I shall never forget the school in which I began my school life. A small wooden building, it stood in the middle of ancient woodland in Chiddingstone Hoath.
I was taken to school on my first day by my elder brother. The war was over and peace reigned once again. Teaching must have been difficult for Mrs Townsend, the senior teacher, and Miss Coomber as there were only two classrooms divided by folding doors. It was not unusual for us to be practising our reading whilst the older children were singing the tonic sol-fa on the other side of the screen. Both teachers were very dedicated and cared so much for us all. I can remember receiving a doll at Christmas. Miss Coomber had made one for every little girl in her class. I cannot remember what presents the boys received, but each boy had one. Miss Coomber must have worked the whole year to get the presents finished in time.
The summer days were lovely and we spent some afternoons country dancing under the trees. The music for the Circassian Circle and Sir Roger de Coverley was provided by a wind-up gramophone balanced on a tree stump. We had a large school garden and Mrs Townsend kept bees. In winter the open fires were wonderful and we were able to stand our bottles of milk around the guard to warm. As every child walked to school, the fires were most welcome. The playground was anywhere in the wood; there were natural outcrops of sandstone to play on. We all knew when playtime was over because a hand bell would be rung loudly from the school steps.
There was no running water, so any water needed for drinking had to be brought from neighbouring houses in large enamel jugs by the older boys. As there was no water, we therefore had earth closets situated on the boundaries of the play area, quite a long way should it be raining!
Although we had no “mod-cons” the freedom of that lovely place was worth everything. The building still stands but is now a dwelling.
E. M. Butcher nee Collins
More information about Chiddingstone Hoath can be found here.
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