I attended this school from 1959 to 1964. In my first year, Miss Killeen taught us geography. She was a short elderly lady and I remember her giving me my first house point because I was the only one in the class who knew how many acres there are in a square mile! Mr Ellis taught us history in my 1st year and after he spoke for 15 or 20 minutes, he would write notes up on the blackboard for us to copy, but leave gaps in the text for us to fill in. This would reveal whether we paid attention to what he had said. Very shrewd! And we can’t forget dear Mr Drage who mass produced his own ‘music points’. In WW2, he suffered as a POW in a Japanese prison camp. My form teacher for the first 2 years was Eric Huggett. He was of the ‘old school’ and tried to instil some old fashioned values into us. He was well known for his involvement with scouting and amateur dramatics, but was also a keen chess player. He bought numerous chess sets at his own expense and started up a lunch time chess club. Mr Huggett did not always conform to the status quo (which I admired him for) and on one hot summers day when the Head (John Goldwin) and the Deputy (Monica Garton) were both away, we took our chairs out into the playground where we formed a circle and he continued the lesson in the sunshine. It was rather nice really. He disliked his lessons being disturbed and he entrusted one boy in our class with an ‘Interruption Book’ which was secreted in his desk. After each offender left the room, his name and time of the disruption were duly logged into the book.
I remember Mr Dennis Hewitt with affection as he was my Sunday school teacher at South Green Chapel in the 1950’s and by coincidence he was my R.E. ‘O’ level teacher at the School in 1963/64. Reverend Holley came along on a few occasions to preach at assemblies, in his words: “to give us all some religion”! In 1972 he conducted my wedding service in his church at Gt. Burstead. My R.E. teacher in 1962 was young, quietly spoken lady, Mrs Margaret Bell. A few years afterwards, she left and moved to Cardiff, where she tragically died in a car crash.
In the early 60’s there was quite an influx of new teachers. Four of them taught me and they lived near each other on the South Green council estate. In Langham Crescent there was Mrs ‘Zilla’ Westwood, my form teacher in 1961/62 (who taught maths and was married to a Curate), Mr Jim Ince who taught metalwork, Mrs Elspeth Lawson who taught geography and in Maple Mead lived Mrs Betty Simpson who taught English. In the main building (now block A), Mrs Simpson’s classroom doubled up as the library. In those days it just consisted of half a dozen book cases along one wall. One bookcase contained a set of Encyclopaedia Britannica and a few pages in it beginning with ‘S’ were well thumbed! Len Rosslyn and his wife joined in 1960. He taught me physics and she taught biology but only stayed a short time because she became pregnant. After the birth, she brought the baby back into school for the girls to ‘coo’ over.
When I started at the school in 1959, the new hall was under construction. It was interesting to watch, but the disruption and noise was not very conducive to our concentration in nearby classrooms. The cooks did a brilliant job pushing the heated food trolleys across a building site from the new kitchen block and then negotiate a steep ramp into Block A and along the corridor into the dining hall. The food was still warm and edible when it reached our plates.
For a couple years Mr Stan Elias taught me Technical Drawing in the new 2 storey art & craft block (now demolished). We used 3H pencils on cartridge paper pinned to old fashioned drawing boards with Tee squares. A far cry from the hi-tech AutoCAD technology of today. Stan later married Nora Beddingfield the cookery teacher. A new photographic darkroom was built between the 2 science classrooms in Block A and rumour has it that a couple of pupils used it for improper purposes during one lunch time! The so called ‘Cinderella’ subjects were not taken too seriously in my final year. During these periods, I together with a few others would surreptitiously disappear into an empty room somewhere so that we could immerse ourselves in some intense revision for our GCE ‘O’ levels. Once, Len Rosslyn (on his regular patrols) caught us but he didn’t take any action.
Although she is not mentioned in Sylvia Kent’s excellent book about Billericay School, probably the most internationally famous luminary from the school was Irene Wooldridge. As a teenager, she was a talented singer and in the year below me. Irene lived in Bellevue Road and is now is very famous in Germany where she lives using the stage name of Ireen Sheer. She sang in the Eurovision song contest in 1974 & 1978 and can be seen on YouTube singing many of her songs. Irene does appear however in the school photo on p.73 in Sylvia’s book. (top photo, very top row). I am in the same the same photo too, but not in the picture – if you know what I mean.
In 1960, the school arranged an outing to Clacton. It cost 12/- (60p) and we could pay by 12 instalments at 1/- (5p) per week. Buses were laid on to take us to Southend, where we alighted and walked (with some groans) the full length of the 1.3 mile long pier to embark the paddle steamer, The Medway Queen. It was very crowded and during the trip, John Goldwin had to use the tannoy to instruct children to disperse as the boat was listing too much to the port side! After disembarking at Clacton Pier, we spent an hour or two amusing ourselves in a park (and probably annoying the locals too) and then travelled back to Billericay Station via Shenfield in a specially chartered train. In assembly, the following morning, John Goldwin admonished us for our behaviour. He said we were supposed to enjoy the Essex coastline from the boat but some of us “spent too much time down below filling ourselves up”. I can admit to staying on deck at all times…..
During the 1960’s, the school had its own in-house newspaper called The Millside Recorder which only appeared about twice a year. My first foray into amateur journalism occurred when it printed a short article I had written on the subject of the School Camera Club, of which I was a member.
The above photo shows the class in my final year. I am standing on the right hand side next to our form teacher Norman ‘Nobby’ Butler. I can remember names of most of the boys in the photo and some of the girls.
Mr Butler taught general science and he lived in Hunter Avenue, Shenfield. He always cycled to school in the rain, wind, snow, fog – you name it, even though he owned a car. When I occasionally cycled to my second job in Shenfield after leaving school, we would sometimes pass en route and wave to each other. During WW2, Norman was the navigator in a Lancaster bomber. On one sortie, the plane was hit and he parachuted out landing smack in the middle of the German factory his plane was trying to bomb!
John Goldwin was appointed Head Teacher in 1955 and became Head of the Lower School under Mr Lingard when it became comprehensive in 1968. He was a religious man and he drove to school each day in an Austin A35 van from his home in Alexander Lane, Shenfield. I personally owe him a great debt of gratitude as he found me my first job with John Strong, an architect and Rotary Club friend of his who had an office in the High Street. He was devastated when his daughter, Gillian committed suicide in 1974. John Kilgour Goldwin was a caring and honourable man. He died in 1976.
After 2B1, and having agreed to stay on into the 5th year, we were split into 3F & 3E and I think the chaps who wanted to leave after the 4th year were put into 3T. 3E became 4E and then 5E and below is a photo of 5E class taken in 1964.