Having discovered over the Christmas period that Mercy Edwards went to Thetford Grammar school some years ago I decided to ask her to write about her experiences.
Seventy years ago I left Feltwell School to continue my education at Thetford Grammar School for Girls. Every Monday morning, I, with other girls from Feltwell, were picked up by Mr Aubrey Neville's Taxi, each paying the sum of two shillings (10p) to cover the cost of the journey. As I was a weekly boarder, in my satchel was an envelope with £15 in to pay for my first terms board and lodging, and another envelope with £12 enclosed to pay for my term's education.
Three of us girls boarded with a Mrs Spooner in Bridge Street, Thetford. There we joined three other pupils, one in the 5th Form and two in the Sixth Form, and being only 1st Formers, we were certainly on our best behaviour to begin with, as the two 6th formers were Head Girl and Deputy Head. (see class photo)
The school was only a moderate sized building at our commencement, but a new Gynasium and Science Laboratory were added whilst we were there.
Each morning every form paraded into the Main Hall for Assembly, which was presided over by the Head Mistress, and each week a different form choose the hymn for the week's assembly. School lessons were normal procedure, but each classroom was delegated to a specific form, and the teacher who was giving the named subject visited our form-room, thus we stayed at our own desks.
Our sports ground was on the London Road, and in the summer term we played tennis, and netball and hockey in the spring and autumn terms. In the summer term, swimming was a compulsory activity, and each form, escorted by a teacher, walked down to the open-air swimming bath, which was part of the River Thet in Spring Walks. Wooden cubicles were on the side of the river bank which were our changing rooms.
As we grew older, and became teenagers, we began to get more daring, and one night slipped out of our boarding house and held a 'Midnight Feast' in the school pavilion down London Road. We had to get the help of two of the Grammar School boys to force open the door of the pavilion, but luckily we were never found out. Our bedrooms (third storey) overlooked a house where the Bell Hotel Annexe now stands, and as we were forced to go to bed rather early, we used to call the young girls in the house opposite. In later years one of these girls turned out to be Mrs Mary Driver whose husband taught with Mr Charlesworth in the Feltwell Primary School, hence my friendship with her to this day, but sadly her husband, Des, died last year.
Our yearly Speech Day was held in the Town Hall, until our new gynasium was built, and thereafter held on the school premises. Our Cookery teacher in my school-days later on married Mr Dan Witton the Estate Agent at Thetford. Miss Leeds was our Art Mistress, and surprisingly when our son went to Bracondale School, Norwich, she became his Art teacher. In those days our final school examination was known as 'the Cambridge' not the GCSE, and each scholar had to pass in 5 subjects, one being a foreign language to gain this accolade. Sadly I acquired the four subjects but failed in the French exam., so was not able to go on to University. However, I became a Student Teacher at the Grammar School, and helped in the teaching of the Preparatory class. This meant cycling to Lakenheath station each day, and catching the 8.30am train to Thetford. I left my bicycle at one of the station houses and for this I paid three pence (3d) a week. After a years teaching, I left to become secretary to Major Swann of Beck House, Feltwell, who was Director of the 'Feltwell and Southery Supply Company'.
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