This account is by Douglas Davies who taught at Timsbury Secondary School after World War 2. It is reproduced from ‘Look! This was Timsbury’ by kind permission of the Cheshire Home.
I went to a College of Education during the War, and when I came up for my army medical I was given grade 3 (because I had had meningitis). They said I’d be doing some sort of clerical job so I’d be far better to carry on into teaching. I accepted a job at Paulton which was the nearest I could find to South Wales, which was my home. I came up to Paulton and was there from 1944-5. I was appointed to take the place of a chap who was in the army. When he was due to come back, I then accepted a vacancy here in Timsbury. The school was only about ten years old in those days (it was built in the mid 1930’s). It was one of the most modern schools around here. I came up for interview and the chairman of the governors then was Captain Scobell from High Littleton, Kingwell Hall. Olive Lewis was the Secretary and I’m sure Mr. Oliver Janes was on the Board of Governors. Mr. Pullen was headmaster, and Mrs. Greenland was senior mistress.
In those days Timsbury School had about 300-350 children, who came from Tunley, Camerton, Farmborough, High Littleton, and Marksbury. (There was nothing at Northfield or Greenvale then). The coach used to pick them up and bring them over Clutton Hill and down through Kingwell to Timsbury.
Eventually I travelled on the meals van which used to do the rounds of the villages and picked children up. It was a closed-in, rattling, banging sort of thing which used to ‘ have two wooden benches inside. We always arrived half an hour before anybody else because the van used to go on to pick other people up. Mrs. Swansbury was the caretaker then.
Timsbury School was very well equipped. There was a purpose-built domestic science room and a purpose-built workshop. There was Mr. Lloyd (Woodwork), Miss Day, Mrs. Greenland, Mrs. Greenhowe (Music) Mr. Pullen and Miss Gwilliam (P.E.). I found myself taking music at one time although I couldn’t play the pianos, so I had to teach them by singing one line at a time. I took football and was also given the school garden to do although biology was really my subject. Talking about football, in those days there were no coaches so if we had an away match the boys had to ride their bikes. They had no hot water in the changing rooms and they had to wash as best they could, getting the worst mud off in a tin bath outside. We had a bad winter in 1947 and something went wrong with the heating and the ink in the inputs was frozen so Mr. Pullen had a good idea to try and keep warm. He had one whole school in the hall country dancing.
Mr. Pullen was very keen on handwriting especially italic. We had children who won competitions in handwriting. Their books were a picture but I had to keep practising myself.
The school-leaving age was 14 and there was no school leaving exam as such. Eventually the school leaving age was raised to 15 and stayed at that for a long time. They’d just brought in the idea of secondary modern schools, grammar schools and the 11+. Paulton modern school wasn’t changed at all. I feel there was an awful waste of talent. When I see what our pupils have done now without those formal qualification which they weren’t given the opportunity to get!
It was a very happy school at Timsbury and it was a neighbourhood school. Parents used to come and see us. I remember one day I was teaching gardening and one boy ran off home. We were planting wallflowers in the long flower bed down the front, and down the path came this lad with his father, and his father said “You’re Mr. Davies; you told my lad off.”
I thought ”Get the boxing gloves out.” I said ”Yes.”
”Well” he said “he ran home and I have brought him back because I want my boys to grow up to be men.”
They did use the cane at that time of course, but the last time someone was due to be caned, it couldn’t be found, it was so long since it had been used. The normal thing was for people to be kept in and given some lines to write.
They all loved their football so it was a punishment not to be allowed out to play.
They didn’t have reports at the beginning, and they had no homework. Mr. Pullen wasn’t very keen on competitions with somebody coming bottom of the list of marks. He preferred a 5 point scale. I don’t know if that’s a good thing in life. I think you have to be acclimatised to taking the good with the bad. But the actual standard of teaching was good. We used to have a speech day with the school choir and orchestra. They had a very good tradition, especially when Mr. Wyn Davies joined us. When Mr. Foster came as headmaster in 1960 the first Speech Day he said to the parents ” We will be entering people for ‘O’ level next year.” The children had never even had homework, but they were entered for the exam and got good results, so it must have been a good school.
We had a very high standard of school uniform, which all were quite proud to wear. We didn’t have school caps. They were on the way out, and we didn’t think the lads would wear them anyway.
Bert Blake organised the coach trip from school to the Festival of Britain in 1951. To go to London was really something in those days. From our school playing field you could see the top of Bath but we had children who’d never been there. And of course it was very common for them not to have been on a train. The nearest stations were Hallatrow, Radstock, and so on.
For domestic science they had a self-contained flat with a bathroom. That was at a time when most people didn’t have a bathroom. Mr. Fred Box was caretaker. He lived down at Northfield and moved to a house at Greenvale with modern facilities. Northfield has now become a conservation area. As the area got more popular, the school got bigger. So we had those prefabricated classrooms put up. They had one erected on part of the garden and it spoilt the whole outlook. I got shunted off up to the Temperance Hall (which is now St. John’s Hall) that was my classroom. In the summer it was stifling and the only way you could get any ventilation was to keep the doors open, and on one occasion one of Bert Newth’s cows walked in! They had a big stove there for the winter, which was stoked through the top with coke. If you took it off, clouds on dust and fumes came out. We had great fun at the Temperance Hall. I used to ride a bike to school and park it outside. One day a joker put a notice on it ‘For sale, enquire within’. Some chap came in and asked me how much I wanted for it. I never did find who the joker was. We had a faulty cistern from the toilets which overflowed on to the pavement outside. Unfortunately Nurse Pethick was waiting for her bus talking to somebody when the toilet was flushed, the tank filled up and it came out all over her. Poor Nurse Pethick. She wasn’t very pleased.
We did have occasional truancy but it was a completely different atmosphere. For example, the staff would put on a show at Christmas time to entertain the children. One year we all dressed up as ballet dancers. The shout when the children saw us must have been heard down at Radstock! Bert Blake the headmaster used to dress up as Father Christmas. He gave Mrs. Paine a driving licence one Christmas because she’d had about 10 driving tests. Of course all the children thought this was a bit of fun, but you could do that then without any loss of face.
The heating was a big furnace, where you had to shovel on the coal. The central heating broke down sometimes in the winter, the lavatories would freeze up but the children still came to school. Of course Timsbury always suffered from a water shortage – 2 days of dry weather and you had a drought. There were two big galvanised tanks in the schoolyard and the fire engine used to come up and fill them up.
School dinners were cooked on the premises. Mrs. Adams was a good cook. She made lovely pastry and we had some marvelous tarts in those days. There was one meal one teacher used to call ‘rats under the canvas’, and stuff that the children called ‘’Kitekat’. We had meals there right from the beginning of my time and school meals have been served ever since. There were two playgrounds, with no physical barrier between them, but boys and girls were separated by a gap. They were together in the classroom, but separate in the playground. Bert Blake phased that out because he said they ought to be more self-reliant.
School dinners were 2/6d a week and milk half a penny a bottle. Those registers were a nightmare, if they were away they used to come and ask for their halfpenny back with which they would buy caramel or aniseed balls.
We had an assembly every morning, and the children sang very well. You could get them all in together at Timsbury, so they felt like a unit.
Sports day was one of the big days of the year. We had a house system – North, South, East, West, so that children from the same village were in the same house. That made keen competition. We had a lad from Tunley who could have been in the all-England cross country but he couldn’t be persuaded to go – he’s probably kicked himself ever since.
“We were naughty, but we weren’t evil.” That’s what I heard one lady say to thinking back on her schooldays. You got the odd scribble on a wall, but not the nastiness that you get now. You did have children who were awkward, but you could get them on your own and have a quiet talk.
The policeman I remember most was Jock Stepson. He was the Timsbury and Farmborough policeman and if be saw the boys he didn’t have to say “Eh you!” he could call them by name and if they saw Jock they made themselves scarce. He’d check people’s bikes, take his jacket off fixing chains with oil all over his bands and he’d say be wanted the bikes kept up together.
Who was the most outstanding pupil?
Two people who stayed on voluntarily to do ‘O’ Levels are directors at Purnells.
We bad a Timsbury boy from Greenvale and in the 3rd year they discovered he was deaf. He always sat at the back. He could hear men’s voices, but not women’s. I asked him why he’d never said anything, and his answer was “I thought the other children couldn’t hear either.”