School so tough to run

EVERY village had a quaint little school, built when it became compulsory for every child to attend school in the Victorian period.I featured a photograph of the school at Wherstead in Kindred Spirits recently, showing the school as it was around a century ago.

EVERY village had a quaint little school, built when it became compulsory for every child to attend school in the Victorian period.

I featured a photograph of the school at Wherstead in Kindred Spirits recently, showing the school as it was around a century ago. Keeping the school running was hard work. It was heated by open coal fires and water had to be carried by buckets from a garden well. In the winter the issue of milk for the children would freeze and had to be warmed by the fire.

Shirley Matthewson of The Street, Wherstead, told me of her fond memories of this pretty little Victorian school building.

She said: “As a child I lived in the flats above “The Room” in Wherstead. My grandparents married and moved into the house next to the school in 1922. My grandmother later became caretaker and remained so for many years until the school was closed in the mid 1960s. For a while the school was used as an office, but eventually sold and turned into a dwelling house about 1970.

“Being caretaker was quite hard work, especially so in the early days, as my grandmother would have to carry pails of fresh water to the school each day drawn from the well in her garden. As I grew up I used to help my grandmother with the cleaning quite often. Each evening the two fireplaces had to be cleaned out and large buckets of coal carried in for the next day. The two classrooms were swept and polished. In each porch were heavy iron gratings which had to be lifted and swept under and the large heavy inner door mats taken outside and shaken.”

“I remember hating Fridays! The hearths had to be scrubbed and whitened with a block of hearthstone, the porch floors were scrubbed and the outside washhouse floor had to be scrubbed as did the seats and floors of the outside lavatories. As children we all had a small bottle of milk and I remember how they would sometimes be frozen in the winter and the little cardboard lids would lift off, but my grandmother always stood the bottles inside the big fireguards to warm - the fires having been laid and lit much earlier in the morning.

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“Our playground was quite small, but we did our 'PT' (physical training) there. When we played games such as rounders we were allowed to go into the adjoining plantation using the trees as our markers. This was obviously with permission of Mr Paul the land owner.

“My grandfather died in 1964 and my grandmother remained at School House until she died in 1979, so therefore School House was our family home for 67 years. I shall always treasure many happy memories. My father, my son and I all attended Wherstead School.

“I had a happy childhood in Wherstead - our parents all seemed friends. I don't think any of us had very much, but the children all played happily together and several of us still visit and remain friends to this day.”

More memories of school days on the Shotley peninsular come from Joan Potter of

St Andrew's Drive, Chelmondiston.

Joan said: “At our Sunday school held in St Andrews Church, Chelmondiston, the children were each given a little brown envelope with Whitsun Farthings printed on the front. We saved farthings and took them to church on Whit Sunday. I remember how we used to compare seeing who had saved the most!

I think the farthings must have been put to a diocesan fund, not just in our parish.

I wonder if any of your readers can remember Whitsun Farthings?

Monkey Lodge stands on the hill at Freston.

It was originally a gate house to what is now the Ipswich High School for girls at Woolverstone. The lodge was referred to in Kindred Sprits by Tom Scrivener of Heron Road, Ipswich, who remembers visiting there as a child.

June Ward of Bramford Lane, Ipswich, can explain the story behind Monkey Lodge.

June said: “I was born at Monkey Lodge and know its history. Squire Berners who lived at Berners Hall at Woolverstone (now Ipswich High School for girls) kept moneys as pets. One night there was a fire at Berners Hall and the monkeys made such a noise and woke the squire which saved his life. That is why the stone monkeys were placed on the gates, the entrance to Berners Hall, through the park for the carriages.

“When the squire moved to Berkshire he removed the monkeys and took them with him.

Incidentally, on each end of the roof of the Almshouses in Woolverstone there is a small stone monkey”.

Woolverstone Hall was built by William Berners (1709-83) in 1776 as his country house, set in 80 acres on the banks of the Orwell. It is a grade one listed building and is one of the finest examples of Palladian architecture in England. It was in the family's ownership until the 1930s when it was sold to Lord Nuffield, who bought it as an investment for Oxford University. It was requisitioned as a naval training establishment during the Second World War and became HMS Woolverstone, a shore-based naval station. Dummy landing craft were made there as part of the deceptions that went on around D-Day. After the war the London County Council took it over as a boys' boarding School. In 1992 it was sold to Ipswich High School for Girls.

Every day the skyline at Ipswich dock changes. Huge demolition machines are munching their way through brick, steel and concrete to convert the site from industial to residential and lesure use.

Fortunately most of the red brick Victorian building will remain and the slab grey silos will disappear. Photographs of Key Street, College Street, and Foundry Lane, taken around 1930, give us a some idea of what the area was like in the past.