ID DJG_PT3 Article from Mersea Museum

TitleTo School by Train
AbstractBefore September 1921 local children who had gained county scholarships to either of the grammar or secondary schools at Chelmsferd or Maldon had to travel by train from Tollesbury. No local toys had sat for the entrance examinations during the Great War 1914-1918, although local girls had done so, and two other boys and myself were successful in passing the examination in the summer of 1919. We were entered for Maldon Grammar School for the Autumn term commencing mid-September. Medical examinations followed at the Clinic in Wantz Road, and our parents had to purchase at their expense, school cap and badge, tie in school colours of amber and blue, and a school satchel. Parents of girls had additional expense as they had to provide, gym slip, white blouse, black knickers and stockings, and blue felt hat with hat ribbon and school badge, which was in actual fact a replica of the Borough's crest.

It was with some eager excitement that we three boys boarded the "Crab and Winkle" train on the appointed day at 8.25 a.m., to travel to Kelvedon on the first stage of the daily journey for the next three or four years. We found that three very senior girls, a lady school-teacher, also made the daily journey. The girls were school prefects, and one was head girl of Maldon Grammar School. They took charge of us eleven year olds, and instructed us how to obtain our railway season tickets at Kelvedon station, which was situated on the main line level. I still have a season ticket issued at the time which cost the Education Committee £2. 10s. 2d for half-price quarterly travel between Tollesbury and Maldon East Railway Stations ana return each day. En route to Kelvedon the train, consisting of two passenger coaches, with central gangways similar to American Pullmans, and drawn by a G.E.R. Eastern Region Class J69/1 tank steam engine, steam engine, made stops at Tolleshunt D'Arcy, Tolleshunt Knights, Tiptree, Inworth, and Feering stations, arriving at Kelvedon low level about 9 a.m. Here we had to alight, make our way to the main line platform, where we could obtain our season tickets, and wait for the Ipswich to London train, which would convey us for tne next part of the journey to Witham Station. Each day whilst waiting for our train to Maldon East, we would see the London to Hook-of-Holland Express draw in on the opposite side of the platform, to take on additional passengers and replenish the huge engine with water. This train was usually packed with passengers, as the war had just ceased, and in 1919 there were no air flights at all to the continent. However it would appear that efforts were being made to recruit men for the arned forces, posters on the railway platforms urged men to "Join the Army and See the World". Sadly one macabre joker had printed on one such poster in thick black crayon "Join the R.I.C. and see the next" a very sad reminder that the troubles in Ireland existed in that day. Our train to Maldon East Station made stops at Wickham Bishops and Langford where we were joined by other pupils, and usually arrived at its destination just after 10 a.m. The long walk then followed, up the Market Hill and through the White Horse Yard down to the school which is now known as Plume School.

On arrival we were directed to wait outside the Headmaster's study. Eventually we were ushered in, and an interview then followed. I felt that I did not impress the Headmaster, and I later learned that he preferred fee paying pupils to free scholarship ones. Fortunately we three new boys were placed in the same class Form IIIb, where we found a mixed class of 27 girls and boys in our age group. We were each allotted single desks in which we were instructed to place our satchels. Issue of text books and exercise books were issued at each class.

Our entrance into class had disrupted the attention of the class, and for the next two years this occurred daily, consequently it was with some trepidation that we as quietly could be took our places. Our late arrival each day, and early departure at 3.30 p.m., meant that we missed some very important schooling.

I have copies of my school reports for the the first four years at Maldon Grammar School, and at least for the terms of the first two years make very sorry reading. Instruction was given in History, Geography, English, Latin, French, Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Science, Drawing and Woodwork. I note that I missed Scripture lessons entirely, was absent for 17 half-days in my first term due to late arrivals and early departures, work returned three times, but conduct was assessed "very good". I refrain from repeating the remarks of the masters and mistresses, but the Headmaster's cryptic remark "Progress slow owing to lack of foundation" sums it up. For my part I felt like someone being thrown in at the deep end, or a ship without a rudder wallowing in a rough sea, however I survived and progressed. No reports were made on our games or gymnasium ability, just as well in my case, as I found that I easily became winded, and only after some sixty years on medical examination was told that I had had rheumatic fever as a child. For a few shillings weekly, school dinners could be purchased, which were taken in the main hall or gymnasium, for the greater part of my time at the school I had to take sandwiches, which could be eaten in the vacant class-room at lunch time. Each day homework was allotted which had to be presented the following day for correction, etc. As much as possible would be done on the return journey home, but arriving home no earlier than 6.30 p.m. each evening, having a meal, and then settling down to two to three hours study and writing with pen and ink, no ball-point pens in those days, meant getting to bed no earlier than 10 p.m. each week night. This was rendered all the more difficult in winter-time, when the acetylene gas lighting in the trains and paraffin lamps at home were not so good. The daily travel to and from Maldon always proved most interesting. In time we became friendly with daily commuters and knew the railway staffs by name. The late Mr. Victor Lewis wrote an excellent article on his life and commuting daily in the old "Crab and Winkle" which was published in the Parish Magazine of August 1970.

By the summer of 1921, Messrs. G.W. Osborne and Sons had started a 'bus service to Maldon, using their first 'bus "The Alpha" which could seat twelve adults inside and two beside the driver outside. Apparently a contract was completed with the Education Committee and for the Autumn term commencing in September 1921 we were ordered to travel by the 'bus. This meant that we would arrive in time for commencement of school at 9 a.m. each day, and could leave after 4 p.m. The 'bus was garaged at The Ship Inn yard at the foot of Market Hill. This luxury travel for my part was short-lived - my father received a "means test" form, which he refused to complete, consequently I had to have other means of travel. One other pupil had his own bicycle and rode the ten miles daily, and I fondly imagined that this would be the opportunity for me to have the bicycle I ban been promised for gaining my scholarship, but alas no such luck, a cycle was hired from Messrs, Probets' cycle shop for a few shillings weekly, and I had to ride to and fro for the next two years, but they were happy and carefree days as there was little vehicular traffic and we always arrived at school and back home before the little school bus.

AuthorDouglas J. Gurton
SourceMersea Museum / Cedric Gurton
IDDJG_PT3
Related Images:
 Kelvedon - the line to Tollesbury with the main Colchester to London line behind it. G.E.R. 0-6-0 tank locomotive.
 The 10.35am mixed train from Kelvedon to Tollesbury curves away from the main line at Kelvedon, up the 1 in 63 gradient towards Feering, hauled by Class R24 0-6-0 No. 267. The engine is running as a 2-4-0T, with its front coupling rods removed. [The Tollesbury Branch by Peter Paye]
 Picture also appears in The Tollesbury Branch by Peter Paye, page 15.  SS050046
ImageID:   SS050046
Title: Kelvedon - the line to Tollesbury with the main Colchester to London line behind it. G.E.R. 0-6-0 tank locomotive.
The 10.35am mixed train from Kelvedon to Tollesbury curves away from the main line at Kelvedon, up the 1 in 63 gradient towards Feering, hauled by Class R24 0-6-0 No. 267. The engine is running as a 2-4-0T, with its front coupling rods removed. [The Tollesbury Branch by Peter Paye]
Picture also appears in The Tollesbury Branch by Peter Paye, page 15.
Date:9 April 1910
Source:Ron Green Collection


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