Ranelagh's big birthday

IMPRESSIVE Edwardian school architecture has stood high above the busy Ranelagh Road in Ipswich for one hundred years. Thousands of children have passed through the school and life there has changed a great deal over the decades.

IMPRESSIVE Edwardian school architecture has stood high above the busy Ranelagh Road in Ipswich for one hundred years. Thousands of children have passed through the school and life there has changed a great deal over the decades.

Next week the school will celebrate its centenary on Wednesday and Thursday .

Two former pupils have told us what it was like in their time there. Dorothy 'Dotty' Foster (nee Laws), who will soon be 90 years old, lived in Ranelagh Road as a child and is still there today. Dorothy was a pupil between 1928 and 1931.

Dorothy said: “The girls' school fronted Ranelagh Road, the boys' Pauls Road. Mrs Bayliss was my head teacher and Mr Mantho was the boys head teacher. Every day we had an assembly in the hall with a hymn, a teacher always played the piano. School started at 9am and finished at 4pm, I used to walk home every day for my dinner. The register was called every morning. We had needlework class once a week and when the girls had cooking lessons they could buy what they made to take home for their family. The desks had lift up lids with inkwells set in so we could dip our pens in. Every morning we were given a third of a pint of milk during the break. In all my time there I was never given any homework. We celebrated Empire Day in the playground every year and the children were given flags and everybody wore red, white and blue. In 1931 I was May Queen.”

Viv Knights (nee Clennell) of Capel St Mary, lived in Allenby Road when she was a pupil at Ranelagh Road School from 1951 to 1957.

Viv said: “My granddaughter is a pupil at present and recently I went into the school to talk to her class about the changes in the school building, and the layout of the classrooms. I remember sitting as pairs in rows of desks and working from the blackboard. Discipline was harsh. If boys were really naughty they used to get caned. They did not have to do much to be considered naughty. I clearly remember one day when a stand-in teacher, an elderly buxom woman with high heeled lace up shoes, hit me over the knuckles with a wooden chair leg because I spoke to a girl sitting next to me! I also recall when I was only five-years-old my writing was not considered as being presentable enough, and having to fill a page with cursive writing.”

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“Where the present reception and nursery classes are was a hall for the infants. In there was a wooden rocking horse, toys and percussion instruments. There were toilets outside in the playground as well as inside. There was a separate playground for infants, boy played in what is now the present playground and girls played in what is now the car park. The present school kitchen was a class room and there was once a stage in the main hall where they placed the Christmas tree. Candles from all over the world were sent to the school and put on the tree, eventually when all the candles were in place, they were lit.”

“Teachers at the school in my time were Miss Brame, Miss Garbutt, Miss Stark, Mr Wakefield, Miss Shortland and Mr Pettitt, deputy head was Miss Basham and the head was Mr Heath. Classmates were Janet Pooley, Susha and Opedish Singh, Kenneth Warner, Margaret Moles, Norma Harper. I was one of eight children and most went to Ranelagh Road School.”

Teacher Jan Lloyd said “At the moment, all classes throughout the school are busy working on the project. Each class has been designated an era to research spanning two decades. Already some adults, a few of them past pupils, have spoken to the younger children about school life, toys, games, fashion and music. The school is still hoping to find people who have experiences of life up to 1960, who would be willing to talk to the pupils.”

“As part of the two day celebrations, there will be displays in each classroom with children and adults dressed in their era of study. It is also hoped to give a short display of Maypole dancing, followed by a concert of songs spanning the decades during both afternoons”

If you can help in anyway, or would like further information, please contact the school on 01473 251608 or email ad.ranelagh.p@talk21.com

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My thanks to Glynis Calvesbert of Ipswich, a former catering assistant and parent at the school, for her research on the school history.

What memories do you have of Ranalagh Road School? Write to Dave Kindred, Kindred Spirits, Evening Star 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN.

Ranelagh Road School, Ipswich, was built on a site owned by the town. It was built by E Catchpole and Sons Limited of red Suffolk brick and Ancaster and Bath stone costing £14,500.

All of the furniture, cost £517, included dual desks for the children and for the teacher a desk on a platform with a blackboard and easel. The school opened January 7, 1907. The classrooms were heated by open fires and the rest of the building by hot water pipes. The lighting was from mains gas, which when burned made a mantle glow white hot, giving off a soft white light.

The school stood on the edge of the urban area: fields and woods lay where the Chantry Estate is today. In 1907 the area was very quiet, with little traffic children were able to play in Ranelagh Road.

The day then started at 8.55am when the bell rang. The children lined up and marched into the hall, said a prayer and sang a hymn. They were then sent to their classrooms to be registered. Religious instructions was the first lesson and what were regarded as the more 'mentally demanding' subjects like arithmetic followed. In the afternoon the lessons were considered less demanding like painting. Lessons varied between twenty to thirty minutes long, the timetable was drawn up by the head teacher and requiring approval by the managers.

The midday break lasting from noon to 2pm. During the break almost everyone went home, the teachers usually cycling. There was no school meal service. A few pupils brought sandwiches. They were only allowed to stay if they lived a long way from school, (several pupils came from Copdock), or there was no food at home. The afternoon session finished at 4pm for infants and 4.30pm for the rest of the children.

In their lessons the infants studied: reading writing, arithmetic, objects lessons-a nature study, singing, recitation, oral composition, and took religious instructions. The older children studied additional subjects: dictation, written composition, grammar, history, geography and handicraft. It was wood and metal work for the boys, cookery, laundry and needlework for the girls. There was also drawing brushwork, physical exercise, games including football and cricket for the boys and, for both boys and girls physical exercise.

Exams were held every term and an open afternoon was held at the end of the year when parents could come into the school to see the children's work.

The infants wrote with chalk on a small blackboard or on slates with slate pencils. It was not until they were about nine years old that pupils used pencil and paper.

Holidays were a month in August, about two weeks at Christmas, nine days at Easter and at Whitsun and a day at half-term. A major annual event in town was Empire Day on or about May 24. Children bought union flags to school and locals hung flags in the windows of their homes

Classes averaged about 40 pupils in size, sometimes exceeding 60 in the boy's school. Records show that attendance was good.

Military authorities decided that Ranelagh Road School was a good place to house the recruits who rushed to volunteer during the first months of World War I, as it was close to the Railway station and town centre. The children helped towards the war effort sending the wounded cigarettes at Christmas or putting on a concert to raise money. The girls knitted socks, mittens mufflers and cuffs. The boys made sand and hand grenade bags. The building was used as a military hospital. Children were moved to other schools.

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Historical details from 'Ranelagh Schools 1907 to 1982' by former headteacher John Tombs.

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