Memories of Blackham School
Sue Roe, nee Lewin, recalls life at Pitfields and attending Blackham School
We moved to Blackham in 1957, when I was 8 eight years old. We lived at Pitfields, the first house down Oak Lane (I never heard it called that) from The Sussex Oak end. My parents, Terry and Jane Lewin, rented it from Colonel and Mrs Haig (Ronald and Cecily) who lived at Park Gate. My father was in the Navy and had just been appointed to a job at the Admiralty. He caught the train to London everyday from Ashurst Station. I definitely felt a bit of an outsider when I started at the school. You could see the school across the field from Pitfields but because of the lie of the land, it wasn’t possible to walk across the field and get into the playground/school. Walk to school I had to walk along the main road from the Sussex Oak, at first, with my mother but later on, by myself, with my mother watching me through a pair of binoculars to make sure I got there safely. The school was small with only two classes. Mrs Forbes was headmistress and she lived, with her husband, in the schoolhouse adjoining the school. She was had a Scottish accent. There were two classrooms and a kitchen where our lunch was prepared. The smaller children were in the smaller classroom on the left as you came in the front doors, after the cloakrooms (pegs and lavatories) The kitchen was straight ahead. I was in the larger classroom on the right, which had a folding screen that could be pulled across dividing the room. We ate lunch at long tables at the
end nearest the kitchen. The room was heated by a coke stove that was set against the long far wall and it had a big guard round it. On wet days we dried our coats on it. I distinctly remember listening to Music and Movement on a big wooden wireless and leaping round the room. Mrs Forbes was elderly and kind but she retired not long after I started at the school. Farming Her replacement was Mr. Dawes, who lived in the schoolhouse with his wife and children, four, I think. He was a good teacher and we did a lot of interesting project work - something new to me. I was very keen on farming and I remember this was the subject of a project that had us researching the history of farming, modern farming methods and food production. I wrote to the makers of Hovis, who sent back a booklet including little sachets of wheat and flour. It was exciting, as a child, to receive letters and packages from the grown up world.
Mr. Dawes also encouraged us to use the grassy garden behind the school and we had individual flowerbeds, which we looked after. I credit Mr. Dawes for encouraging my lifetime interest in nature, the countryside and in horticulture The lunches were good and as I didn’t eat meat (I didn’t like it) the kind dinner ladies gave me grated cheese instead. The vicar The Rev Peter Scott was a regular visitor to our assemblies. He usually wore a fawn duffle coat and rode a Vespa scooter. We mostly played in the tarmac play ground which had steep concrete banks up to the main road at the front and a view across the field to my home at the back. Riding I spent a lot of time playing horses with my friends. I learned to ride at this time, catching the bus every Saturday morning into Langton Green where there were riding stables. I remember being told that the start of the new school year in September
was arranged to allow children to help with hop picking. In 1959 we all sat the 11+ and although I was offered a place at Tunbridge Wells Girls Grammar School, I was sent to boarding school in St Leonards on Sea. Hartfield My younger brother was born in 1959 and soon after he started school at Blackham, it closed and he went by bus to Hartfield School, going on to Sackville School in East Grinstead which was then a new comprehensive school. Pitfields remained our family home until 1973. I loved Blackham School and although I was already a veteran of several schools, it was my favourite. I loved village life and enjoyed being in a small, happy school. I particularly remember Richard Gasson, the late Stephen Crowhurst, Margaret and Rosemary Theobald, Barbara Tester, Michael Tollhurst, John Hammond and the Rakov children. Richard Gasson’s parents sold their car, PJ 9797, a 1932 Austin 10, to my parents in the early 1960s. My brother Tim restored it and still sometimes drives it. I recognize myself in the 1958 school photo. I pretty sure I am the last girl on the right in the front row. I am wearing a yashmak so hard to be certain!
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