Close middle school – A short history
© Dr Richard Talbot MBE written from notes compiled in 1983.
The story of the Close school commences with Mr. Thomas Aidney who is living at the time in Sydenham in Kent as we learn that he borrowed the sum of £2,600 at 5% interest to erect the building known as Hartshill Hall on 27 September 1882 Thomas Aidney purchased another plot containing an additional 60 feet of land for £217.18 shillings and sixpence in 1899 and a further plot measuring 87’ x 6” for £290 for Schilling’s and completed the estate. Thomas Aidney built the house and called it Hartshill Hall as all large buildings were called Hartshill Hall and the plaque on the west wall over the ornate front entrance shows the initials of TA brackets Thomas Aidney and intertwined with that is the year 1881 the documents relating to its purchase contain various information much of which is interesting to the reader: ‘all that building to be erected on the said plot of land should have their principal elevations to Princes road and quarry road and should be set back 18 feet themselves therefrom the intervening space being enclosed by palisade fence and such elevations and the position thereof to be first approved by the surveyor for the time being of Frederick Bishop. And that Thomas Aidney should not at any time thereafter permit any steam engine or kill to be erected or used on any part of the land nor permit the same or any building thereon to be used as a place of public amusement or permit to be carried on therefore any trade or business of a public beer cellar earthenware manufacture I am founder tallow meller or any other or offensive trade or business whatsoever. The building is to be used as a colour works outside of the building itself and to West Street be made to resemble dwelling houses to in all respects subject to the approval of the surveyor of the said Frederick Bishop. And provided also that Thomas Aidney shall be able to erect and use an engine in the works to be worked by gas or other noiseless smokeless power and also to erect inside any of the buildings upon such works are killed for the purpose of firing colours but so that the same engine and kiln should not be detriment to the neighbouring property or any nuisance of the occupants thereof. Or which said conditions Thomas Aidney did thereby or himself agree to observe and fulfil”.
The 30th September is Thomas Aidney, then described as “a gent” from Knock Hall Lodge, Sydenham, Kent secured a loan of 2600 from Mr J Packwood at 5% interest. In this document it states that the buildings were under construction and likely to be completed within four months the front is to Princes road at this time was 228 feet
Nine years later following his death his widow Mrs Francis aid me sold it to Mr Robert Nicholls timber merchant Copeland Street Stoke who inherited money and spent a lot on the grounds and planted trees as we see today
It was only just over four months following the death of Thomas aid need that Mrs Amy sold the property, Hartshill Hall to Mr Robert Nicholls, who was a timber merchant in the town of Stoke and had recently inherited what was then considered a fortune. The conveyance dated 28 March 1899 and includes the whole of the estate with the exception of the colour works which was situated at the rear far corner of the estate adjoining West Avenue. Even though Nicholls appeared to be a wealthy man he borrowed the sum of £2000 towards the purchase price of £3000 from Jane Fernival Voltaire of Hanley, at a rate of 4% interest payable half yearly. Through death alone passed down the Fernhill family line to Henry Edward Fernival of all, a solicitor.
In the mean-time Nicholls spent a lot of money improving the property and grounds as we see the evidence of this today in the substantial number of trees surrounding the old home, this coupled with a new style of high living attached to this newfound inherited fortune he was declared bankrupt. The Hartshill Hall was sold to the Rev John Herbert Crump of Longdon Vicarage near to Rugeley. Rev Crump was the rector of Stoke St Peters Church from 1892 to 1897 but have failed to find any logical reason why should be interested in the purchase of the house.
The conveyance dated 28 February 1905 recites that the property was later in the occupation of Mr Robert Nicholls on 15 February 1913 Rev Crump, who was then residing at Gray Court, old Colwyn sold the estate in various parts to Frank Collis, solicitor of Stoke. In doing this, the state was reduced in size Rev Crump retained one of the plots on which later the Rectory was built opposite what was the old North Staffs Royal infirmary casualty department. The deeds clearly indicate that it was his intention someday to allow a building to be erected as we read ‘that the conveyance of Hartshill close, gives no right of air or light which would reflect or interfere with the free use of any adjoining or neighbouring land of the said John Herbert Crump for building or other purposes, and this clause shall be deemed to expressly exclude the grant of such right.’
Hartshill Close then remained in the ownership of Frank Collis for only a brief period for it was conveyed to Mr Philip Elliott on 15 May 1919 for the sum of £2400. Mr Elliott died on 23 July 10 years later in 1929 and appointed his executor Norma William Elliott and left it to Norman water Elliott and RC may Elliott. On 12 October 1832 it was then conveyed to the Lord Mayor Aldermen and the citizens of the city of Stoke-on-Trent for the sum of £3000. It was quoted by reason of the property conveyed being used by the corporation’s school. However, the state was not of the same size as Mr Elliott had purchased it in 1919 as he in turn sold the plot at the rear facing West Avenue behind what is now the Rectory on 26 June 1922 to Basil Edward aid me. This measured hundred and 70 feet long by 30 feet deep.
Finally, we return to the plot use for the building of the Rectory. The legal documents in my possession give no clear picture to his acquisition except that it was transferred to the rector of Stoke Rev P boundary venerable Stewart on 30 August 1922.
Day one – 5th of September 1933
Replacing one’s childhood memories to 1933 is not an easy task but I’ve been able to trace a few people who were pupils on the very first day of the new close school. Before the close opened, children went direct from Penkhull infant school to what was Penkhull senior school at seven years of age until leaving age, which was then 14. On that day 50 odd years ago, there was an air of great expectation in the minds of those lucky children who were privileged to attend a new school. As usual they met at Penkhull senior school and marched along Princes road in what was called crocodile style as only children could to their new school a short distance further along the road. What a vision of splendour new chairs new pens and even new teachers how wonderful the children thought on the first date the school.
The children entered through the new gates which have been specifically constructed in quarry road as the old gates at the junction quarry road and Princes road were considered dangerous to children. This original entrance is still visible, and one can imagine without too much difficulty a pony and trap making its way to the grand entrance of Hartshill Hall. What a surprise what a disappointment to the children in the one a and 1B classes to find there was no desks and chairs but suddenly that the first feeling of disappointment turned to joy, when after the registered been taken they always sent home until the following day. However, there was still no sign of any improvement when the children arrived on the next day, so boys had to sit facing the girls on the floor reciting tables and having spelling competitions. The wait was worthwhile, as the children were delighted to find that new individual desks and chairs arrived which were then in 1933 considered very upmarket against the more traditional combined desk and tip up form seat that to set on. It was on the third day that the latest consignment furniture arrived which we noted included all that which was required from Miss Bellfield’s room, the headmistress.
The attic was not in use as a classroom for quite a number of years and during the first year to classes she shared one room. The owner the space available of any size was the conservatory which was built onto the house some years previously when it was a private residence. So, the following year saw the conservatory used as a classroom, complete with desks and chairs. This rather unconventional form of accommodation, probably unique in Staffordshire, had, it imagines no advantages but all disadvantages, freezing in winter and very hot in those long summer months which somehow one always had as a child.
School assembly in those years created problems as no Hall had yet been built to the school. To overcome this issue morning assembly was held on alternate mornings, upper school one-day, lower school following in the room on the right of the main entrance to this side of Miss Bellfield standing upon a table to take prayers. Incidentally the school this time was called Hartshill Jr mixed school as it was just over the border from Penkhull. This caused a great deal of confusion, not only with the authorities but also the post office, as at this time there was also in existent hearts of Church of England school which is situated just at the rear of the parish church down the road.
The house, after its original title Hartshill Hall, had for many years been called the close as a private residence and being well established under this title through the borough of Stoke upon Trent it is decided to allow the school to have this change as its official title.
As head, Miss Bellfield commenced as she intended to continue rules were made-and more to the point under her control they were kept. Teaching standards were high just as they always had been since her time, and during the first year 17 children won scholarships. Heather Hawkins, was one such pupil who was the top scholar in the city and was awarded as a prize to Kenny book token which at that time was a small fortune. Each day Miss Bellfield taught mental arithmetic to the scholarship class.
During the first-year children were given points were behaviour, service et cetera, and allowed to keep their own records of such awards. Class prizes were given at the end of each week which we usually are sixpence, a pencil case complete with pen holder, a near, a pencil, rubber and metal protector from Woolworths. It’s surprising today to recall just what an old sixpence would purchase all those years ago. It was thought that there was a considerable amount of abuse in the system by children but there was nearly always a cry of ‘so-and-so has clogged on’ when the marks without on a Friday afternoon.
When the first school opened in 1933, school playgrounds were, in common with many other schools in the district just black ash, complete with potholes and pools of water in wet weather. Boys use one side of the school while girls use the other. The poor service of the playground causes many bad accidents especially among the boys as a result of this report was sent to the clerk of works as soon as 18 September in in 1933. However, in keeping with common beliefs on the speed of the city in the log book of the following year 1834 it reads ‘the playground has been as felted and ready for the beginning of the term on 3 September’. Further 12 months or a different story 3 September 35 the playgrounds were back in the news as being under repair and PT cannot be undertaken therefore this necessitated a deviation from the time table for several days.
The layout of the grounds themselves seem to have been at fault for in the early years Mr Dibon of the education office visits the school to discuss the future layout of the grounds and how they could be improved. By the end of April in the same year 1938 action was taken and as a result it was reported that the boy’s playground was now clear and such more space had been made available for physical training. Since then, of course all-weather football pitches were subsequently laid out on top act over. Additional space for the pitch was made when a pub building near to the entrance of the school from West Avenue was demolished, it was a large red building built it is understood for the territorial Army that I would suggest it is part of the original cover works of Thomas Aidney.
Looking through the logbooks of the school it was surprising to read that a bulb setting demonstration for children was held in the school grounds as early in March 1947, but most of those flowering bulbs are still visible today was set by Miss Chilton and her scholars over the last few years. These were the bulbs that had been grown in pots for spring flowering in school and one can imagine the joy it brought to children to plant the bulbs and watch them grow the following year and subsequent years.
During the life of any school, there is over the years and ongoing process of additional alterations and changes that never seem to make news or are tabulated in any form. Often these little facts do create talking points and cause discussion so here it is recorded just a few facts that appear in the school logbooks that may be of interest.
The first item of note is when the school opened in September, apart from there being no desk and chairs there was also no lighting. This created an issue towards the end of the day were natural light failed. By November things got to the point where Miss Bellfield the headteacher took the matter into own hands and introduced early afternoon closing until new lighting was installed. As a consequence, it was not for long as the electricians arrived on 24 November to commence work on wiring the hot school which reads ‘necessitated some deviation from the time table and considerable inconvenience’.
The conservatory gave considerable cause for complaint when used as a classroom. So much so that the school was visited by Dr Scotland on 25 January 1934 after complaints on the suitability of the conservatory is a classroom. Dr Scotland was too being unimpressed, as a deputation from the education committee arrive the following day and decided to give immediate instructions to repair the broken panes, replace the floor and renew the waterspout. Like the conservatory the old property would need constant repair and maintenance as it became necessary to place certain windows and frames in July 1834 the noise of which we read in the logbooks was considerable distraction so whenever possible the children were taught outside. Then again similar work was done the following year in October but also included the replacing of some doors. Then in 1937 came the new assembly hall and the children moved out of the conservatory into the attic as a temporary measure while the new assembly hall was built. By December 1937 we read in the logbooks “workmen were busy fixing a new boiler which would heat the new assembly hall and classroom”. It was April able the 28th, 1938 that class IB took precedence in the new classroom from their temporary room in the attic. Reference was also made at the time that the hall was completed and in future or music dancing et cetera would be held there.
The new kitchen which now links the assembly hall and rectory was not built until much later on and very little information relates to this in the logbooks except an entry made on 3rd October 1968 which records “the rear windows of the hall were removed, and smaller ones fitted so that the roof of the new kitchen could be commenced”. It was the beginning of the autumn turn on 8th September 1969 that saw the grand opening of the kitchen and the entry reads as follows in the logbook “the new school kitchen opened, and hundred and 183 meals were served, 13 children were escorted from Penkhull infants school to have school meals at the close. Due to the fact that more children wanted meals than we had anticipated, two sittings have to be arranged”.
Prior to this time things were very different for children wishing to remain at school during lunch. Some were in the past sent cross street school before it closed and data onto Penkhull senior school. Prior to the hall being built in 9 to 38, white tablecloths replaced over desks in classrooms to accommodate flasks of tea and packets of sandwiches, was the children have bought from home. One of the highlights perhaps in the history of the school was when the assembly hall was used as a venue for the BBC programme ‘Gardeners Question Time’ held on 27th January 1978.
The major step taken to enlarging the school came when the authority purchased the old Stoke rectory n, this being built in 1922 when the previous rectory in Woodhouse Street Stoke was sold to the PMT. It was originally built such a distance away from the parish church of Stoke of St Peter a drinking. In 1965 the new rectory was built in the old St Peters playground adjacent to the church. To the previous rectory standing next to the closed became vacant.
School at this time was seriously looking for room to expand as the assembly Hall stage, was certainly used as a classroom and with the introduction of needlework and crafts, groups often overflowed into corridors. So, what better way to relieve the problem was sentenced to move into the new rectory next door.
It may be mere speculation, but this move could well have been the one move in the school’s history that has saved it from closure. In the last two years or so many schools have closed in North Staffordshire as reducing numbers of children have made them unviable teaching establishments in relation to the finance required. With the expansion and investment in the late 1960s this has probably secured the future of the close well into the 21st century.
Once again, logbooks contain little information with the day-to-day acquisition of the building, but the facts are listed that are available. On 16 January 1969 Mr Frank Chu and the architect and clerk of works came to inspect the rectory with a view to come position of the work so the building could be made use of in the near future by the school. On 12 February of the same year the building was officially handed over to the school as their responsibility. It was appropriate that half term holiday followed a few days later and we read all the staff, dinner ladies and cleaners gave up their holiday to help to move all the necessary equipment and furniture into the old Rectory for use of the children.
From time to time, maintenance was carried out on the close to keep it in reasonable state of repair, but it would appear that certain repairs had become neglected for the first of March 1971, Mr Mariette and Mr Hollins of the city works visited the school. They made the observation that the property had been totally neglected over the years and suggested that three new floors befitted and the renewal of the electrical fires and in addition to that cylinders be boxed in and many other repairs done at the same time. All this was extra to the removal of the wartime air raid shelters. It was these air raid shelters that cause some concern as they not only occupied valuable space but were in a dangerous condition and therefore had to be filled in. This was done some time prior to 15 September rate of 1971 assists as the city works department work contacted with complaints that the shelters had opened up again and were in a dangerous state. Mr Hollins from the city works followed up the score with a visit to view the problem himself by the first December further telephone call was needed to Mr Hollins to obtain action on the air raid shelters as nothing could been done since his last visit.
In any public building the fire escape is of paramount importance. However, some considerable concern was expressed after fire drill was held on 4 March 1971 when it was recorded as being’ unsuccessful. No doubt strong words were expressed on the important subject as five days later a further fire drill was held and the words successful’ entered alongside the entry in the logbook.
The War Years
It was only a few years after the school had opened at the Second World War commenced which bought a completely new perspective not only in the private lives of the pupils but in the school life as well. The first record of the war was made in the logbook on 3 August 1939 which reads ‘school closed for mid-summer vacation. Outbreak of war’’ the school remain closed until November 3 of the same year when it was open temporarily with only 55 children in attendance who were taught in groups of approximately 10. Each child was only spending 1 ½ hours in school daily and had to carry gas mask to and from school. Of course, the school was equipped with its own air raid shelter but until these were completed the seller under the close was used which was also classed as a public shelter capable of accommodating 100 adults from the nearby houses. By 15 December the new air raid shelters were recorded as being ‘satisfactorily completed to enable the children to take refuge in during any emergency’, and evacuation rehearsals were constantly being carried out during the weeks to increase efficiency. Sadly, few references were made in the logbooks on how often the air raid shelters were actually used, but on first November 1940 it is recorded that to air-raid warnings were heard in the shelters we used at 11 am there was an ‘all clear’, at 1:50 p.m. Of course, in the event of war it was a case of all hands to the pumps and the teachers were no exception to the rule. There was a rotor system established a fire watching duty and when the pupils were taken to Thistley Hough playing fields for games, no whistle was allowed because of the AARP use whistles to warn people of an oncoming air raid. No doubt many reading this account of the close school will have heard the comment made by the children that can’t spell like they used to. Well I have found out the answer why, it is because the time spent in the air raid shelters must mostly occupied with spelling games.
After the War
1947 Miss Gregory was appointed headteacher. At this time the school had on its role 270 children and six staff. There was no such thing then as part-time staff or school secretary so one can imagine how much work teachers had to undertake and the number of children in each class. As a result of the war food rationing and in 1947 the children’s feet had to be measured together with the height and weight of each child as the coupons issued to the school were calculated on this information. Materials for schools were in short supply from bars of soap to pencils and for the items that we used in crafts and needlework they were impossible to obtain but slow the situation improved and the schools surely return to some form of normality after the war. Shortly following the war, the junior section of Penkhull children’s homes in Newcastle Lane were transferred to the close to further education. Many of these children needed extra tuition because of various lengths of time lost in their previous educational experience. To overcome this Stoke-on-Trent authority introduced a scheme whereby these children received extra help in catching up by teaching them in small groups with part-time teachers.
With the post-war baby boom, and expansion of council housing in the area the demand for school places suddenly increased and accommodation proved inadequate. So, the top floor attic was made available for a class and small group. Miss Chilton use this for many years, her desks and chairs were very old having come from cross street school (now demolished), arriving on horse and cart. This classroom had no access to water and Miss Chilton always had an enamelled jug full in case of an emergency. There was also a sink bowl on a stand with a bucket underneath. Children thought it was a great honour to be allowed to fetch fresh water and to empty the bucket daily. Before the attic could be used and new fire escape was constructed, and regular fire drills were carried out to ensure a speedy and evacuation if ever the occasion arose.
In keeping with other old schools in the district classrooms were heated by a solitary fire, surrounded by a large wire guard. One of the highlights of this form of heating is that during the winter months bottles of milk were placed in the Rose to warm up before break time. In cold weather, the fires proved inadequate to raise a temporary temperature enough for children to sit in so ingenuity turn to warming up exercises for children before classes got underway. Apart from this there was the job of cleaning out the ashes each morning and laying fires and at the same time the burden of carrying the Coles up and down the stairs proved an arduous task for the caretaker. What a boon it must be my central heating was installed.
apart from the academic achievements of which the school can be justly be proud there are of course the achievements which are obtained outside the classroom and rely upon the physical ability of the children and encouragement and tuition given by teachers and parents. Over the school’s 50 years of history, the close middle school had had years which had been successful together with those that have not been so successful regarding results in sporting activities. Unfortunately, little information is available before 1955 except the old reference in the logbook about children going to the Stoke town sports but no actual mention of individual successes were achieved. One such occasion when should we say, things didn’t go the right way was in 1955-1956 with the football team had a disastrous year. Out of 22 games they lost 20 and only drew the other two.
However, the team did manage to score 6 goals but conceded 84 no mean achievement. The picture is situated is what is known as Penkhull Park formally went by the name of Richmond Street recreation ground. There are no such things as grass to play on in those days it was black ash and across the Plainfield area were drainage gullies was to create problems during wet weather. You’re just a few names that relate to this season Davie Broom, goalkeeper. Rodney Lane, defender. John Oakley, right half captain. Robert Lees, Wenger. David Cole, forward and his twin brother John Cole also played forward.
This picture below was taken outside the main entrance .the team members were ,top row from left Alan Wise 2 Anthony Wrigjht, 3 Peter Chadwick, 4 Billy Tunnicliffe, 5 Trevor Thorley, 6 ? Middle row from left Geoff Lowe ? 2 Mick Davis, 3 Peter Cartridge, 4 ? 5 ? Bottom row left to right 1 ? 2 Stephen Melluish, 3Timothy Wildig.
A special mention to poor little Stephen Melluish sitting at the front with the ball, who died in his sleep during a seizure age just 16 RIP.
The Close football team 1957-58
The following year did see a slight improvement under the captaincy of Michael Whitaker Michael was a player great determination which actually led to the team winning a few games at last in 1958 – 59 a change of venue took place as a pitch was made available at the Mount School for the deaf. The reason for this what the cross bar at the Richmond Street site being broken and Tippett call of the system it took over a year for the council to replace it. The captain for this year was Peter Chadwick. The outstanding player was Trevor Purnell, who kept everyone on pins until the very last moment as one of his finer points was not punctuality and in fact starting whistle was nearly in the rash mouth whichever would make his welcome appearance.
It is quite appropriate with the influx of new pupils from cross street school now Epworth Street, which closed in December 1959 achievement should follow. Two boys Nicholas Underwood and Michael topless commence playing and possibly as a result of their ability, the close school won the league championship. Full in 1962 – 63 the captain was David Farrar. Was rather small boy, redheaded but full of determination. He ran himself into the ground his team and during his captaincy the team had remarkable success and was entered into the city cup competition and you again Central School Tunstall. However, success was not to be for the heavy winter prohibited the fixed is being played. In fact, there was no football played that season during January and February. At this juncture it is worth noting that a piece of land behind the rectory was cleared of rubble during the winter of 1959 so an ‘all weather pitch’ measuring approximately 35 yards x 22 yards could be constructed at a cost of £1000 which seemed high at the time. It was ready for use by the February and proved to be a great asset to the school being useful lessons after school and also for Saturday morning football.
One outstanding event to the 1960s was the close broke the football Association rules and allowing a girl to play football in the boy’s team. This was in the 1963 period and her name was Marlene Garner. She was a very good footballer and was as tough as any boy in the school. The early years of the close history did not see great success is probably due to the fact that the school lacked good training facilities. All training had to be done either on the premises or at Richmond Street Park. However, a few years Miss Gregory allowed the whole school to go to the Croft playing fields for school sports. The occasion was quite a sight, hundreds of children walking to buy to follow by crates of milk and straws which were then issued free to children. This was also the venue of the Stoke Town Sports Association day which was usually held complete with tense loudhailer is excited children in irritable teachers as are all involved in either keeping control over the children or helping with the refreshments. The 1970s saw the school make strides in other spheres of sport for in the year 1972 the boys for the first time would the swimming gala but unfortunately the boys football team were beaten in the cup finals. By 1974 things were improving again as both the boys and girls swimming teams won their competitions and then in 1976, 77 and 78, the cricket teams absolve themselves by winning a hat-trick of victories.
In an in 1976 – 77 football season the school was honoured by having Andrew Warrender was appointed captain of the school football team while the following season the football team lost to Western Colony in the semi-final of the city football cup competition although they did finish second in their own league. The 1st to 2nd year football team just missed successes in 1979 – 80 as they were beaten finalist in the seven aside football competition. Success also included the girls as they had a hip hat-trick of wins in 1981 1982 and 1983 with regards to cross country running seasons. With both boys and girls now making strides independently they got together in 1981 – 82 and the winners of the combined trophy followed by runners-up in 1982 – 83.
The close, like any other school, had children who stand out over their contemporaries in many aspects of school life and sport is no exception there were many such boys and girls who brought credit to the school over the previous 50 years.
Various dates and events.
Under this heading various extracts from the logbooks that may have interest to the reader are listed which do give an insight into school life that is apart from the academic achievements. It has been suggested that all schools have their ups and downs with regards to attendance levels and the close oval over the previous 50 years has maintained a first-class record. However, from time to time it is cause for alarm and the first mention of this is found the opening of the school in 1933. In the November of that year Mrs White called for a report on the few children who were content the absence and spoiled what would otherwise be a very good percentage attainment. After having researched other school records dating back to the mid-19th-century to show that other school attendances can be greatly affected by various epidemics far more serious than modern day illnesses. And to such occasions in 1934, school attendances reached an all-time low of 84% due to an epidemic of mumps. There is one case of scarlet fever reported by the medical officer of health in October 1933 and again in January 1935 and then again in 1939 several cases reported to the medical officer of health.
Today, with home living conditions and diets for children far better than they were in the 1930s when school feel milk would have been a great boon to really underprivileged children. This is not available then if parents wanted their children to have milk, but they had to pay for it and we read that in November 19 3470 children were having milk paid for by their parents. Free milk paid for by the city of Stoke-on-Trent was implemented in the early years of World War II. One thing that I’m sure many older people who attended the school in these early years will remember is a profound sense of nationalism. One such example is the Empire Day celebrations in May of each year. The first of the such occasions was held on 31 May 1934 when celebrations took place in the grounds of the school we read in the logbook that pay traffic songs and plays with recitations took place, the union flag was saluted, and the staff and pupils stood to attention say sang God save the King. After 24 May 1938 there is no record of further empire days celebrations. In these early years there was still an overwhelming respect for those who lost their lives in the First World War and a two-minute silence was observed for each anniversary in November.
One of the main differences between the facilities for children of today and those who attended the school in the early years is the advent of television and all that goes with it. In 1934, life was very different as we read that the school was closed earlier 4 PM to give the children the opportunity of visiting the Victoria cinema to see the Prince of Wales tour. There were other occasions the school closing early and perhaps one can’t imagine them happening today. Take 20 October 1937 for example when the school closed at 3 pm so that the children go and see Stoke play Glasgow Rangers and again on 18 November 1936 when school was dismissed for oh 5 pm in order that the children could avoid the return crowds from the international football game at Stoke. The position of the school in relation to hospital complex has bought that extra benefit to the children in being at first hand to witness many visits from royalty. There such occasion recorded was as early as 13 December 1937 when the Duke of Kent visited the hospital and the playtime was changed to 40 5 PM so the children could gather outside and wave their flags. Once more the school only times were changed when her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth (the present Queen) visit the hospital on 3 November 1949. The following saw her mother now her Royal Highness the Queen Mother visited the hospital on 17 October 1950 once more the school adjusted its hours, so the children could see his Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh pass at 2 PM on 17 April 1950. In 1955 her Royal Highness the Queen visited the city children from all schools included the close were invited in a huge pageant and display which was held at Stoke city football ground.
It may be appropriate here to finalise a section on Royal visits with the entry made on 4 June 1977 to celebrate the Jubilee VAR Queen and no better way could be than to quote the full entry made in the logbook which gives a precise account of the day’s activities “as this is Jubilee year the staff decided to make special arrangements to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee. They decided on an Elizabethan festival. Each class chose a different subject taken from the last 25 years. The Royal family – class VII, inventions – class VIII, space – class IX, popular music – class X, famous people – class XII, soldiers – class XI, sport – class XIII, costume class XIV
the work done by the children was displayed throughout the school. Parents were invited to experience exhibition for themselves. During the afternoon our own Jubilee Queen Leslie Unwin was crowned by Miss E Bowman wife of the chairman of the PTA. School managers with air and presented prizes to the winners of races. The park consort orchestra and gymnastics also entertain the audience. Afterwards, the managers joined all the children of the school at T which was set out in the school playgrounds. The Queen cut a very nice Jubilee cake which had been made by the school cook Mrs Kirkham. At the T the children were given the beakers which the local authority of Stoke-on-Trent had provided for them. The events of the day were most enjoyable and most successful”.
It may be a sign of the times that break-ins and burglaries appear to be more prominent that in the early years but thirty odd years ago there was certainly not a daily occurrence. This is proven out by the fact that only few entries relate to this. The first of these was made on the in July 1948 when the school was broken into by boys during the weekend Mr Twyford inform the police. The second occurrence was made in November 1957 when during the evening of the 27th school was broken into. The reference was made to what exactly was taken in either these entries, but the next entry dated 13 January 1881 does recognise this. ‘During the night and thieves stripped led from the room of 4M and hedge room. The full extent of this was not apparent until the following night when heavy rain poured in and the hedge room and cause considerable damage and in fact sport many books’.
After giving an insight in school life and activities inside its back walls perhaps it would be appropriate here to recall of few recollections and dates about school trips that were to become a highlight of the year for every child. These always took place on the last Friday in June before the local industrial holidays. They were not just a pleasure trip but more of an educational journey a subtle mixture of business with pleasure. It must be recorded that many over a great debt to ingenuity and farsightedness of Mr Dennis Proctor, the deputy head who planned the whole operation from start to finish. First, he travelled the complete truth by car noting layby’s places of interest places for meals and even with the children locality a public every toilet en-route. Always time to military precision rather than a school trip.
January 1972 a meeting was held between the swimming pool company and about 50 fathers of children at the school have agreed to build the pools themselves. On 10 April 1972 the first sod was dug by Mr Smith which was see a swimming pool come into being.
By 15 April the excavations were completed and construction work on the pool by the fathers continued during weekends and evenings. From this point considerable time past discussions were taking place with the enclosure of the pool company and somehow problems arose over this. By 5 May 1973 the Lord Mayor came and perform the opening ceremony.
In February 1975, Mr Bateman from the city estates department came to visit the school to discuss the provision of showers which the parent teachers Association hope to provide. The pool proved to be an outstanding success, and all was going well until 27 July 1976 when after swimming gala held on that day Sillitoe Who Had Presented the Trophies Attended a Meeting to Discuss the Proposal by the Authority to Close the Pool Due to the Very High Electricity Costs. Parents Naturally, after Raising the Money for the Pool and in Fact Building It Themselves Were Very Angry. However, Mr Sillitoe Promised to Investigate the Matter Further. This Was Followed the Next Day by Meeting between Mr Hollins, the Schools Maintenance Inspector Who Offered a Positive Solution to the Heating loss in the pool which caused high running costs