Chuckery Senior School 1904-1972
February 17, 2015 § 12 Comments
In memory of Bill Jeynes our metalwork teacher who died on 10th October 2016 aged 89. Thanks Bill, it was a pleasure knowing such a nice and talented bloke.
Another member of staff to have died in recent times was Michael Davies, Deputy Head during Miss Prentice’s reign. Mr. Davies died at his home in Codsall on Saturday 10th October 2015 aged 85. Michael had died exactly one year earlier to the day than his colleague Bill Jeynes.
Although Chuckery Primary School is still going strong Chuckery Senior School, opened in 1904, has long since gone, the site the school once occupied has been a housing estate for the last fourteen or fifteen years. In 1972 when Chuckery Senior School closed the premises were taken over by arch rivals, Blue Coat School and later the nomad of Walsall’s education system, the School of Art, took over the premises for several years. By 1999 plans were already under way to demolish and develop the site. In February 2000 I arrived at my old school with the intention of taking photographs of the doomed premises only to find it had virtually gone. The majority of the buildings had been demolished and a huge brick pile stood where the classroom used for domestic science (that’s what it was called in my day) stood. Speaking to one of the workmen he told me the bricks were destined for the crusher that made aggregate for road building etc, after hearing that I knew they had it in for the old place!
I wandered around the decimated site trying to photograph something…… anything would do! To make matters worse it was a typical winter day, cold, very overcast with appalling light; with the demolition almost complete this was no time to get artistic, click the bloody shutter and go! Maybe I should have got a bit artistic because when the film was developed many of the pictures were so under exposed you couldn’t see them, only a few were of sufficient quality to reproduce and two of them can be seen later in the post.
When it was announced in the now defunct Walsall Observer that the school was to close an appeal came from the then headmaster, Donald Bolton, for ex-pupils to get in touch as he planned to produce a commemorative booklet containing the history of the school. Some say you should never volunteer for anything but I did, I went to see Mr. Bolton and offered to put the publication together for him and get it printed. He sure enough took me up on my offer and he set about the task off finding the necessary material. One of the problems Mr. Bolton had, were the school records, there weren’t any; in November 1946 someone broke into the school and set fire to it. Fortunately the fire was spotted before it had time to fully take hold but not before the headmaster’s office which contained the school records from 1904 onwards was completely gutted. In consequence of this the historical content of the book is somewhat lacking. The end product was an A4 landscape, twenty page single colour booklet with four page two-colour covers, the pages, in spreads format, are shown below. Inevitably I didn’t get a copy of the final booklet and the images shown are taken from my proof as can be seen by some red biro markings. (Click on each image and it will enlarge)
The picture of the lectern with the three boys, Geoffrey Burden kneeling, John Warren and Michael Shaw and headmaster Mr. Perry appeared in the Walsall Observer on the 18th February 1955. A bible was presented to the school but was found too heavy for the reader to hold for long periods and so the idea of building lectern came about. It took three months to build and it was said every pupil in the school had contributed to the work. It was made from oak polished to its natural colour and stood five feet high (1.8m).
I do recall it being a very smart piece of woodwork as I stood on it many times to read the weekly Prefect’s Report to the school on Wednesday mornings. This weekly routine was always fraught with danger if it was your turn to do the reading. At least one, probably more of your so-called “pals” would stand at the back of assembly pulling daft faces at you. The trick was don’t look up, keep your head down at all times because if you caught one of the perpetrators eyes it was definitely game over.
The booklet was given to every pupil in the school at the end of the final term in July 1972. The final page (not shown above) contained the following message:- On Thursday 27th July, 1972, the school building will become the property of Blue Coat Secondary School. At the beginning of the new term, Mr. J. C. Sturrock, M.C.B.A., headmaster of Blue Coat will welcome one hundred and twenty-three pupils from Chuckery to his school, a further two hundred and sixty-seven pupils will be transferred to Joseph Leckie Secondary School under the headship of Mr. A. G. Williams, B.A.
BRAVO OLD CHUCK! The one big surprise for me when putting the publication together was the omission of any mention of the schools most famous pupil, Sidney Norman (Pebbler) Webster who won the 1927 Schneider Trophy air race in Venice. He retired from the RAF in 1950 with the rank of an Air-Vice Marshall.
Webster was born in Walsall in March 1900 and lived in Borneo Street. He first went to Butts Infant and Junior Schools before going on to Chuckery Seniors. Always a sporty lad, he excelled at both football and cricket, playing for Walsall Schoolboys team in 1913-14. In the picture below he is the smaller boy standing on the back row, second in from the right.
Some years ago I sent two photographs off to the Black Country Bugle of the Chuckery cricket team and of the prefects from my final year in 1962 which are both shown a little later. The article was published in The Bugle and very little response was forthcoming but I did receive an email from an ex-pupil who attended the school in the 1930s and now lived in Canada. His recollections of the school:-
MY CHUCKERY MEMORIES – From Stan Horton
I am an ex-Chuckery School pupil from way back. I attended the brand new junior department when it first opened years at Tantarra Street School.
My recollections include my teachers – Miss Phillips, Miss Cartwright, Mr Canon and Mr Arnold, who was not my teacher but had a reputation for bending boys over between the front desks and whacking them on the backside with one of those large school rulers, (about 36” by 4”)
Because I was considered to be a ‘BIG’ kid in those days, I was nominated to distribute the FREE milk to all the classes in the new part of the school. I cannot remember having anything to do with the empties, but I do remember humping the full ones with about a third of a pint in each bottle and one bottle for each child in each classroom.
I then became old enough (eleven years) to attend the senior department in the old part of the school. I recall the names of some of the teachers. There was Mr (Bobby) Ash taught art – Mr Tom Perry taught science – Mr Lamb taught geography and P.E., Mr Riggs, for whom I fetched a packet of ten Walters brand cigarettes from Darby’s shop at the top of Lime Street every school day, taught maths and Mr Hodgkins taught English. Mr Humphries was the Headmaster who owned a Hillman saloon car whose registration number was CDH 54.
We walked to the Tower Street Public Baths every Wednesday morning, where we learned to swim and completed life saving courses. (I still have my certificates!)
I remember Chuckery School putting on a gymnastic show at the Town Hall with Mr. Lamb in charge. It was a good show and I remember lots of applause.
I also remember going to night school there.
Pupils I remember are Stan Rigby, Billy Cummings, Sidney Doyle, Maurice Butler, Nobby Clark, Geoffrey Bricknel, Margaret Eccles, Olive Edwards, Margaret Bird, Barbara Bache, Geoffrey Newell, Billy Horsely, Frank Roberts, Tommy Egan, Bill Goode, Ray Simmons, Billy Plant are just some of the names which come readily to mind.
I will try to come up with more if you think it will be helpful to your task.
During my school years I lived at 44 Lime Street, Chuckery.
In May 1972 I took a series of black and white photographs around the school for use in the booklet being produced, some of them are shown below.
Although I did attend one or two functions when the building housed Walsall School of Art in the 1980s the next time I saw it was in February 2000. As I mentioned earlier the light that day was very poor and the only two pictures of any clarity are shown here. The one of the trees is particularly poignant as they were used by the older boys to “stretch” the new pupils around. Four older lads would grab an unsuspecting youngster by an arm and a leg each and then pull as hard as they could. Wasn’t too bad really providing you had your cheek against the trunk and not your nose and that “other” parts of your anatomy were in their rightful place…..I don’t need to explain further I think, other than, if they weren’t it could be painful!
I wasn’t happy at having to go to the school but as it was my fault for not passing the 11 Plus exam I had to get on with it. At the end of our first year the head Mr Perry retired along with another teacher who had taught my dad at Palfrey School in the late 1920s, Mr Hubband. Our second year began with the boys and girls departments amalgamating. The headmistress from the old girls school, Miss Prentice, took the headship of the “new” school along with a fresh face to us all, deputy head Mr Davies.
The hours we used to do seemed much longer than they do today. If I remember correctly the hours were from 9.15am until 12.30pm and then 1.45pm (I think?) until 4.30pm.
I, like many others, went home every day for dinner (and pudding) which made a total daily mileage of around 7 to 8 miles. The trip was done on foot of course, it wasn’t until my final year that I had my bike which made the journey much quicker.
Of the teachers I remember Mr (Bill) Jeynes (metalwork), Mr (Joe) Donovan (woodwork), Mr Higginson (history and English), Mr Richards (art), Mr Parry (geometry and maths) Mr Bufton (science), Miss Millington, Miss Wright (music), Mrs Nicklin, Miss Evans, Mr Oldnall, Mr Hawkins, Mr Dawson, Mrs Field and a few others who names have drifted away.
In July 1962 all the pupils that left were given a bible from Walsall Education Committee and it was the custom to get your fellow pupils and teachers to sign it, mine is shown below. I didn’t mind the kisses from the girls on the signatures but there was one from David Casey plus three kisses!
The final item, made in first year in woodwork, is a plant stick. Proudly presenting it to my dad he commented “it’ll come in handy if vampires ever move in next door”.
Ex-pupil Terry Bate (1962-1966) contacted me earlier this week and told me of the death of Michael Davies, the Deputy Head and that he had a photo of the cricket team of 1965. Terry kindly scanned the photo and sent it to me along with the names and it is shown above.
The team is:- Back Row. Paul Adams, Michael Saunders, Alan Humpage, Mr. Watkins, Clive Mitchell, Paul Mason, Paul Cresswell. Front Row. Terry Bate (Me), Billy Cummings, Keith Frost, Martin Hackett, John Hipkin.
Thanks for the pic’ and the information Terry, much appreciated.
In late July 2017 another ex-pupil, Dennis Bayley contacted me from his home in Sydney, Australia and sent me his recollections of the school which I found quite amusing. Dennis was originally from Collins Street just off Weston Street, Caldmore or is that Palfrey? I asked him if I could share his notes and I am glad to say he agreed, they are shown below.
“Fantastic review John. I am Dennis Bayley. I left school in 1963, from 4b, Mr Davies was our form teacher at that time. I am now 68 so my memories may be somewhat clouded. I must have been a sh*t of a kid. The “taws” sticks in my mind (the 3pronged strap). We used to break into the school at night by climbing over the roof, down a drain pipe then through the open window to the showers. We didn’t break anything, just turned all the radiators up turn the clocks back and make a pyramid from the chairs. The caretaker who lived across the road chased us one night. Snogging some girl on the coke in the boiler room, ah, happy days. I agree that we had a good education. Miss Prentice also taught my mother, at Whitehall I think. Mr Parry (my hand is itching son) and Mr Bufton (scruffy buffy) taught my youngest brother David at the Leckie. I was one of the Duke of Edinburgh boys that built those canoes. Being the smallest I had the job of climbing into the nose of the canoe to silicone it I nearly passed out. Myself with some other boys and teachers took them to Abersoch in Wales we paddled across the bay and into some caves as I recall. My sister Linda was a year above me, then my siblings Graham and Susan followed by my eldest brother Sid who went to Leckie, and Ray went to Bluecoat. Quotes from my bible, from Kate, (6 kisses) “the boy stood on the burning deck, picking his nose like mad, he rolled them into little balls, and flicked them at his dad.” From Stella (6 kisses) “Don’t kiss at the garden gate, love is blind, but the neighbours ain’t.” Susan, (14 kisses, I dunnow) . The other names are, David Phillips, Les North, (these 2 were my good mates David sadly died young, but Les and I are still mukkas,) I have got, RTE, Christine, Roger Plant, Sharon, Mick Smith, Brynmore W Rees, Robert Bradley, Avril, Lynne, Barbara, M Whitehall, John Beeley, Carol, Delia, Lynne, Frank Allen, Diane, June B, Margaret Wilma and Sandra. Some I remember some not. School dinners, cheese pie. Broken bottles on top of the walls, walking to and from school from Palfrey in the snow, painful playground games, the trees in the nature garden, teaching one of the first Asian kids in the school to swear, iron forging in metal work, using a shaper, paring timber, horse hoof glue, the sand stone wheel to sharpen chisels. Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. Fond memories. I have lived in Sydney since 1973 I love it here, but I wouldn’t change my childhood.”
Happy days Dennis, thanks again.
The picture above, taken on 26th August 2017, shows the housing estate on the site of the old school from the Tong Street and Chuckery Road junction.
The picture on the left is of one of the many columns that ran around the perimeter of the school and now surround the housing estate. The one shown is on the Chuckery Road entrance at the top of the alley that ran up to the woodwork and metalwork classrooms.
I recently received the following comment from ex-pupil Terry Braid who came from Spout Lane, Caldmore. Terry wrote, “I left TONG STREET UNIVERSITY in 1956, Tom Perry was headmaster, Joe Donovan was woodwork teacher, other teachers were Smerdon, Higginson, Dawkins, Hubband and Bobby Ash. Brian Felton, Tony Draper and me Terry Braid won the T. A. SMITH TROPHY, in the town swimming gala, along with other events, the football team from memory, Alan Metcalfe, Slogger Wall(Bernard) John Hollyhead, Tony Draper,Terry Braid, “Bongo” Ball, John Allcock, Brian Felton. Tom Perry was always very proud of our sporting achievements in particular athletics, I think he realised we, or certainly me, were never going to excel on the academic front so he probably would have been quite pleased to have a little sporting exposure for the school. Interesting about the Lectern, this was consecrated by the Bishop of Lichfield and the opening ceremony was televised, this was organised by Mr Smerdon. Smerdon was a music teacher and he used to get us to keep a look out for Mr Perry while he had a fag”. Hope you find my comments of interest, Terry Braid.
Teaching ain’t what it was is it Terry? Thanks again for contributing.
© John Griffiths 2015