Memories of Dorothy Wright (nee Bentley)

In 1929 I sat for the Entrance Examination to gain a place, hopefully, at what was called a Secondary School. It was usual for the parent filling in an application form to name a school as high on the list as possible and as other choices to scale down to the Intermediate Schools. The two most elite schools in Sheffield were the High School for girls and the King Edward School for boys, but these two schools were fee paying schools at this time, and only offered six places for the top six boys and six places for the top six girls. So my application form carried the choice of first The Sheffield Pupil Teacher Centre and second choice the Marlcliffe Intermediate School. I was lucky enough to be granted a place at the Sheffield Pupil Teacher Centre.

During the six week holiday which we now had gained , instead of the 4 weeks we previously had, we had to prepare for the venture into the new school. We had details of the clothing required stationery, and sewing articles along with instructions to collect from the school a set of books covering the first year's work. It was exciting to have in one's hand the books we collected. These were not new books, but had been in use for a number of years, and each book had a label within the front cover where was listed the names of the previous users. The set of books had not all belonged to the same person, they were obviously placed in a pool and a set made up at random, so one felt that one was following on after all these names, and would probably meet these unknown persons eventually. It was necessary to buy brown paper and cover each book to preserve it from wear and tear. I struggled along excitedly with the French books trying to pronounce the words written in French, and I am afraid they were not very good results.

In the sundry things required I had to get sewing needles, tape measure, thimble etc., I was intrigued by having to buy needles of a grade something like "5 betweens", but I never did find out what this meant. For Geometry I needed protractor, and set square, rubber etc., and HB and 2H pencils, and these were things of mystery to me. For girls, it was necessary to have "Overalls". These were coat like garments made of made a grey cotton material. I think a shop for purchase of the material, must have been stipulated, and there must have been a pattern, for we all turned up in a very similar garment, coat shaped with long sleeves and a self belt, and white collar and cuffs which we had to sew on, newly laundered, midweek and at weekends, though one of my friends had collar and cuffs made of some rubbery material. We had deep hems in preparation for our growth during the years at Centre, and we were told by our Headmaster, Mr. Batey, that we wore them to prevent people from appearing in silks and satins. They were a great leveler. Then we required a gym tunic and white blouse, a tie, yellow and black stripes, a jumper if possible in the colour of one's "House" when these positions were allocated. We needed long, black woollen stockings and navy blue knickers which doubled for gym shorts, and we needed a pair of stout shoes to wear for hockey or proper hockey boots. One needed a schoolbag or strong case in which to carry all these books etc., and I suppose a fountain pen was listed but I do not remember. For outdoor wear we had black velour brimmed hats in winter around which was placed a yellow and black hatband which had cruel hooks at each end to secure the hat, and we changed to a panama hat for the summer months.

So now I was ready to go to my new school, and we reported to the Labs at Hartshead, Townhead Street where we met the new intake of one form of boys and three forms of girls. We had to line up around the Lab and introduce ourselves one by one by name. One girl caused huge interest as her name was Amy Johnson, and this was the time when the other Amy Johnson was being famed in song because of her solo trip by air to Australia. Amy became by best friend during our first three years, until she moved to live in Blackpool.

Next we went to our from rooms at Holly Street to meet our form teachers. Miss Tate was my form teacher and she was a very gentle kind of lady. Other teachers who taught the first year pupils were Miss Foster, Miss Dixon, Miss Whitehurst, Miss Johnson, Miss Hutchinson and Miss Renshaw. We were learning a lot of new subjects of course, like algebra, geometry, science, French and so on, so we had to work hard and all was strange to us. For instance we had to attend school on Saturday mornings, and we went up to High Storrs for games one half day per week. For gym we had to tear up West Street to Gell Street where we attended the Edgar Allen Gym under the care of Miss Dorothy Jackson. She was a very fit looking, small but powerful little lady. Another thing new to us was that for the first year we had to revert to writing script, supposedly to make sure we formed our letters correctly, but after Mr. Batey died this chore was scrapped and we went back to "joined up writing". Mr. Batey was our Headmaster who died in our first year, leaving a small daughter called Josephine aged about six. The whole school attended his burial service in the cathedral. Our school was bursting at the seams and we seemed to be always running to various lessons, Townhead Street, Gell Street and then we had another place to which we had to run for we acquired Carver Street Chapel as a venue for learning too.

Carver Street Chapel was a large rambling place and there was a theatre like main hall with stepped seating, where we assembled each morning for prayers, hymns and general meetings and announcements. There was a stage in the centre with a small area of desks either side of the stage which I presume acted as dressing rooms when there was a production or show of some kind, but for us, these were two school rooms. Upstairs was one small room in which I remember doing geometry where the bench in front of us had a writing slope attached to its back and this acted as a desk. It was in this room that we were asked not to open the windows on a sunny day as the reflection could cause an accident to a man in a workshop below working with a circular saw. I never saw the man or found out where he was working. I recall having music lessons by the side of the stage and also in an upstairs recreation room which sported cane tables and chairs, a kind of large recreational room. It was really poor accommodation for a school of this calibre, and we had to carry our books etc., along with us on all our journeys. The City Hall was being built at this time also and I recall that one of the builders made a habit of sliding down some part of his huge ladder and this would happen when we were in the City Hall end of the Holly building and our class would be sitting facing the window with the teacher having her back to the window and she would hear a sharp intake of breath when the man slid down the ladder, I do not know if  Miss Tate ever realised this.

We started school at 8.35 a.m., I think, and broke at lunch time at 11.35. These hours always seemed so strange to me and we left in the afternoon at 4.35 p.m. Detentions were held on Saturday mornings in Miss Paddison's care and were called Paddy's teaparty.

Mr Goodfellow must have written the words for the school song and Mr Taylor the music, before we started at Centre, because we immediately had to learn the words and music. I think both these teachers must have lived in the Middlewood area, as did Miss Wastnidge as I travelled frequently alongside them on the tram. One of the verses which is now no longer applicable was:-

We grow to know thee in that first long year,
When all thy rules in turn we break,
But when are gone our tiny woes
In games as every student knows,
At High Storrs field our stand we take,
And proudly wear grey overalls [sung by the girls only]
And scorn the day we doff our lion badge. [sung by the boys only]

At Christmas we had a Christmas party, and we were given dancing lessons in the modern dancing so that we may dance with the boys. We wore quite grown up dresses, and it was quite an occasion, with sherry in the trifle, we were assured.

All this time the school was very cramped, and then one day we lost our sports field as it was the site for the new Central Schools, so we went to the Hurlfield site, and expected to find that our new school would be here. However, the High Storrs School became ready and the Central Schools moved off and left the old Central School for us. Of course it was bigger, and had labs, and we seemed to have a more permanent form room, and not so much running around. There was a kitchen so we were able to have cooked lunches.

At Whitsuntide in 1933, a visit to a school camp at  Sandsend  near Whitby was on offer. I think it cost £1.5s.0d. in old money for a week to sleep in a barn, on palliasses made of pinned up sheets filled with hay. It was a group of 36 girls and two teachers, Miss Jackson the PE teacher, and French teacher Miss Hewitt together with Muriel Iredale, the Assistant School Secretary. The fourth year pupils were not allowed to go to camp as their exams fell soon afterwards and they were expected to study. So we had a mix of age groups, with forms one, two and three and forms five and six. We had a lot of fun playing "Sardines" and "Murder" in the old dusty passageways of the derelict farm. We walked along the coast to Runswick Bay, returned (thankfully) by bus and when visited by our Headmaster, Mr. Meetham and his wife we held a sports day on the sands. We got very sunburned and there were groans from the sunburn victims in the night.  I remember someone made a lovely stew one day and I think we ate a lot of bread and jam as I recall the strains of "bread and jam, bread and jam" on the bus when we returning home.

Of all the teachers at Centre my favourite one was Miss Constance A Renshaw the poetess. She wrote several books of poetry and introduced us to the appreciation of good verse, of well written and spoken English, and lovely words. She loved the Derbyshire countryside and wrote poems about it. And she owned a car too, unusual in those days. Miss Lee seemed to be a friend of Miss Renshaw and then there was Miss Paddison, who was quite a martinet. Other teachers I would mention are Miss Buchan, Mr Head, (a senior master whom we nicknamed, unknown to him, Jean Tete), he was a bit ferocious. There was Miss Silk, two Miss Mitchells. One we called one Big Mick and the other Little Mick. Big Mick wore meticulously kept silk blouses, always so clean spruce, well turned out and she taught history. Little Mick was always going to America on holiday, and we noticed that when she was teaching she always fitted small pieces of chalk which were on the desk into a long line so we always arranged for her to have plenty of pieces in waiting for her lesson and we watched this performance instead of listening to the lesson.

Miss Johnson was the art teacher and Mr Sheldrake and Mr Redden taught us too. Miss Silk taught French as did Miss Hewitt, and Miss Hutchinson taught botany and biology.  Mr Taylor taught music.

Once we had moved into the Central School we used the large hall at the top for big assemblies and on a Saturday morning we had community singing en masse with Mr Meetham, who made it a very pleasant morning. It was very jolly and Mr Meetham encouraged us to make innovations to "John Brown's Body", changing it to John Brown's baby's got a cold upon its chest and he allowed us to make a sneezing noise each time we came to the word "cold" and the leave out each word after another in some sequence when someone would get out of phase and sing out when everyone else was silent. We enjoyed Saturday mornings at last.

We were taught to behave well on the public transport, no eating in the streets, and no appearances without hat or cap. We were divided into six houses, named after stately homes. Hardwick (was my house) Wentworth, Welbeck, Thoresby, Chatsworth and Haddon. The boys had three houses, I think they were Kaffirs, Maoris and Zulus. It is obvious that some of the traditions of the Sheffield Pupil Teacher Centre are carried on in the City Grammar School and we notice the same words cropping up, and I think it would be good if the present day pupils of City Grammar were aware of the word "Centre" used in the present day school song as having had its roots in the Sheffield Pupil teachers Centre. The song must have been written in the late 1920's and it was such a thrill to hear it sung on Radio Sheffield by the older pupils of the Sheffield Pupil Teacher Centre.

All in all I have very proud and fond memories of my days at the Sheffield Pupil Teacher Centre.

January 1st. 2002

Names I can recall :-

Amy Johnson - Joan Mary Spencer - Joyce Lomas - Mary Bevan - Vera Kirk - Winnie Scholey - Ruby Thompson - Muriel Jenkinson - Jenny Cutts - Elsie Hall - Irene Barraclough - Chrissie Tait - Vera Wood - Joyce Hailstone - Elaine Glarman - Margaret and Mabel Ashby - Gwyneth Jones