Monday, 3 March 2014

No.1 - Introduction:

Hi! My name is Alan Peace and I was a pupil at this school between 1954 and 1957. My reason for setting up this blog site is to provide a historical account of what it was like attending a brand new school in the 1950s. Obviously there have been many, many pupils passing through this same school for decades now and each will have their own story to tell. I wanted to give an account of my own experiences and memories from a period back in time and invite others to do the same. I attended both the 40th and 50th year celebrations at the school but missed the 60th unfortunately.  In 1993, following the celebration, I visited my old headmistress, Miss W Horsfield, at her home in Crosspool, Sheffield. Yes, this lady who had registered my name on my first day at school and slapped my legs for accidentally tearing a reading book in an argument with a girl in our third year was now welcoming me, as an old school pupil, into her home for a cuppa. She showed me a photograph album which had been given to her on her retirement. The photos were mainly of the school and children of the 1950s/ early 60s, and she kindly allowed me to borrow the whole album and photocopy the ones I was interested in. These are the photographs which are now included in this blog with the kind permission of Mr Paul Walters, photographer of Mexborough. The older photographs taken about 1950, which pre-date the new infants school, are of the 'old' infants school which seems to have been split between the Nursery Hut (now Robin Hood Pub car park) and the old junior school. I have included these photographs as they are still part of the 50s era and are probably fairly rare anyway, so I'm sure someone out there will appreciate their inclusion.
Please feel free to write your comments on the blog and name anyone you recognise, correcting any names I might have got wrong.

No.2 - New School 1953

Swinton Fitzwilliam Infants School was opened in 1953 to cater for the general increase in population following World War II. The school was situated alongside the new Highfield Estate Council housing development which had recently been built in the Valley Road/Broadway/Brookside area.

No.3 - The Main Entrance 1953

The Main Entrance with the Main Hall to the right and classrooms along the corridor forward left.

No.4 - Inside the Classrooms 1953

 Children busy at work in their classrooms with new tables, chairs and equipment. The window overlooks the council houses on Rookery Road.

No.5 - Memories - First day at school - Nightmare!!!

I was born at my grandparent’s house in Midland Road, Swinton, on 22nd November 1949. It was here that I spent most of my life until June 1954 when my parents' names moved to the top of the Council house waiting list and we were able to occupy a house at the bottom of Park Road opposite Swinton Park. During my time at Midland Road, I had very little contact with other kids (apart from my brother, Roger, who was fifteen months younger than me), except on a Sunday morning, when my mother took us to Sunday School at Bridge Street Methodist Church which stood over the other side of the canal bridge. I spent the summer of 1954 getting used to our new environment at Park Road, and there were one or two other children to play with in that area. At that time the intake age at Swinton Fitzwilliam School must have been 5 years. My mother probably thought that meant I'd have to wait until after my birthday on 22nd November 1954 before they would accept me at school. 

There is one horrible day I remember well. The new term must have already started. It was maybe days, weeks or even a month or so into it when my mother and father took me up to school to put my name down for starting. On entering the main doors, my mother went off to the right to Miss Horsfield’s room to sort out the admin, while I stayed with my father in the entrance area looking at different play toys. I clearly remember a tubular steel rocking horse painted pale green. Suddenly, my mother came out with Miss Horsfield and signalled that we were all going along the corridor. I must have sensed something was not quite right. Pointing to the entrance doors, I told my parents that this was the way we had come in - my childish logic deducing it must also be the way out, unlike the direction we seemed to be now moving in. As we went along the corridor, the first classroom on the left was opened up - Miss Sheridan was the teacher - and I was shepherded into it like a lost sheep. I don’t remember exactly what followed, except that my parents had gone and I was overwhelmed with tears and a strong sense of insecurity. This did not seem a safe place to be! At break I do remember being on my own in the playground; full of feelings of depression and unreality, I was a lost little kid in a strange world. At dinnertime I put my coat on ready to go home. My father and brother were supposed to be collecting me, but there was no sign of them. A kind dinner lady came over to me to see what the problem was and took me to the front school gate where I saw dad and my brother. I didn’t eat anything at dinner time, and afterwards my dad played cricket with me in the park to take my mind off things. Thankfully, education and induction into school has vastly improved over the years. For me, however, the whole of that first year was not a good experience, leaving me with an ongoing feeling of insecurity which has since affected me on many occasions when presented with  similar situations. A positive change came about in my second year with Miss Milnes as teacher. Things seemed to pick up during that year. Also, we had moved houses again - this time to the bottom of Valley Road, backing onto Creighton Woods. A long back garden, a dyke at the bottom and a children’s paradise for me and my brother to explore.

No.6 - The Main Hall 1953

The Main Hall at dinner time with children and teachers having school dinner together. Tables and benches were set out each day and the kitchen serving hatch was opened up.

The Main Hall during PE lessons. I notice the tubular steel rocking horse on the left, which I saw on my first day at school. However, the large wooden climbing frame which was located in the far left corner of the photograph does not yet appear to have been installed.

No.7 - Memories - The Main Hall activities

School Assemblies were held in the Main Hall but I’m not sure if they were every day or once a week. The song that sticks in my mind is the old tune of:

All things bright and beautiful, 
all creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.


This was the area where we also did PE. There was a room where the skittles, ropes, hoops and beanbags etc., were kept and in the corner of the hall, was a very large wooden climbing frame, which was my favourite apparatus.

May Day celebrations were held in this room along with any other activity which parents could attend to watch their children. 

Obviously, it was the dining room also and the dinner ladies served from behind a hatch which closed off with a wooden roller shutter.