The Women's Institute have completed two projects in the past, one about the Week St. Mary County Primary School in December 1976 and a general one about the village between the years 1939 and 1959. Click on the links below to read those articles.
In December 1976, Week St. Mary's Women's Institute compiled a booklet entitled "Week St. Mary School - This is your life" as their entry for the Baker Cup Competition. We are extremely privileged to be allowed to reproduce the article for the benefit of those interested in village life; those who just wish to reminisce, whether past pupils or not; or who simply have a fascination for history.
Thank you ladies for your effort.
Week St. Mary School
THIS IS YOUR LIFE
compiled and presented
WEEK ST. MARY WOMEN'S INSTITUTE
P R E F A C E
This short history of their village school has been compiled by members of the Week St. Mary Women’s Institute as their entry for the Baker Cup Competition 1976. Material has been collected from many sources — from past and present pupils and teachers, from School Log Books and County Records.
Acknowledgements and thanks are due to all who have assisted in the production of this book, especially to Mr. E. Hearn-Cooper for the line and wash illustration on the cover.
Competition Committee: Kathleen Gubbin, Hettie Hutchings, Kathleen Watkinson, Agnes Smale & Gwen Hughes
There you stand, grey and silent, at the top of the hill. You are built of solid Cornish stone, simple in design, with a slate roof and a modest porch. But your playground is empty, your gates are broken down, there are holes in your roof, and your bell has gone from its belfry. In the window is a sad notice:- FOR SALE.
But you were not always so desolate. For nearly a hundred years successive generations of our children passed through your doors, and masters and teachers worked together to give them an education that would fit them for life in the community, and in the world beyond.
So, Week St. Mary Village School - this is your life.....
You were built one hundred years ago, in 1876, six years after Parliament had passed the Elementary Education Act, which made regular school attendance compulsory for all children, between the ages of five to fourteen.
The newly-formed School Board had appointed a Mr. Amos Grey and his wife, Elizabeth, as the first Master and Mistress, and, until your building was finished, they used a rented room in the village; there were ten children on the first register.
The numbers quickly rose, and by the end of the year fifty-four children trooped into your new schoolroom. It was a large one, which could be divided by a wooden partition. But it had very little equipment; there was no blackboard, no cupboards, no tables, and as yet, no cloakroom. The toilets were outside in the yard, but of course, with no water supply.
At the opening ceremony the Rector, the Reverend G. H. Hopkins, offered prayers, and then he addressed the assembled members of the Board, the two teachers, and the children. No doubt, he stressed how fortunate the pupils were to be in this new school, and would certainly exhorted them to work hard, and to respect their teachers.
And work hard they did, as indeed did their teachers! For at that time teachers’ salaries depended on a government grant, and this, in turn, depended on the standard of work achieved in the school. This was assessed by the results of the School Inspectors’ examination of the scholars’ work in the “three Rs”, singing, and plain needlework. In addition, parents had to pay 2d per week for the first child in the family, and 1d for all the others.
By 1879 there were eighty-seven children in the school, and Mr. Grey found the teaching so arduous that he applied for a paid Monitor to help him. This young man had to take his own lessons from Mr. Grey, in the evenings.
One great difficulty in the teaching was the haphazard attendance made by the scholars. Since the government grants depended also on the weekly attendances, the registers were very important, and numbers had to be recorded each day. But conditions of life in country areas, during the nineteenth century, were not conducive to regular school attendance. The weather was a constant hazard; snow, frost, rain and gales in winter made the country lanes almost impassable, and many children lived two or three miles outside the village.
Listen to Mr. King, the schoolmaster who came to Week St. Mary in 1882:-
"I found it very hard to get any continuous teaching done. Parents in those days expected their children to help at busy times on the land, at corn-tilling, potato picking, hay harvest, and even whortle-berry picking. Then there was the Village Fair, Sunday School treats, and Market Days in Launceston and in Holsworthy." I wrote in my Log Book: “It is a disgrace that children should be allowed to stay away as they do. What with Chapel Anniversaries, Bands of Hope, and seaside outings, the attendance is thoroughly disorganised.”
I was continually complaining to the School Board, but it was ten years before they decided to issue summons against the parents. The children’s health suffered, too, and with them all crowded into such a small space, coughs and colds, and even more serious infections, spread rapidly.
The School Choir with the Certificate won in the County Festival, 1914. The teacher with them is Mr. Husband.
The School Football team with Mr. Leggo
Miss Merrifield and Miss Best, with their classes in 1922.
Mr. Landry, Headmaster 1923-1930, with the senior classes.
Mr. Rablin, your next Headmaster, was a very different type of man. Mrs. Johns, one of his pupils in the early nineteen hundreds, says: Mr. Rablin started our first school library, with books given to him by ladies and gentlemen of the village. He was very musical, being a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, and gave recitals on our new organ in the Chapel. He formed a school choir, and we entered for some of the County Music Festivals. We came first in Choral singing and second in sight-reading. After I left, the choir won the Trefusis Banner at the Wadebridge Music Festival.
We had our first Medical Inspection in Mr. Rablin’s time, and I remember my mother bathing us that morning and putting us into clean clothes. Then she came up to the school with us, while we were examined by the doctor.
The last three years of Mr. Rablin’s headship saw some of the darkest days of the First World War.
Mr. Norman Gubbin was in school in 1914.
I remember a National Savings Group being started and Miss Tuke coming every week to collect our pennies. We all knew that the Germans were trying to starve us out, and as country children we knew how important the farmer’s work was. Besides, round our classroom was a big poster which read “Waste not, Want not, Save the Nation’s Bread.”
Mr. Pauling was another pupil at the school in wartime. “I lived three miles from the village school in those days. We had plenty to remind us that we were at war, for many of us had a father or an elder brother at the front. In school, we had collections for cigarettes to send to the soldiers, and we sent 12/6d to the R.S.P.C.A. in aid of wounded horses. Every week we brought eggs to be sent to the military hospitals. My friend and I walked for miles to the farms around and I was given a certificate for bringing in the most eggs.
We had many different teachers during the war. Mr. Leggo, our Head, was called up in 1918, and returned to the school after peace was signed in 1919. Then we had a collection for a War Memorial to be erected in the village Square. On the day Peace was signed we lined up below the Union Jack in the playground and sang “God Save the King”. We had a football team then, but no real pitch, so we played in the field behind Reeve House.
In the twenties, Mr. Leggo had tried to interest parents in school affairs by holding an Open Day. Only six parents came, but it was the beginning of more co-operation between school and home.
The first Annual Prize Giving was held in 1922. Parents were interested in their children’s school, although the first recorded instance of any combined action at this time was when folk dancing was added to the curriculum, when many parents strongly objected.
One of the children at school in the ‘twenties was Miss Audrey Rogers - here she is:
I was seven years old when I started school. My sisters Phyllis and Winnie and I had to walk two miles, we left home at eight o’clock in the morning, and arrived back at five o’clock in the afternoon. We used to meet various people on the way to school, the old tramp making his way to the workhouse in Stratton, and the roadmen, cleaning the gutters and breaking stones for repairing the road. At Collaton Hill and Heydah Hill there were large stone heaps. The roadmen would stone the road, and the steamroller would roll them in. We had to carry our food for the day with us, snacks for breaks in the morning and afternoon and a pasty for lunch. Some children warmed their pasties on the stove in the schoolroom, but we were lucky as we used to drop our food into Mrs. Horrells opposite the Chapel every morning, and she would heat it for us, and take us in and give us our lunch and a cup of tea. When we were near the village, we teamed up with other boys and girls. The big bell on the school building clanged out at nine o’clock, and it was then we lined up in the playground, the young ones in front and the older ones behind. We marched into the big classroom for a hymn and a prayer, and then each class went to its own room. I remember anything from seventy to a hundred and eight children on the register.
I enjoyed my schooldays. The teachers worked hard and so did the pupils. We took exams around Easter time to decide whether we went up into the next standard or stayed where we were. If we did anything wrong, we had to write so many lines as a punishment, and. stay in after school to do it. Of course, there was a cane in the drawer, which was used occasionally. We had the Medical Officer around four times in the year, and our photos were taken once a year. Our father was a School Manager, and he and the other managers often visited the school.
Empire Day was a big Sports Day. We kept our fingers crossed that it would be nice and dry. Sports were always held in Mr. Will Smale’s field, next to the school. We held some wonderful concerts - the talent was good, and the proceeds went towards the cost of the Christmas Party and a big Christmas Tree.
One of the children coming over Heydah Hill to school was Dorothy Sluggett, now Mrs. Russell Orchard. She and her future husband were in the same class while Mr. Landry was the Headmaster.
Yes, I remember those concerts. We collected money for a piano, to take the place of the old harmonium. But a great wonder was Mr. Landry’s wireless. It was the only one in the village, and on Armistice Day, 1927, he brought it into the school to let us listen to the
Service from the Cenotaph. Then we all marched down to the War Memorial in the Square. I was never very fond of Sports Day. I preferred playing rounders in the field. Mr. Landry was a very popular teacher, for he gave every child a halfpenny on their birthday!
And what about the lighter side of school life? Listen to Mr. Hedric Jones, at school in the twenties: “For the greater part of my schooldays, Mr. Landry was the Headmaster, and Miss Retallick was the assistant teacher. I lived in the village, so I could come home to my dinner. I remember the Horlick’s milk that we made for a drink in playtime. While it was heating on the stove we would help it on by stirring it with the red-hot poker. The resulting taste was not always palatable. The boys who brought their dinners to school had great fun in the lunch hour. I would join them for “hare and hounds” over the fields, regardless of the bell that was calling us to afternoon lessons. Once a week we went up to the school garden, where we grew vegetables, and had a fine time on our own, while the girls stayed in the classroom doing sewing. I got on well in class while Mr. Landry was my teacher, and I left at fourteen to go to work on my father’s farm.”
These “unofficial” activities of school children are much the same in every generation. Mr.
Colwill, a later pupil, says: “I don’t remember much about lessons, for I did a lot of “mitching” - that is, playing truant. I would go rabbiting in the fields or spend my time playing in the woods. Our favourite game in the dinner hour was to tie a rope to a sheet of corrugated iron. Then one boy would stand on it, while the others dragged it round and round the school. The noise was really appalling! In the classroom, of course, we played all the usual tricks on the teacher. One was to collect the mud from our boots and make small pellets which we would aim at the clock when we thought the teacher wasn’t looking!”
The Dairy Class, started by the County Travelling Dairy on 1939. Several of the senior pupils took this Dairy Course. The Headmaster, Mr. Sincock is first on the left, in the second row.
The evacuees from Croydon, 1941. Photographed at Odd Mill, where they had picked daffodils to send home. The one unsmiling girl in the front row had just fallen in the river.
In a small, isolated community it was very natural for childhood friendships to lead to happy marriages. Mr. and Mrs. Higgins, Mr. and Mrs. H. Jones, Mr. and Mrs. Pauling, and Mr. and Mrs. Martyn all shared the same school life, and still live in and around the village.
The school-leaving age was still fourteen years, and for most of the children it was the end of formal education. Between 1911 and 1929 only five children won places for Secondary schools, but in the thirties eight children gained scholarships for Bude County Grammar School. The number of children on the register had fallen to sixty-eight, a sign of smaller families and greater mobility of the population. Classes were therefore smaller and the quality of the teaching was good. The curriculum had widened - cookery lessons had been started in the school, and the boys had been taken to agricultural demonstrations on neighbouring farms. Eight of the girls and two boys attended classes in the Rectory Room on Practical Dairy Work, while Grafting demonstrations were given by the County horticultural staff on the Rectory lawn. The two assistant teachers appointed were still always women, and they stayed on average for about five years. The exception was Miss Retallack, still remembered by all age groups. She served the school for forty years, and retired in 1963.
The Second World War brought great changes to school and village. Let Miss Agnes Smale continue the story: “The arrival of the evacuees in Week St. Mary was a great day, and will be remembered by many of the Senior Citizens. The village was canvassed by W.V.S. Workers to arrange for their accommodation, and luckily there were enough foster homes found. Everyone was wondering what they were taking on, - “Those town children are not the same as ours” etc! At last the day came. It was Sunday afternoon about four-thirty on June 16th 1940. About thirty children were brought to the school, each carrying a little suitcase. Then they were given a cup of tea. By this time some of the foster parents had arrived to choose the ones they thought best for them. Others had to be taken to their new homes, and the majority went in ones and twos.
I was fortunate, for I left it until there were only half-a-dozen children left. When I looked inside the door there were two pathetic little girls sitting together, aged five and seven. I said to the Warden “Those girls are for me”. Their faces just lifted up and they were delighted to pick up their cases, and out we came. Nobody knows what was in their minds, having left their home and parents. Nevertheless, they settled down and were with us for five years. It was surprising how well they got used to country life.
Those two little girls were evacuated from Sydenham Infants and Junior School. Another party of boys from the same district had arrived in charge of their teacher, Mr. P. Martin. Listen to the girls’ teacher, Miss Pratt, now Mrs. Skilton: “We arrived in Week St. Mary at about four-thirty p.m. after travelling all day in gruelling heat, with no refreshments, save water brought to us by courtesy of the stationmaster’s wife at an unscheduled stop. We were received in the village with the utmost kindness and understanding by the headmaster and his wife – Mr. and Mrs. Sincock - and by Mrs. Sandercock of the Bakery in the Square. They, with their W.V.S. helpers, had arranged for the billetting of the children. My party joined forces with Mr. Martin and his boys. Our children’s ages ran from five to fourteen. We taught them for some time in the Methodist Sunday Schoolroom, and afterwards in the village school. Mr. Sincock lent us what he could of his small stock of equipment and books. The villagers were extremely kind to our children, and most of them settled in very happily. Just before Christmas 1940 we organised a concert with our host school. This consisted of songs, ballads, dances and two short plays, all in costume. Mr. Sincock left just after Easter 1941, and then Mr. Martin took charge of both schools. Mr. Stephens, one of the school governors, took a great interest in the children. He was an official of the Cornish Bee-Keepers Association, and he invited groups of the children to demonstrations in his garden. Then he awarded prizes of large pots of honey.
What did the children from Croydon think of their new life in the country? Molly Tarvin - now Mrs. Perry - was one of those evacuees: “I was thirteen when I went to Week St. Mary School. Of course, conditions were very cramped, but we managed. The age range in each class was terrific. There must have been three classes in my time. Miss Pratt took the Infants, Miss Retallack the Juniors, and Mr. Martin the Seniors. I can only remember Miss Pratt taking us for Country Dancing, which was one of her keen interests, and Miss Retallack taking me for First Aid - which I hated! Mr. Martin was very good at reading aloud to us. I can recall him reading to us for hours at a time excerpts from classical literature - “The White Company”, “The Cloister and the Hearth”, the speeches from Shakespeare’s Henry IV and V, and “Westward Ho!” He read with great gusto and style, mostly of battles and adventures, but he held me and most of the others spellbound. He was also a fine artist, and possibly not many people knew of this talent. I don’t know how good he was as a Maths teacher, but I wasn’t a very rewarding pupil, I’m sure! We also learnt French. I had previously passed the 11-plus exam, and they tried to give us a similar educational standard, but it was hard going for them. We took some Royal Society of Arts exams, some of which I passed, and others I failed.
Looking back, it was amazing how well we were assimilated into village life, and vice-versa. For me, it was a completely new world. My “Uncle Owen” (Mr. Owen Smale) used to say to me, “When you go home, maid, I’ll buy a dog”, and it wasn’t until years later that I realised what he meant - I literally was his dog! I followed him like a dog, and even ran around the sheep for him to round them up. I remember getting permission to be absent from school to help with the harvest and the potato picking. Anything to do with harvesting was much more in my line than games or sports.
I look back to my years spent in Week St. Mary with great happiness and affection.
Now your buildings were open not only to children, but to the whole village. Lectures and classes for adults were started in the evenings by W.E.A. and “Keep Fit”, Dressmaking, and Drama were all popular. The evacuees left in 1945, and with their departure the school must have seemed very quiet. But the activities started in wartime continued, and school became more involved with contemporary life. The Police sent their men to the school to instruct the children in Road Safety, and the Ministry of Information showed films. The children were taken on expeditions to local farms to see the latest modern agricultural machinery at work, and to see the dairy products of the Ambrosia Milk Factory.
The School was divided into houses, Red, Blue and Green, and competed against each other on the Annual Sports and Prize Day. It did well, too, in the Inter-School Sports, and the children were encouraged to enter in the village Flower Show, which was always held in the School building.
Conditions in your building were now very different from the early days. Cloakrooms with wash-basins had been provided, although each child had to bring his own soap and towel. The toilets had been modernised, and the whole school had been redecorated in brighter colours. The water supply was never good, children were still drinking from the well outside the school and with little cooking facilities it was not possible to provide a hot midday meal. The solution was found in 1948, when a Canteen was opened in the Temperance Hotel, with Mrs. Charlick in charge. When she moved six years later, Mrs. Edwards cooked and served dinner there each day.
Our School Meals Service gave each child a good hot dinner for 60p per week. Punctually at twelve o’clock each day they came trooping down with their teachers. They were all very well-behaved, and had healthy appetites. The menus were varied, and I don’t remember any child being “faddy”. At the end of the Christmas term we had a special dinner of chicken and Christmas pudding. I was in charge of the canteen for eighteen years, and I missed them all very much when the school closed.
Your first woman Head was Miss Mosely, who took charge of the school in 1951. Once again, your name was changed. You were now Week St. Mary County Primary School, for, in 1952, all the “over elevens” left for the Secondary School in Stratton. Now there were only twenty-six children on the register. This is what Mrs. Pat Johns, née Martyn, tells us of her school life at this period; “All the girls wore aprons, and woe betide you if you forgot yours on Monday morning. But on Friday afternoon we had a great spree - it was painting lesson, and it didn’t matter if you covered yourself with paint. During Lent, we were invited once a week by the Reverend Townend to the Round Room in the Rectory. There we saw slides of the Cross and the Easter Story. In the summer term we practised for Sports in the Kilbroney Field, and the seniors looked after the flowerbeds and cut the grass around the main School door. Sometimes we went on Nature Walks, and I remember a wonderful outing we had to see the new Queen Elizabeth. In Coronation Year, we had an Open Day. The Juniors recited a Coronation Alphabet, and the Infants a poem to the Queen. In school, our cutout models of the Coronation coach were on display. We had planted our gardens with red, white and blue flowers, and these were much admired.
The winter term saw us all playing “shinty”, a form of hockey, played in the hard playground, while the boys played football. Our milk at break-time was warmed on the stove, and served to us in blue beakers, one-third of a pint each. It might be slightly burnt, but we were told, “The flavour helps it down.”
Then came the preparation for the School Concert in the Rectory Room. It was at one of these concerts that a Progress Prize was first awarded to the boy and girl who had made the most progress in the year’s work. The names were a closely guarded secret until Miss Mosely announced the two winners.... from the platform. Then followed the Christmas Party, with tea and games and a Father Christmas, played by Mrs. Ridgeman, the caretaker. In the next term, everybody was at work, for the eleven-plus exam came in the New Year. The results came out in May or early June; these were very important, for they decided whether you went to Bude Grammar School or to the Secondary School in Stratton.
After Miss Mosely’s death in 1958 Mrs. R. Saltern was appointed as your new Head, and Miss Retallack stayed as the assistant teacher until her retirement in 1963.
Week St. Mary Revel Day came every year in September, and from 1965 the school children played an important part in it. The Infant class walked in procession before the Harvest Queen, while the Juniors joined in the Floral Dance. The procession assembled at the school, and from there proceeded down to the Square, where the Queen was crowned.
Two new teachers joined the staff - Mrs. Smeeth as Infant teacher, and Mr. J. Rees as visiting Art Master. Modern methods of teaching were very different from those of earlier years, and teachers were able to take Refresher Courses to keep them in touch with the latest teaching practice. In 1962, during North Cornwall’s Education Week, the school held its own Open Day, when parents and friends could talk to the teachers, and see the children at work.
The health of all schoolchildren had been regularly checked for many years, but now inoculations against measles, poliomyelitus and diptheria were given by doctor or nurse in school. The children’s eyesight and hearing were tested, and any dental treatment needed was given at the School Dental Clinic in Bude. A speech therapist visited the school to help with speech defects, and a psychiatrist would give advice when needed.
Physical education was now very different from Mr. King’s “military drill”, and the school was using special P.E. apparatus. Mrs. Saltern started swimming lessons with the Juniors, and took them after school to swim in the pool at Stratton County Primary School.
The children of the sixties could not be described as “shy and reticent”, and they certainly did not “seem scared and on the lookout for a cuff”.
The project method of teaching had encouraged them to think for themselves, and through their activities to acquire knowledge that had previously been gained by repetition and memory work. Music and Drama played an important part in the school timetable. Besides playing in their own percussion band the children listened to and took part in the B.B.C. Schools music programmes. The London Children’s Theatre Company paid several visits to the school; they acted plays, and encouraged the children to take part in them. Every Christmas, the children produced their own plays for the Christmas Concert, and very often baked their own Christmas cakes for their end of term parties.
Little so far has been said about religious teaching in the school. After the denominational feuds that had hindered the passing of the 1870 Education Act, religious teaching in State Schools had been strictly non-sectarian. “Scripture Lesson” had meant the repeating of passages from the Bible only. Then came a full syllabus of Religious Education, which in a Primary School consisted of stories and activities which gave the children opportunities to learn and practice Christian behaviour. A short service of worship was held every morning, and the school held its own Harvest Festival and Christmas Carol services.
Here is Tom Watkinson’s impression of school at this time: “I first came to the school when I was six. The day after we moved to Week St. Mary from Hampshire, in November 1971, Mum and I walked up the hill to the school. We met Mrs. Saltern as we came in. She then led us into the schoolroom where Mrs. Smeeth was, she was to be my new teacher. When we went in I was astonished by what I saw, there were only six or seven children in the whole room. Compared with the number of children in the class I was in at my old school, this was fantastic! It was very strange to me indeed. Mrs. Smeeth then introduced us to the class (what there was of it) and told us that there were usually more, but that five were away that day. She asked me if I wanted to stay there for the day, and I said I would, Mum said I could come home for lunch, so I stayed at the school all the morning, and came down the hill with the others at mid-day. After Mum had gone I decided to sit with Michael Horrell. He was very friendly, and so were all the other children in the class. I spent half a year in Mrs. Smeeth’s class. I liked her a lot.
I was moved into Mrs. Saltern’s class when I was seven. This was the highest class in the school, (there were only two classes) and Mrs. Saltern was an older lady. We had Assembly in the mornings in Mrs. Smeeth’s classroom, and did P.E. in our own room with some small apparatus. Apart from Maths and English, which we did from text-books, we had a history period when Mrs. Saltern would talk to us about something, then write about it on the blackboard, and we copied it into our exercise books. We also had an Art period on Wednesdays, when we did mostly painting.
In the playground we often played a game called “Stuck in the Mud”, where several people were the chasers, while the rest of us had to keep running; you had to stand still if one of the chasers touched you and shout “Stuck in the mud”, in the hope that somebody would touch you to set you free again. We used to bring toy cars and lorries to play with in the playground.
We used to walk down to the Temperance Hotel for our lunch, and we brought our own soap and towel to wash with at school before going down. Stephen Colwill was one of my friends, although older than me.
We often used to walk down the hill together, when we were coming home. He always seemed to me to be quite witty. I didn’t spend very long at Week St. Mary School, being there for about a year, and then it was closed, but I enjoyed my stay there very much indeed.
The playground, photographed a few days before the school was closed. Parts of both the original building and the 1906 addition can be seen.
The children, with (left to right) Mrs. Saltern, Mrs. Edwards and Mrs. Smeeth - outside the Temperance Hotel, 1973.
By the Seventies, you looked decidedly old-fashioned. Although you had been modified over the years - (you now had mains water and oil-fired central heating) - you did not conform to the modern specifications for school buildings. You had no kitchen and no playing field; the Infant classroom had windows that were far above the children’s eye- level, and the toilets were still outside, in a small, badly shaped playground. With only twenty-three children on the register, you were too expensive to run. A new school was to be built at Jacobstow, three miles away, which would encorporate four old schools into one. The other villages concerned being Jacobstow itself, Poundstock, and St. Gennys, six of your children joined pupils from those schools for the Foundation Stone-laying ceremony on November 10th 1971, on the site of the new school at Jacobstow; a tin containing photographs of the four old schools, pre-decimal coins, and pound and ounce weights was also buried. A few weeks later, a Statutory Notice of Closure was fixed to your main door.
On March 30th 1973 the Minister for Education, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, officially opened the new school from Helston. One pupil from each of the four old schools was chosen to go to Jacobstow to hear her speech, which was re-recorded for the occasion, and David Prouse, one of the eldest children, was the representative from Week St. Mary. A few days later, Mr. Henchley from Stratton came to the school to take photographs of the children in your playground, and also, with their teachers and Mrs. Edwards, outside the Temperance Hotel.
The new school would be ready for the children in time for the Summer Term, and the last ceremony in your life took place in the Junior classroom on April 11th 1973, the final day of the Spring Term. Parents were invited to the school, where farewell presentations were to be made to Mrs. Edwards, and Mrs. Dorothy Orchard - who had been school caretaker for some time. Mrs. Saltern and Mrs. Smeeth had organized and subscribed to a collection for this purpose, and here is Mrs. Smeeth to recall the occasion: “We thought it would be a nice idea to give Mrs. Edwards and Mrs. Orchard a parting present, in recognition of their work over the years, that had been so essential to the children’s welfare. The parents subscribed very willingly to the collection, however, what we didn’t know was that we ourselves were to receive presentations from the School Managers - it was a complete surprise! Mrs Saltern received a stainless steel tray and tea-set, and I was given a sweet dish, and also a little silver brooch, which I treasure very much.
One of those Managers making the presentations was Mr. Norman Gubbin, himself a past pupil and an early contributor to your story. The room was filled with children, parents, and even grandparents, and to many there it was the end of a part of village life they had always known.
When the children and visitors had departed the staff closed the school gate for the last time. Mrs. Smeeth was to join the staff at Jacobstow in the new term, as head of the Infant Department, a position which she still occupies; Mrs. Saltern continued her career with the Teachers Supply Service for some time, and has now retired.
Low, as you stand empty and silent in 1976, you still remind us of all the activity that went on in your classrooms in the past. Your children have left for many different careers. They can be found in farming, commerce, banking, engineering, building, nursing, and Local Government, and many have gone abroad. But all look back on their schooldays with affection. Michael Horrell has not yet entered that wider world, for he only began his schooldays in your Infant classroom in 1970, but he is the last speaker in this record: “I live very near the old school, and when I feel “teazy” I go there and play around a bit and sing. That school had a lovely smell - sometimes I stick my head to the window that’s broken and breathe in the air, it always revives me, and I sort of feel better. I hope they don’t pull it down - I think it ought to be there always.”
And what of your future? Speculation in the village still continues - who will buy you and to what use will you be put? A dwelling-house? A youth centre? A builders yard or a furniture store? Or demolition, and old people’s bungalows replacing your unwanted buildings. No one knows.
The school, at the end of its life.
Week St. Mary children, with Mr. Bill Gordon and his minibus, setting out for Jacobstow School. Summer 1976.
Now, in 1976, the school stands empty and silent, still reminding us of all the activity that went on in the classrooms. We are sorry those times have gone; we miss the sound of the hymns in the morning, and the school bell announcing playtime. We miss the “crocodile”, going down to lunch at “the Temperance”.
But, as we see our children piling into the blue and white minibus in the Square, we know they are enjoying a full school life, with all the advantages that a new school can offer - modern buildings, green playing fields, a heated swimming pool. The story of our school ends where it began with the children.
50º 45'03.84N 4º 30'01.39W OS: SX 237977 Elevation: 142m
© All of the content of the Week St. Mary website is the copyright of David Martin & Linda Cobbledick except where stated