Memories Of The Wight School, Harbury

Wight School in the 1980s
Image courtesy of Nigel Chapman

My most vivid memory of the Wight School, which I attended in the late 1920s to 1933, is the mass of steel nibbed pens which hung from the rafters of the main school. These have now been covered in by a false ceiling. I was told it was a keen sport, practised by the older children, to throw their pens dart-like into the roof. Whoever achieved the most to hang there was applauded. Their wrists must have been very strong to embed them and for them to remain years later.

Miss Bustin’s classroom was the room immediately inside the library door. Mr. Dickens’ room was divided off by a screen, which was wooden and painted cream.

Christmas Carol

In the corner of Miss Bustin’s room by the door was a large pot bellied coke burning stove. At the time approaching Christmas holidays Miss Bustin allowed us to gather near the stove, while she read “Christmas Carol”. It was magical. The stove glowed red hot and all the paper chains, laboriously made by us, looked so festive.

The partition between classrooms was removed on the last day before the holiday and in the afternoon various guests appeared and we had a concert of songs, carols and recitations. Olive Burgess, now Mrs Spreckley, had a good singing voice and a solo part. We all wore our best clothes for this occasion and felt very smart.

Cookery and Woodwork

The playground was divided into Boys and Girls, and so were the entrances: girls where we now go into the library and boys where the playgroup is now held. At the far end of the playground was a brick wall behind which were the toilets. The boys to show off their prowess would pee over the wall. The girls soon learned not to go near it.

When girls and boys reached 12 years of age cookery and woodwork lessons were started in a new building, which was erected (about 1930 I think), The building is now the Scouts’ Hut. Miss Ward pedalled from Leamington on her bicycle to teach cookery. Mr. Farrow taught woodwork. It was unkindly said, the girls made pastry one day for the boys to use as practice boards!

Summer outing

Our main outing in the summer was organised by Miss Bustin. We walked on a fine sunny afternoon over Bunkers Hill to Chesterton Church. The key for the small door, which was on the right hand side of the main porch, was kept by Mrs. Boneham. It was a huge key. We filed into the church and gazed at the effigy of Mr. and Mrs. Peyto and their numerous children. They looked so rigid lying on the catafalque, with a small dog at their feet. This did not bother us, as we knew Miss Bustin would hand out boiled sweets, as we sat in the pews. The key was restored to Mrs. Boneham and we walked home again, never feeling tired. It was an enjoyable outing and much looked forward to.

Ink pens and singing

There was a bell hung on the gable end nearest the road. It was rung 5 minutes before school started, morning and afternoon. We all ran when the bell tolled. The desks were for two children, with a rigid form and desks had holes for the ink wells. It was the monitor’s job to fill the inkwells. These were placed out each morning and collected in wooden trays at 4:00p.m. The pens were steel nibbed and it was a disaster to cross the nib, as we had to ask for a new one. Surely it was one’s fault if the nib got crossed!

Mr. Dickens and Mr. Farrow were keen musicians. Mr. Dickens taught us to sing by Tonic Solfa. Each morning we had a singing lesson; Mr. Dickens played the piano and we sang (with such skilled tuition). When I look back, I realise how fortunate we were; he was a very clever man. Once we gave an Operetta for parents and people in the village. The costumes were all made by Mrs. Dickens. It was all about the good works of the Pixies.

Needlework and dancing

Miss Bustin was an excellent needlewoman and taught us to sew and mend and darn. The run and fell seam, the French seam, hemming, buttonholing, embroidery with stranded cottons of all colours, which we loved. Also she taught leather work. We made purses to a high standard, beautifully finished and polished.

Another art she taught us to enjoy was Country Dancing. Mr. Mole allowed us to use the new dance hall in Ivy Lane. Mrs. Miriam Alcock played the piano. She wore long dangly earrings which fascinated us girls. On various occasions we danced at Church Fetes in Ufton, wearing dresses which Miss Bustin chose for us.

A happy school

The school may not meet today’s regulations, but I remember it as a happy school, with excellent teachers. Not only did they cope with us so-called “normal” children, but there were two E.S.N. boys who joined in as much as they could and the teachers coped. At the same time the classes were far larger than in today’s schools and always with two age groups together.
Transcribed by Rosemary Harley – July 2009

More from Harbury
More from Schools