|copyright © J.Middleton|
St Nicolas C of E Primary School Portslade
|copyright © D.Sharp |
Elizabeth Godley's gravestone in
St Nicolas Churchyard
|copyright © J.Middleton|
This silk book-mark
was created to
marriage of the
Prince and Princess
on 10 March 1863
In the same month when McConnochie asked the class of infants who the Prince of Wales was, a bright youngster piped up that he lived just up here, referring to the pub of the same name. It sounds like a music hall joke but there it is inscribed in the School Log. It was marvellous how the prospect of a free bun fight could affect attendance figures. On 7th August 1874 McConnochie recorded ‘prospect of annual break-up tea induced many to recover from measles or abstain from work’.
On 2nd March 1871 McConnochie noted that in accordance with a directive regarding Log Books he would make one entry a week instead of daily as had been his practice. It is a sad date for those interested in local history because much of the flavour evaporates from the Log. The entries he made between 1863 and 1871 are invaluable for all the details he records and gives us a real glimpse into the lives of ordinary Portslade folk as nothing else could do.
THE BRACKENBURY SCHOOLS
The year 1872 was important because the school moved to a brand new building on Locks Hill. It was made possible through the generosity of Miss Hannah Brackenbury who was born in 1795. Hannah lived in Manchester with her brother James Blackledge Brackenbury until 1844 when his health broke down and they moved to the south coast. But it was to no avail since he died on 2nd October the same year at Hove. His only child Harriette Mary died aged 28 in 1861 and Hannah’s sole surviving relative her brother Ralph, a retired surgeon, died in September 1864. Thus the wealth of the Brackenburys became concentrated on Hannah. Her father was a doctor but the family fortune was due to her brother James who was a solicitor in Manchester and adviser to the local railway company. Indeed the family fortune was founded on judicious investments in various early railway enterprises and when Hannah died she still owned shares in four of them. Hannah’s inheritance was so vast that she was able to give away at least £100,000 during her lifetime.
But of course the Brackenburys were nouveau riche and the attitude of Victorian society to such people was condescending to say the least. Hannah became convinced that she came from an ancient and noble family, descending from the redoubtable Sir Pearse de Brackenbury, companion in arms to William the Conqueror. In fact there is a break in the family tree between 1676 and the 1790s. Another ‘claimed’ ancestor was John de Balliol, father of John Balliol, King of Scotland. It was John de Balliol’s widow Lady Devorguilla who founded Balliol College, Oxford in 1282. In the 1860s Hannah donated at least £20,000 to Balliol College towards the construction of buildings on the south side of the quadrangle facing Broad Street as well as endowing scholarships for students of law or medicine, which still exist.
It is not known why Hannah decided to be generous to Portslade too. She lived initially at Brunswick Square, then Brunswick Terrace and finally at 31 Adelaide Crescent. It was her housekeeper Alice King who lived at Sellaby House in Portslade after Hannah’s death – the house being named in honour of the old Brackenbury link with Selaby in Durham.
Before the Brackenbury Schools could be built, the land had to be purchased. On the first page of the School Minute Book the following details are revealed. ’On 23 March 1871 the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in whom were vested the Canterbury Archbishopric Estates, conveyed an acre of land to the Vicar and Churchwardens of Portslade for a school site in consideration of £100 paid by Miss Hannah Brackenbury.’ The schools were specifically for the children ‘of the labouring, manufacturing and other poorer classes of the Parish of Portslade’.
Edmund Evan Scott was the architect chosen to design the schools and he belonged to a family of local artists. His grandfather Edmund Scott painted portraits including fashionable miniatures and in 1811 was appointed portrait engraver to the Prince of Wales. Edmund Scott’s three sons and two daughters were all recognised artists and it was the second son Charles James Scott who was the father of our architect. Edmund Evan Scott’s great-niece Amy Scott, another artist, lived most of her life at Hove and when she died in 1950 bequeathed her family’s archive of work to Hove Museum.
|copyright © J.Middleton copyright © D.Sharp |
top left:- St Andrews Church Portslade, right:- Brackenbury Chapel at St Nicolas Church Portslade, lower left:- Portslade Cemetery Chapel
Edmund Evan Scott’s first work in Portslade was in conjunction with his partner, a Mr Suter, and they designed St Andrew’s Church, built in 1864. By himself EE Scott designed the Brackenbury Schools and around the same time the two chapels in Portslade Cemetery and all these buildings were flint-faced in a Victorian Gothic style. It is also possible that he designed the Brackenbury Chapel at St Nicolas’s Church although there is no proof because remarkably the documents have not been discovered. But the style is similar to his other Portslade designs. His most celebrated work is without doubt St Bartholomew’s Church, Brighton, which opened in 1874. It is a soaring edifice built of red brick and there could not be a greater contrast between that and his flint buildings in Portslade.
The Brackenbury Schools were officially opened on Saturday 25th May 1872. The church bells started a joyful ring in the morning and kept it up at intervals throughout the day. At 3pm the children assembled at the old school in the village for the last time and with Devin’s pier band leading the way, marched down to the new schools. At 4pm Hannah Brackenbury arrived with a party of friends including Lady Westphal, the wife of the famous Trafalgar veteran Admiral Sir George Augustus Westphal who lived in Brunswick Square. The welcoming party at the gates included the vicar the Revd FG Holbrooke, Mr Dudney the parish churchwarden, and the three school managers Alfred Hardwick, Edward Blaker and Frederick Sundius Smith. McConnochie described as the ‘highly respected master’ led the children in giving three cheers and then the company of guests, children and parents sat down to a splendid tea. They consumed 50 large loaves, 36 gallons of tea, 6 gallons of milk and 200lbs of plum cake.
John King was the builder responsible for the erection of the building, which was intended to accommodate 250 children with the boys and girls being taught separately. John King was the brother of Alice King, Hannah’s esteemed housekeeper. Less than a year later Hannah Brackenbury was dead. She died on 28th February 1873 and her funeral was held at St Nicolas’s Church on 7th March. Her mourning coach was drawn by four horses and followed by four similar coaches and her private carriage. The cortege took an hour to travel from Adelaide Crescent to the church. The polished oak coffin with silver furniture and nails was placed in the family vault. The children of the Brackenbury School attended as a mark of respect and the large congregation included the Revd Professor Jowett, Master of Balliol. The following month there was a 3-day sale of all the effects from Hannah’s house.
A STORMY YEAR
The year 1875 was a controversial one for parish politics in Portslade. It started off early in the year with a dispute in the court of Queen’s Bench. The case arose because of the opening of the Brackenbury School and the disposal of the old school site. The Revd GF Holbrooke, after carefully obtaining permission of the Home Secretary and the Charity Commissioners, advertised the property for sale. However, the plaintiff claimed that although the late Mr George Hall had conveyed the land to the vicar for a school, it was in fact only lent and now that the old school was redundant, the Hall family wanted their land back. But Justices Mellor, Lush and Quain were unconvinced by counsel’s arguments and referred the case back to the parties. If an agreement could not be found, then the parties would have to give the court power to come to their own conclusions.
The case was a blow to the vicar for he had hoped to use the money from the sale to put towards the cost of running the schools. Finance became a pressing problem. It might seem that having a purpose built school given to the parish, everything in the garden would be lovely. This was not the case. The children’s pence and the Government grant were simply not enough to keep the place running.
The Revd FG Holbrooke sent out a circular to his parishioners in April 1875 asking for voluntary subscriptions. He did not need an impossible sum – just £65 a year in voluntary subscriptions and £65 in annual subscriptions to keep the schools solvent. If the money were not forthcoming, he would have to relinquish control to the School Board. The spectre of the School Board was a useful bogeyman to rattle at his parishioners because it was well known having a School Board was almost always more expensive in the long run.
In Portslade it would probably mean the imposition of a rate of 10d in the £ and people had only to look to Brighton, which was already groaning under the burden of a School Board. The problem was relevant to the whole of Portslade because if St Nicolas could not afford to keep its schools running, then the School Board would take over St Andrew’s School in Portslade-by-Sea as well.
The crisis arose because the population of Portslade was changing. The old established well-off families were moving away while the working population continued to increase rapidly. Father Holbrooke must have grown fed up trying to get blood out of a stone and so he decided to put the whole matter to the vote; and just so nobody could say he was exerting an influence, he declined to take the chair.
The meeting proved to be a stormy one with heated participation in the form of hisses, applause, or shouts of ‘hear, hear’. Frederick Sundius Smith, churchwarden, moved a resolution asking for a School Board and for a petition to be forwarded to the Guardians of Steyning Union. He made a long speech in which he intimated that the schools were £70 in debt and a school rate would only be 3d in the £ (hisses). William Hall seconded the resolution – he can have hardly been the vicar’s favourite person because he had already been involved in the land dispute earlier in that year. In the event Portslade people voted against having a School Board and there were few votes in its favour. The Brighton Gazette summed it up as follows, ‘Some liveliness was imparted to the meeting by the appearance of the stormy petrel Mr William Hall, but a fatality of failure seems to attend him and he only succeeded in securing one more defeat’.
As for Frederick Sundius Smith, he too must have been a trial for the vicar because as well as being churchwarden, he was also one of the school managers and yet he had been in favour of turning over control to the School Board. Smith was the owner of the Britannia Steam Mills overlooking the canal – he had to be a man of property to qualify for being a manager. He was still connected with the schools in the 1890s, by which time the Revd FG Holbrooke had left Portslade after a ministry of 21 years. It is interesting to note that the two families were to have a further connection when in 1908 the vicar’s son Captain (later Lieutenant Colonel) Frederick Roper Holbrooke of the Indian Army married Beatrice Muriel, Smith’s daughter. Smith and his wife had five sons and three of them followed a military career with Indian connections. They were Colonel Donald Geoffrey Sundius Knightley Smith of the 1/15th Punjab Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Brian Leslie Sundius Smith DSO of the Baluch Regiment and 2nd Lieutenant Ronald Christian Sundius Smith of the Indian Army who was killed at Neuve Chappelle in 1915 whilst attached to the 2nd West Yorkshire Regiment. There is a beautiful window designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones in memory of the latter in St Andrew’s Church, Portslade.
Also in 1875 more controversy was to follow, Frederick Gosset of Portslade House wrote a letter to the Brighton Gazette accusing Revd Richard Enraght who was the Curate-in-Charge of St Andrew's Church Portslade of Puseyism (used here as a term of abuse) and of trying to turn the St Nicolas School into a Puseyite school. Mr Gossett, a Protestant anti-ritualist, stated, "The Revd Mr. Enraght, whose doctrines, if they were not doctrines of the Church of Rome, he (Mr. Gossett) was ignorant to what Church they belonged."
In reply to this personal attack, Revd Enraght sent the following statement to the Brighton Gazette,
" My attention has only just be drawn to an attack made upon me, in my absence, by Mr. Gossett, of Portslade. I only noticed Mr. Gossett’s slander for the sake of the people to whom I lately ministered. I beg to inform all who care to know that ‘my doctrines’ are those of the ‘one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church’, in which Mr. Gossett has professed to, but does not, I suppose ‘believe’; whereas I do.” In Fr Enraght’s letter he goes on to list all the doctrines of the Church of England held in common with the Roman Catholic Church, and ends his letter saying “It is shameful that ‘Protestants’ should persist in deceiving the people with this palpable fallacy.”
END OF AN ERA
A new room for infants was opened at Easter 1875 and was one of the causes of the financial difficulties. Not only did the room cost £40 but there was also an influx of 40 children. The existing staff became even more stretched. However, the standard of education continued to meet with Government approval.
The Diocese was also pleased with the way religious knowledge was imparted and Portslade consistently became top school in the subject within the Rural Deanery of Hurstpierpoint. John Sayers and Reginald Ward took the first two prizes in 1876 and McConnochie proclaimed a half-holiday to celebrate. He must also have been pleased when in 1879 his son Bertie won first prize in the viva voce for religious knowledge. Laudable as these achievements were, it has to be said that there was a financial angle to it as well because McConnochie’s salary was enhanced by the results. In 1883 his basic salary was fixed at £120 a year with half of the Government grant received for the boys’ school plus 1/- a head of average attendance of children who had passed the examination of the Diocesan Inspector. For some reason not specified, by 1890 his salary had been reduced to £115 and a quarter of the Government grant but the 1/- per head of average attendance remained.
In 1879 the Revd FG Holbrooke left the parish and the choir boys clubbed together to present him with a somewhat unusual leaving gift – a butter knife. The Revd CA Stevens was the new vicar and he had barely got into his stride before McConnochie was pressing him to allow more staff to be hired because there were only Miss Sayers and two monitors to assist him in teaching 200 children.
Unfortunately for McConnochie the HMI visit in 1881 went badly. McConnochie had the children standing to attention to greet the great man at 9.30am but owing to the train’s delay he did not turn up until 10.30 by which time the children were restless. The infants were up to scratch but standard two was a different matter. There had been no teacher for them from October 1880 to June 1881 and the teachers appointed since had not proved to be efficient. The result was dreadful – 50% of the children failed. McConnochie wrote gloomily in the Log ‘it has been the most unsatisfactory examination since I had charge of the school, now nearly 19 years’.
But he soon cheered up because in 1882 a new assistant arrived and in 1883 the girls moved to a separate newly built department. In 1884 Mr G Riley started work as an assistant teacher and McConnochie celebrated his 21st anniversary at Portslade. He received a silver watch and chain from 180 scholars and friends.
Shortly afterwards there was a nasty accident in the playground and it sounds as though the school was fortunate not to have a fatality. In McConnchie’s words, ‘an accident occurred to Robert Cherriman, a knife passing into his back causing a small wound, which bled freely. I stopped the bleeding with cold water, took him home, I hope all will be well.’ All was well as Cherriman returned to school the next week.
In 1888 there was a late harvest and so the school did not close for its summer break until 17th August; the harvesting still not being finished by the last week in September. The summer holidays were customarily called the harvest holidays and McConnochie knew it was hopeless to keep the school open during harvest time because it was a case of every hand to the fields.
By 1890 clouds were beginning to gather in McConnochie’s sky. The HMI visited in July and reported ‘this school which appears to have been weak last year, now shows a decline and the attainments can hardly be regarded as satisfactory’. McConnochie had now been at the school for 27 years – perhaps he was getting old and tired. In 1892 McConnochie was ill from 23rd March to 14th April and the assistant Mr Groves ran the school on his own. An inspector from the Science and Art Department came to examine the boys’ drawings for the first time. He was satisfied and so was the Diocesan Inspector who thought the religious knowledge was better than last year.
However, the HMI’s visit in the summer produced a bombshell. In the Log for July 1892 there appears the following, ‘HM Inspector having reported the Boys’ School to be inefficient My Lords hereby give formal warning under Act 86 that should he at his next visit again report the Boys School to be inefficient, the entire grant may be curtailed’.
McConnochie must have spent the intervening months labouring under a dread of failure. In 1893 the HMI was again unsatisfied and the annual grant was withheld. The report states ‘both discipline and instruction here are unsatisfactory. Reading is bad and arithmetic … a failure. Recitation is most defective and … the Boys’ knowledge of English and Geography is almost worthless. The examination results this year seem worse that they were last’. The managers told McConnochie that they would not require his services after Christmas.
McConnochie wrote his last entry in the Log in December 1893 ‘closed school for the usual Christmas holidays and my duties as Master after 30 years and 9 months’. As McConnochie closed the school door for the last time he must have been reminded of another sad Christmas 15 years earlier when his 12-year old daughter Alice Louise died on 16th December 1878 after a long and painful illness. She was buried in St Nicolas Churchyard.
The managers agreed to send particulars of McConnochie’s service to Lewes in order that he might receive a pension. But he did not enjoy his pension for long because he died aged 63 on 31 August 1898. His wife did not die until 5th February 1917 and they were both buried in Portslade Cemetery.
The boys’ school had been run as a separate department since 5th November 1883 but it is easier to take up the story from January 1894 when Robert Price, the new headmaster, took over. At the same time there was a new assistant master and Mr Worsfold replaced Mr Groves.
Discipline was tightened up on all fronts; not only must the boys be punctual but the masters must be ready to receive the scholars in their classrooms five minutes before the appointed time. Truancy was no longer such a problem since the managers had the good sense to employ Captain Dowell as attendance officer. One can imagine him (ramrod straight ex-Army man) going from house to house to enquire about absent scholars. It is impossible to ascertain when he embarked upon his duties but there are several references to him in the Log Books from 1884 to 1903. In the Minute Book for 1898 there is an acknowledgement to him for the ‘kindly and effective performance of his duties as attendance officer and the valuable assistance he has for many years given to the teachers and managers in bringing about so high a rate of attendance’.
Mr Price and Mr Worsfold soon turned the school around and by May 1894 the Diocesan Inspector could report that he saw ‘evidence of useful and conscientious religious teaching’. The HMI was also impressed – ‘a decided improvement’ he wrote.
But the school was not yet out of the woods because the HMI found the accommodation insufficient and he warned that next year’s grant might be endangered. The managers were taking no chances about losing out on the money this time and by September 1894 work was already in hand to build two new classrooms (one for boys, one for girls) at a combined cost of £761. They also purchased new equipment including 6 dozen framed slates and 3 dozen Bibles.
However, there were still other matters to consider. In 1896 while the HMI conceded that ‘this was an efficient and improving school’ he then attacked the state of the playground. ‘Playgrounds must be enclosed and made reasonably level from the large stones (almost boulders) that encumber it. The slope of the playground is now so arranged that after heavy continuous rain, some of the Schoolrooms (if not all) will be flooded’. Prompt action was again the order of the day and soon the playground was properly levelled and new iron railings were provided at a cost of £25.
Price had been at the school for only a year when he boldly approached the managers to ask for his salary to be increased from £120 a year, particularly because the average number of boys had risen from 91 to 130. He received his pay rise and was awarded £132 a year and in 1889 the managers were so pleased with results that they gave him an extra £8 too. Like the McConnochies, both Robert Price and his wife Ruth taught at the school.
By this time the name Brackenbury had been quietly allowed to fade away and since 1884 the establishment was known as the St Nicolas, Portslade and Hangleton Boys’ School. (It should be remembered that the parishes of Portslade and Hangleton had been united since 1864).
School was not only for children because young adults could attend evening classes. But adult in this context meant those who had left school, which in 1894 could still be done legally after the 11th birthday. The syllabus was very limited – for instance in the Autumn of 1897 only shorthand and drawing were on offer at evening classes. But it was an excellent idea even if the managers had forgotten one important item: the provision of artificial light. Although evening classes started at 3.45pm winter darkness soon closed in and lessons became difficult. Gas lighting was not installed until 1899 when the Welsbach Incandescent Company undertook the task. If the school was late in obtaining gas lighting, it was certainly reluctant to relinquish the same, and gas lights were still spluttering away up until the 1940s.
In 1896 a novel piece of equipment was acquired for the school from Mrs Randall of Hove for 5 guineas – it was a second-hand American organ. Hymns now had a stirring accompaniment and hopefully it would have strengthened Christian virtues such as tolerance to those less fortunate. There were some scholars without the means to pay the school pence because they were either orphans or their parents had fallen on hard times and were in the Workhouse. There is a note in the Log for January 1898 stating that the Guardians (of the Workhouse) would pay the school fees for the following children; Frank, Albert and Ada Blake, Alice and George Burtenshaw, Violet and Reggie White, Daisy and Martha Damper, and Albert and John Willard.
Charles Price began his duties as assistant master in February 1902. It seems probable that he was related to headmaster Robert Price but whatever the relationship he did not stay long as in March 1905 he left to emigrate to Canada. It is interesting to note that three scholars left the school in October 1886 to emigrate to Canada too – probably under an assisted passage scheme. Sussex already had connections with Canada because the Earl of Egremont had encouraged the Petworth Emigration Scheme, which from the 1830s to 1850 sent almost 2,000 Sussex people to Canada.
In 1901 the Board of Education was not pleased to notice a considerable diminution of voluntary subscriptions and said ‘they trust … that a larger amount will be raised in future years’. Despite this ominous note, further improvements were made at the end of 1903, which coincided most fortunately with the closure of the school because of an outbreak of measles. There was a new wood-block floor in the main room and the small classroom together with a new window in the latter. The east porch was enlarged and two new fireplaces were put in the main room. In addition every room was repainted and distempered, and the lower playground was levelled and covered with tar paving. It was only fair that the boys’ school should have money spent on it because in the same year the infants had moved to a brand new building.
| copyright © G. Osborne|
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph from his private collection.
The new St Nicolas' Infants School
However, there was no getting away from the fact that the school was overcrowded and there were now 210 boys on the books. The HMI recognised the problem and in 1906 wrote ‘the size and close crowding of the classes make instruction difficult’.
Conditions at home were often difficult too. Some boys frequented the soup kitchen at Southern Cross that had been set up in January 1908 for the benefit of children of the unemployed. But in spite of such poverty the school celebrated Empire Day every year with great enthusiasm. In 1908 a senior boy recited Kipling’s poem Recessional, which is certainly not so jingoistic as the usual fare served up on such occasions.
Around about this time, there were two funerals that affected the school. The first was of Miss Boyle, the vicar’s sister and devoted co-worker. As the cortege passed by the school on its way to Hangleton in June 1908 the boys sang ‘Brief Life is here our Portion’. The second funeral took place on 11th March 1909 when the headmaster and 20 boys attended the service. Young Walter Pegden, a scholar at St Nicolas, died suddenly on 4th March. In the words of the Log ‘he slipped on the snow, and fell down injuring his head, while on an errand for his mother during the evening’.
In 1909 the HMI stated that there was no school library. This is odd because the girls’ school had one in 1898. The local education authority sent a selection of titles to the boys (two or three copies each). It is amusing to note that in 1911 the Daily Mail Year Book and Whittaker’s Almanac were not supplied as ordered. Were they not available or did the authorities not approve of the choice?
The HMI was still pleased with the school and wrote that ‘with very few exceptions all the boys were properly classified and many are more advanced than is common in the county’. But in the same report he worried that too much time was given to mechanical work and he would like to see a more liberal course of studies. Quite what he meant by ‘mechanical’ is not clear. Did he have the chanting of time-tables and the recitation of poetry in mind? He cannot have meant manual skills because there was precious little of that anyway.
In 1911 the school decided to set up a wood working class and drew up a list of necessary tools. But the Elementary sub-committee would not sanction the idea. The school then decided to hold the class in the church hall instead. But there is no further mention of wood working until 1923 when a class started in the vacant part of the cookery hut with Mr Privett in charge.
Much more successful was the gardening class formed in November 1909. It was only a small class and 14 boys were selected from a number of applicants. In 1915 the gardening class was held in the grounds of Sellaby House and the boys worked an area of 28 rods. Naturally there was an inspector to come along and report on the good work (necessary to claim the relevant grant). In 1921 the inspector found the garden in excellent order, the plots and paths well arranged and neatly kept. In 1928 he was of the opinion that there was room for some fruiting trees and some neglected fruiting trees ought to be reclaimed. By this time gardening was a two-year course and the boys kept notebooks that were also inspected. The garden was lost in 1936 when the new Portslade County Infants School was built in the grounds of Sellaby House.
An associated interest was poultry keeping and when in 1924 there was a local lecture on poultry rearing, it was arranged that ten senior boys should attend. The note in the Log reads, ‘these boys own fowl and are much interested in the matter’.
The overcrowding has already been mentioned. By 1912 it was worse. The HMI noted that ‘the work is carried on under difficulties in the main room where three teachers have to take their respective classes in very close proximity to one another’. This situation led to a fairly damning report in 1913 (dealt with in a later chapter) but meanwhile the war years intervened and the matter was not taken in hand until the 1920s.
|copyright © D. Gedye |
2nd Lieutenant Arthur Gates
St Nicolas School teacher.
When World War I broke out, the immediate effect on the school was that two masters joined up. Arthur Gates joined the Territorial Army (becoming 2nd Lieutenant) and Mr R Winters joined the Royal Naval Volunteers. Both men survived the war and came home and although Gates resigned in 1919, Winters resumed his duties that year. Soon he was striding over the Downs taking his class for nature study rambles. But perhaps his war service took more out of him than he realised because in 1925 he died suddenly. The school purchased a suitably inscribed marble vase to stand on his grave.
As for Arthur Gates, he may have resigned from St Nicolas but he had won the heart of Miss Mary Gertrude Austen who had started teaching there in 1912, four years after Gates had arrived. Did they fall in love before the war and did she spend the long years worrying about his safety? Or was it the relief of seeing him again that kindled the romance. Whatever the story the couple married in January 1921 and three months later Mrs Gates resigned her post in order to join her husband in Cologne. She was presented with a set of silver fish knives by the school. Later on, Arthur Gates returned to Portslade where he taught at St Andrew’s School. There is a curious parallel to Mr Winters because Gates too died in 1925, leaving his widow to bring up the children on her own.
In 1915 so as to save on gas and coal at school, the afternoon sessions were re-arranged to run from 1.30pm to 3.45pm. In September 1918 several days were devoted to the picking of blackberries as part of Government Food Control. The boys went to their task with enthusiasm and one can only assume that masses of blackberry bushes existed locally in those days. On 2nd September they picked 1cwt 11lbs; on 5th September it was 3cwts and 3quarters while the haul on 12th and 19th came to a total of 260lbs. The fruit was taken to the Maison-de-Bry jam factory.
In 1914 two new teachers were appointed temporarily to take the place of the two men who had gone to war. They both came from Ellen Street Girls School in Hove. They were Miss Annie Louise Steers, who was obliged to leave in 1919 when Mr Winters returned, and Mrs Atherfold who stayed until 1924. In September the latter lady was bitten on the face by her dog and was absent for two days – one because of the bite and the other through the shock of it.
|copyright © A.V.Greenyer|
St Nicolas School c.1920, the teacher Miss Gladys Mary Austen taught at the school from 1912-1921
and married fellow teacher Arthur Gates
It is worth noticing that Mrs Atherfold’s maiden name was Price. Was she too a member of the Portslade Price teaching clan? If so she was a contemporary of Mr and Mrs Price, having been born in 1873. But Miss Hilda Mary Price, a certificated teacher who started work at St Nicolas in 1916, was the Price’s daughter: she was born in 1895, the year after her parents had arrived in Portslade. In November 1916 Mrs Ruth Price, the headmaster’s wife, retired after 20 years of teaching the boys at St Nicolas. The managers, teachers and scholars (past and present) gave her a beautiful silver tea service together with silver knives and spoons. Miss Blaker made the presentation.
|copyright © Brighton & Hove City Libraries|
St Nicolas’ Boys School c.1907. Mr Robert Price, headmaster 1894-1922, is standing on the far left.
Robert Price’s departure was rather more subdued. He was absent from school from 9th May until 14th August 1921. The Log does not specify the illness, merely stating that he was away on the advice of Mr Fletcher. In reality he had a nervous breakdown. He retired in 1922 after 28 years at St Nicolas. In early January 1929 Miss Price learned that her father was dying and told the managers she would not be able to teach for the time being. The doctor said he might linger on or he might not. In the event he died on 9th January 1929.
|copyright © Dorothy Gedye|
St Nicolas Girls School c.1907, Mrs Sayers, Head Teacher, stands in the back row, second from left.
In 1910 the girls who had been awarded prizes for their essays on kindness to animals went to the Royal Pavilion for the ceremony. They were accompanied by Miss Elsie Sayers, pupil teacher and daughter of the headmistress. It was obvious she hoped to follow in her mother’s footsteps; and there were other Sayers connected with education in Portslade too. There was Miss Emma Sayers, headmistress of the infants’ school in 1879 and Miss H Sayers, an assistant teacher at the same date. In 1915 Miss Mabel Sayers spent two months at the school as a temporary assistant, covering for illness amongst the regular staff. But young Elsie’s dreams were not to be realised because she became ill in 1911. She was suspended from her duties for one year because of her illness and the powers that be decided that she would not be allowed to complete her apprenticeship. She appears to have taken this decision in good heart and the next thing we hear about her is that she has undertaken some valuable voluntary work for the school. She taught the girls gymnastics and Swedish drill in the parish hall but only to those who could provide themselves with the appropriate clothing for the classes.
© Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove|
Physical education c1907 style with Mrs Sayers the Head Teacher supervising
|copyright © Brighton & Hove City Libraries|
St Nicolas’ Girls School celebrate May Day in 1912, with Miss Terry and Mrs Sayers standing in the background
Miss Winifred Terry began as a pupil teacher, became an assistant teacher and left in October 1913 to be married. She must have been popular because the entire school, staff and managers gathered together to present her with a handsome marble clock as a wedding present. The girls then sang Wagner’s Bridal Chorus. A holiday was declared for 14th October so that everyone could go and see Miss Terry as a blushing bride.
|copyright © Mrs Marriot|
St Nicolas Girls School c.1912
|copyright © J.Middleton |
King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra
On 1st May 1912 the school was closed at 1pm so that teachers and children might attend a matinee in aid of the survivors of the Titanic. In 1914 the ‘expert needlewomen’ put aside their normal work to make garments for Belgian refugees in Portslade. The girls gave up sweets for Lent in 1915 and put their halfpennies into a box to buy comforts for wounded soldiers at the Front. The comforts were in fact cigarettes and when the box was opened, there was enough money to buy 4,000. The cigarettes were forwarded directly to a nephew of Mrs Sayers who was going to pass them on to stretcher-bearers to give to the wounded.
|copyright © Mrs Marriot|
St Nicolas’ Girls School bazaar and sale of work. 4 June 1913
| copyright © Brighton & Hove City Libraries |
The Duke and Duchess of York visited Ronuk on 17 October 1924. T.H. Fowler, director, P.W. Felton, director and D.E. Sundius Smith were on hand to greet the royal couple.
| copyright © E. Redman|
St Nicolas’ Infants School c1918
| copyright © E. Redman|
St Nicolas’ Boys School in 1924
|copyright © Mrs Marriot|
Class 2 of St Nicolas School in 1926
|copyright © Mrs Marriot|
St Nicolas’ Girls stoolball team in 1928
In 1927 Miss Hunt was able to write proudly in the Log that St Nicolas Girls now held all the trophies possible for girls in the area; thus the School Shield, Bowl for Senior Relay, Cup for Junior Relay, Girls’ Championship (150 yards) and the District Championship.
There was success again in 1929 when the netball team played against Rye in the Final of the East Sussex Netball League and won 15-5. The girls had also won all its matches in the Stoolball Division. It was a good note on which to close the Log for the last time.
The boys were also doing well in the sports field because in 1928 St Nicolas Boys and Southwick were joint holders in the Sexton Cup Final Football Competition.
| copyright © G. Osborne|
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph from his private collection.
The former St Nicolas' Infants School renamed the Boys School in 1929
|copyright © D.Sharp|
The former St Nicolas Boys' School on the west side of Locks Hill in 2014 (demolished in 2018)
|copyright © B. Figg|
St Nicolas’ School in 1930
| copyright © Brighton & Hove City Libraries|
St Nicolas Boys School in 1932
In July 1932 a milestone was passed when Mrs Chennel retired. She had been headmistress of the infants since 1898 and re-organisation cannot have been easy for her because she lost her headship and became an ordinary member of staff of the new Mixed Junior and Infant School. At least she had the satisfaction of seeing her daughter arrive at St Nicolas as a supply teacher in the same year in which she retired. The HMI recorded that Mrs Chennel gave ‘many years of conscientious work’. But she did not enjoy a long retirement since she left in July and died five years later, also in July.
|copyright © J.Middleton|
Median Baths in 1913 was also used by other schools, these are pupils of Hove College
|copyright © D.Sharp|
The former St Nicolas Church Hall in Abinger Road and the original 'Tin Hut' Church of the Good Shepherd Mile Oak, the two venues of the schools's nativity play
Despite the refurbishment of the lavatories, freezing weather caused problems because they were still situated outside the school building. In January 1954 they froze solid like the bad old days and the children were sent home. In February 1956 when the same thing happened, a blowlamp was brought into action without much success. Later on that month the plumber shook his head and said there was nothing he could do, which is not surprising when the temperature inside the lavatories stood at 28 degrees Fahrenheit.
|For many years the Nativity Play was an eagerly anticipated event that took place inside St Nicolas Church. This photograph was taken circa 1962. The children look somewhat solemn but al least Mary is enjoying the occasion.|
In 1959 another door to the past was shut literally when the air raid shelters were sealed off. The shelters had been used for general storage but in May of that year a boy was looking around inside when he fell over an easel and cut his leg and so it was decided to shut them off.
|copyright © D.Sharp |
St Nicolas mural on the west wall of the school,
(due to tiles falling this mural was removed in 2013 for safety reasons)
|copyright © A.Richbell|
A Drawing of the St Nicolas mural
on the west wall of the school, (this
tiled mural was removed in 2013
for safety reasons)
|An invitation to the official opening of St Nicolas C.E. Primary School. |
The school buildings were further extended and its status changed to a primary school in 2013
Moore was born in 1945 and attended St Nicolas School. When she was
aged nine she emigrated with her family to Australia but she returned
to England in 1982. Since then she has become very successful in the
world of children’s books – both as an author and an illustrator.
By 1990 she had written seven children’s books including The
Truffle Hunter and
the same year her book Six
Dinner Sid won
the Smarties Book Prize for the best book in the under-five category.
By 2020 her tally was fourteen books she had written plus six books
she had illustrated, and in the latter category were old favourites
such as The Secret
The Wind in the
TEACHERS OF THE PAROCHIAL SCHOOL
April 2009-September 2009., Christine Connolly Acting Head, before Mr Richbell's appointment
HEAD TEACHERS - PRIMARY SCHOOL (change of status in 2013 from a Junior School to a Primary School)
2013 Andrew Richbell
Information derived from interviews with Mr John Stone, Mrs June Stone, Mr John Humphreys, Mr John Plumpton and Mr Roy Westbrook
The website of St Nicolas CE Primary School Portslade
Copyright © J.Middleton 2012
page layout by D.Sharp