November 2017


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


Michael Evans
Memories of Pevensey School to 1955

My name is Michael Evans, and I attended Pevensey School with my two sisters Susan and Sandra

In 1949, Pevensey School, which was located in Church Lane, Pevensey, was the primary school for children from Pevensey, Pevensey Bay and Westham. The site where the current Pevensey and Westham School is located was called Westham School, and was a secondary school for the same area. I understand that Pevensey School was closed soon after I left, and is now a private house.

The following are a collection of memories that we have of those days, shortly after the end of World War 2. People didn’t have much money and there were very few luxury goods. Many items were still rationed, and there was no television. It may make interesting comparison to schooldays in 2007.

We only had 3 classrooms at Pevensey. Miss Beacon was the Head teacher, she taught the older children in the classroom nearest the fire station. The middle classroom was Mr Warburton’s, and he taught the 7 to 8 year olds. The third classroom at the other end of the building was Miss Murrell’s, who taught the 5 and 6 year olds. I believe Miss Murrell lived in the house next to the school.

Miss Beacon was a lovely lady, and looking back we always had a great respect for her. She lived opposite the church at the back of the Old Court House. We used to wait for her in the mornings at about 8.45 outside her back gate and walk down to the school with her. We were still at the school when she died, an event that sticks in both mine, and my sister’s memory, even after all these years. I remember we had a memorial service in the church and then had a memorial bird table/bath? erected alongside the path, just outside the main church entrance. My sister says it had posts with chains looped round it. She went and looked at it recently, and it looks very uncared for now.

My sister reminds me that Miss Murrell used to give everyone a list of spellings that they had to learn off by heart every weekend. Then on Monday morning she would make various children stand up and spell different words out in front of all the class. It’s one of the reasons that she’s never forgotten how to spell “Because”.

She also remembers the day that we helped Mr Walburton to push his car up a slope on a snowy day, and he then went off and left us to walk home. I think she was upset by that!

The school was heated by radiators, with a coal fired boiler situated in the middle classroom. We had to walk to school every day whatever the weather and often arrived at school wet, along with others from Pevensey Bay. (How many parents would let their 5, 6 and 8 year old children walk from Pevensey Bay to Pevensey, by themselves these days?) Everyone’s coats were hung over the radiators, and the guard surrounding the fire, to dry out. Not sure the Health and Safety Executive would approve of that today!

The toilets were outside, girls on one side and boys on the other. Very cold in the winter time. We had about 4 washbasins in a dark and narrow passage between Miss Beacon’s classroom and the small entrance on the road to the church. The basins only had cold water, and we used to have small pieces of soap that had been cut from a long block. This passageway had lots of coat hooks, and this was were we normally hung our coats. In those days nobody had to worry about someone walking off with them!

There were no electronic aids for the teachers then, just a blackboard and chalk. All the children had their own desk, because all the lessons were taught in the same classroom. The desks were double desks, which you shared with a friend. They had a bench seat, a wrought iron frame, and a lid that lifted both sides together. We used to keep our books and pencils in the desks.

Sometimes, we used to use the Memorial Hall opposite the school for PE lessons. It had a wooden floor and was brilliant after there had been a recent dance, because the floor would be covered in french chalk, and we used to slide on it.

We also used the Memorial Hall when we had to have medical examinations by Nurse Murrey. My sister remembers standing there in her knickers and liberty bodice, which had rubber buttons up the front…..very embarrassing she says! We were also checked regularly for head lice.

We used to go to the Memorial Hall for school dinners at one time, although eventually we moved into a prefabricated type building next to the footpath leading to the Recreation Ground….I believe there are bungalows there now.

School dinners were not like they are now. We always seemed to be having figs and custard, or tapioca for pudding. My sister remembers the square portions of jelly that was served up from a large tin, each portion with a dollop of cream on top.

At playtime, we used to use the field behind the Memorial Hall. I remember there were 2 air-raid shelters. We were not supposed to go in them, but sometimes we sneaked in, or were dared to go in. It was very scary because they were very dark and smelly

My sister says we used to play marbles, with golly washers, into small holes in the field. Each of us used to keep our prize marbles in a cloth bag and we used to swap marbles with each other.

We used to hold our formal games on the Recreation Ground. Football and Cricket. I remember that we had a special games afternoon on the day of the Queen’s Coronation. We were all given the morning off, but had to attend the games afternoon. At the end we were all presented with a Coronation Mug.

We also went to the Recreation Ground, and the field behind the castle, for Nature Walks. We used to do pond dipping, and came back in the spring with frog spawn that we kept in jars, and a small aquarium, on the class nature table. We then watched the transformation from frog spawn to frog. We also went bark rubbing and collecting different types of tree leaves, learning about all the different types of trees. I think it was from these early days that I became so interested in nature and the world around us, something that has stayed with me all my life.

I remember we used to grow beans between blotting paper, and the inside face of glass jars, which showed us how the roots went down and the shoots went up.

Opposite the school, was, (and still is), the fire station. Occasionally the fire siren would go off. All lessons had to stop because it was so loud. We used to stand up and look out of the windows, to see the men arriving and getting the engine out. Our Uncle Alf (Alf Briscow….not our real uncle, but a friend of our mother and father) was a fireman, and we used to look out for him.

In those days the weekly livestock market was held in what is now the car park near the castle. Occasionally some of the young bullocks used to escape from the market and came clattering down the lane past the school, with the market men in hot pursuit, desperately trying to recapture them. There was a lot of shouting and commotion.

Sometimes, when we had a penny to spare, we would sneak round to the Post Office to get 4 Blackjacks or a Gobstopper. We were not supposed to leave the school but used to sneak through the alleyway that went between Church Lane and the Main Road. I always remember that there was a house there that had a small bronze figure of Winston Churchill in the window.

Gobstoppers were always shared. Each person would suck it until the next colour appeared and then you had to pass it on. This never seemed to affect us, although it would be frowned on today. Interesting that we seemed to be healthier then than some children today!

The school day didn’t finish until 3.45pm. At some time during this period, Coast Rd in Pevensey Bay was concreted (originally it was all pebbles). Southdown Buses then started to run a bus to Beachlands. This came through Pevensey at about 3.30pm. In the wintertime all the children from Pevensey Bay were allowed to leave school early to catch this bus, to save them walking home in the dark, or waiting until 4.30pm.

In the summertime there was no getting the bus, and we used to walk home every day. Sometimes this used to take ages, especially when we stopped to watch the sheep shearing that used to take place in the field just before the houses leading to the station.

I suppose this sums up the big difference between schooldays now and 55 years ago. In those days we had very little, but we did have much more freedom, and we learnt about life by experience. Children today have far more opportunities to gain knowledge, with computers and the internet, but because of the changes in society, they don’t seem to be able to enjoy the freedom we had.

Michael Evans
Memories of Pevensey School to 1955
all rights reserved

IMAGE CREDIT: Frances Brown: 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