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Bohemia’s Schools Remembered

The National School in St Pauls Road.

The National School in St Paul’s Road.

Vic Chalcraft writes (Dec 2006)

Children attending senior school could in some cases get school dinners but I can’t recall it happening in junior school, though we did have milk. Schooling was sound. I can’t recall any child leaving junior school who couldn’t read or write. Spelling in those days was considered important as was one learning their maths tables. We had two schools: St Paul’s situated where the YMCA now is and of course the old Tower Road, now Christ Church.

I went to St Paul’s. From an early age, I remember there were no play groups or nursery schools then. You went straight into being taught the basics, like ‘The cat sat on the mat’, and so on. The very young children had a sleep in the afternoon on a little canvas bed. At St Paul’s you started with a lovely lady, Miss Gildings, then progressed through the classes till reaching Miss Philips, a teacher I and others have to thank for giving us a love of The Wind in the Willows, which she read to us on the last lesson on Friday afternoons. I can still hear her rendering of Toad’s ‘Poop, poop, poop’ to this day. St Paul’s was overseen by a head master, Mr William Gray, an upright, smartly dressed man nearly always wearing a grey suit and bow tie – a stern but fair man, who administered the cane only when really deserved. At this stage of our education we sat the eleven plus exam, the outcome of which decided our future: high marks, the grammar school or high school, middle marks to the secondary modern or technical school and lowest grades to such schools as Silverhill.

From this system one can say the social structure was developed. Grammar school produced the academics and management, secondary schools the artisans and technicians and the lower schools the base of the working system.

School medical care – this was again basic. I cannot recall being examined by a school doctor though I suppose I must have been. We had a school dentist, a Mr Penfold who had a surgery on the corner of Upper Clarence and Upper Park Road. Not a popular man, though whether this was through fear or rough treatment, I can’t say. We did have regular visits from the nit nurse, examining everyone’s head. If it was discovered you had nits, it was a short back and sides haircut. Though strangely nits seem far more prevalent today.

The photo shows the original National School building in St Paul’s Road. It cost £2,200 to build on land given by the ‘Charity Trustees’. It was to provide education for 150 boys and girls and 100 infants. The Infants School included a soup kitchen and blanket store. In the post-war period the school was moved to Horntye Road, and later the original building was demolished and the site finally used for the provision of a new building for the YMCA.

[Reference: Hastings Childhoods by Hastings Modern History Workshop, 1987]

Tower Road School - viewed from Tower Road West. Photo 1985-86.

Tower Road School – viewed from Tower Road West. Photo 1985-86.


Mike McIver writes (Dec 2006) Dear Sir, I read with interest the article regarding St. Paul’s school. However, I think you will find that it is not quite correct. I attended St Paul’ s school from 1948 to 1953. The school was partly in Magdalen Road and partly in St.Paul’s Road, at this time I believe Tower Road was a senior school. Yes, we did have school dinners during this time at St Paul’s. Michael McIver, 20 St.Pauls Road.


Vic Chalcraft writes (Feb 2007) Dear Sir, the McIver letter re: St Paul’s [issue 44, 16th December 2006]. As he is talking about long after I left, I cannot say yea or nay. I know that at some time in this period pupils had dinners in what is now the Red Cross Hall, and there was a school in its own right in Magdalen Road, though I was never aware of its association with St Paul’s. Vic Chalcraft, Aldborough Road.


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