Memories of Infant School

As we’re going back nearly sixty years, these memories are vague – if any other former pupils wish to add to them in the comments, that would be great.

After two years in Mexico City our family returned to Twickenham in spring 1959. I was duly enrolled at the Archdeacon Cambridge’s Infant School, Briar Road, Twickenham. The headmistress was a Mrs Nelson, who I can still picture.

The school had been built in 1860 and I don’t think too much had changed in the intervening 99 years – coal stoves for heating (such as it was) and outdoor toilets. The school buildings were demolished many years ago and Google Maps now shows the current buildings as being occupied by Richmond Music Trust, with the large playground to the rear now being used as a car park. Surprisingly, a Google search throws up no pictures of the infant or junior schools – should you find one, please post a link in the comments.

The site on the corner of Briar Road and Staines Road was, I remember, occupied by a betting shop, the building being a post-war rebuild following bomb damage. Aston Perforators was next door and just over the school fence. According to Google, the business was established in 1934 and is still trading, one of Twickenham’s few surviving manufacturing businesses.

Back then my mum didn’t have a car, so I was either walked to and from school, or taken on the back of her bicycle in a child seat. Imagine that now!

My first teacher was a Mrs Benfield, who I remember as a somewhat stern teacher. She had been a teacher there since before the war. Lessons were much as would expected for the time: the three R’s: reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. We sat in lines in our iron framed desks with very formal lessons, save for the craft and painting sessions. Not to be forgotten was playtime with the third pint of milk for each child.

The school had no kitchen facilities, so for lunch we were marched in crocodile fashion (coats and hats in the winter) down to ‘The Institute’ in First Cross Road. It later became the Twickenham Preparatory School, and now the Jack and Jill Nursery School. I don’t remember anything about the meals, but in those days we weren’t expected to complain.

For my second and final year I moved up to Miss Hancock’s class. I remember her as a kindly soul: she too had been at the school since before the war. Like me she lived in Strawberry Hill and I would see her around for many years after she retired.

4 thoughts on “Memories of Infant School

  1. BOB PORTWAY

    That period includes my first memories of you, Tony. I enjoyed reading about your memories of it, and amazed that you remember so much. I don’t remember much at all about Hampton Hill Primary, so perhaps that’s why you were always ahead of me at HGS.

    Reply
    1. Tony Bryer

      Belated thanks for your comment. Some might observe that having a keen memory of 50+ years ago and not being able to remember something from last week is a sure sign of old age! That said, if you showed me photos of our HGS teachers I could probably accurately name 90% of them.

      Reply
  2. Elaine Kibble

    Hi, my name is Elaine Kibble, nee Willmore, I went to Briar Road infants from 1960, I remember Mrs Nelson but none of my teachers names, used to like getting a sweet when I did something well, then on to Archdeacon junior next to the church, was Mr Chambers the headmaster? I remember going across to the Institute for lunch, it always seemed dark and dreary and the smell! I lived in Second Cross Road untill 1983 then moved to Sandhurst.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Hi Elaine, thanks for dropping by. You would have been a couple of years below me. I don’t recall a Mr Chambers in any capacity. Mr Brown was Junior School head during my time, succeeded by Mr Lane.

      Reply

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