand where I studied Buddhism and taught meditation and now read and even
write mostly philosophy and psychology with emphasis on evolutionary psychology
and the nature of mind. Facebook has me! Someone wrote about the
Hippodrome I well remember running up on stage at the request of Max Bygraves
for four kids to play an instrument each! I remember cockles and vinegar after
swimming down on the seafront (mussels for Dad or even whelks!).
Thanks for the Middle Street website I came across it writing my life story.
Well, a life story combined with how ideas from Epictetus and Marcus
Aurelius to Dignaga and Huang Po to William James and Nisargadatta, you name it,
developed and took root in me and became part of the bundle of mental and
physical factors tied together a name who tends to still fall under the illusion
he's John Wickenden.
I went to
Middle Street School from approximately 1949 till the end of 1952 [when my
family moved] from St Paul's infant school, although I cannot remember the names
of any of the teachers at Middle Street School, I do remember one day my class
was in a "hall" and we were all singing. The man teacher was walking up and down
the line of children listening intently, and put his arm up in the centre of the
line and said "right, this side don't sing, this side [to his left] sing, then
he came right up to me and said "It's you", I was so frightened, I wondered what
I had done wrong, but he said "You have a beautiful voice", and after that I was
put in all the plays and pantomimes as a singer.
Gary S. Webster (formerly Gary Coombs)
Dear pupils of Mrs Custance,
Bouncing around the internet actually looking for some photos of Larkswood
swimming pool in Chingford, having reminisced with a colleague about its Art
Deco and the fun I had there when I was a kid. I typed in Middle Street School,
I am not really sure why, guess because I was getting a bit nostalgic for a more
innocent age, the 50s. No computers, no mobile phones, no Xboxes, no Nintendo
DS, IPods and even no TVs for most, just radio. A time when people actually
talked to each other, a time when we fell out of trees, played games in real
time with real people, learnt communication skills and personal responsibility
for ourselves and those around us.
Anyway, up came Middle Street School, I clicked on the 50s section and imagine
my complete astonishment when a photo of my class came up with Mrs Custance, our
teacher and a photo of me, then Gary Coombs, now Gary Webster (mum remarried),
2nd from right, 2nd row from top, incredible! (See photo on Fifties page
here.) My best friend at the time was David Agar, 5 in from the left, 2nd
row down, he had a younger brother Stephen, his parents were Don and Glades, and
a dog called Pasha, I think they had a jeweller's business, I wonder what
happened to David? It was his two wheeled bike I learned to ride on, he had many
more toys than I had, we had fun, great days. Names like Susan Weller, Stephanie
Goodwin came flooding back, so many faces I remember in the photo too, but
shamefully long forgotten the names. I had a crush on Stephanie, I took her out
on half a crown that I had been given, I say I took her out, we walked around
for a bit and bought some sweets. I am pretty sure that she and Susan, David and
others came to my birthday party; I must have been all of 6.
I also remember licking what seemed to be thousands of paper chains for the
class Christmas decorations and my lines in the Christmas play “Look what I
found in the woods today, some holly berries bright and gay”, gay meant happy
back then. There was a teacher Miss Holms I think, who played the violin; she
said that she would nod when it was my time to come on; trouble was when playing
she nodded a lot, I went early and crashed somebody's lines, got pulled off and
had to come on a bit later, apparently everybody had a good laugh, and my proud
dad bought me some sweets on the way home.
I remember a teacher coming into Mrs Custance's class and whispering to her in
hushed reverence that the King had died, I also remember the coronation, the
decorations and the big trumpet speakers on the sea front shelters, I wish I
still had my coronation glass. My dad was display manager or something in a
fashion shop called Dorothy Normans on Western Road and he had gone to London
and got a picture of how the coronation decorations in Brighton were going to
look, it ended up in the local papers the next day! I also remember watching the
eclipse of the sun in the playground through smoked glass and going on a nature
walk, with the class picking sticky buds and things. I remember being pushed
over the steps wall that would be to the left in one of your photos of the old
school building in the playground! I remember seeing stars and having Mrs
Custance cradling my head and all these people looking at me, I had a huge lump
on my forehead for days. I remember learning to read my first book about a horse
called Dobbin and collecting book three from Mr Parnell (Head) in his office as
I recall it was dark with a big desk, he had one of those old candlestick phones
on it. I remember school dinners being delivered in large aluminium flasks, a
bit like milk churns being taken to the assembly hall for dinner. I always knew
when lessens were coming to an end as you could smell the food being delivered,
I don’t think that facilities for cooking food were available at the school
Then as you came out of the school playground with the tree on your left there
was a tobacconist / sweet shop opposite and in Middle Street to the left that
led to the beach there was a big Michelin man in the window of a tyre shop or
something, which automatically bent over and straightened up again as you walked
by, I think its eyes lit up too, which was a bit frightening to a 6 year old. I
remember Punch and Judy shows (now politically incorrect) under the pier (West
Pier that got burnt down) and making out I could swim in that long shallow
paddling pool on the front, one leg on the floor with my mum watching, I realise
now that she could see my foot on the floor all the time as she walked along the
side with me, giving me encouragement, I guess I was not really fooling her! In
the summer at lunch time I would meet my mum, brother and sister down on the
beach and have a packed lunch and if the weather was really good I would go back
there after school and have tea, we got really brown in those days, skin cancer
was not heard of. There was a dry cleaners that had sea horse and fish swimming
around in small tanks that were lit up in the wall as you went in, it smelt of
trichoethylene, now and again I will catch that smell it takes me right back. At
the age of just six I would walk to and from school, go to the park, shops and
the beach, on my own or with friends, really happy days. Can you imagine doing
that now, in days of school runs, people carriers and 4x4’s, I may be looking
through rose tinted glasses, but things seemed so much better then.
On a recent wedding anniversary my wife Lynn and I stayed at the Grand Hotel
during which time I visited some of my childhood haunts, the long shallow
swimming pool that I faked my swimming prowess on the way to Punch and Judy
show, was still there, but empty cracked and forlorn, but it was good to see
that it was still there! The place where we watched Punch and Judy “that’s the
way to do it” was near the burnt out pier's entrance, I thought that they were
going to rebuild it? But I had to visit Middle Street School. The playground
that I remembered with the tree in the corner had gone, given over to school
extensions etc. It was while I was wondering how much of the old school, I
remembered, still existed and whether I could go in, I felt the odd less than
flattering look from mothers taking their children to school! To my horror I
realised that being in my late 50s and apparently hanging around the school
entrance, I might have been taken for a paedophile or something, another
phenomena that seemingly exists today, that did not back when I was 6 years old.
Anyway, it was a very pleasant surprise to see my very first class photo on the
web, although never much good at school, which might have had something to do
with the fact that I went to 13 of them before I left at 15, that class in the
50’s with Mrs Custance, a great teacher, was always very special to me and can’t
believe that of all the photos around that the one shown should be of my old
class! It evokes a very special period and represented a good and stable time
for me. I am sorry if I have banged on a bit, but this has had quite an effect
on me and the memories flooding in are still quite sharp.
Although the rest of my schooling may have been a bit pedestrian, I appear not
to have suffered too much though, married for 44 years two children and 5
grandchildren and a captain of industry, owning a large chunk of my company.
Have won the Queens Award to Industry and have several patents to my name. If
anyone of my old classmates is interested David Agar, Stephaney Goodwin, Susan
Weller or any in the photo they can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
you could also visit my company website - smiths-env.com.
I would be very pleased to hear from any of my old class mates from back then. I
plan on going back shortly and maybe this time, I will sum up enough courage to
go into to Middle Street School and not hang around the outside like some
I was a pupil at Middle St from 1946
till 1950 when I transferred to The Fawcett School in Pelham St. We lived at 60
Middle Street and I remember Duguattis the bakers and Charmans the tobacconist
at the end of Meeting House Lane. Just across the road from us was Mrs Tapsell,
the antique dealer and Prosers Taxis, where I could earn a bob or two polishing
his back cabs on Saturday Mornings. My father was an ex Royal marine who was
demobbed at the end of the war and we moved to Brighton from Chatham as he had
always promised us a house by the sea. He was a musician and often worked in the
pit orchestra at the Hippodrome along with Tommy Jackson, a one-eyed violinist
who wore shorts summer and winter.
I believe his house was at the top end of Middle St, next to the health food
shop. I remember having to read to Mr Parnell on arrival at the school to
be assessed for classes and Mrs Cameron and Mr Law. Other pupils names are
a bit hazy, but I can recall Daphne Charman and Margaret Leeson. The memories of
the card topped bottles of milk, the afternoon naps and the country dancing - we
did seem a mile away from today's education, but I am in my 70s now and both
Middle Street and the Fawcett School have done me proud and I am so pleased to
have found the website.
Sister Mary Agatha (Trudy Wirthmiller)
I have so enjoyed your website which
I found quite by chance on the net.
It was, after a lifetime,
extremely interesting to view and see pictures of the old school.
I attended Middle Street
School circa 1952-4, in as far as I can remember dates. I later went on to
Pelham St Secondary School, long since demolished.
At the time my family lived
at 33 Middle Street ( also since demolished) and my father ran an estate agents (Worth and Co) from that address.
Myself, and later my sister
Paula, attended the school in Middle Street.
Mr Parnell was the
headteacher and I was in Mr Law's class. As a little girl I adored him, he was so
kind and encouraged me greatly, especially in my attempts to paint and for two
terms my self-portrait was up on the classroom wall.
I was present for the
My name was Trudy Wirthmiller.
I have been for the past 38
years a sister in an enclosed religious order and have had a very happy and
One of the joys of my youth
was the fact that accordian practice appeared to take place in the school in the
evenings and it was lovely to hear the music travelling over the roof !!!
The favourites were 'Zambezi'
and 'Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White' !
it is hard to remember names, but my best friend and accomplice in mischief was
a tall girl, like me, called Maureen Baines, we fell foul of Mr Laycock a few
times. There was also a little boy called Bobby Pullen, and another boy whom I
sat next to in class, John Horton. Mr Law was a wonderful, gentle teacher, and I
remember the pride I felt being asked to read out aloud to the class from Enid
Blytons' Favourite 5 or was it seven ?
I can also recall the hall, where on some occasion and I do not know precisely
what for, we had to learn a song , it must of been intended for a play or
something. It was:
I'll be your sweetheart if you will be mine,
All my life I'll be your valentine,
Bluebells I'll gather take them and be true,
When I'm a man my plan will be to marry you !
As I was a little girl I remember being totally and utterly perplexed by this!
The house at 33 Middle where I lived was directly opposite the wood-yard, and
many a time I too was at the Hippodrome yard waiting to collect autographs; Max
Miller, Sophie Tucker, Alma Coogan, Petula Clark, Max Bygraves, Frankie Howard,
Norman Wisdom and Laurel and Hardy being amongst some of the celebrities I
managed to obtain, but truth compels me to say I was just as proud to get Mr
Law's autograph !It was in those days quite a craze.
The games we played in the playground were complicated ball games with rhymes(
long since forgotten), skipping, marbles, and the collecting of fag cards !
Next door to where I lived was a house where the little Jewish children had
their Sabbath school on Saturdays, and I used to play in the street with a
little girl called Hannah Bronstein who lived lower in the street.
Right at the bottom of Middle St, the sea end, was a clairvoyant whose
advertising diagram in his window mystified me, it seemed to be a man with a
series of bumps on his head! I came to the conclusion that he felt the bumps and
they said something. Fairly adjacent to the wood-yard was a health food store,
what an interesting place , those were the days when health foods were some what
of an oddity, my mother bought some healthy breakfast cereal that was so healthy
it nearly broke your teeth.
I must add I was very happy at Middle Street school.
Sister Mary Agatha
I was at Middle St. school from 1930 until
1935 when I took the exam and was given a Special Place at Varndean Grammar
School. The first teacher I can remember, I think in the Infants was a Miss
Fenniemore. We used slates and slate pencils then. There was a little General
Store opposite the Infants' entrance where you could get a halfpenny's worth of
sweets. When I moved up to the Juniors my first teacher was a Mrs.Pearson who
was tall and thin and was a real dragon. As the years went by I was taught by a
Miss Ballard, Mr.Hobley and the Headmaster - Mr.Parnell (whose son was also in
the school as a pupil). There was another entrance to the Juniors from Boyces
Street and stairs up to the first floor. When I became a prefect I had to
control the children and stop them from running around on the stairs and falling
There was a teacher Mr.Collins who I believe married Miss Ballard. Morning
assembly was held in the school hall with hymns and prayers - for a long time, I
couldn't understand why, in the Lords Prayer, it was vineys the kingdom !
Penny Ludgrove (Baker)
Hi, have just seen your wonderful web site, which has made
me remember many things from my time at your school from the nursery in 1951 to
my last term in Mr Law's class in 1958 . I well remember the 150 years
celebration in 1955 and one of the photographs enclosed shows how we all dressed
for this very special occasion. I also enclose class photos from my time with
you. In the one of the classroom I am sitting next to my dear friend June
Vivien, whose parents owned an antique shop in Market Street, we used to get on
very well and due to the fact that my mother used to knit our woollies, we
nearly always looked the same. Poor Mr Law was always getting us muddled, I
remember that he was a lovely man, and an excellent teacher.
Middle Street was always a "fun" school, and it seems as
if it still is, if your web site is anything to go by. Now as a (59) year old
mum I remember with fondness the old tree in the playground (which I believe is
still there), the outside loos really freezing in the winter, camp beds for an
afternoon rest in the nursery. I remember when the present queen's father King
George died and all the teachers wore black, and were very solemn and spoke in
hushed voices. I also remember playing in the playground, walking on old paint
cans with long strings feeling so tall, and riding an old “mobo horse “ and a
little two-seater roundabout that was really thrilling to a 4 year old, the cans
of dinner being dished up in the hall, the school plays - one in particular
where Christopher Purdy's mum had made us superb robin redbreast outfits of sewn
crepe paper. Also Stephanie Goodwin in her Queen Elizabeth 1st gown (very
envious of that as I recall), the coach trips to the countryside with our
sandwiches in greaseproof bags, the classical music at assembly, and when in the
nursery class we used to file into the hall to listen to “listen with mother” on
the big speaker, the big church-like window at the end of the hall, and doing
physical training (P.T.) with the hard hairy mats to land on, and warmed milk
bottles on the radiators !!
Wasn't there a tuck shop opposite which used to sell half
penny chews, gob stoppers, and lemonade powder (that by the time a wet finger
had been put in enough times the wet bag used to give way), and sherbet dabs,
flying saucers, and so many things. It's been lovely to be able to share these
few memories with you present-day Middle Streeters, and will look forward to
keeping up with the news on your site . Good luck to you all.
J. Ashlea Simpson
What a marvellous website. I
just happened to look on the web to see if there was anything of Middle Street
School. I attended there from about 1946 until 1951. Mr. Parnell was the
Headmaster. I recall just a few of the teachers - Mrs. Cameron, Mrs. Custance,
Mr. Law, Mr. Stockbridge. The first two each had a daughter who attended
Brighton & Hove High School as I did from 1951 onward.
I recall the big gate on Boyces
Street, too. And the two separate buildings. I saw your photo of the Hansel
and Gretel show we put on at Christmas of 1947 but I'm not in yours. I have
one (I think I still have it) and I am in mine. I see Gillian Rolf and I
think a boy named Wally? David Johnson and his sister, Stella. Also German
sisters, Ruth and Inge Rosenberg, another girl - Angela and I think her
brother's name was Peter (Fawcett ?). And I see Maureen. And I remember
Marie and a Jacquelyn. Gosh, I wish I could remember their last names but
it's been such a long time. I sat next to Peter Guy in class - he and his
family had a wonderful, true Sussex accent - and David Dallimore sat behind
me. And I recall Reginald Worsley. And dear Roger Phipps - he died at the
age of 17 I remember his birthday was September 2nd, one day after mine.
After leaving Middle Street School and going on to the Grammar School, one
evening he and his girlfriend had a boat accident, ended up in the water and
had to shout for help. The rescuers could take only one to shore at a time
and Roger insisted they take the girl first. When they got back for him, he
had vanished beneath the water. He was such truly fine young man.
In 1958. I moved to the US. On a
couple of trips home to visit my parents, by then living in Eynsham, Oxon, I
did visit Brighton. It's totally changed, of course. I used to ice skate
every Sat and Sun morning at the rink on West Street. And, of course,
Churchill Square didn't exist at all when I lived in Brighton - I moved up to
London in 1956. And I noticed most of the cinemas we used to go to didn't
exist any more. I recall watching "Three Coins in the Fountain" and also
"Sayonara" at the Essoldo - think it might even have been called the Imperial
When I attended your school, my
name was Janet Barry. Anyhow, thank you so much for this great treat -
instant transport to another planet, it seems like.
J. Ashlea Simpson
Jan Heunis (and
Congratulations on your website. I
suppose one of its functions was fulfilled when I, during an idle moment or two,
decided to see if I could find traces of Middle Street School on the internet –
and managed to do so, from South Africa. My stepbrother and I have some very
fond memories of our ± 1½
years in Brighton, reminiscing about our time with you fairly often.
studied a post-graduate course at Brighton College (1972-1973),
while we did “our bit” at Middle Street. Being South Africans, as well as
Non-French speaking, English Second Language speakers, it was initially a
strange experience. The French teacher spoke no English (or at least that’s
what we thought) and we no French. However, this soon changed (God bless her),
for it soon dawned upon us that we had no choice, but to learn the language very
quickly. So we did – my brother being among the top students at the end of the
year. I think she was called Mademoiselle Graviar (or something like that).
I remember that
we were first taken to the old building, before being shipped off to Wagner
Hall. Being from Africa, it must have been a dubious decision regarding which
grade in which to put us. We were subjected to a variety of questions and
tasks, where after it was decided to group us with children our own age.
However, I remember a teacher asking me to say the 5 times table. As I had been
taught Mathematics in my home language (Afrikaans), I had no idea what “times
tables” were and I promptly
told her so. Having completed most tables
some years prior to this interview, I naturally knew the maths required, but not
the term needed to launch me into the usual: 1 times five is
five, 2 times five is.... etc. She must have had her
doubts when she saw us joining the older kids in Wagner Hall!
I came across the letter by Alex
White (1973) [further down this page] and immediately recognised some of
the incidents and people he referred to in the letter. In fact, I think I
remember Alex fairly well.
I was about 11 years old at the time
and the soccer games in the hall with the rolled up socks he referred to were
precious times indeed. I’m convinced that the incident: “One
day someone had the bright idea to put a tennis ball inside the sock which made
for a much more enjoyable game but of course the teachers realised and
confiscated the offending item.”
was my doing. I clearly remember Mrs
Lock/Cameron (I can’t remember which) being very worked up about the incident,
calling me “a wicked boy”. I can’t blame her though, it must have been very
tough for an all-female staff to handle so many energetic boys “trapped” indoors
for so long.
I also remember Evan Rees, the boy
who painted “Gus the Gorilla” on the school wall before it was demolished. He
was involved with a fight-club “ladder” of some sorts. Fights were arranged for
after school in which the chosen “duellists” had to “prove their worth”. In
fact, on my first day of school I was promptly told that I was to fight a boy
called Phillip. I had no idea why. He said that if I wanted to be in the
school, I had to. What reasons he gave Phillip (rumoured to be no. 16 on the
“ladder”), a soft-spoken and rather timid boy, I don’t know to this day.
Luckily, as is the case with such things, Phillip and I were on good speaking
terms afterwards and we never referred to the incident again! I remember a
blond-haired boy called John, who was similarly persuaded to partake in a
“ladder-fight” with me. He was apparently no. 2 on the ladder. We were also
good friends afterwards. After that, Evan (no. 1 on the ladder) just couldn’t
“find the time” to defend his position at the top of the ladder against me!
Maybe the bit of boxing and wrestling I took part in back home saved me from
further “harm”! In fact, I remember a boy called Tony who even offered to pay
me protection money if I were willing to prevent his alleged bullies from
getting to him! A good supplement to my 50p per week pocket money it could have
been! To all our credit I never saw another scuffle in school during my stay in
Upon reading Alex’s story of John
Terry and the fire-extinguisher, I was immediately sure that it was he that I
remembered. How can I ever forget his zeal for the custard we got as dessert
after each and every meal! There
was yellow, purple, pink etc. custard and he ate his own, as well as that of
everyone else’s at his table and
the surrounding ones. It must be said that I came to England with a great
propensity (and capacity) for eating custard, but after a couple of weeks of
this, the enchantment for my favourite dessert rapidly waned. John’s love for
the stuff, however, remained as constant as the source from whence it came. I
suppose, what I remember most of all about John, was his great appetite for life
and the exuberance with which he lived it - his love for sock-ball soccer not to
I would appreciate it if you could
post this letter on your website, as I would love to get in touch with any of
the people who were at school with me
email address is
Maybe they’d remember my brother and I: “The two Africans”. Maybe our presence
was odd enough for a boy of 11/12 to remember. Example: I remember a boy
called Nigel’s surprise when we “claimed” to be from Africa: “You can’t be from
Africa, you’re white!” We were terrible ambassadors to our country! Nigel once
asked if we really cooked black people in pots. We said: “Yes, but only on
weekends when they’re easier to catch.” The other kids from African descent
always found this very funny, knowing the truth themselves (and
straightforwardly befriending us for this). However, Way Long (sp.?) the
Chinese boy, was petrified of us, believing everything with which we teased
Nigel to be absolute truth. I wonder if he knows different
My brother remembers confirming
rumours that we lived in tree houses to keep safe from wild animals (we were
from Cape Town). More eyebrows were raised when, asked what he was eating from
his lunch box he replied "raw meat", but this time simply for the want
of vocabulary. In fact he was enjoying "biltong" (beef jerky), one of our
favourite snacks made from prime beef cutlets salted, spiced and hung out to dry
for a few days. This was then specially sneaked in through airport customs by
our poor coerced grandparents on occasion.
We had to
write many poems at Middle Street School. Spare a thought for the foreign boy
a foreign language, not to mention rhyme.
My brother vividly remembers a particularly embarrassing moment when he could
not explain to Mrs Cameron (in front of the class) that "glee" meant "gladness"
in his verse containing "...the mother wept with glee...",
the unintended antithesis being the cause of his discomfort I guess.
A queer schoolyard game to us was
"conquers", which involved taking turns in bashing quite a large nut hanging
from the opponent’s hand on a piece of string. We were simply no good at this
game and seldom understood the English boys’ voracious passion for this past
We went on numerous class outings at
Middle Street School and saw considerably more of the area than our parents did.
I remember Mrs Cameron having to reprimand John on one such school outing to the
Brighton beachfront. We were walking past the statue of an English general that
lost his life in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer (1899 to 1902), when John
took on quite a threatening stance toward my poor brother for having
"killed" an Englishman. Hats off to his patriotism! He was so convincing, I
wonder if we didn’t start agreeing with him eventually!
Thank you Middle Street for such
memories! Congratulations on the huge “birthday party” that you must have
celebrated in style.
P.S. My step-brother is Arnaud Malan
Jenny Embleton nee Armes
believe it is 200 years old – amazing. I remember when I was at the
school we were told that the first children there were taken down to the
beach in order to watch the Navy sail by – either on the way or on the
way back from Waterloo. That might not have been correct but it made us
all feel very special to be at a school with such an interesting
I was at the
school from about age 5, which would have been in 1959 up till I left in
1965. My sister, Dawn, and cousin, Jane Manning, were also at the school
in both the years below me. My sister, Dawn, is in fact in one of the
photos on your website - one of the children making a model of the old
attaching a photo of my class (here
60s & 70s page) - I think it must have been either taken in 1959 or
maybe 1960. I can't remember the teacher's name but I think it began
with a W and it must have been the nursery or first class. I am on
middle row standing on far right with a dark bob haircut. I am pretty
sure that the girl sitting in front of me holding her face is Susan
Peters and the boys sitting on the playground are Michael and Peter (I
think, but I can't remember their surnames.) I think the girl on the
front row with her arms crossed is Anne something and I think the photo
was taken in the middle playground. I do remember we all had to have a
sleep on fold-away beds in the afternoon directly after lunch in that
There used to
be a large tree in the lower school playground - I seem to remember that
was the one on the corner of Middle/Boyces Street. During playtimes I
can remember playing jacks, French skipping, hoola hoops, bouncing balls
against the wall on a length of elastic, jumping over ball on string or
elastic which was attached to your ankle and lots of other fads - they
are all jumbled up now so I'm not sure how old I was at any given time.
I remember we
used to have 'shows' and I can remember about 3 or 4 of us miming and
dancing to The Locomotion in front of the school - we must have been
We went on a
trip to Belgium when I was about 10 or 11, it seemed very exotic then to
go abroad with a school. I know other groups over the years used to go
Some of the
teachers there in the early '60s were: Mr Harris, who was my favourite.
He was very funny and a great teacher. Another teacher I remember was
Miss Revil (not sure if the spelling is correct - we all used to call
her Revil the Devil - not very kind of us I know but she was a real
tartar!) and Mr Law - he was a very gentle man and quite old at the time
- he took us for music in the small hall.
There was a
hook in the ceiling of the small hall and we were told it had been used
in 'the olden days' to punish naughty children; the child would be put
in a large basket and then the basket was pulled up to the ceiling and
they would be suspended from the hook in the basket. I don't know if
this was true but that was the story we were told.
I have very
fond memories of Middle Street School - the building and of course the
people. I was quite sad when they pulled the old building down - it was
probably not very in keeping with modern schooling but I do remember
there was a lot more open space - for example there were 3 playgrounds
Bob and Pat Wells
I was at Middle Street School, starting in
1935, I was just under 18 months old, in the nursery class, I think with
Miss Boots as the teacher. We would go to school in that class until we
were 5 years old. The days were spent playing with Plasticine, learning
early tables up to 10 times tables, then having a sleep(after our free
1/3 of a pint of milk). There were small beds like Safari Beds and
mattresses on the floor. Later we were sent up to the `Big School` for
children under 11. The classes were about 60 children in each one.
Overseen by the Headmaster- Mr Parnell. Woe betide a child who had to
go and stand on his mat, when in trouble. He was fair and respected
very much. Every morning started with the register and prayers, then we
had the same teacher take us for arithmetic, English, History and
Geography, plus other subjects. Sometimes we went to the top hall and
listened to the wireless (RADIO) for nature topics and stories. We all
enjoyed these sessions.
The school was much bigger in those days, with 2 halls and about 5
classrooms and 2 playgrounds for playing, chase, hop scotch and ball
Mr Laycock was the caretaker, who lived in a house in Middle Street with
his wife, they would tidy the school and keep it clean.
Nobody who went to the school could forget the Battle Of Trafalgar,
because the entrance into Boyce`s street had a large red bricked arch
with the date 1805, impressed into it, to commemorate the date of the
school being built.
Hope this has been of interest to you.
Bob Wells 1935-1944
PS I came to the school a few years ago and met the pupils, saw the
Register and Discipline book (which luckily I wasn`t in) and had a very
nice time. At the time I was with my sister, also an old pupil, who
unfortunately has since died.
I am the Stewart Candlish whose
name appears twice on page 3 of the school log-book for 1955 (see
here), in the
description of the 150th Anniversary Celebrations: http://www.middlestreet.org/mshistory/150An1.htm
You can probably also find it in the Punishment Book around the same
time. It's just possible that I shall be able to attend the 200th
Anniversary Celebrations, and I'd be interested to hear from you. If you
want to find out a bit about me now, you can do so at:
I was at Middle Street during the
150 year celebrations in 1955 but unfortunately I do not remember much
about it. I vaguely remember a booklet being published at the time
containing details of the founding of the school and some of its
history, but my copy has been lost.
It was at Middle Street that I
first realised that I wanted to be a scientist and was fortunate that I
was able to fulfil that ambition. In fact the strongest memory that I
have of that time was a fear that I might be too late and everything
would be discovered before I would be able to do anything useful.
Fortunately I was wrong, but then falsifying a hypothesis is success in
Graham Riley B.Sc. Ph.D. (Middle
Street School 1950-1957)
I was at Middle street school in
the early 70's and would have been there when the new building opened.
I was best mates with a Andrew Henty, John Henty's (Radio Brighton) son.
Our class were invited to Radio Brighton one afternoon and I was lucky
enough to be one of the pupils on the radio. I remember being asked to
choose a record so I chose Cockney Rebel.
We were also asked to film a popular children's program at the time
(can't remember name) which was filmed in the Top Rank Suite. It was a
great day as we had free Coca Cola. The program was a bit of a let down
as all they filmed were our feet, jumping running skipping etc.
Another moment of fame was when Southern TV came and filmed a Punch and
Judy show in our play ground.
Unfortunately my TV and Radio career plummeted after I left the school.
“Our school Middle Street School
Think of it with pride always
And you never had such happy days
As you had at Middle Street”
At 42, I still remember the
words of the old school song. Funny, because when I was at school, I
used to sing, “Think of it with bright always”. I don't know if
the song was unique to Middle Street but it seems unlikely as you could
shoehorn in almost any school's name into the above.
children's drawings of the demolition
Many children daydream about the destruction of their school. Very
few get the opportunity to see the rubble! I was at Middle Street School
when it was being demolished in 1973. It was a strange time because we
were allowed to paint murals on the walls. One crew-cut boy called Evan
Rees painted Gus the Gorilla from the comic Whizzer and Chips.
One of my most vivid memories from childhood is walking by the rubble
after the demolition, and seeing Gus the Gorilla sitting intact on top
of the pile…
When I first went to Middle Street School from Fairlight, I remember
standing in the corner of the playground on my first day wondering
whether anyone would play with me. A boy called Lawrence with buck
teeth, pale skin and unfashionable swept-over hair came over to talk to
me and keep me company by a very large oak tree in the middle of the
In the upper playground beyond the wrought iron railings was where they
played football. One day Mark Garibaldi, a boy with scruffy black hair,
asked me if I wanted to play. I never talked to Lawrence again. We
weren't allowed to play with real footballs, because of the teachers'
fear of us breaking windows, and we had to make do with sock balls,
homemade bundles of socks that used to unravel every few tackles or so.
One day someone had the bright idea to put a tennis ball inside the sock
which made for a much more enjoyable game but of course the teachers
realised and confiscated the offending item.
On Friday afternoons Mr Wright the headmaster, who with his tweed
jacket and slicked-back hair looked like he came from a 1950s Brylcreem
advertisement, used to come into our class smoking his sweet-smelling
pipe and would give us a general knowledge quiz. I used to enjoy this
and was always enthusiastically putting up my hand in the great sea of
swaying arms. Nicky Cohen complained, “It's not fair, sir. Alex has
got books at home.”
I realise now that I was deeply competitive child. My school reports
were boring litany of ‘good good good’ but I was never good enough to be
top of the class, which was the preserve of Jane Moss, a tall
serious-looking girl with an auburn ponytail. There was another girl,
much shorter with wiry hair and an excitable shrill voice and used to
say things like “Jeepers!” Her name was Joy Waterhouse.
All the boys seem to be interested in Caroline Mosscrop, a blonde girl
with rosy cheeks and a penchant for tartan skirts who would not have
looked out of place in a Ladybird reading book. Dean Pope and John
Terry kissed her but my way of attracting her attention was much more
painful. She sat in front of me in class and I used to pull away her
chair when she went to sit down. Because I did this by hooking my foot
under the bar of her chair I thought nobody would know it was me. How
wrong I was! I was given a lecture on how I could have ruined
Caroline's back. A retired white-haired teacher, Miss Cameron, called
me “sly” because I never misbehaved in her classes but I did with
younger teachers. I thought ‘sly’ meant clever and so I probably looked
more pleased with myself than Miss Cameron had intended…
I also remember the arrival of John Terry into our class. He had
been to Africa and his hair had been bleached white by the sun. He
looked angelic but his reputation preceded him. “John Terry! If I have
any trouble from you, you’ll be straight out,” warned Miss Cameron.
When he moved to our temporary home at the Wagner Hall, the main hall
was divided down the centre by a line of chalk to separate the boys and
girls. The boys’ side of the line was given up exclusively to
football. One playtime John Terry got hold of the fire extinguisher and
began spraying everybody with foam! He had to sit on his own during
playtime for a week. For the record it might be worth saying that John
is now successful doctor in Australia…
Peter and the Wolf
I was the cat in the class production of Peter and the Wolf,
which we mimed to the record. I put quite a bit of authenticity into my
portrayal as we had recently acquired a cat at home. To audition for my
role, I had to crawl down the classroom aisle on all fours to convince
the teacher that I could do the job.
(from his son Terry)
I recently visited the Brighton Museum and looked
with great interest at the section of the Brighton's History displays
that included the information and artefacts concerning Middle Street
School. Brighton is, in fact, my own home town and although I didn't go
to the school, my father did and talked about it often to me as I was
growing up, and later. In particular he frequently spoke of the school's
strength in swimming and talked admiringly of George Elphick the 'sports
and swimming master'. I have kept a certificate that Dad got in 1928 and
have attached it (see here) in the hope that it
will be of interest and perhaps value for your website's collection of
historic items. It carries Mr Elphick's signature along with the then
Perhaps I should tell you a little about Dad. He
was Fred Emery, born in 1915, so he would have attended the school from
the early 20's to about 1930 (he always said he left at 14/15 to help
support his mother who was a World War I widow). They lived in
Kensington Gardens and by 1934 he had met and (aged 19) married my
mother, moving to Woodingdean, where I was born in 1935.
After serving in the RAF during the war - he was
one of the earlier pre-call-up volunteers - he continued to work as a
radio and then TV engineer (his RAF work on radar helped in this). He
soon established his own highly successful Radio and TV shop - some of
your website visitors may recall "F.W.Emery" in Baker Street. As he got
older, he also became something of a well-known figure in the town
getting involved in a considerable amount of charity work - perhaps the
first being technically organising the direct relay of Albion matches
from the Goldstone Ground direct to local hospitals. He was always an
excellent fundraiser - quite shameless in exploiting any opportunity -
and has a plaque in the entrance to the Royal Sussex Hospital
commemorating his success in raising the funds for one of early MRI
scanners. He was deeply involved with Brighton YCMA in their work for
homeless and and otherwise disadvantaged people and one of their
'intermediate stage' semi-sheltered housing units is called "Fred Emery
House" in recognition of this. He did a lot with the local Brighton
Talking Newspaper for the blind and partially sighted, which eventually
led to their being able to buy and equip their own studio. There were
many other areas of this kind of work, both during his working lifetime
and after retirement, right up to his death in 1994 - his funeral had an
enormous turnout. These activities resulted in his being awarded an MBE
for 'services to the people of Brighton'; he was extremely proud of
this, as were I and the rest of his family.
So, not a bad achievement for an early-leaving
'state-school' kid, and a Middle Street old boy who demonstrates the
great value of the good grounding he always said he got from the school
and its teachers.
John L. Morris
I started school at Middle Street
after the Easter holidays of 1938, just after my fifth birthday. In
those days pupils either started or left school three times each year,
at Christmas, Easter, or Summer, starting in the infants at five years
of age, progressing to the juniors and normally leaving from the senior
school at fourteen. On the first day of my six years at the school both
Mum and Auntie Win walked with me, along with my sister Kathleen, three
years younger than me, in her pushchair. At the time my father was a bus
driver with Southdown Motor Services and we lived at 27, Artillery
Street, demolished in the late 1950's when the Churchill Square complex
One of the things which I most recall about the school was the big gate,
which was in fact in Boyces Street but which to my knowledge was never
used. It no longer exists, but was a solid, high archway with, at the
summit, carved in large numerals the date 1805 when I believe the school
was founded and, as I later found out was the year in which Nelson
defeated the French and Spanish fleet at Trafalgar. I was the second
generation to attend Middle Street as Dad, and his brothers my Uncle
Charlie, Uncle Wally and at least one of his sisters. Auntie Win had all
been there as pupils and I suspect the rest of the
family had as well, when Mr Haffenden had been the headmaster.
The school in those days was vastly different from the new buildings
which were put up around 1974. In fact in the 1930's there were two
schools on the site, the infants for the five to seven year olds, and
the junior school for the eight to tens. Mr H.H. Parnell, a kindly
middle aged man was the headmaster
and he had his office, which looked onto Middle Street, alongside the
caretakers house. My first teachers in the infants were female and
single Miss Fudge and Miss Boait, and later in the junior school Miss
Budd. Mr Law was the only male teacher other than Mr Parnell. Mr Laycock
was the caretaker.
We started school at nine o'clock and went on until noon then in the
afternoon from one o'clock until four. It was not all learning though
and in the afternoon we were made to have a rest on canvas folding beds
which were laid out in rows in the hall. Apart from lessons we had
country dancing, PT in the playground if it was fine or in the hall if
wet, listened to the school's radio broadcast stories, nature programmes
and so on.
The first of May was celebrated as May Day and we had a Maypole which
was on a large stand and normally kept in the hall but on the day was
erected in the playground. We all then danced around it holding onto
coloured ribbons and weaving in and out created all sorts of complicated
patterns. Another celebration in May was on the 24th, Empire Day, which
had been Queen Victoria's birthday and early in my life, when about a
quarter of the world was under British rule, was truly a world wide
I am pretty certain that I could read, at least a little, before I
started school but obviously, though not to me at the time, the main
objective of the infant classes was to teach reading and writing. For
writing practice we used slates and slate pencils which made a really
unpleasant tooth-jarring scraping
sound when we worked away at our letters. When we moved from Class A,
which was the lowest, to Class B, we graduated to using paper and
Of the children of my age who lived in Artillery Street at the time, I
was the only one who attended Middle Street School. All the others went
to St.Paul's, a church school, which was located on a small street off
Russell St. which led to the back of St. Paul's church, the front of
which is in West St.
There was quite a rivalry between the two schools and, when we were a
little older, this often spilled over into the street when minor
skirmishes took place It is many years since I last saw any of the
children who were at Middle Street at the same time as me but I can
still recall many of their names and where they lived. The nearest to us
were the Woodgate brothers, Peter and Tony, who lived at the top of
Cannon Street, and Billy Hardy who lived in a flat in Russell Square.
Betty Gedge's parents kept a cafe at the bottom of Russell St. and Bob
Glover's had one at the sea front end of Ship St.. Most of the children
lived quite near to the school and certainly within walking distance.
The furthest away I can recall are David Long in a grocers shop at the
corner of Upper North Street and Hampton Place and the Nash brothers,
John, Peter and Rodney at 104 Upper North Street, David Hazelgrove
(Sydney Street), Daphne and Leslie Wooley (a hotel on the East side of
Old Steine) and Margaret Cassey (an outfitters on the western corner of
Church Street and Gardner Street) Some of the pupils had parents who
were in business, John and Pamela Denett at an art dealers and antique
shop in Union Street in the Lanes, Julia Simmons, a fur shop in
Cranbourne Street, Raymond Williams lived in 'The Spotted Dog' public
at the bottom of Middle Street, David Rolf, a wet fish shop in Market
Street, Ben and Margaret Moorhouse, the family fish and chip shop, (Bardsleys)
in Upper Russell Street (I believe he still has a shop in Baker Street),
and Margery and Pam Nicholls, butchers sundries shop in Russell Street.
Ice skating was well represented by John and Jennifer Nicks who lived at
Wisden's sports shop in Duke
Street, they were Olympic Pairs Champions in 1948, and by Michelline
Andrews who also became a well known skater and lived in a flat in West
St. opposite the ice rink. Other schoolfellows included Desmond Dicker
and Eric Firth (Middle Street), David Blair (The Lanes), Margaret Neeve
whose father was caretaker at the Town Hall, and Johnny Williamson who
lived in the Westminster Bank Chambers,
Castle Square. Michael Viney became a journalist writing for among other
publications the magazine 'John Bull', Gwen Packett was the daughter of
May Allen, an old school friend of Auntie Win's and last of all my very
first girl-friends Jean Pyewell and Joan Arnold.
Middle Street had no school uniform as such though the boys were
encouraged to wear a tie in the school colours of dark green and navy
blue. I also had a blue cap with a green and blue badge and a snake belt
in green and blue horizontal stripes. Being a centre of town school we
had no green space play facilities but at each morning and afternoon
play time, as we called it, there was usually a game of football played
with an old tennis ball in the playground. There were no fixed numbers
to the sides which were chosen by the nominated 'captains' and tactics
were of a pretty dubious and rough nature but we had great fun and
plenty of running around. One other ritual which took place each day was
'milk time' when each child was provided with a third of a pint bottle
of full-cream milk for which we paid 1/2d bottle or 2d a week (1p in
decimal money). The milk was delivered by the milk roundsman with the
bottles packed into metal crates, about 48 in each. Each bottle was
sealed by a cardboard top with an outlined hole which had to be pushed
in for a straw to be inserted into the thick layer of cream at the top
of the milk. This was of
course great fun because we did not have straws at home and were able to
make unpleasant noises when the bottom of the bottle was reached though
this invariably brought a rebuke from the teacher and we quickly learned
that this was not good manners.
On Sunday 3rd September 1939 World War II began and for the next six
years the lives of all of us changed radically. In late '39 children
from the East End of London were evacuated to Brighton and some were
billeted near to our home and came to Middle Street. They were very
different to us and spoke and behaved in a different way, we thought
that they were rather rough and found it very odd that they had never
seen the beach or the sea. We didn't mix very much with them, especially
because of the new school arrangements. One time (I think it was for a
month) we went to school in the morning and the evacuees in the
afternoon and this was then reversed, and they did the morning. We
thought this was pretty good only having to go to school part time. The
only inconvenience was that we had to carry our gas masks at all times
including to school and we had practice wearing them during lessons.
When the 'phoney war' ended in May 1940 the town virtually emptied when
the threat of invasion became real. The London children returned home,
at least initially, and Brighton children were required to register for
evacuation. We slept with our spare clothes, soap and toothbrush under
our beds packed and ready to move at short notice. Some of the pupils
were evacuated but those from our locality stayed put.
For me the war was rather interesting and exciting but as children we
failed to appreciate any danger. I witnessed the blowing apart of the
two piers to prevent their use by the Germans, and in 1940 saw the Dutch
seaplane which landed on the beach opposite the Grand hotel bringing
members of the Dutch
government to safety after the invasion of Holland. I was taken by a
great uncle who was in the Home Guard to see a German fighter on the
cliff top at Ovingdean where it landed after being shot down. I had some
metal and rubber pieces of its fuel tank as souvenirs. As we lived close
to the sea I lay in bed at night and could hear the shingle being
dragged by the waves. In winter when the sea was running a bit rough it
exploded land mines laid under the shingle and now and again a sea mine
which had come adrift blew up. I saw the wreckage of a German bomber
which crashed into the churchyard wall of St. Nicholas' in Dyke Road,
the site is still visible. On 25th May 1943 I was returning to school
with some others when we saw some planes coming in very low over the
sea. We were in the middle of West Street and decided that from the
looks and sound of them they were German. We were correct and were
machine-gunned. The bullets took pieces out of the wall of the Academy
cinema and the doorman there came out and grabbed us by the scruff of
our necks. He flung us inside and gave us a really
good telling-off. In this raid the railway arches in Preston Road were
hit and the rails left dangling in the air. We also had an experience
with a loaded revolver plus spare ammunition which a group of us found
hidden behind a brick in a partly demolished wall in Black Lion Street.
After a full examination we
decided to take it to the police who were not very impressed when they
saw us waving it around. It was soon taken from us and names and
addresses were taken but we heard no more.
The seafront hotels in the town were taken over as billets for
servicemen, mostly from overseas and in the Air Forces. I recall seeing
some South Africans who were on parade in the street seeing snow for the
very first time. My great Aunt who lived in High street had some
Canadian soldiers billeted on her and
one of them Bill McDonald had in civilian life been in the RCMP, a real
life 'Mountie'. One of my treasured possessions was a photo of him in
his dress uniform, sadly lost a long time ago.
In the junior school, some pupils stayed to have school dinner which was
provided at little, or no cost to those who were unable to pay. I did
stay on to eat a very few times but didn't enjoy the food very much and
preferred to go home at lunch time as it was only a few minutes walk. As
there were no cooking
facilities in the school the food was prepared and cooked at a central
kitchen, which was I believe in Sussex Street and brought to the school
in insulated metal containers to be served. Dinners were even provided
in the school holidays because a lot of the Mum' were busy making their
contribution to the war effort working in factories, shops or on the
buses. As there was rationing of food and other things in operation at
the time this helped to stretch the very meagre supplies available and
was very welcome.
After the infant' classes we progressed to the junior school, but only
if successful at the end of year examination. Those who did not make the
grade were kept in the lower class until the required standard was
reached but this did not happen very often and I was well into my
forties before I came across
anyone who was unable to read and write. Apart from our initial
introduction to the three R's we also had lessons in history, geography
and what we called 'nature study' which was in reality elementary
botany. Our music lessons meant learning and singing folk songs such as
'Barbara Allen' 'Bobby Shaftoe' and
'Strawberry Fair' and others. In the infants classes we sat in small
groups in small chairs around low tables to do our work. In the junior
school each pupil was seated at their allocated desk which were arranged
in rows and columns and as it was the respective teachers who moved
between class rooms you were at your desk for the whole of the morning
or afternoon. This arrangement of desks meant of course that the teacher
was able to instantly see who was present and who absent when we
answered to our names when the register was called at the start of each
session. On Friday afternoons we had weekly 'tests' which entailed us
writing on strips of paper (a foolscap sheet torn into about eight
pieces) the answers to questions on mental arithmetic and spelling
spoken by the teacher.
In those days we had what was known as 'the school board man' to enforce
attendance and who was quickly on the scene when a child was not at
school for a day or two without a doctor's note or similar. It was also
completely unknown for parents who took or could afford a holiday to
take it during school term time or they would have been required to have
a very good reason. Although most of our school time was spent in the
classroom, occasionally we went out and about for some activities. In
summer, about the last week of term, we had our sports day for which we
went to Dyke Road park either by walking there in crocodile file or I
recall by bus which we boarded in West Street. Our activities consisted
of the usual running, jumping, throwing and so on, and we had a great
time in the unfamiliar open spaces. All of us were allocated to a school
'house' and we wore sashes of red, green, blue or yellow across our
chests. Points for our teams were won by our efforts and the afternoon
was rounded off by games of football for the boys and rounders for the
girls after which we all went back to school and then off home, tired
At Christmas we were usually taken, along with children from other
schools, to a cinema show at the Prince's which was at the top of North
Street, it is now I believe a burger restaurant (BurgerKing). I
recall seeing Disney's 'Snow White' there and also 'Bambi' and later on
Laurence Olivier in 'Henry the Fifth'.
Apart from normal school most children in those days also attended
Sunday school which was held on Sunday afternoon from about 2.30 or 3
for and hour or so. The first Sunday school I attended was at St. Paul's
when I was about five. All that I can recall of it was singing the hymns
'All things bright and
beautiful' and 'There is green hill far away' so it was more than likely
that the time was around about Easter. Later on I went to St.
Margaret's, along with my sister Kathleen, to the classes run by Miss
Smith and Mrs. Heasman and as regular attenders were able to go to the
annual 'Sunday School treat' which was usually a picnic tea in one of
the local park.
I was at Middle Street school from the age of five until eleven, enjoyed
most of my days there and managed largely to stay out of trouble and
learn the basics of the three R's. In the summer of 1944 I, along with
the majority of my fellows, took the examination which went under the
title of the 'eleven plus'
and along with Johnny Williamson, David Hazelgrove and Michael Viney
managed to pass. This gave us the opportunity to go to Varndean, then
the Municipal Secondary School Brighton, which, in 1946, became a County
Secondary school and, in 1955 a Grammar School. This for me at least,
and I suspect the others, was the start of a great adventure and the
entry into a different world. To commemorate my achievement I was given
(see picture here - near top of the page) which mother had framed for me. It reads
'Education Committee for the County Borough of Brighton. This is to
certify that a Special Place (formerly known as a Junior Scholarship)
tenable at the Secondary School, was awarded to John Leslie Morris of
Middle Street School in 1944'. It is signed by Councillor H J Robbins,
Chairman of the Education Committee and F Herbert Toyne the Education
Officer, and was hung over my bed until I left home.
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