|Abstract||Over the years the village has been most fortunately favoured by the
selection of headmasters, headmistresses, and teachers appointed to
educate the children of the village, and we who were pupils should
feel eternally grateful for the care, dedication, and knowledge
imparted to us at school, although not fully appreciated at the time.
I well remember my first day in the Infants' School.
After the preliminaries sometime previously of recording personal
details, I was measured and weighed, and allotted a peg in the cloakroom
for my cap and coat. I found myself in a class-room of about 30 girls
and boys, roundabout the same age as myself, but possibly a little
older, as the majority appeared to know the routine.
I was allotted a small single desk behind a little girl with long plaited
pig-tails, and given a small blackboard and piece of chalk.
The first lesson I had was to learn and pronounce the simple vowels,
also copy the letters which the teacher chalked up on the large black-board.
A session of pronouncing the vowels then followed, and I thought we all
sounded like a lot of donkeys braying. The lesson concluding, we were told
to clean our blackboards. I cleaned mine in an unorthodox manner, and the
little girl in front, promptly jumped up, put up her hand, and declared
to the teacher what I had done. I was very properly admonished, and told
that the small felt pad on the desk was to be used in future, not spittle
and sleeve. At the first opportunity I twisted the little girl's
pigtails under the top rail of her seat, causing her to cry out.
I was promptly taken in front of the class, smacked, and made to stand in
a corner for the remainder of the morning.
Hence I well remember my first day at school.
Mid morning we all went out into the playground, it was not ashphalt
in those days, but loose gravel and very dusty.
The little girls clustered round the teachers like so many chicks,
but we boys were left to our own devices, and I remember that
"Cowboys and Indians" was a favourite game as most of us had seen
"Tom Mix" at the local cinema. However, playtime over, we boys found
the teachers waiting to confiscate the various "cap revolvers", etc.,
which we had previously taken into class. These were returned to us
Daily routine was assembly in the main hall, girls on right, boys on left.
Entrance of the Headmistress, accompanied by the teachers, we were
greeted with "Good morning children", to which we replied,
"Good morning Ma'am", the girls dropping a form of curtsey and the
boys bowing. Prayers and children's hymn followed, the hymn varied
according to the season of the year. Dismissal to classes and
calling of "attendance registers" then followed.
Education was not limited to the three "Rs", we always had Scripture
lessons, and we had to learn prayers and the 23rd Psalm.
As we progressed we had knitting lessons, and I made myself a "muffler".
There was also basket-making, and raffia plaiting, also crayon drawing.
Near Christmas time we coloured and made paper chains and Chinese
lanterns, for decorating the class-rooms also to take one or two
Every year prior to World War I there was the Annual
Prize Giving, attended by the School Governors, in my day,
Countess de la Chapelle,
Dr. John H. Salter, Rev. Wm. Carter and Rev. W.E. Anstey.
"Silver Oysters" were awarded for scholastic ability,
"Silver Starfish" for good attendance, and "Silver fish" for
swimming ability. These small tokens were exquisitely made and highly
prized by the recipients. Apparently this custom was discontinued
during the Great War, and books as prizes were awarded instead.
The School Governors visited the schools quite frequently.
Dr. Salter was very keen on swimming instruction being given,
and quite a number of the senior girls and boys
qualified in the Marine Lake, which had been constructed by
Mr. Geo. H. Wombwell a close friend of Dr. Salter.
Swimming Galas were a feature each year, and we smaller children
were allowed to attend as spectators.
On the occasions when the Governors attended the schools it was not
an infrequent sight to see the girls walking up the street hand-in-hand
with the Vicar and Minister in line across the full width of the road.
There was no vehicular traffic in those days, and it was quite a
care-free and jolly occasion.
On attaining the age of 8 years, girls and boys went into the
senior schools. We boys crossed the road to the boys' school,
and we found the discipline firmer. We had a Headmaster in addition
to lady teachers and assistant male or pupil teachers.
Education was more concentrated and regular examinations were
held, and results published on the notice boards.
In addition there were examinations by a Government Inspector periodically.
Like others I dreaded the occasion, as usually the Inspector carried
out a searching examination, and we were afraid to offend by giving the
wrong answers. I remember one Inspector who had a very pronounced
Northern accent, taking us in reading. He did not like our
pronunciation, and in the end we ended up giving pseudo Northern
pronunciation much to the amusement of others.
Our speech was somewhat slovenly, and we were sternly reminded
to pronounce our "aitches" - "in Hereford, Hertford and Hampshire
hurricanes hardly ever happen".
In 1916 our Headmaster, Mr William Hore, and his Assistant, Mr. Wilfred
Brown, were both called to the Colours, and tragically made the supreme
sacrifice. (Sometime ago I attended a social function in Wivenhoe,
and was surprised to see a brass plate commemorating the services of
Mr. William Hore to that community). The departure of the male teachers
left the teaching staff depleted but this
was adjusted by recalling teachers out of retirement, in one or
two cases they were ladies who had taught our parents, aunts and uncles.
Some boys rebelled under the feminine dominance, but they were
firmly dealt with, and schooling proceeded smoothly until
the end of the war, when another Headmaster was appointed,
Mr. W. Mann, B.Sc. During the war-time years 1914-19
there had been no boy candidates for the county scholarships.
In 1919 Mr Mann selected several of us to undertake the
examinations being held at Chelmsford. I found the examination
fairly easy possibly because it touched, on the level of the
subjects I had just reached at school, including the poem
"The Ancient Mariner" on which I was orally questioned.
On return to school, the examination papers were handed to
Mr. Mann who set them before boys in a junior class, with
the result that they could have completed them with equable
ease and success.
Teachers displayed a keen interest in the welfare of every child.
Medical and dental examinations were regularly held.
I remember having one tooth extraction by gas, and afterwards
being supplied with a glass of hot milk - the first and only
glass of milk I ever had at school. We did not have organised
games of cricket or football, but some boys possessed real
footballs or "pigs' bladders" with which we played on the
meadows available - The Mount or Beecham's, before and after
school, encouraged and trained by the pupil teachers.
The caretaking of all schools devolved upon one man,
Mr Backhouse, who had to pump water for the header feeder
tanks to supply the wash-houses and toilets, clean the
class-rooms after daily use, and in winter-time clean and
lay fires, clean, trim and fill the oil lamps then in use,
a very full task for one man.
Some children walked miles to school, the Sheldrick family
in particular, who lived at Rolls Farm. Under the care of
Eva, Arthur and George, the other children of the family
were marshalled and walked the whole distance both ways
every day in all weathers, picking up the family provisions
from the shops en route on the return journeys.
In August 1919 I was told that I had passed the
scholarship examination and
should commence at Maldon Grammar School for the Autumn
term commencing in September after medical examination, etc.
Although the distance is only 10 miles by road, pupils from
Tollesbury had to travel by train, Tollesbury to Kelvedon,
Kelvedon to Witham, Witham to Maldon East, a distance of
some 20 miles, causing us to leave home by 8 a.m. and
reaching school after 10 a.m. each day.
There was no 'bus service to Maldon at that time, a service
only having recently been inaugurated from Tollesbury to
Colchester. My railway season ticket cost £2.10s. a quarter.
Attendance at the Grammar School necessitated the provision
of school uniform and games clothing at the expense of parents.
At Tollesbury School there were no set rules as to attire
except that we had to appear clean and tidy.
The girls had to wear starched white pinafores in class.
Most boys wore jerseys, some with the names of famous yachts
embroidered thereon, and a number of us wore celluloid
collars which could easily be cleaned by soap and water - they
were not entirely comfortable. All boys wore sturdy boots,
with hobnailed soles and iron shoed heels, all roads in the
village were flint or gravel and hard on footwear.
The girls wore mostly buttoned or laced-up boots.
Each year school group photographs were taker, from
the number I have seen there could never have been more sturdy,
happy and well-fed youngsters in any town or village.
They were indeed happy days. I was sorry to leave the school
and my friends from early days in the three Infant classes and
the 4th Standard we had reached in the Boys' School,
consequently I was never able to take part in the cookery or
gardening classes, which were regular features at that time,
but I did escape having to learn script writing which was
being introduced in 1919 and was able to continue writing
in the bold copperplate taught previously.