What was it like to go to Valley End School in the 1930s?
It was very small. There were only three classes, the Infants, Middle and Top, but the pupils were aged from 5 to 14.
Most of the children made their own way to school. Some had company; Bob Hizzey was always accompanied by his dog, Rusty the cairn terrier. Rusty would walk with Bob from Brick Hill to Valley End, and then make his own way back. When school finished, the dog would be waiting outside. As Bob went home for dinner, Rusty made 4 trips a day to the school and back again.
During the 1920s and 30s, the headmaster was Mr Bennett. When he retired in 1939 he had been Headmaster of Valley End School for 18 years. He lived in the schoolhouse, which had very basic amenities. When he left the new Headmistress wouldn’t move into it until it was refurbished.
He was known as Gaffer, and remembered for playing cricket with the children on his lawn in summer, and for his endearing trait of giving 6d as a reward for good work, and for his less endearing trait of clipping pupils round the ear on occasion.
When Joan Weymouth (née Millard) started school at Valley End in 1934, she not only went to the same school as both of her parents, but also had the same teacher, Miss Canning. This lady taught the infants and was fondly remembered by many of her pupils.
A class at Valley End School. (Photo courtesy of D. Hizzey.)
Another of the teachers, Mr. Franklin, had lost a son in the First World War. On Armistice Day he would read out the names of the fallen with tears running down his face.
The school still had a tradition of local benefactors. In the 1930s these were Mr. Serpell of Westcroft Park, and the Hendersons of Windlesham Park.
They paid for wonderful Christmas parties, complete with a substantial tea, a magician, and presents.
Empire Day was celebrated with a school sports day at Chobham, and the Hendersons and Serpell sponsored that too.
Valley End was a church school, and Mr. Edmunds, the priest from St. Saviour’s, would visit to teach scripture. He unfortunately wore a badly fitting wig. The children would gaze at him in fascination. There was always the chance that it would slip.
As a church school, there were daily hymns and prayers, and twice during the year the entire school trotted next door to the church for a service.
A lot of time was spent in teaching handwriting, but classes were not limited to the 3 Rs. A bus took pupils to a hut in West End to learn about cooking. But the girls struggled to use the elderly coal range there.
Valley End Cookery Class. (Photo courtesy of J. End.)
So the lessons were then renamed Homecraft, and moved to Windlesham School, where there were some proper gas stoves. The boys also went there, to do carpentry. The bus seems to have vanished; the children had to get on their bikes and make their own way.
Valley End taught swimming as well. The pupils learned in a chilly lake on an estate off the Westwood Road. The only changing facilities were some dense rhododendron bushes, with the boys on one side and the girls on the other.
This was a rural area. Occasionally there was half-day holiday so that the children could collect acorns for the pigs in the farm opposite. On Good Friday the pupils brought in eggs to give in the church. The school taught gardening. The children were given small plots.
Gardening at Valley End. (Photo courtesy of D. Hizzey.)
The facilities at the school were very basic. The school was lit by oil lamps, and if it was too dark, or if a storm was brewing, the children sometimes went home early. The toilets were still basically buckets. Mr. Spong, wearing his bowler hat and riding his tricycle, gamely emptied them regularly.
There seems to have been a running feud between Windlesham-ites and Valley End–ites. Children from Valley End School wouldn’t play with the pupils from Windlesham School. Sometimes at Valley End the boys from Windlesham fought the lads from Chobham and Valley End. The battles spilled out of the playground and they waged war on each other on the way home.
Joan Millard would be met by her mother, and their pet goat. Her mother would turn up with the goat, Molly, who would be wearing a collar and on a leash.
Valley End was small by modern standards. But many of the pupils who went there have happy memories of the school.
Valley End School as it is today.
- M. Smith. “Windlesham remembered.” Windlesham Magazine, Feb. 1983.
- M. Smith. “Memories of Valley End School.” Windlesham Magazine March 1990.
- M. Smith. “More memories of Valley End School.” Windlesham Magazine May 1990′
- Ron Little. “Schooldays.” Windlesham Magazine. Dec. 1989.
- Saturday 28 October 1939 , Surrey Advertiser.
With thanks to Joan Weymouth, Sallie Buchanan, and David Hizzey.