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29 November 2012

Portslade's Old Schools - St Winifred's School

Judy Middleton

Published originally in Tales of the Old Hove Schools (1991) revised 2014

Notable Former Pupils John and Jennifer Nicks, skating stars and world champions

St Winifred’s was an unusual school because it existed on two different sites at the same time. There was the smaller one at Portslade and the larger one at Hove located at 330 Portland Road from 1931 to 1969.
copyright © D.Sharp
Hove location of St Winifred's 1931-1969
In August 1988 it became known that St Andrew’s Church Hall, Portslade, popularly known as the Scout Hut, had come to the end of its useful life. For a temporary building it had done remarkably well, having been erected at the end of the Boer War. The Great Storm of October 1987 was really the last straw. Although it was still standing afterwards, the structure had shifted and a surveyor’s report labelled the building unsafe.

The news the hall was to be demolished caused Lilian Hale to write to the Brighton and Hove Gazette about her memories. It came as a great surprise to many people that the hall had once played host to a small private school called St Winifred’s.

copyright © J.Middleton
This building with the innovative shape was erected on the site of the old Scout Hut that once housed St Winifred’s School. The new structure was home first of all to a car salesroom, then it became a furniture showroom and lately it has been converted into a dental centre.
As a result of newspaper publicity, a re-union of ex-pupils took place on 1st October 1988. Miss Maria Ross aged 81 and a former teacher at the school was guest of honour. 

Lilian Hale started at St Winifred’s in 1924 at the age of five and there she remained until she reached the school-leaving age of fourteen. Her schooling cost her parents 1/6d a week and the money had to be produced first thing on Monday mornings. Miss Herbert was the headmistress and she was also involved in teaching along with Miss Vine and Miss Ross. Lilian Hale remembered the school uniform as consisting of a navy gymslip with a white blouse and green tie. There was a green velour hat for winter wear and a panama hat for the summer. Games were played on a stretch of grass outside; this was before St Richard’s Flats were built and sheep used to be kept in the field.

copyright © J.Middleton
This group from St Winifred’s School, Portslade was photographed in around 1924. In the background Portslade Fire Station can be seen on the left and St Andrew’s Church on the right. Back row, left to right, Joyce Hopper, Marion Barber and Nancy Charman; front row, Mavis Short, Rhona Dickens and Betty Johnson.
St Winifred’s was a mixed school. Two boy pupils were Fred Smith, who started there in 1937, and his best friend Bob Smith (no relation) who joined in 1938. Fred Smith recalled there were two classes inside the hall, one senior and one junior, with around 30 pupils in each class. The classes were sub-divided into three sections A, B and C. Miss Ross and Miss Mounson were the two teachers while Miss Herbert came to teach French.

Fred Smith stayed at St Winifred’s for the whole of his schooling and amazingly the fees were still only 1/6d a week but his parents had to pay for any books or other necessary equipment.  His uniform, purchased at Cobley’s in Church Road, Hove consisted of grey trousers, white shirt, green blazer, tie and cap. There was no emblem or motto on the cap, merely a badge with a monogram of SWS. A complete syllabus was taught and pupils sat for their school certificate. Fred Smith remembered that Friday afternoons were devoted to sport and music. He played cricket in Victoria Recreation Ground and stoolball in Marine Park (now Aldrington Recreation Ground but popularly called Wish Park). But Fred’s favourite subject was drawing and he went on to Brighton Technical College and a career in graphic art. His friend Bob Smith became a French polisher at Colman’s of Hove.

Dorothy Millard’s (nee Rich) first memories were of the art class. She recalled being taught how to draw a single petal, then several to make a flower, and finally the colouring in. She once painted a picture of one of her Christmas presents; a torch resplendent in the colours of red and pink. Miss Mounson was unimpressed with her work and told her red and pink NEVER went together. Dorothy’s protest about the accuracy of her portrayal was brushed aside.

At the outbreak of World War II the school remained in the hall for a while although the children were obliged to dive under the stage during air raid alerts. Then it was decided the hall was not safe enough being so close to the canal and a possible enemy target. It moved not that far away to the Southern Cross Mission Hall in Trafalgar Road where it stayed for two years.

Then it moved again to the hall next door to the George Inn in Portslade Old Village. This old building had once possessed a thatched roof and was known by two nicknames – the Hook and Eye or the Buffalo Hall. The latter was because the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes (a fraternal organisation) used to hold meetings there.
copyright © J.Middleton
The Location of St Winifred's School next to the George Inn in Portslade Old Village
It was said that Miss Lilian Herbert started her school career at Hove first of all, where lessons were taught in a large tin hut in Marmion Road. In 1929 Pat Goddard (nee Page) and Margaret Adams (nee Deering) arrived at this establishment. Pat Goddard cannot remember having to bring money with her on Monday mornings and thought instead her parents paid 2 guineas a term. According to Margaret Adams the fees for Hove St Winifred’s was 2/6d a week. If your parents wished you to take elocution lessons (from Miss Steele) or dancing lessons (from Miss Palmer) that would cost an extra £1-10s a term each.

A new school building was erected for St Winifred’s at 330 Portland Road, Hove and it became operational in 1931. The old site at Marmion Road was covered by a new brick-built YMCA building and some of the St Winifred’s pupils donated £1 to buy a brick to be inscribed with their name and used on the site.

The Hove St Winifred accepted girls from five to fourteen and boys from five to seven. Pat Goddard and Margaret Adams remembered the teachers during their time at the school as being Miss Herbert, Miss Ross, Miss Vine and Miss Waller. Miss Waller had the task of collecting the younger pupils and escorting them to school in the mornings; the collection point being outside the Granada Cinema. No doubt parents thought their children would be safe under the supervision of a teacher but on one occasion there was an unfortunate accident. It happened that the route to school lay along the south side of Portland Road where workmen were building some shops. As the children walked along the pavement in pairs, they passed a ladder, and some bricks fell out of the bricklayer’s hod, injuring several of them.

Later on, when these shops were opened, the children spent some of their pocket money in them. For instance, you could buy a bag of sweets for one penny, or if you were being frugal, a halfpenny could purchase a bag of broken toffee. Toffee apples cost one penny each. On the subject of food, no school dinners were provided and so there was a two-hour break from school from noon to 2pm and then it was back for the afternoon session lasting until 4pm.

The new school building was very spacious when compared to their previous quarters. The infants, juniors and seniors had separate classrooms. But the seniors had the best room because there were French windows overlooking the garden.

Discipline was quite strict. Fridays must have been the most unpopular day of the week because the children were given tests to ascertain if they had absorbed that week’s work. In addition there were exams to be sat at the end of every term with certificates awarded to children with the three highest marks.

Handwriting was taught and in 1936 Miss Herbert considered her pupils good enough to enter a competition organised by a national newspaper. Her optimism was well founded and the school won a set of Shakespeare’s Works. Shakespeare was an important part of the curriculum and a play was selected for reading out loud in class each year. For the remaining two terms, children were allowed to choose a classical book to be read in class.

School uniforms were purchased at Dorkins, Western Road, Brighton. They kept a stock of the necessary blazers, green velour hats, panama hats and shantung blouses. They also sold that detested item – enormous green knickers reaching almost to the knees with elastic around the legs.

It is worth noting that a Mayoress and a Mayor of Hove were former pupils of Hove St Winifred’s. They are Mrs BB Funnell, whose husband was Mayor of Hove in 1961, and Mrs Margaret Adams who was Mayor of Hove from 1989-1990. Mrs Adams was also Registrar at Hove from 1960 to 1988. Notable former pupils are John and Jennifer Nicks, skating stars and world champions.


1920s-1969 Miss Lilian Herbert

School colours green

Recollections of Margaret Adams, Pat Goddard, Lilian Smith, Dorothy Millard, Bob Smith, Fred Smith

Copyright © J.Middleton 2012
page layout by D.Sharp