November 2017


LATEST ON THE TIMELINE : From Bridge Farm to Westham, the untold story of Pevensey School

The Old Thatched Cottage previously the Old Pevensey School and later to become Bridge Farm

Frances Brown
With input from Hugh Miller and Eric Banks

At the east end of Church Lane is a red brick building with a sign that says ‘old school house 1876′. It is actually the new school, built behind the parsonage. If that is the new school, then where was the old school? Timeline graduate, Frances Brown on a unique history trail from Bridge Farm to Westham, in search of the untold story of Pevensey School

AT THE east end of Church Lane which runs parallel to the main road through Pevensey (with the Church at the west end) is a red brick building with a sign showing ‘’the old school house 1876’’. It is actually the ‘New’ school built ’’behind the Parsonage on land given in 1869 by Messrs Snoxall and Wallis and was designed by H E Rumble’’. It closed in 1958 when pupils were sent to Pevensey and Westham Primary School in Westham. This was originally Westham Secondary School and pupils from there were sent to Willingdon Secondary School.

If that is the new school then where was the ‘old’ school? I discovered it was the building, more recently the Banks’ family’s Bridge Farm on Bexhill Road just east of the bridge, that I had lived opposite for eight years from 1957.

There are references to an old school in Pevensey in 1855 and 1867 established by a Mrs Gilbert but the date is unknown. A further reference mentions another previous school or it may have been the old school, above, in 1802-1866. In 1848 plans for a new National school for pupils 5-11 years of age and a teacher’s residence were drawn up.

The Old School was a double thatched roof dwelling house to the southeast of Pevensey Bridge. The front door faced east with a staircase from it leading up to two bedrooms either side for teachers. There were extensive gardens not used by the children. Downstairs, boys were one side of the school house and girls the other, both having their own separate doors to the classrooms. The children’s playground was what eventually became the farmyard. !

Around 1876 when the New Pevensey National School was built, the brother of the last surviving Baron of Pevensey, Edmund Banks purchased the Old school and named it ‘The Old Thatched Cottage’ but eventually it was turned into a farm called Bridge Farm.

(There are many references to the New school and byelaws at the KEEP National Archives, Brighton – dates 1883,4,7,8,77,79)

In 2014 a book of original handwritten records of School Managers’ meetings 1903- 1928 was found with some other Parish records in the vestry of the Church. The Education Act of 1902 stipulated ‘’regular and recorded meetings’’. These records show how the school was run during that time with a few other documents, invoices for work in the school included, showing the value of services in those days compared with today!

Reference was made to the payment of 5/- (five shillings, 25p today) by people of the Parish to aid the running of the School.

There were several references in the Managers’ meeting book about the poor attendance at school and ways to encourage children to come to school including monetary incentives! The salient points from each quarterly meeting have been precised and collected together and they do make quite interesting reading. If anyone is interested in reading them they are welcome to a copy. Each meeting minutes included:

a) Those present by name – Managers and Head Teacher, a Chairman and Correspondent
b) Absences
c) Requisitions for goods for school for next 3 months to be approved and sent
to LEA
d) Schoolholiday dates finalised–at very short notice usually
e) Changes to Managers and Staff
f) Bills to be paid
g) Meeting opened withprayers
h) Previous meeting minutes approved or discussed
i) Every decision was proposed and seconded by a Manager
j) Attendance register and punishment book looked at

Note: There was no mention of the war anywhere in the Minutes Book
Found in 2014, Pevensey School Managers’ Minute Book from 1903-1928

Lots of names of teachers and assistant teachers and local workmen are included. One of the biggest, most regular problems was the cleaning of the school and the quality of the cleaners.

One entry on June 26th 1925 was: ‘some children of the school were stealing gooseberries from neighbours’ gardens and reported to the police. The vicar thought the Managers should know and invited their assistance in doing what was possible to bring home the disgrace brought upon the whole village by such conduct’.

December 17th 1926: ‘Two gas lamps put into the middles school classroom as children ‘’could not possibly see by light of one oil wall-lamp’’ ‘

July 14th 1928: ‘Dr Trower concerned about injury to Cissie Hobbs suffering from earache after a slap by Miss Goble, she to be told no corporal punishment to be given by assistant teachers and the dangers of striking a child on the ear.’

Mr Brooks is the new Manager in place of Mrs Penfold.

The red brick built new Pevensey National School initially had two classrooms with a fireplace in each room. A small area at the back of the larger classroom was possibly for infants sometime in its history. In the above book is a pencil drawing of the layout of the school, unfortunately undated. Below is a plan of the school as remembered by pupils in 1939 and 1957

Certainly by 1938 the larger room had been divided into two and reference to (wood and) glass partitions being installed is made in the record book in 1921. At that time there were outside toilets divided into girls and boys. The pencil plan shows a boys lobby at the entrance but not where the girls’ lobby was.

Various ideas for a playground were tabled in the Managers’ meetings and in the end the field opposite the school where the Memorial Hall was built In1923 was used. Children played in the field behind the Hall where two rubbish filled air raid shelters provided general interest (probably actually out of bounds!) but actually used by pupils during the war whenever necessary.

Some classes were held in the Hall including BBC’s Music and Movement and Scottish country dancing in later years. Pupils were taken up to the Royal Albert Hall to watch Scottish country dancing at least once.

Lunches were also provided in the Hall for the schoolchildren but I am assured the original canteen was in the Nissan hut (to the left of the passage to the recreation ground). In 1939 the vicar of Pevensey attended the school every Friday morning for a service with a few hymns in the top class.

Teachers at the School in 1939 were: Miss Murrell, infants, Miss King, next class and Miss Beeken, headmistress and top class.

There were only three Heads after 1888: (I have found no information on previous Head(s) so far). Wallby House, attached to the Old Court House, was provided as accommodation for the two long term Heads:

George Penfold 1888-1922 Mr Penfold was an enthusiastic bellringer and had rung in every Church in Sussex that had bells, the last one only a week before his death in 1927 when he was buried in the Churchyard. A record of his signature on the 1911 census is available and this also shows his address as Wallby House, Pevensey.

Miss Ameline May Beeken 1923-1954 Miss Beeken was very popular and when she died in 1954 a stone memorial was built in the Churchyard near the Church door and many schoolchildren were led up Church Lane to watch its auguration.

The Memorial stone for Adeline May Beeken reads: ‘’In loving memory of Adeline May Beeken, Headmistress of Pevensey Church School for 31 years. Died March 19th 1954’’. Found in Pevensey Church Yard

Mr Ralph 1954-1958 Mr Ralph was the last Head at Pevensey when the School closed in 1958.

At the time of the school closing teachers were:
Miss Barbara Turner who lived next door to the School. Her class planted an oak tree (or an acorn) in her garden which grew well but is no longer there.
Richard Warburton who also wrote for the local paper Mr Ralph who lived in Willingdon

Pupils came from Pevensey Bay either on the bus, along the road or over the fields and from Westham through the Castle. When the school closed pupils then attended Pevensey and Westham Primary School in Westham.

After the school closed the Beeken Club opened for teenagers on Tuesday evenings for table tennis, snooker, music and dancing. Sunday School was also in the school headed by Miss Duerdoth but was originally held in the Vicarage. It is not known how long for, or who all the other teachers were.

Eventually the school was sold as a private dwelling house.

The Memorial stone for Adeline May Beeken reads: ‘’In loving memory of Adeline May Beeken, Headmistress of Pevensey Church School for 31 years. Died March 19th 1954’’. Found in Pevensey Church Yard

This is an ongoing project that invites former pupils to share their memories to be included here along with photos. With input from Hugh Miller and Eric Banks, so far.