In July 1993 Surrey County Council closed Chipstead First School and brought to an end 247 years of formal schooling in Chipstead. So ended a chapter in the life of the Village which had its beginnings in local charity and finally became a state primary school. From its first location as the Mary Stephens School in Outwood Lane the school moved up the hill to Shabden cottages and subsequently to the purpose built premises on High Road near Markedge Lane, which date from 1874. This spans a period of 247 years.
The closing of the school is a sad loss of identity to Chipstead, particularly when compounded with other amenities which no longer play a role in the life of the Village. The present school was built in 1874 and at the turn of the century it was known as The Chipstead Parochial School, regulated by a scheme under the Endowed Schools Act of 1874.
On 23rd May 1906 the Mary Stephens’ governors entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with Surrey County Council. In effect, Surrey County Council became the freeholders in all but name, provision being made that should the school cease to be used as such, then the property would revert to the Mary Stephens Foundation.
A proposal by the County Council in 1978 to close the school on grounds of financial and educational viability was successfully opposed by the then School Governors.
In 1991, as part of the re-appraisal of education within the County, the County, concluded that the school should close. Representations were made to the County and subsequently to central Government by the School Governors, the Parent Teachers Association, Parents and various local organisations, such as The Residents Association, Chipstead Preservation Society and The Mary Stephens Foundation. Pupil numbers had declined even from 1978 and it was upon this basis, coupled with financial and educational viability that the Minister finally supported the County Council.
To mark the end of the school, the Mary Stephens Governors attended a small ceremony at the close of the Summer term 1993 and each pupil was presented with a pen with their individual name inscribed upon it as a momento of their time in school. The Mary Stephens Governors formally took possession of the buildings on 31st October 1993.
It was suggested by the Mary Stephens Foundation that to mark the closing of the school and for posterity, a record of the history of the school should be made before documents are further dispersed and living memories are no longer available. Apart from plain facts and records the recorders have been able to use some notes from school log books dated from 1870 and also to interview some people, still living, for their recollections of having been a member of staff, a pupil, or having worked there.
These articles are based upon this record.
Origins of Elementary Schools
The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge began their existence in 1167/8 and 1209 respectively at a time when all education was in the hands of the Church, and was intended for the higher instruction of clergy and ordinands. During the 14th and 15th centuries it became an act of charity for wealthy clerics, merchants and noble ladies to found colleges and schools for the benefit of boys from their estate, parish or borough.
The best known surviving establishments of these origins are William of Wykeham’s Winchester College, King Henry VI’s Eton College and King’s College, Cambridge.
However, few farmers’ sons from isolated Downland villages like Chipstead, would, in those days, have come under the influence of such establishments. But it was the non-conformist sects who valued education if only because it would enable all and sundry to read Holy Scripture.
In 1699 the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge was founded under the influence of a Dr Thomas Bray (1656-1730) Rector of Sheldon, Warwickshire. He promoted the formation of parish libraries and certainly encouraged the foundation of schools, particularly Sunday schools. The Society had one primary aim ‘to further and promote that good design of erecting catechetical schools in each parish in and about London’ and by 1741 was said to have created 2,000 schools maintained by public subscriptions.
It is not surprising therefore that Mrs Mary Stephens of Epsom was moved to found her school for 3 boys and 3 girls in 1746.
Mary Stephens’ Charity School in Outwood Lane – 1746 to 1871
Betrothal portrait of Miss Mary Rolt on her marriage to Anthony Stephens in 1694, painted by John Vanderbank.
In 1694 a 28 year old lady called Miss Mary Rolt was married to Anthony Stephens, a prosperous widower aged 61, who lived in Epsom. In 1695 Anthony Stephens died after only two years of married life and was buried in the chancel of St Margaret’s Church, and his Tabard hangs above his tomb. He left his widow over £16,000.
Helmet and Coat of Arms of the Stephens family. The helmet originally hung above Anthony Steven’s grave in the chancel at St.Margaret’s Church, next to his tabard which is still there
Mary was widowed but lived on to the fine old age of 89 in 1755, never marrying again. It is not clear what was the connection of the Stephens family with Chipstead; Anthony is described as ‘of Epsom’ but he and his two wives are buried in St Margaret ‘s Church.
Mary bought ‘a little farm of about 70 acres’ from Elizabeth Baldwin and others, members of the Dallender family. This comprised a house, barns and various fields and woodlands in Outwood Lane and lying along the valley bottom near the present railway viaduct. The farmlands were let to a local farmer which would provide a rental income for the school. The house was used to accommodate the schoolmaster and where he taught the children. The house is now known as ‘The Old School House’ but was then divided into two residences.
Circa 1780 map of the farmland owned by Mary Stephens at Chipstead Bottom in Outwood Lane and let to a local farmer.
In 1746 Mary arranged her school Foundation which specified that ‘The Trustees should employ the rents as should be necessary for the repairs of the premises and in the teaching of six poor children, boys or girls, of the Parish of Chipstead, whose parents were of a sober and religious life, to read in some convenient school in the parish, and for the providing each of them as soon as they could read, with a bible.’ Mary Stephens died in 1755.
Mary Stephens' former school building at Chipstead Bottom in Outwood Lane.
The first recorded schoolmaster was George Dawes who was paid £9 per year from which £3 was deducted for rent. By 1799 he had become very infirm and a new master, James Moore, was appointed at the princely salary of £18 per annum, out of which he had to buy pens, inks and bibles. After 15 years of service James Moore asked for and was granted an increase in salary to £21 and was no longer required to provide prayer books which were provided by the Rector, Peter Aubertin.
James Moore, the headmaster at Mary Stephen’s school
By 1828 a further cottage had been added to the schoolhouse and this was rented by James Moore at £6 per annum. He seems to have made himself useful to the Trustees by drafting apprenticeship indentures and by supervising certain farming operations on the Trust’s property, such as tree planting.
By 1846 much of the teaching appears to have been done by Moore’s son and daughter, for Moore was getting on in years, but the Trustees seem to have been disturbed by aspects of the son’s and daughter’s behaviour. The Rector referred to the fact that they were ‘Dissenters of various persuasions’. Moore died in 1854. Three rather unsuccessful masters followed and finally in 1865 Jesse Richbell, a young man of 23, unmarried, was appointed, it being understood that his mother would keep house.
The first ‘poor children’ recorded to have received the benefit of Mary Stephen’s Trust are Hannah Matthew and Elizabeth Scrivens, daughters of day labourers of How Green. At the close of their schooling children were apprenticed to such local trades as the Trustees thought fit. They were extremely careful as to the character of the employer to whom they were entrusting their children.
In 1786 the Rector, Mr Griffiths, reported that ‘Martha Walter, daughter of a day labourer at the Well House’ (now the Well House Inn) was qualified to be put apprentice, but the only offerfor receiving her was from a mantua maker in Reigate, who demanded a fee of 12 guineas for only two years, which appeared to the Trustees to be ‘so exorbitant and so far to exceed the sum resolved on by the last meeting that they do not judge it to be expedient to close with that offer’.
There seems to have been a number of other children attending lessons in the Old School House, besides the six charity children, for when in 1870 the Rev.Peter Aubertin gave his consent to the six Mary Stephen’s scholars being admitted to the National School in the High Road (see below), the numbers of the latter jumped from 85 in 1870 to 130 in 1872.
In 1870 Mary Stephen’s Governors must have realised that they would find better use for their funds by sending their six pupils to the National School and disposing of their small estate which was already being farmed as part of the Shabden estate. So the Old School House and land was sold to Mr Cattley and the Mary Stephens Charity became possessed of the financial proceeds of the transaction. This later enabled the Trustees to provide £1000 towards the acquisition of a new school site at the Ruffetts in High Road.
In 1891 free education was introduced and the funds of Mary Stephens Charity were used to provide prizes, grants and scholarships for those pupils who progressed to Grammar school or places in other Secondary schools.
Mary Stephens would, we think, have been happy to think that her gifts had multiplied to provide for the schooling of many more Chipstead children than the original 3 boys and 3 girls.
Mary and Anthony Stephens grave in St.Margaret’s Church
The National School at No.1 Shabden Cottages – c1845 to 1874
In 1902 Parliament passed what is known as Balfour’s Education Act which made public education the business of County Councils and all payments by parents for elementary education in Council Schools were abolished. Not until 1918 was education made compulsory for all children between the ages of 5 and 14 years and no child under the age of 12 was to be in full time employment.
So far as Chipstead was concerned it seems likely that the Rector, Peter Aubertin (1808-1861)) the gentry and the major farmers of the parish must have taken advantage of the earliest governmental initiatives to provide some education for the young beyond the limited advantages of the Mary Stephens School, and create a National School.
By the year 1850 the National School had 80 pupils attending. Research to date has revealed little about the early history of our National School. It appears to have been located at what is now the front garden of No 1 Shabden Cottages and an early postcard shows a timber hut with a tiled roof and two chimney stacks abutting onto the front garden fence along the High Road. This was the schoolroom although exactly when it was erected is not known.
This was the National School which stood on the High Road, next to Elmore Pond, in front of the building line of Shabden Cottages. After the school moved to Ruffets End, the former school building became the Chipstead post office. The Post mistress was Miss Bray.
No.1 Shabden Cottages circa 1912. The old schoolhouse was demolished and the house became the village Post Office a few years before WW1. It was then run by three spinster (Simmonds) sisters. They converted their garden into a place of worship and held services there.
In the Autumn of 1870 David Gibson was in his first year as Headmaster, keeping a daily Log Book. An Inspector’s report of July 1870 reads
”The School is in excellent order and promises very well. The children have passed a very creditable examination in Holy Scripture in the different Standards but they have been placed too low in several instances The area of the room would be too small if the children were not well handled. A classroom for the infants is needed.”
The headmaster lived in the cottage on the corner of Elmore Road from which vantage point he could observe his charges not only in school but equally when they were on their way to and from school. Thus on the 14th November he punished two boys for playing on the road and coming to school late, while two weeks later he punished two boys for playing round and getting into the pond!
The agricultural background to Chipstead life frequently interfered with school routine. The observation ‘school very thin’ recurs with varying qualifications such as ‘gathering acorns after the late high winds’ or ‘some gathering potatoes for the farmers’.
A Victorian photograph of schoolchildren at the National School circa 1870. The headmaster, Mr. Gibson, is on the right
Religion was very much part of life, both in school and out. ‘Spoke to all attending the Sunday School’ and ‘Spoke to the whole school about the neglect of Sunday School’.
Childrens schooling could be very brief, a few year’s interlude between the nursery stage of life and the world of work which would be their lot until their dying day. Their last day of school might occur at any time when their parents saw an opening for their gainful employment. In September 1872 Mr Gibson noted ‘one boy nearly 14 years old (N Garland) left school for work in the Shabden garden’, and two years later in April 1874 another note says ‘Walter Sams 1st class boy left for work in Mr Cattley’s stables Age 12. Not very bright boy and not very forward with learning’
Commemorative plaque of children on the wall of No.1 Shabden Cottages
The New School at the Ruffetts, High Road - 1874 to 1993
The splendid new school at Ruffets End on High Road
The improving financial situation meant that all concerned with Chipstead’s communal life were able to undertake building a new school on a new site at Ruffetts on the High Road. In 1874 Lord Hylton spoke to all present of the great pleasure it gave him to see the splendid buildings and to declare them open for use. David Gibson continued as headmaster, maintaining the daily Log Book.
The school’s routine continued much as before, only interrupted by the incidence of bad weather or illness and sometimes death. In the early months of 1875 heavy snowstorms occurred reducing attendances to 48, 60 and 71; those who had to come two miles or more to school were excused. On Wednesday 19th January 1881, Many children arrived at school cold, shivering and wet with snow. Roads blocked so that Inspector could not come.’ On Thursday ‘Tried again to open the school. Only 61 present. Sent children home. Many have over two miles to come across fields and through lanes. These were so filled with snow that children could not get there. School only opened 4 times in the week.’
In December 1880 Mr Cattley died on a Sunday morning and hisfuneral on a Thursday afternoon was the occasion for the schoolnot to open. Two years later Mrs Aubertin died, and in February1891 the later Rector (Peter Aubertin, the younger) died and the children attended his funeral.
In October 1893 a little boy, Charles Woods, in the infants class, five years old, was taken ill on a Tuesday and died on the Wednesday in the following week. On 1st June 1895 an 11 year old, Ellen Beadle was taken ill on Saturday and died on Sunday 9th June; the doctor attributed her death to concussion following a fall.
In 1896 the Assistant Master, Mr Johnston, was absent on 18th and 19th of September and died on Sunday 20th. Wrote Mr Gibson: ‘I record this with deepest grief. He had only been with us exactly 5 months, but during that time by his manly, upright and straight forward conduct, combined with great kindness of heart, he had endeared himself to all, teachers and children alike. He was firm but kind in his treatment of the children and the elder scholars, among whom he laboured, feel that they have lost a true friend. For myself, I must say that I have never met with a more agreeable and conscientious colleague.His death at the age of 27 has cast a gloom over the school during the whole week’.
The monotony of schoolwork was relieved from time to time: In September 1890 ‘Children were photographed in groups on Friday during Dinner hour’ ; in May 1882 twenty of the older children had a trip to Brighton, and in October on Friday 6th, the school did not open in consequence of a Sunday School trip to Crystal Palace. On July 4th 1904 Mrs Goad, one of the Governors, took the children to Box Hill for a drive. And. of course, there were the national holidays for Royal weddings, Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, Coronations and the Relief of Ladysmith.
Free education was not introduced until 1891; until that year all scholars attending school were expected to pay School Pence or one penny per week towards their tuition From time to time the Head would have demanded payment and threaten to reduce admission in case of non-compliance.
Staff at Chipstead School in 1901
Front sitting – The head Mr. Underwood and his wife
Rear standing from left – Miss Lilian Fill, Mr. Ashworth, Miss Ann Fill
The County Education Committee became responsible for the management of the school on the 1st April 1903. The school was not a Church school but was regulated by a scheme under the Endowed Schools Acts and, in a formal letter of 30th June 1904, the Governors intimated their wish to transfer the school to the County’s control. Six months later, the Governors of the Mary Stephens Charity were empowered to hand over site and buildings to the Surrey County Council so long as the school continued as a Public Elementary School. Finally, on 1st April 1906 the School was deemed to be a Council School. The Board of Management comprised the Rev’d J A Hervey (the Rector) and his wife, Mrs M A Hervey, Mrs A H Goad of Chipstead Lodge and A J Norris of Longshaw as four Foundation Managers.
Chipstead schoolchildren and staff 1901
The County refused to allow £6/annum for renting the playground and they would only allow £5/annum for school prizes!! The Governors therefore applied to the Mary Stephens Charity for assistance in renting the playground, but they protested to the Education Committee that they considered £12/annum for Prizes to be essential as a ‘carrot’ to induce parents to send their children regularly to school. They felt that as a rural parish where children often had to walk considerable distances to school there was a great temptation to keep children at home when weather was inclement or cases of mild indisposition. Even if a child was not sent to casual employment its presence at home might release some other member of the family for gainful employment.
Nevertheless by 1909 the headmaster noted that he had 181 on the roll, the highest ever.
Major building work did not occur until 1938 when the school was enlarged to provide four classrooms, including a new Infant’s Room and a school canteen. In 1953 a detached classroom unit was built but, even so, two years later an HM Inspector was commenting that the absence of sufficient free space inside the building meant that all organised physical activity had to take place outside and that staff cloakroom and sanitary facilities were inadequate.
In 1894 the infants were being taught about the animal kingdom, the vegetable kingdom, the mineral kingdom, trades and about form and colour. Standards I to VII were given passages to learn for recitations; extracts from Marmion and the Lady of the Lake, from the Burial of Sir John Moore and from The Village Blacksmith, and more suitable light verses for the younger ones.
Prizes were given for writing and for needlework.
In 1909 the girls began a cookery course and the following year it is noted that this took place at Merstham while the boys commenced gardening operations. In 1922 the boys attended woodwork classes at Smitham Bottom, bus fares being paid by the Mary Stephens Foundation, and in 1924 boys and girls went to Reigate baths for swimming lessons.
The Mary Stephens Foundation also provided scholarships for those children who gained entry to grammar and other secondary schools. In 1904 it was noted that Leonard Martin had left to go to Reigate Grammar School, and in 1907 William Harman went to Whitgift Middle School (now Trinity School of John Whitgift) and Bessie Beadle went to Redhill Technical School.
In 1924 it was recorded that Cecil R Stepney had been awarded a County Junior Scholarship, Class A, the first ‘open’ scholarship won from Chipstead School. Three years later Ralph Riches was awarded a free place at Reigate Grammar School.
Chipstead School in 1923 with the headmaster, Mr. Heal, standing at right.
Back Row - Brian Taylor, Dorcas Creighton, Doris Taylor, Jean Bodsworth, Elsie Denning, Mary Hardy, Eunice Ellis, Barbara Lawson, Gladys Beadle, Sid Bruchard, Headmaster MR HEAL
Third Row - Douglas Lawson, Jessie Morris,..?, Edie Everitt (m-Tidey), Phyllis Edwards, Dora Coombes, ..?, Elsie Stepney, Chrissie Sheerah ,..?,
Second Row - ..?, ..?, Dulcie Lawson,..?, ..?, ..? Esther Trish, Myrtle Maddox, Anne Farley, Irene Creasy, Jean Hockley, Bob Clarke
Front Row - Fred Northover, Basil Rogers, Norman Taylor, George Moore, Stan Hepburn, ..? Sid Merritt, John Sparkes
It is strange to think of Chipstead as being inaccessible considering the location of the three railway stations of Chipstead, Coulsdon South and Merstham, and of the Brighton Road (A23) along which public transport has been regularly available at least since World War I. But certainly bad weather does interfere with movements along the downland lanes; in January
Children from Chipstead School around 1931 with one of the teachers, Miss Saunders, standing at left
1945 the log book records that ‘roads to this isolated quarter are still unfit for vehicle traffic’ and on 29th January 1940 the Headmaster wrote ‘owing to the depth of snow, no method of transport, I was obliged to walk from Ewell arriving at 11.15’.
Discipline, as we have seen, was strictly enforced but even so the shool records show that there were one or two delinquents a century ago. One such was Harry Thatcher expelled on 3rd October 1882 for gross disobedience. In the following January the Head received a note from the Governors: ‘Mr Thatcher to take his boy to the school and before all the children to ask Mr Gibson to take him back, and tell Mr Gibson that he will leave the boy in his hands to punish him for any fresh fault as he may think proper’. Mr Thatcher came at 9.10 and “did exactly what the above specified. He told the boy in the presence of the whole school that when he deserved punishment, Mr Gibson was to cane him severely and he would support the Master. The father behaved like a sensible man. The boy conducted himself well during the week:’
World Events and Chipstead School
Pupils came originally from a mainly farming community, but by the end of the 1914/18 war half the population consisted of families whose breadwinner commuted daily to London and a considerable number worked in the houses of the wealthier residents. In 1897 the Head recorded that ‘children living in the Railway Huts in Chipstead Bottom attend very irregularly’; these must have been offspring of the workers building the Tattenham Corner Railway. But six months earlier he had recorded that ‘scarlet fever had broken out in “Star Huts” and at the end of April that year children living in railway huts near the “Star” ( a former pub on the Brighton Road near Star lane) were still absent on account of scarlet fever. These latter families must have been those working on the new Brighton Railway and driving the upper tunnel through the Downs.
Surprisingly World War I seems to have affected the school only incidentally; some children had to leave because their fathers were away on military service and their mothers had to move nearer their other relatives. More often members of staff were absent in order that they might see a brother or other relative home on short leave. On the 11th November 1918 ‘The school flag was hoisted today. “God Save the King” was sung and cheers were given for our soldiers. Patriotic songs were sung in the school.’
World War II affected the school as it did the entire civilian population far more than any previous conflict. On September 4th 1939 ‘school ought to have opened today but this did not take place owing to the state of war’. For reasons no doubt connected with the state of war, the supply of school milk was interrupted for two weeks. The first winter 1939/40 was severe and all the school pipes burst or were frozen.
On the 15th August 1940 a distant air raid warning was heard in the afternoon. The next day at 12.25 aeroplanes were heard overhead and the local siren was sounded. All the children were under cover in 42 seconds! On the 6th September there were ten warnings during the day covering approximately seven hours of school time. On September 11th the children were over an hour late in leaving for home.
When warnings occurred during school time it was arranged that half the children should go to South Lodge (now South Manor) MrsRudolf’s house, where there were cellars which could provide shelter. On 19th September two parachute mines dropped on the parish during the night and homes of children living in Hooley and Outwood Lane were damaged and few children from those areas came to school.
The invasion of Normandy called for no comment in school records but the incidence of flying bombs and V2 rockets must have had some impact because on the 14th July 1944 a large number of the children on the registers left with official evacuation parties, party No.1 going to Yorkshire. On 16th November 1942 the school railings were taken away for scrap metal; and eventually on May 8th and 9th 1945 the school closed for VE Day National holiday. On 7th March 1946 the blast walls which had been erected as part of air raid precautions were removed.
The presence of large numbers of Canadian troops in the village and around, let alone other military personnel, seems to have made no impact on the routine of Chipstead school.
Besides the impact of the railway at the turn of the century other modern wonders rate little mention. On 12th July 1948 it was noted that ‘wireless lessons commenced’ no doubt the BBC’s Schools Programme.
1954 school – our former cobbler from Station Parade, David Barnett, is 2nd row 3rd from right
On the 1st July 1969 the children gathered in the playground whilst the Union Jack was raised and a TV set was switched on from 1,15pm onwards for the children to see the ceremony of the investiture of H.R.H. Prince Charles as Prince of Wales. On 4th July a half holiday was given to celebrate the success of an ex-pupil, Derek Hirst, who had gained a “Double First” at Cambridge University.
In the last thirty years of its existence the facilities of the school were greatly improved. In 1964 goalposts were provided for the football field and formal team matches played with neighbouring schools. At the same time in 1964 a Reference Library was opened in a former cloakroom. In 1963 a transistor radio had been provided for use of Class 4 and a new film projector. In 1965 a TV set was installed, while in December 1979 the Mary Stephens Foundation provided a cassette .recorder.
Chipstead School in 1990, shortly before closure. One of the teachers, Madeleine MacCallum, is on the right
There is no doubt that Chipstead School provided an excellent foundation for later life for all children who were fortunate enough to attend it. They and the teachers and other staff formed a very friendly part of Chipstead’s community for some two centuries, and more especially for the last century of its existence.
The Mary Stephens Foundation 1980- 2015
Based upon an interview with Simon Kolesar, the current chairman.
In 1993, the school buildings were sold to a developer by Surrey County Council, and the school finally closed. The majority of the money from this sale reverted to the Foundation, as dictated by the original conditions of the Trust, thus increasing the annual spending power of the Trustees from about £1000 to about £7000.
There are 7 trustees meeting 3 times a year, and they are drawn from Chipstead and Hooley residents, who have connections with St. Margaret’s Church, or had children at the school, or went themselves, or have the appropriate skills, such as finance, or teaching. All are expected to be involved with community activities, thus being well placed to identify potential beneficiaries.
These beneficiaries are expected to live in the Parish and be under 25 and may be means tested. The main use now is to help them pay for undergraduate charges and expenses, and if necessary up to 6 or 7 awards of about £1000 per year can be made. Other uses may be for school uniforms, outings, books and equipment, etc. Also exceptions can be made for people who live very near the old parish boundaries, such as Netherne village or the Rickman Hill area.
Local head teachers have been alerted to watch for any of their pupils who live in the Parish and may appear to be in need. Adverts for applicants are put in the Church Magazine each month and the Trustees try to hear about people who may be in need, but reluctant to apply for the these benefits. By and large, very few applications are turned down.
The following articles are based upon interviews with people associated with Chipstead school, for their recollections of having been a member of staff, a pupil, or having worked there.
Miss Marjorie Harvey
Interviewed 7th April 1994 - Attended Chipstead Village School from 1911 to 1919 from the age of 5.
“When I went it was a Church School; when we first arrived to live in Longshaw we walked from the station. When I was in the infants (standard 1) one teacher was Miss Gregory. In standard 2 we had Miss Fill. She was the sister of Frank Adams’s wife who kept the White Hart, and so she herself lodged at the same Inn.
Miss Fill was very strict. She played the harmonium for the morning hymn and again at the end of school each afternoon. There was a playground at the back for the little ones but the bigger ones played on the tarmac in front. Miss Fill had them all firmly under her control; when addressing them she would say in a loud voice: ‘Now boys and girls - FOLD ARMS’.
When I was about 8 years old my father, who was Head Huntsman at Longshaw for the Draghounds, and an assistant to a vetinary surgeon in Epsom, used to fetch me and my younger sister Lillian in a pony trap. We often skated on the pond by moonlight during a hard winter but the water was clearer then than it is now — no weeds or rushes. I remember it being frozen solid. I remember many hot summers when we played in the Long Plantation and in the woods around Longshaw among the cows and horses.
In the playground we played rounders, hopscotch and skipping when we sang as we jumped into the rope: ‘Salt-Pepper-Mustard-Vinegar’. There used to be someone - a sort of health visitor of the time — who came about once a month to examine our hair for nits. She would lift the strands piece by piece with the aid of a knitting needle. Poetic! Mr Underwood was our Headmaster. We used to take sandwiches for lunch and there was only water provided to drink. When I was a little older I used to walk home to lunch at Longshaw Cottages.
I often was ill with bronchitis and had to stay home from school. They used to send an inspector round to the homes of long term absentees to check up. One day he arrived and my mother was so incensed at the insult she leaned out of an upstairs window and poured a jug of cold water over him. He never came again.
Us girls in standards 6 and 7 used to walk to Merstham School once a week for cookery lessons. The boys did gardening in Markedge Lane. On Empire Day (St.George’s Day) we would assemble and march round the playground each waving a small Union Jack under the command of Miss Fill. Our Headmaster, Mr Underwood, used to select the best schoolwork - writings, paintings etc., to show one of the School Governors - Mrs Goad - when she paid one of her routine monthly visits. He would write the daily attendance for all to see on a slate. Attendance was very good except in winter. The heating was by a coal fire in each of the main rooms.
Our desks were small and made in pairs, each designed for 2 children. Charlie Harman and I used to hold hands under the desk in our teens. His family was very poor and sometimes they had to come to school without boots.
At 15 I went on for one year at Whyteleafe School and then to a Secretarial course at Clarks Business College Croydon on a Mary Stephens Scholarship.
Mrs Linda England
Interviewed April 12 1994 - Wife of Joe England, ex Village PC, living at Shabden Cottages when children at the school
“I had 5 children at the school as from l956 – Leslie (girl), Stephanie, Roger, Peter and Nigel. Leslie and Stephanie went on to Woodcote when they left at 11; Leslie at 16 going on to Purley Grammar, Stephanie became a Medical Secretary and then did her nursing training at Guys. Roger and Peter went on to De Burtgh at 11 and Nigel to Woodmansterne and then to Reigate Grammar.
The extension classroom in the playground was already there in 1956. The games they played were rounders and cricket in summer in the field at the back and football in the winter. On a Saturday they sometimes had matches against other schools. A coach used to come to take them to the Reigate Baths for swimming.
I was a dinner lady for many years, at least until 1966. All food was freshly cooked - no choice. The children ate everything - there was nothing left, not even cabbage! A sample menu in 1960 would be: a pint of milk free mid-morning, Lunch: Fresh roast meat, fresh veg, roast potatoes
By 1970 fresh roast meat gradually gave way to turkey roast (frozen), frozen vegetables and fresh cabbage, spaghetti bolognese, shepherds pie. Favourite by this time were all the pastas. There was no choice and everything went - nothing left. Children never had chipped potatoes. Puddings were semolina, custard, fruit tarts. Every child had to have a school meal — no sandwiches!
Miss Embley insisted that the meal should be served up as a ‘family service’, whereby the dishes were put along the middle of each table, with children helping themselves and whatever they took they had to finish up.”
Mrs Lilian Winslade
Interviewed 8th April 1994 – mother of 4 children who attended Chipstead Village School in the 1970s
I had 4 children there, including Martin who went on to Chipstead Valley school when he left. My husband Ronald went to the school in the early 1920’s. When my children were there in the 1970’s they had dinner at school but later they were allowed to bring sandwiches. Free school milk was discontinued abut the time they were there.
During Miss Embley’s time (about 1972 or 3 onwards) the annual Carol Concert was moved from the Peter Aubertin Hall to St.Margaret’s Church, Two hymns were learnt specially by the Chipstead School children and they knew them by heart, taking no hymn sheets with them. Some years the children performed the Maypole Dance at the annual Rectory Garden Party held at the Rectory in Elmore Road, but when it became a First School and the children left at 8 years old they could not take part in such village events.
In approximately 1985 the School entered an inter-school event which took place in the Horseshoe Banstead. Our school did ‘the Willow Pattern’ with my granddaughter Helen Mitchell as narrator. The costumes and the music were lovely, the children word perfect.
In approximately 1987 Miss Embley asked me to present the prizes, which were ribbons on pins, at School Sports Day. Two cups were also presented, one to the boys and one to the girls winning teams.
Mr Ronald Winslade
Interviewed 8th April 1994 - Attended Chipstead Village School from 1922 to 1928 from the age of 4.
I was at the school from 1922 until 1928. My Headmaster was Mr Heal. He was always immaculately dressed in a suit, with a clean folded handkerchief in his breast pocket. He kept the cane much in evidence but I don’t recall it ever having been used.
When I first went there were no outbuildings - the additional classroom in the playground was not there. We had one big hall, and the headmaster and his wife lived in the school house, part of the main building. Miss Fill, who lodged at the White Hart, was looked upon as a martinet. She was there a long time - she had been there before 1900.
Every morning we had an opening hymn and another at the end of each day. On Empire Day (St.George’s Day) we had a day off and in the morning we assembled in the playground and sang ‘Land of Hope and Glory’.
We took sandwiches each day which we ate outside unless it was raining. Mrs Heal made us lemonade in the summer and Bovril in the winter which us children could buy for 1d cup. I remember that about 1926 Ralph Richers chalked some words then considered rude along the road from Shabden Cross roads to the school. Unbeknown to him Miss Fill was following and observed everything. She reported the boy to Mr Heal, the Head, whose neatly fitting punishment was to provide the young Ralph with a bucket and scrubbing brush to work his way along the length of the middle of the road — all of which was no doubt duly inspected upon completion. There was no question of defying the teacher in those days.
Our Sports Day was held in the grounds of Shabden, Lord Marshall’s estate, because the school did not at that time own the field at the back, only the tarmac area in front. In the photograph taken 1926 or 1927 Mr Heal is there, and the children aged between 8 and 14 years - it does not include the infants. Several boys, namely Philip Porter and his brother Kenneth, both died in the forthcoming 2nd World War - Philip of diphtheria in the Middle East and Kenneth in an RAF bombing raid over Germany. There was a third son also in the forces who was removed from the dangerous ‘front lines’ on compassionate grounds for the Porter family by the War Office.”
Mr Brian Taylor
Interviewed 9th April 1994 - Attended Chipstead Village School from 1918 to 1929 from the age of 5.
It was a hot day in 1921 - a hot year - they were tarmacing the road. There is a footpath that goes from the White Hart down a Castle Hill to Willow Castle. There was a barrel of tar and I undid the inpiug and the tar squirted straight in my face. It also went over all my new clothes my mother had given me.
We were living at No.1 Starrock Cottages (opposite Vincent’s Green in Strarrock Lane) where I was born. I was 5 years old in 1918 when I first went to Chipstead School. My older half brother Cecil Wells, was the first person to get a Mary Stephens Scholarship and he went to Purley County school and from there matriculated - the first boy to do this from Chipstead School.
Those that passed what we call the Eleven Plus left at eleven years old but I stayed on until I was fourteen. Mr Heal was our Headmaster and he and his wife lived on the premises, their two children being at the school. Miss Fill taught classes 1 and 2.
My father was born in the Old School House in Outwood Lane. I was born with only one kidney but did not know it at the time, so I went into the Army and did 4 years with the Chindits.
Mrs Grace Kennet
Interviewed 8th April 1994 – in charge of school catering 1961 to 1974
I started as Dinner Lady in 1954. After 5 years I became Assistant Cook, I took the Surrey County Council Catering exams about 2 years later, then became in charge of the catering for
approximately 200 children with 4 assistants. We did the cooking on gas stoves in a small kitchen, separate from the main building but alongside the canteen where the children ate. The staff ate separately across the yard in the main school house.
As a result of war we were very vitamin conscious and the school diet was carefully balanced. All meat was fresh, even if we minced the beef for a shepherd’s pie. Usually we served it roast with fresh vegetables. Nothing was kept over for the next day, anything left went into the pigs swill and a man came twice weekly to collect it.
Everything was homemade , made by the dinner ladies, and the favourite pudding was butterscotch tart. Mr Morgan was the Headmaster at that time and prior to that it was Mr Johns.
I was there when the school celebrated their centenary — that would be 1974. A large party was held on the Saturday to which present and past pupils, staff, parents and friends were invited. Mr & Mrs Morgan lived on the premises and although Mrs Morgan was not a teacher she would often take the little ones for walks in the nearby woods and Long Plantation.
I suppose by now children were becoming more fussy about their food; the school rule was ‘you don’t have to like it but you do have to eat it’. All did! Food had to be carried across the playground from the canteen to the main school house where the staff ate.
One day one of the masters, Mr Cook, sent a boy named Richard, aged about 8, a precocious little character, with a message to the cooks to keep his dinner hot for half an hour as he was taking football and would be delayed. Acceding to this request I placed Mr Cook’s dinner in the hot cupboard. When Richard reappeared later to collect it the canteen staff were worried about him struggling to carry the full up hot plates and said so to each other, telling him they would take it and he could go out to play. Instead of that, our Richard ran back to Mr Cook, seated among the other staff and said (no doubt betraying what he had overheard in the kitchen) ‘You should have had more sense than to have sent such a small boy over with heavy hot food’. For posterity, this fortunately seems to have been greeted with hilarity all round, no offence taken.”
Mr Charles Gasson
Interviewed 8th May 1994 - Attended Chipstead Village School from 1911 to 1921 from the age of 4.
“I attended school at 4 years, after Easter break in 1911. I had to walk to school from 13 Star Cottages (on the Brighton Road in Hooley, now demolished) where I was born, with a satchel on my back. I left when I was 14 in 1921 and went to work in London.
Classes were mixed boys and girls and they were called standards 1 to 7. Outstanding pupils up to about half a dozen were called X7. There were some 150 children. Many walked from Gatton, Mugswell, Netherne, Hooley and Chipstead village down as far as How Green all being within the 2 mile limit and so did not qualify for transport.
There was no canteen so we took packs of sandwiches and stayed the whole day. One boy, I remember always brought celery. Our only drink was cold water from an outside tap and we drank from iron cups which dangled from the wall on an iron chain.
For years the school owned a large plot adjoining Markedge Lane which was used for gardening and in it were fruit trees. Each Wednesday some 16-20 boys were taken there. 14 of them had a plot of their own which was no doubt an honour. They grew a variety of vegetables and competed at the annual flower show. Mr Underwood the Headmaster asked boys to get a wire to catch intruding rabbits. ‘Nobby’Garrett was one boy who volunteered to do this. Once he succeeded in catching one but did not admit it, he kept quiet and took it home, so Mr Underwood was deprived of his dinner. We learnt how to prune apple, pear and plum trees, raspberries, black and red currants. We also learnt to sow seeds and grew cabbages, parsnips and lettice and were allowed to take the results home.
During Word War II I was released from my office in London to man Buffer depots for the Ministry of Food to supply homegrown food in the event of an invasion. My Sister, one year older than I, also went to the school until she was 14. My son Peter attended from 1938. Around 1944 he moved to Smitham School aged about 12 which was the time of the bombing of Croydon. We were invited to evacuate him to Flintstone but opted to keep him at home.
Whilst I was at school Mr Underwood became ill with pneumonia and Mr White came to take over. Mr White, unlike Mr Underwood, never omitted to use one of the canes laid out on top of the cupboard if it were necessary and enter the culprits name in the log book. Mr Kelsey and Mr Rose were the two Inspectors. They checked on any absentees. Mr Dunaway was the maintenance man and would oblige the Headmaster on wet and muddy days by cleaning the boys boots after adding black lead as polish. We used to play football in the Paddock of South Lodge the home of Mr Sweet who removed his horse for the purpose.
Mrs Madeleine MacCallum
Interviewed 9th September 2015 – a teacher at Chipstead Village School from 1989 to 1992
I taught part time in Chipstead County First School from 1989 to1992---after our daughter Sonia had moved on to Primary School. Sonia has very happy memories of her time there.
I taught Year 1 children in the afternoon , mostly science projects from the Nuffield science curriculum which the children loved, creative writing, history and geography topic work, gymnastics and art and crafts. The classes were of about 16 pupils and so lots of individual attention was possible.
Miss Embley was headmistress and she expected children to behave responsibly so there was great emphasis on being kind and considerate to each other. “Reading ladies” came in daily to hear each child read and so the standard was high. Those who struggled were given extra lessons by Miss Embley. “No child will leave my school unable to read.” A delightful music teacher came twice a week to take the children for singing and percussion which was very popular. The children were also encouraged to listen to child friendly classical pieces like “Peter and the Wolf” by Prokofiev, the Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Swan Lake.
There was a large tarmac playing area in front of the school, divided from the car parking area by large tyres. Woe be tide any child who went over the tyres to fetch a ball without permission. The black school cat was always a great favourite and enjoyed attention from the children. In summer, if dry, lunch play was on the big field at the back. Here too Sports Day was held – this was carried out with military precision and the school governors, Canon and Mrs Blair- Fish and parents were invited to encourage the children.
School lunches were cooked in the school kitchens and, seated at tables, the children passed the serving dishes round taking their share which had to be eaten otherwise no pudding! Children were encouraged to try a small amount of foods that were new to them. Our daughter Sonia loved school cabbage but would not eat cabbage at home! There is no accounting for taste! Christmas lunch with all the trimmings and crackers was a great treat to which all “reading ladies” and helpers were invited. The older children were designated a guest to look after and converse with over lunch.
Sadly numbers declined as the birth rate dropped, Netherne Hospital closed and some parents were attracted to larger schools with greater resources like computers in each classroom and this wonderful little school was closed when Miss Embley retired.
Rupert Courtenay Evans and Barry Pepper 2014