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Reminiscences of Junior School 1947 to 1951

Wednesday, 13 July, 2016 -- Helen Wilson

The picture of the Old Quad in an earlier issue of the OE magazine has prompted me to reminisce over the Eltham College that I attended, in so many ways different from that of today. I and a few others like Ken Wilson who lived on the school’s doorstep had a particular perspective of life in and around the school and the lives of the boarders.

In 1942 my grandfather bought the family home of Norfolk Villa in Mottingham Lane, the back garden overlooking Eltham College playing fields. The Chiltonian Playing fields were an Ack Ack site with soldiers and Home Guard ever present. I have many war time memories in that house: The windows being blown out as a result of the garage in the village taking a direct hit by a large bomb; the bombing of the Express Dairy next to the Porcupine; watching a doodle bug on fire falling towards Lewisham having been hit by gunfire from a spitfire; gunfire from a German aircraft strafing the Ack Ack site, exploding on the fence at the bottom of the garden whilst my Grandmother and I were in the garden.

By 1945 I started school at Sutherland House in Grove Park Road and after school I remember watching boys kicking this strange egg shaped ball and the H shaped goalposts. Three years later I joined Lower 1 and was taught by the lovely Miss Brown, and a year later by Dora Jones and in Upper 1 by Holy Joe (The Reverend Joseph Hatfield). The classes of the Junior school were each side of the archway into the Old Quad.

Even five years after the end of the war there was considerable war damage to the classrooms, falling wall and ceiling plaster and cracked windows and the leaking roof. The heating system, a coke furnace that worked intermittently and of course there were fuel shortages during what were some of the coldest winters of the century. Today’s health and safety regulations would have closed the school down. What would they have made of the ice slides we made by pouring water on the drive when there were frosty mornings?

The Old Quad was not the grassy quiet enclave of today but a hive of activity during morning and lunch breaks, of quad soccer. This is where we learned our ball skills, became competitive, got fit, made friends for life and to our parents’ horror ruined our shoes and clothes on the gravely surface. Freezing cold classrooms, queuing for milk, first and second lunches and the Tuck shop where a limited choice of rationed sweets were symptomatic of the times.

We never felt deprived or hard done by just privileged to be taught by good teachers whose attitude and teaching skills influenced us greatly. We were blessed with many teachers of character and strong personality. The launching of chalk and the wooden blackboard cleaners, knuckles rapped by the edge of a wooden  ruler or being pulled by the ear to the front of the class as discipline would today result in teachers being suspended or sacked. But it did us no harm nor in most cases neither did it reduce the affection and respect we had for the teachers concerned.

For all the affluence of the 21st century and the superb facilities now provided by the school, I doubt if there is more joy at being Eltham College now than there was then.

Richard Ash (1958)





One of the Junior School classrooms in the current Music building