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The Fernhurst Society

Oral history interviews: school days

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Kathleen Bird | Paul Heath | Ken Newman | Rusty Ralph | Brian Silver | Darrell Stirling | Elsie Waitt | Alf West | Jeffrie White

Kathleen Bird

When I was at Lickfold I went to Easebourne Primary School for a year. I don't remember a great deal about that apart from the green and yellow uniform I think.  And then I went to Fernhurst Primary School that was then on the Green.  Very happy memories of primary school.  One of the memories … I think a lot of us of this age remember walking into the side door of the primary school via the Red Lion, not to buy drink but to buy sweets from the window.  The lady used to open up at 9 o'clock in the morning so the children could go and buy their sweets on the way to school.  A lot of us remember that.

So Kathleen what memories do you have of your schooling in Fernhurst?

Happy times.  The headmaster was Mr Dumbrell and his wife also worked in the school.  There was Mr Kertcher and a Mrs Ribbon.  I didn't stay to lunch, because we lived so near I remember walking home, so I didn't have school lunches.  The playground was actually divided into boys and girls which I think was quite common in those days, but when the weather turned nice we were let loose on the Recreation Ground, which of course had hedges along the edge if I remember rightly then.  I stayed there 'til I was 11.

Who were you at school with?

Alwyn Jones who has only recently just moved out of the village, Peter Dudman (whose father has recently died in the village)… there's still quite a lot of us around… Stephen Wright (whose father used to work for ICI).  We had a small housing estate [Homelands Copse] about a mile from the village and a lot of the children came from there - Margaret Swabey, Margaret Saunders, Peter Middleton.  As I say it was happy times and I stayed at school until I was 11 and then we took the 11 Plus.  I didn't pass so, although I had an interview, which they did in those days, I didn't pass for the grammar school, I went to the secondary school and we all went on a school bus to the secondary school, driven by George Lambert.  There's still Lamberts in the village now, but this was on an old coach which used to go out through Lickfold and Lodsworth, picking up as it went until we arrived at Midhurst.

Where was the secondary school at Midhurst at the time then?

It's now part of the comprehensive school.  It's the modern part of the comprehensive school.  The older building was the Grammar School and the modern building was the secondary school.  So they were completely different schools at that time.  So that's been open quite a few years now, even though it looks a modern building.

When you were at Fernhurst School, were there mixed age groups in the classes?


So you had enough classes to have five-year olds, six-year olds…

Yes, probably five and six mixed together, but yes I can't remember a lack of children in the school.  I don't know what the total number of children was but I'm sure there are school registers around in the Records Office now if the school hasn't still got them.  You could work out how many were in the class.

What did Fernhurst children do after school in the afternoons and the evenings?

I used to do a lot of skipping I think.  I always seemed to be skipping or playing ball.  There was Brownies for the young girls, and also Cubs and Scouts for the boys and Guides for the older girls.

Did they all take place at the hut? Scout & Guide hut?

Yes, they did, yes.  That hasn't changed a lot really.  As I got older I then rode my bike to Brownies, but that was as I was older.  Jean Moreton, who still lives in the village, was my Tawny Owl and Mrs Saunders was Brown Owl, I think, if I remember rightly.  We worked for our badges.  I think I was a Sprite, I can't remember.  We didn't go camping.  I don't think the young Brownies did then.  But we had Brownie Revels.



Paul Heath

Where did you attend school and what do you particularly remember about it? The teachers, special events, happenings…

I actually went to both schools that were in the village, the old one down by the village green and then they built the new one and I actually spent time at both, finishing up at the new school. Mr Dumbrell was the Headmaster at the time when I started at school. I had ..two teachers I can remember..I don’t know why I can remember them. There was Mr Lyons and there was a Mr Kertcher. He was quite strict, but I think he was probably fair, looking back on it. We would… The old school was great, plenty of room, the playground was there. The beauty of it was you had the big playing field which is now the cricket ground, the football and recreation ground. In the summer months we would just fill the field at lunch time. But the school itself was quite daunting, I think for a little boy. I hated the toilets. It sounds daft, but I did. They were dark and dingy. Not the sort you get these days. 

For quite a while, people had jobs like milk monitors, you know getting the frozen milk in during the winter months. Things like that. I’m not that old, but …it did happen. When I talk to people now they laugh and say it can’t be. When they built the second school, I was of the year that had some time up there, at the new one and some time down at the old school. We would be seen quite often going two by two carrying tables from one to the other because they needed the furniture at the other one for some reason, for sports day or something.  The new school….I can remember having to raise money for the swimming pool. I’m not sure whether it’s still there. It consisted, I think, of three or four classrooms and the main hall, and I think it’s grown since then. And it was OK. It was a nice and airy school. It was totally different school from the old one, obviously, which is now houses. But the old school used to look out onto… two old air raid shelters, in the field which is now the car park to the sports ground. It had also the big old wooden pavilion.



Ken Newman

You mentioned, Ken, that you moved to Hammer. How old were you when you moved to Hammer and what are your recollections of Hammer in the early days and your life in Hammer school etc afterwards?

We moved up to Hammer Hill, which was a brand new council estate, we moved up there in July 1955, which would have made me about 8 years old, or 7 ¾. We had a large three bedroomed house. It was quite a novelty because I had my own bedroom. That was a good start. Both my sister and I were at school by now. We both went to Camelsdale School. Dad never had a car, so it was a good mile walk from Hammer Hill down to Shottermill Ponds and then on up the road to Camelsdale School. We used to walk home for dinners as well, until one day I dragged Greta home so quick in the rain, because we got soaking wet, that Mum decided  that wasn’t on, we were then going to have school dinners. And they, I think, were about an old shilling a day, about 5 pence in today’s language, that sort of thing. At Camelsdale School, Norman  Fullilove was the Headmaster. There was a Mrs Adnitt, Miss Lewis, and Mr Jones, I think were the teachers, and Miss Wheatcroft and Miss Dunk I believe were teachers that I went through. I stayed there until I was 11, when I went down to the secondary school. The two Midhurst schools weren’t amalgamated as they are now and I was quite happy at the secondary school until I left and started work.

You mentioned, Ken, that you went to school at Midhurst from the age of 11. How did the children from Camelsdale get to Midhurst?

What we used to do…As I said we were living up in Hammer Hill and we used to be transported down to Midhurst by Gales Coaches. There used to be a group of half-a-dozen of us would cycle down and leave our bikes at the garage in Camelsdale, which is no longer there. There was a petrol garage there. I believe it belonged to Reg Gale’s father, because Reg Gale used to be the driver. We would pick up the coach at the top of School Road and be taken to the secondary school. And if you misbehaved on the way home, you were politely dumped out of the coach at Kingsley Green and made to walk home whether it was raining or not. Then you got a good hiding from your father because you were late back. That sort of thing. I’m not sure whether it was in my early time at Midhurst or later that the routes changed and after a while we used to be picked up at the entrance to Hammer Hill and taken again by coach, Gales Coaches, all down through back end of Linchmere, Lower Lodge, Redford, Milland, Woolbeding and come into Midhurst on the Petersfield Road. A journey of roughly about an hour or so. Mornings and evenings we were having about an hour’s bus ride.

It’s quite a long day.

It made a long day and then quite often you had three or four subjects of homework to do as well, and make an even longer night. There again that’s school life.



Rusty Ralph

So just to go back once more to the time you were at school, what did you do in the holidays or with your free time when you were a boy?

In holidays we used to get one day with transport provided to Bognor or somewhere like that, just for the one day.

Who arranged that?

Well that was done through the school.  Just the one day that’s about all, the rest of the time we had to make our own entertainment and things which we could do, you know.  As for long holidays or anything like that, it was out of the question in them days really for us unless you had relations and went to stay with them.  All our family was quite close and we never sort of had any relations a long way off.

So you just…, did you play cricket or…?

Oh yes we had a cricket pitch on the green….at Henley Common.

At Henley?

At Henley Common yes, right opposite the timber yard there was a cricket pitch there believe it or not but there was.

They had their own team at Henley?

Yes all the lads used to get together and the painters and all used to come down from London to work at the hospital up the road which was a Sanitorium then and they used to get a team together and we used to play them all on there.  Even used to get teams from Easebourne and Midhurst come to play, you know.  It was quite a little cricket pitch and football pitch up there, you know, it was very good.

Your childhood really would have been in the late 30s that you’re talking about now,
late 30s early 40s.

That’s right yes.



Brian Silver

And of course, at that stage, pupils were going through fairly well up to the secondary…?

Yes, my brother, who’s five years older than me actually had all his schooling at Fernhurst.  So it was that sort of change-over period.  You know, when I was eleven I went to the Grammar School.  I don’t know, it couldn’t have been that many years before that that people were going through the whole of their schooling in the village. But then, you know, … when I was eleven you either went on to the Grammar School or to the Secondary School.

Of course, in those days the intermediate school didn’t exist.

No, that’s right.  And of course, the school was on the Green, we had the old school.  It wasn’t until, I think, the late ‘60’s that the village school was built where it is now, and the old school was closed.

So you did all your schooling, your primary schooling on the Green?


Did it make a nice setting for a school?

Excellent.  I think it’s a shame that it was ever moved, myself, because it was a safe environment, you know, away from the main road, and to move it right next to the main road I think was a detrimental step, but there must have been good reasons for that.  But I think they’re suffering for it now.  By things I’ve read in the paper, you know, parents trying to drop off children on the main road, and such like.  Yes, it was an excellent setting down there.  It was a very nice school.  Good playground, sports field next to it and the Green outside, what could be better, really?

Did you enjoy lessons as such, or were they a chore to you …?

I think I was always very sports orientated.  My father was a very keen footballer and cricketer and I was brought up with similar interests, so, I was very sports orientated and perhaps I didn’t pay as much attention to lessons as I should have done.  I always enjoyed school, yeah.

Did you have a favourite lesson?

I think, you know, if there was a favourite lesson, I was better at maths than anything. I think anything that you find easier if you like is the subject you enjoy.  But, it depends a lot on the teachers, as well, doesn’t it?

Of course it does.

And whether you get on with the teachers.

Who was your maths teacher?

I can’t remember, to be quite honest.  I honestly don’t know.  Not while I was at the Fernhurst School, I can’t remember.  I think Mr. Stirling was a maths teacher at one time, but I don’t particularly remember him taking me for maths.  It might even have been Mr Dumbrell.

Yes, I was going to ask.  What subjects did Mr Dumbrell teach?

I think that teachers didn’t have – certainly in that age group from sort of five to eleven – didn’t have a specific subject.  I think they tended to teach everything.

Not at that time, no.   I remember now, yes.

And I certainly remember being in Miss Godfray’s class.  I think most people remember that.  I think from my memory of the school there were three main classrooms, plus the infants’ classroom, which was at the back.  And I think the extra classroom was built later;  it was there when I was at school, but it was a certainly later addition.

And after school?  I mean, after school time, how did you…?  Did you go straight on to games, organised games, organised by the school, or ….?

There were some organised games, yes, cricket and football, but I think my main interests – certainly up until the age of eleven – I joined the cubs and after that I joined the scouts, I was a very keen scout.  But my primary interest I suppose at an early age tended to be following the sport, following the football.  Fernhurst had a very good football team at that time, and particularly the  ‘46/’47 team was exceptionally good and I can still remember that team and the people that were in that team.  People like Les Glue and Arthur Whitcher, John Gale.



Darrell Stirling

Did you have many outings from the school? Were they able to get out and about?

Well they hadn’t travelled much during the war, for obvious reasons, but being a great believer in experiencing education, not looking at a picture of a mountain, but actually feeling it in your legs as you climbed up, ‘cos there’s no way a picture can give you the experience of a mountain.  And so I launched some school journeys.  We visited Parliament, we went to the ballet, took the football team to the ballet, that was interesting for them, and for me.  We went to Portsmouth Dockyard, and then we became very ambitious, I took them for a week to Scotland.  We stayed in Perthshire, by Loch Tummel, and the total cost – accommodation, food, excursions, train fare – five pounds.  And I shall never forget one young lady of the village, as we crossed the Forth Bridge in the train – she’d never been in a train before, ever – and her first train journey was from Haslemere to Perth – as we crossed the Forth Bridge, she just ….. a fit a giggles, the whole experience overwhelmed her – but in a happy way.  And we had a wonderful time up there.

How many did you take?

I think it must have been a party of thirty, or thirty-five.  And the Headmaster came along as well.

That was quite an adventure.

Yes, then.  Yes. I mean to go from Sussex to Scotland.  Scotland is north of Watford!  It really is.  So those are some of the things we did to try and make for a broader education.

And the ones who went on to Midhurst; did you have many?

No, not a lot went to Midhurst Grammar.

Can you think of some of the ones that did go on?

Yes, John King, who lived in the cottage next to us.  Jim West, yes.  But then there are…No I can’t really … off the top of my head.

Jack Ralph – would he have?


No.  But there were some that went on, but not many.  Because it would have been quite unusual then to have gone on.  It was just at the time just after the war when education was opening up for everyone.  But that must have been quite unusual and  exciting for you here to see someone going on.

Yes, then they were going to build a new secondary school at Midhurst, which was a great adventure.  And it was when that school opened that I left Fernhurst and went to teach at Midhurst secondary.

I believe there was another reunion you had, two years ago.

Yes.  Much to my surprise.  Yes.  Peggy Allen – I’ve always got to hesitate because I first think Peggy Edwards – Peggy Allen said ‘We want to have a reunion.  I’ve told a number of people that I see you shopping in the village occasionally, and they said well, I can’t understand this, but you’re lucky, we would like to see him also; we’d love to meet him again’And so Peggy organised a reunion in the Cricket Pavilion on the Village Green.  She thought that there’d be perhaps a dozen and over sixty people turned up and I found this very, very, moving.  And another colleague who taught at Midhurst, Jack Smith, PE Teacher/History, he was there also.  And we were both very, very moved that people whom we were teaching in the early fifties and before, I think even someone from 1946 turned up, came and we were left thinking that maybe, just maybe, we got something right in our teaching.  People think we’re worthwhile.  And they had a follow-up in Capron House in Midhurst, where the numbers were even more than sixty.

Where was the first reunion held?

At Fernhurst, in the Cricket Pavilion.



Elsie Waitt

I understand that when you arrived in Fernhurst, it coincided with your taking a job at Haslemere Heights School, which is now Haslemere Preparatory School.

Yes, when I was in Haslemere, Harold Mellor who worked at Plant Protection, his son went to the Heights and there was a new science syllabus coming in, the Nuffield Science, which was much more practically based, and the headmaster who had been teaching physics and chemistry didn’t think he could cope with the biology and Mr Mellor suggested that I might like to come and do the biology which was the summer term of ’67.  So I did a term’s biology just to help them out and then I was asked to stay on to do the chemistry the next term and the physics the term after that.  And I said I would have to stop because I was expecting a baby, my third child, in September, but they said ‘No, that’s alright, just bring her up once you’ve had her.’  So the beginning of the term in September I left a fortnight’s work with my classes, had my baby and came back about 3 days after I came out of hospital and went back to work at the Heights, and she stayed in the kitchen with the cook.  And that carried on for several years.  And in the end, my one term’s biology lasted for about 23 – 24 years and I finally gave it up when my husband retired and I decided to give up at the same time.


Alf West

Yes I went to the grammar school in 1911.

That was a long journey for you wasn’t it, how did you get in?

For a while I walked it.  My father knew some people in Midhurst, he used to have dealings with the horses years ago and he died and left his widow and she’d got 2 or 3 sons and I went to live there with them. I was playing about in the street at Midhurst and the boss came along “what are you doing here” real sharp he was.  I suppose really he was a good master but I said well I live down here during the week.  My father had a letter.  I either had to go backward and forward or board in the school.  So I went backward and forward for quite a long time and then my father bought a New Forest pony.  I used to ride to school on a pony after that.

What did you do with the pony when you were at school?

I used to put it up at North Mill.  People name of Guillam had the mill in those days and dad knew Mr Guillam very well and I used to put the pony up there.  They didn’t used to charge anything, used to take along a couple of ducks or something like that occasionally and I used to have to leave the school, go down to North Mill and feed the pony at dinnertime.  I was always late getting back to school then and the Bridgers, do you know the Bridgers at all from  Easebourne, well Dick Bridgers is dead now isn’t he, he said to me one day so you wont be late borrow my bike.  So Dick lent me his bike, I used to ride his bike down to North Mill and back dinnertime and I was always back in time to sit down with the rest.

Did you enjoy the school?




Jeffrie White

My first Head teacher was Harry Andrews. He was a bit of a severe looking man. He had a bristly moustache, grey hair, slender man, very upright, bit fiery too. He was quite a laugh, because we said when old Harry’s had a haircut, look out. Yes, I remember him chucking a couple of lads out who’d misbehaved from school, one time. Then after he stepped down, there was Mr Dumbrell. You’d probably know more about him. He was quite a disciplinarian too but he was a keen sportsman and that suited me because I was quite keen on my sport, always have been.

How many teachers were there in the school?

There was the Infants. I remember a Miss Hill and there was another one, Miss Lindsay, and I think Mr Dumbrell’s wife used to do a bit as well. I would say probably five teachers.

Your first teacher, how long had he been there?

What the headmaster? I really don’t know how long he’d been there when I went to school. He was there when I went to school, but he wasn’t there too long. I never actually got into his class. Infants’ class was Miss Godfray. I was taught by Miss Lindsay and Miss Hill, until Mr Dumbrell came, when I moved into the top class. I think we sat an exam at 11 years old. I don’t know whether that was the 11 plus, whether that had started then or not, but probably not. And I didn’t get anywhere with that. But prior to that my brother had. He passed a scholarship for the Grammar School at Midhurst which was quite an achievement in those days. I mean other boys in the village, whose parents were a bit better off, paid for them to go there, but my brother won his way there. Anyway we finished our school. He went into the RAF as a Cadet in 1937 and I was found a job in ’39 in the gardens at Upper Lodge. I left school at 14.



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The Fernhurst Oral History Project was supported by the Local Heritage Initiative. The Local Heritage Initiative was developed by the Countryside Agency and was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Nationwide Building Society.