23 November 2023

St Peter’s Community Primary School

Judy Middleton 2003 (revised 2023)

copyright © D. Sharp
St Peter's Community Primary School photographed on 7 November 2023

Formerly known as St Peter’s Junior School, and earlier from 1906 to the 1940s it was St Andrew’s School – all in the same building.

It was in October 1905 that plans were passed for this school to be constructed, and it was the first school to be built by East Sussex County Council Education Committee. The
Sussex Daily News (4/12/1906) commented that ‘at a cost of about £10 a head a most pleasant building has been put up.’

The building has a charming wooden turret, and the main gable has ‘1906’ on it. The playground is surrounded with iron railings, and there is an iron hoop over the gateway, probably it once held a pendant lamp.

The Revd C. Edward Cooper, vicar of Portslade-by-Sea, stated ‘they had endeavoured to get the school by voluntary subscriptions but another infants’ department had been provided by this means in the upper portion of the district only just before and this proved a damper while the passing of the new Education Act proved the last straw and therefore it was necessary to obtain a Council School.’

The school opened on 3 December 1906, and there were 163 children on the books; by 1908 the number had risen to 227.

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Brighton Argus 3 December 1906
The opening of St Andrew's School in 1906

Size of Rooms

The west classroom, the east classroom, and the north classroom all had the same dimensions – 21-ft x 22-ft x 13½ -ft.

The main classroom measured 35-ft x 22-ft x 13½ -ft. x

The teacher’s room measured 15-ft x 11-ft x 10-ft.

The corridor measured 60-ft x 12-ft x 13½ –ft.

The cloakrooms measured 13-ft x 12-ft x 10-ft.

copyright ©  Brighton & Hove City Libraries
Juniors and Infants at St Andrew’s School, circa 1912.

St Andrew's School Log Books

The first Log Book of St Andrew's School dates back to 1903 when the infants were still located at the Wellington Road school. On 18 May 1903 the Diocesan Report commented favourably on the school. ‘There is every evidence of conscientious teaching under the new staff. The 61 Babies are capitally taught and handled.’

In that same month the average attendance was put at 142, and because the school was so full, admission was to be refused to all children under five.

On 24 June 1903 Captain Dowell paid his last official visit as school attendance officer ‘to the regret of the staff and children’. It was his duty to check up on children who were absent from school. The new attendance officer was Mr Jeffreys, and he embarked on his duties in September 1903.

Despite the restriction on admissions, by the start of the new school year in 1903 there were 161 children on the books – 77 boys and 84 girls. His Majesty’s Inspector for that year observed ‘These rooms are inconveniently arranged and seem full of desks etc of which many are not suitable for infant’s use; in spite of all this however Miss Turner and her staff have worked zealously and successfully.’

The staff consisted off:

Miss Elizabeth Turner

Helen Reeve

Caroline Redman

Helen Scutt

Miss Turner remained head of the school for a remarkable 21 years. She was said to be short in stature but unique in discipline. She retired in 1938 and died in 1945.

In March 1916 the school boiler failed for the first since the school was opened.

Empire Day

In 1916 the Empire Day celebrations were held as usual on 24 May. The children sung a patriotic song entitled England, then marched past the Union Jack. The vicar of St Andrew’s Church then gave a short address, followed by a short play Britannia and her Soldiers with Miss Saunders taking the part of Britannia. Events concluded with the signing of the National Anthem.

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
Brighton Argus 27 June 1916
Empire Day at St Andrew's School

A Collection

In September 1916 the school staged a collection in memory of boy hero Jack Cornwell VC; it raised 12/8d. (Jack Cornwell joined the Royal Navy at the youthful age of fifteen, and was only aged sixteen when he died on 2 June 1916 during the Battle of Jutland in the First World War).


In July 1916 the school was closed because there had been 30 cases of mumps. The school re-opened on 4 September 1916 and 223 children were present, although fifteen were absent because they had gone hop-picking. It was a higher number than previous years; there were 256 children on the books.

On 24 January 1927 the school was closed because of a flu epidemic, and only 94 children turned up out of a possible 237. The school had to be thoroughly disinfected.

On 31 March 1930 it was noted that the boys from Loxdale Home for Little Boys had returned; they had been absent since the 16 October. But by 29 April 1930 seventeen Loxdale boys were absent because of measles at the Home.

copyright © D. Sharp
St Andrew's 1906 wooden turret


In January 1915 Ivy Burtenshaw was excluded from school by reason of her verminous head. The redoubtable Nurse Caddy inspected all the children’s heads on a regular basis.

On 4 July 1924 the head sent a letter to Mrs Roser about her son Christopher on account of the ‘seat of his knickers (trousers) being all ragged and the flesh dirty.’


On 22 March 1922 a snowstorm reduced attendance to 160 children.


It seems there was a little bit of rivalry when local organisations staged their annual treat because the children would obviously prefer to go on a rare treat than turn up for school. Indeed, there was enough concern for a comment to be written in the Log Book. For example, it was noted in 1919 that school attendances were often down when the Salvation Army or the Baptist Church staged a treat. It must have seemed the sensible course of action was to recognise the fact and on 2 July 1930 it was recorded that the school was closed for the day because of the Baptist Church Treat.

Sometimes of course, the school was closed officially for national celebrations. This happened on 18 July 1919 when the children had tea and sports laid on for them as part of the Peace Celebrations for the end of the First World War.

Noisy Construction

In August 1930 the staff at both schools complained because of the dreadful noise of an electric drill being used in the construction of oil tanks in the south bank of the canal.

Angry Parents

This event was recorded as ‘abusive parents’ and occurred on 30 December 1938. Apparently, while a singing lesson was in progress, two mothers marched into the corridor, took their children’s clothes off the pegs, saying the school clock was slow, and the lesson should have ended. The episode was so unpleasant that police were called in.

Second World War

During the spring and summer of 1939 air-raid shelters for the school were built underground. In case people were wondering what was going on, it was put about that it was a new drainage scheme. This was indeed a half-truth because standard drainage pipes were placed in the six tunnels – they were approximately 6-ft in diameter and 70-ft in length. A brick-lined passageway connected all the tunnels, and originally there were three entrances.

On 21 December 1940 an A.R.P. warden visited the school to test the effectiveness of the gas masks.

The year 1940 proved to be a chaotic one for the school. For a start the underground shelters were in frequent use, and because of the disturbed nights, the morning sessions did not start until 10.am. Then on 18 October 1940 it was noted that the school had to be re-organized because the school on Wellington Road shut down, and some of the juniors had to be accommodated, while teachers Miss Shepherd and Miss Conn just had to cope. By December 1940 pupil numbers had declined to such an extent that the number of staff was reduced to the head and three assistants. In March 1941 some schools closed altogether because many children wee evacuated to Yorkshire, but a few remained on site until 12 December 1944.

Heads of St Andrew's

1917 – Miss Turner

1940s – Miss W. Dewdney

St Andrew's Staff

(These names appear in the St Andrew's School Log Books 1903-1948)

Marion Avery – born 1884, appointed 1905, died 1929

Doris Ellen Kathleen Batchelor – born 1901, appointed 1921, left 1928

Rose Elanor Bearman – born 1885, appointed 1898, left 1909

Winifred Ellen Bodle – born 1893, appointed 1918, left 1922, re-appointed 1929, left 1937

Ada Mary Bowker, nee Lord

Lilian Maud Cator – born 1908, appointed 1926

Dorothea Bessie Charlotte Conn – born 1906, appointed 1933

Marjorie Maud Clothier – born 1906, appointed 1929

Lily Crabbe – born 1888, appointed 1912

Nellie Dinah Edmonds – born 1915, appointed 1935

Dorothy Fuller

Winifred May Groom – born 1902. appointed 1923

Marion Haddon, nee Taylor – born 1870, appointed 1905, last school Mixed Hebrew, Birmingham, resigned 1912

Enid Beryl Jones

Jane Alice Queenie Lock – born 1897, appointed 1911

Daisy Christine Luckins – born 1890

Ellen Amelia Madge – born 1876, appointed 1904, resigned 1905

Margaret Nellie Merrifield, nee Macklin – born 1883, appointed 1916

Muriel Oliver – born 1906, appointed 1927, resigned 1927

Ethel Maria Prisnell – born 1894, appointed 1915

Helen Harlowe Reeve, nee Nye – born 1862, appointed 1902, left 1923

Helen Irene Reeve – born 1890, appointed 1906, left 1909

Mabel Alice Roberts – born 1883, appointed 1920, left 1921

Louise Saunders – born 1890, appointed 1912, resigned 1916

Alice Louisa Sayers – born 1890, appointed 1909, resigned 1912

Helen Scutt – born 1882, appointed 1902, left 1927


copyright © Brighton & Hove City Council

Heads of St Peter's

1949 – Miss P. M. Hatwell

1950s – Miss V. L. M. Gibbons

1954 – Miss M. M. Clothier

1990s – Rosalie Harrington

2020s - Mrs Emma Lake

(This list is only a summary because it has not been possible to discover all the names)

Recent Times

On 10 February 1993 there was an opening ceremony for a new extension that cost £40,000, and to honour the occasion the children wore Victorian-style clothing. Each child was given a slice of a special celebration cake baked by Enid Chamberlain, chairman of the school governors.

The extension meant that for the first time the children had the benefit of indoor toilets, while the staff had their own room. Previously, the children were obliged to walk under a covered way to the original toilet block built in 1906, while the staff had to take their break in the cloakroom. However, the past was also cherished because the original Edwardian fireplaces were restored.

On 19 August 1995 to celebrate the anniversary of VJ Day three of the six tunnels were open for public inspection. There were sufficient remains of the decayed wooden benches to be able to reconstruct some as examples. At the end of each tunnel there was a chemical toilet – that is a metal bucket, but the wooden seat had also rotted.

copyright © St Peter's Primary School
The school badge in 2023

In 1998 it was stated that St Peter’s was the smallest school in Brighton and Hove with just 80 pupils, and the average class number was 26. (Argus 25/3/98)

Rosalie Harrington, head, had previously been deputy head of Stanford Infants School. The school was well equipped with computers, largely donated by local business men.

Five years previously a competition among the pupils came up with a design for a new school badge that showed two children walking hand-in-hand to school.

In April 1988 the Ofsted Report highlighted the 100 per cent teaching record. Rosalie Harrington was praised for giving clear and effective educational direction.

In the same month it was announced that the school was to be given £45,562 to improve the west elevation of the hall and rebuild the roof.

In April 2000 plans were submitted to construct new rooms in the roof, and a conservatory.

In October 2000 Rosalie Harrington welcomed Prime Minister Tony Blair and Secretary of State for Education David Blunket who opened a new nursery at the school. In 2023 there were twenty children at the nursery.

A Well-known Former Pupil

It is interesting to note that a long-serving councillor received his early education in these premises. He is Les Hamilton who has lived in Portslade for 75 years and served as a Labour councillor for no less than 52 years, latterly as councillor for this very ward – just think of the numerous meetings he must have attended! He also had the distinction of serving as Mayor. On 22 November 2023 he announced he was retiring – to the great regret of many a Portslade resident. Argus 23/11/23 24/11/23)

Possible Closure

Photograph taken on 23 November 2023

In November 2023 there came the alarming news that St Peter’s might be closed with the possible date being September 2025. The reality of the situation is that according to the 2021 census there has been a 22 per cent fall in the youngest age group. In other words there are not enough children to fill the available spaces.

This is not altogether surprising because the birth rate is going down in Britain as well as other European countries. English families are not given much help in raising the younger generation whereas in France it is different. The expense of having a family of youngsters is tremendous, and because Brighton and Hove has a housing crisis and never mind the sky-high price of a modest house, parents cannot afford to live here.

Image of St Peter's from 'Save Our School' poster above

The other school set for closure is St Bartholomew’s C. of E. Primary School at Brighton. It is sad to note that both these schools serve the poorest communities.

The motion comes from the newly-elected Labour-run council who have scrapped the cross-party group that would normally discuss the situation. (Argus 2/11/23 3/11/23)

When the possible closures became known, there was an immediate outcry from the parents whose children attended the schools. It made the front page of the Argus with a photograph taken outside St Bartholomew’s School, and in the background there was a large banner proclaiming ‘This School is GOOD’. Meanwhile, at Portslade one mother stated that ‘St Peter’s is a beacon of hope.’ Small schools are a preferable environment for those children with special educational needs who might find a large campus intimidating.

A Green councillor found it ironic that Labour had promised in their election campaign to ‘keep schools open.’ (Argus 7/11/23)

The council then changed its mind because it was decided that a public consultation would be launched on the subject of the possible closure of St Peter’s and St Bartholomew. If nine other schools agreed to a reduced number of admissions, it might be possible to save the smaller schools. (Argus 9/11/23).

For more information, see the School's website at this Link:-  St Peter’s Community Primary School



Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade

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Copyright © J.Middleton 2023

page layout and additional research by D.Sharp