Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Girls and Infants School

Ten years after the new Boys' School the Board of Governors opened a new school on Aylesbury Street. The whole block between Church Street and Aylesbury Street and Windsor Street and Jersey Road was now occupied by the two schools. The Radcliffe Trust also decided at this time to develop new streets for Wolverton. Within a few years the schools were now surrounded by houses.

The new school was a two storey building with two entrances, one marked Girls and the other marked Infants. In 1949 this designation puzzled me, but I'll come back to that later.

The school appears to have been built with expansion in mind.  The rooms were large enough for 40 pupils, (although judging from the 1908 photo I referenced two days ago, they may have held more. There are 51 girls in that picture.).

When I went to the school in 1949, it had been adapted to two schools. The Junior School was  upstairs and the Secondary Modern (colloquially known as the Senior School downstairs. The upper floor had four years with A and B streams, and could therefore accommodate 8 classes. The same was true downstairs. The Secondary School also had 8 classes in 4 years. By this time an outbuilding had been constructed as a Cookery classroom. This building is still there adjoining a toilet block, which back then was used by girls only. There was also a wall dividing the Aylesbury Street School from the Church Street School. That has since been demolished.

As I recall, school times were arranged to minimize contact between senior and junior pupils and break times were staggered. The lower playground was shared between the Infants and the Boys. The Senior girls used the upper playground on the east side and the Junior School used the playground on the west side, and their entrance was through the Jersey Road back alley.

As you can see from the photographs, wrought iron railings surrounded the schools.

When I attended these school in the late forties and early fifties all Wolverton schools had just become co-educational - that is boys and girls were taught together in the same classroom. I had no appreciation of this revolution at the time because as a child I just accepted everything as if it had always been this way.

I should also mention that after the war two pre-fab buildings were erected on the site. They were both single storey concrete slab buildings with metal window frames and a zinc corrugated roof. they were, I think, just bolted together. It was a fast post-war solution to building and there were even houses (such as on the Bradville estate) that were built in this way. One of these buildings was placed in the eastern upper playground and became a Nursery School. It had two rooms with a central staff room. I suppose this must have been a new educational experiment at the time and my cohort may have been one of the first years to use it and were thus exposed to school at the tender age of four. I don't remember much. We did things with wooden building blocks in the morning, had lunch and then slept on folding canvas "camp beds" in the afternoon. I imagine our school day was over by 3 o'clock.

The second pre-fab was erected on the Jersey Road side at the top of the lower playground and this became the school canteen where school dinners were administered.


Andrew said...

The two pre-fabs you mentioned were still in place and serving the same purpose in the early 1970s when I attended. I recall attending the nursery in the prefab behind Windsor Street, then progressing to the Church Street school, then finally spending a couple of years attenting the Aylebury Street building. During this time there was another prefab "Terrapin" building adjacent to the Aylesbury Street building and close to the Jersey Road back alley - serving as an extra classroom. I also remember some barn type shelters in the yard and an external toilet block with its often very low temperatures.

What I found wonderful about the Aylesbury Street building, was the upstairs classrooms with their amazingly high vaulted ceilings and tall windows. On a recent visit I was disappointed to see modern false ceilings installed in the interests of economy and saving heating bills.

The architects for the schools were Messrs Harrington Ley and Kerkham of Bishopsgate who were responsible for many such projects and if you keep eyes open in London, there are so many brother and sister buildings with a similar appearance.

Bryan Dunleavy said...

Thanks for this information Andrew. It's a pity about the ceilings. I last set foot in that building in 1953 so I wouldn't know about subsequent developments. I could observe that one way of conserving energy is not to use it in the first place. The high windows were there to let in light so that artificial lighting was not needed. The gas lighting (as it then was) was turned on only on the darkest winter afternoons. I suspect that with the low ceilings the flourescent lights are now on all day.