ID: LUC_SCH_007 / Susan Luckham

TitleMemories - the wartime school at The Nothe
AbstractAs elsewhere in the country, Mersea has been looking "back at the war years. Those of you who visited the Museum last year will have seen many reminders of the Second World War, and we of a "certain age" tended to say, "Do you remember?"!

One wartime event on the Island, perhaps not so well known, was the setting up of a small private school at The Nothe from 1939-1943. For those who do not know the area, The Nothe is at the far end of the Coast Road beyond the Dabchicks Sailing Club. At the time of the last war the fishermen's cottages had been made into one house, with the exception of the little cottage at the east end which was let out. At the west end was the later addition of a billiard room, then single storey.

When children left the village school (probably at 14) those wanting to continue their education had to travel to Colchester, much as they do today, but there was always the fear that they might be dive bombed or fired at by enemy planes returning from London raids. My Aunts, Misses Hope & Alice Webb (qualified teachers) and Uncle Roy Webb who were living at the Nothe with my Grandmother, decided to set up a small school for older children so that they did not have to make the daily journey to Colchester. Actually they did take a child of five and the oldest was a lad of 18.

My Uncle was a professional pianist so, of course, he took over the music side of the curriculum. My Grandmother was not to be left out - she taught them to make string bags with a wooden shuttle, (netting - she taught me too!) These were sold for the Red Cross. Various other enthusiasts became involved as well. Probably the best known was Mr Fid Harnack, the local artist, who helped for a while until Mr. Cotton took on the art job. Lady Metcalfe taught poetry and her garden in Coast Road was used for the performance of a Shakespeare play by the children. (Mrs. Tapp took a film of it, but I don't suppose that still exists.) Mrs Orgill taught history and Mrs Tapp took tennis as there was a tennis court in the large Nothe garden where they also played croquet. Cricket was another popular sport the children enjoyed and played on the field at the top of Firs Chase (known as Cows field, but now built on.) Another outdoor activity was Hare & Hounds as there was plenty of space for them to chase around.

Pupils also went to Mrs. Harden's home in Coast Road but I don't know what she taught as the ex-pupil told me she only remembers watching the Siamese cats climbing up the curtains !

My Aunt Alice was an English and French scholar and I do wonder if she also included Latin in her languages as one of the ex-pupils told me they performed a play for the parents entirely in Latin !

It seems that the only subjects they could not cover were the sciences, but ex-pupils I contacted seemed satisfied with the education they received then, and managed to get their School Certificate and Matriculation qualifications so that they could progress if they wished.

I can't imagine anyone being allowed to set up such an educational group these days. What - teachers without qualifications? - how shocking ! But I am sure they made up for that with their enthusiasm.

I am very grateful to the ex-pupils who have told me their memories and if there is anyone else who can add to them I should love to hear from you.

Alice decided to return to London in 1940 to a job in the Censorship Department, and died of injuries after a daylight air raid in Holborn 8 October 1940. LUC_AB3 [from Tony Millatt, talking to Susan Luckham]

AuthorSusan Luckham
SourceMersea Museum