History Group Member Jeff Clarke was a pupil at Bath Place School just after WW2, until he left to take up an Apprenticeship at Henry Griffiths’ jewellery factory at the age of 15. He recorded these reminiscences of his school days with Margaret Rushton. He remembers the overcrowding, in the Infants, Juniors and Seniors, – who had to have their lessons at the Urqhart Hall in Leam Terrace. Because the school was then a Church School, everyone but the smallest infants had to go to the service at the Parish Church on Wednesday mornings. If older pupils were late, – and Jeff sometimes was, – they had to go to the Infant Class and “work” there until it was time to join their proper classes.
The cane was a feature of school life then too, – and Jeff had the cane more than once. The cane or a ruler rapped across the knuckles was used for any misdemeanour, from getting spellings wrong to getting into a fight. The male teachers were almost all former military men and strongly believed in firm discipline, – of the “Spare the rod, spoil the child” variety, – but they could also be kind (in an emergency!)
In Jeff’s time at Bath Place, there were still Air Raid Shelters on the playground behind the school, stretching from the back wall to Lower Avenue. There were blackout curtains on a metal pole, fastened to the inside of the wooden doors, and children often used to run in and out, especially when there was a staff meeting and they were left on the playground to amuse themselves. Jeff ran in one day, and collided with something that made him see stars. He stumbled out into the light, horrified to see blood on his hands where he’d felt at his head. An older pupil went and knocked on the (locked) school door, keeping it up until an irate teacher appeared and she was able to explain about the injury. The wound was cleaned and bandaged, and then Mr Foster, the Head teacher, rushed Jeff out to the main road, where he flagged down a horse and cart from the railway station. The cart carried parcels, but Jeff and Mr Foster were hoisted up on to the back, legs dangling, and driven hotfoot to the Warneford Hospital for stitches. The metal pole had just missed Jeff’s eye, – and he still has the scar above his eyebrow to prove it!
More Reading – Bath Place Audio Recordings