St Mark's School - education and much more besides
Before computers, the National Curriculum, and Ofsted, life at school was quite different to what it is today. Michael Winterman would like to share with you his memories of St Mark’s School when it was on Wyndham Road.
Getting to and from school
“But nobody ever came to school in a car, in those days. I have vivid recollections of being at the school and loads and loads of people used to be walking up the hill …. with their mums, and sometimes with their dads, but mostly with their mums. Or their grans. And sometimes they would come with someone else’s mum because they lived next door to them.
There were lots of other little children there who lived in the immediate area of Wyndham Road, and Queens Road, and College Street, and Belle Vue Road, who all used to be walking up the road together in the mornings, and coming home in the afternoons. And mums used to talk to each other and, occasionally, we would stop on fine days and the mums would sit on the seat and talk and we would run across the playing field at the back of the Council grounds.”
“The teacher that we had.. Miss Rowden.. she was really nice. She was a very smiley lady and she was always very friendly and she would get us to sort of write on pieces of paper. And I remember her standing at the front and teaching us the letters of the alphabet.
English was always my favourite subject. I always used to like writing … I always used to enjoy actually forming letters and things . And I remember the teacher saying, ‘This is a small ‘a’ and that’s a big ‘A’. And that’s a small ‘b’ and that’s a big ‘B’, and then we got calling things ‘ay’ and ‘bee’ and not ‘ah’ and ‘ber’ and it was quite interesting and I remember feeling quite sort of grown up then”.
“We used to have to recite our two times table, and our ten times table, and our twelve times table. And I could always do that because you always remember it parrot fashion when I think about it now. But…if you were to ask people now, ‘What are seven sixes?’ it doesn’t come automatically to them, whereas when you did your times tables it, it came automatically because you would remember it immediately”,
“We used to actually do lots of things in the art room…. lots of big paintings, and colouring, and charts. We used to make things with Plasticine and then we used to have paper-mâché… to make little models and things with old newspapers. One of the first things we made in there was a flower pot. We used to have to stick all this together and … let it dry and … when it was actually finished, it was quite hard. And then we used to have to paint it…..and we could paint it whatever colour we liked”.
Special events and activities
“When it came up to Christmas, we used to have to go to the church at St. Mark’s church. And of course, before the ring road was there, you literally walked right up Wyndham Road, before it was altered, and over the top and down the other side.
I remember coming up towards Christmas and we made lots of little paper chains ….we cut out, and we glued the ends, and we hooked them all together. And then.. we pinned them all up, on the wall. They used to hang these paper chains on the beams. We made these bells and you could actually make them out of sort of crêpe paper … and we always used to get very sticky with the glue”.
“And they made this little crib. They’d made this little stable, and they put the straw on the roof and glued it on. And we had to help. And there was a donkey. And they had this little manger with the Baby Jesus. And Miss Rowden used to sit down in the corner and tell us all about the Baby Jesus, and that’s what Christmas was all about. A lot of the children thought Christmas was just about having presents, and she would say, ‘No, no. It’s not about having presents. It’s about.. the Baby Jesus.’ .”
“We were going to have a Harvest Festival, and people were able to bring things, but you could only bring one thing, you could bring a potato, or a carrot, or a marrow, or something or other, or a cabbage. When we went back to our classroom, Miss Rowden said, ‘Well, I’m going to write a little note for you all to take home for your mummies.’ And I remember this little note … my mother said, ‘Oh you’ve got to take a carrot or a cabbage or something,’ and I think I took an apple”.
Ken Edwards also recalls some school activities:
“We had a very big school garden an’ we used to grow a lot of our own vegetables and everything and, for my sins – I don’t know why – but I seemed to be quite good at it and I got a school prize for it actually. I was in charge of the compost heap. So I s’pose I started recycling at an early age, but I was proud of my compost heap and I used to even sort of tend it during the dinner hour some times”.
Michael remembers quite a lot about that!
“Mrs. Gregory… used to have this thing she would say: ‘I want everyone to be very quiet. I want fingers on lips.’ And we used to have to sit there, like that, with our fingers on our lips, and she would look around the classroom to make sure that everyone had their fingers on their lips. And then she’d say, ‘Right fingers off lips now. But I want everyone to be quiet.’
Mr. King, who was the headmaster at that school then, was a very big, very gruff sort of man, and he lived in Queens Road. I always remember him because.. . he used to shout, and when the children weren’t being very quiet, he got very cross and he would sometimes bash someone on the top of the head and say, ‘Will you be quiet!’
After a while, you realised that anybody that was naughty in the big school, had to go to Mr. Pye’s office. And if they went to Mr. Pye’s office they always ended up having a smack… and coming out crying and they weren’t allowed to go out to play, and they had to sit in the classroom. And some of them would cry again, but they still had to sit there. And you learn, very quickly, that you don’t do things that are going to attract a smack from Mr. Pye”.
Eating and drinking
“I’d not been there very long and I heard this rattling, and there was a crate of little milk bottles. They said, ‘Everybody’s got to drink their milk.’ I hated it. They were very cross with me, and said, ‘You’ve got to drink your milk because you’ll never grow big and strong if you don’t drink your milk’. “
“When I was probably six or seven, they had this hall next door and some children were able to have a cooked meal at the school. A van used to come every day, and they used to take these great big tubs out of this van, and they were always boiling hot. And this man, who seemed to be huge, used to carry these in and put them on a table, at the end of the hall. They were like stainless steel tubs of food and there were these ladies with big hats on and aprons on. All dressed up to scoop this food out. And then when it was dinner-time we were all told to line up and go into this hall….and we’d sit down and they’d bring the plates round. And I remember vividly, potato and swede. I can never remember what else we had with it, but we always had a big dollop of potato and swede.
But when it came to puddings.. . I always liked the puddings. They used to have semolina pudding and another pudding called tapioca. Oh I didn’t like that! Ooh that looked horrible! Sometimes there was chocolate semolina”.
Time to grow up: leaving St Mark’s School
‘We’ve all got to take a very important exam. And this exam would tell us whether we’re going to go to the Bishop’s School, if we’re a boy, or to South Wilts Grammar School if we’re a girl, or whether we’re going to go to St. Thomas’s if we’re a boy, or to St. Edmund’s if we’re a girl.’ And I remember St. Edmund’s was just down the road, by the church, and I remember that because my big sister had already gone there because she was three years older than me.
When it got to the last day of school, at the junior school, I remember we had a party at the school, and we all had to say goodbye to the teachers. And I remember I took a little piece of cake or something or other in a bag to one of the teachers. I don’t know if they ever ate it but I remember taking this piece of cake, and then going down the hill, through the Council grounds and the Greencroft, thinking, ‘I don’t have to go to this school ever again! I’m going to a big school. But I don’t have to go to that school until September, and I’ve got six or seven whole weeks just to go and play!’ Oh and that was like the relief of Mafeking; it was wonderful.
But I never saw a lot of those children again after that, other than the ones that lived immediately around me”.
Do you have any of your own memories of St Mark’s School to add, or some photos?