Gt. Burstead County Primary School

Some personal memories. (1953 - 1959)

The Queen’s Coronation in 1953 was celebrated shortly after I started school in Mrs Grace Arthy’s reception class, or ‘baby class’ as it was called. I seem to remember cakes being handed out and I still have the purple covered book entitled “Royalty in Essex” which every child received. My years at that school during the 1950’s were not the happiest time of my life. Although I was lucky enough to be in the top set each year, it was compensated by the fact that I languished near the bottom of every class!
Some brick built extensions were constructed in the inter-war years, one of which housed the office of Mrs Norah Barry, the Infant Head Teacher and the 2 reception classrooms at the front.

The outside boys’ toilets were still roofless and without wash basins! The ‘Horsa Hut’ dining room and kitchen block were built in 1948. This was also used for assemblies but I can’t remember if they were held every morning or once a week. When Mrs Roy, the Junior Head Teacher, made a grand entry, usually late, she strode purposefully down the middle aisle to the far end while clutching some papers and a book, probably a bible, you could hear a pin drop. When Mrs Roy retired in 1959, we all congregated on the field to see her presented with a retirement gift which was a twin tub washing machine.

A three classroom timber building was erected c.1951 on the far side of the rear playground. The rooms were occupied by a kind silver haired lady, Mrs Sole (who was my teacher in 1955/56), Mr Ray Williams and Miss Florence Powell the music teacher. Mrs Sole tried to instil some deportment into us by making us walk around the classroom balancing books on our heads! That was a ground breaking year in my education, because for the first time we had desks with ink wells. Writing for the first time with old fashioned pens and fragile nibs was quite a challenge. It was our first introduction to musical percussion too i.e. triangles, symbols and tambourines. The cacophony must have been dreadful. In later years we rehearsed hymn singing in Miss Powell’s room and it probably drove Ray Williams mad as he occupied the room next door. His wife, Sylvia Williams occupied the classroom next to Mrs Gay’s in the old building. Mrs Gay lived in a bungalow opposite the school and the sweet shop was nearby where we could buy 1 penny ‘gob stoppers’ from the dispenser on the forecourt.

Halfway through my year in Mrs Butler’s class (1956/57), we were moved from the old part of the school into the newly built classroom block situated on the edge of the field. The rooms were occupied by Miss Lily Ager, Mrs Butler and Mrs Ivy Ashman. Mrs Roy had an office at the far end and this was a ‘no go’ area for children, former pupils would remember Mrs Roy as Miss Birch. Miss Ager lived at 19 Sun Street (next to the passageway) and she was very knowledgeable about Billericay history. During the spring term when there were activities on the school field, she stuck sheets of paper on the classroom windows to prevent us looking outside. However, there was a convenient gap left where her desk was situated!

 

The school site in 1960

 

Mr Tom Williams was my final teacher in 1958/59. In a large class of about 44, I was the only soul who failed his 11+. However, I eventually redeemed myself leaving the Secondary School with 6 GCE ‘O’ levels. Tom Williams was a larger than life formidable Welshman and he lived in a prefab in Outwood Common Road. I can still remember the names and faces of many of the pupils in that class and even where they sat. There was Susan Odell, daughter of the High Street optician. She sat next to Sarah Spare who lived above Lloyds bank in the High Street. In front of me sat Susan ‘chatterbox’ Affleck who also lived in the High Street. Some of the boys, Messrs. Shuttleworth, Steele and Stevenson were fortunate enough to go to Brentwood Grammar School. I sat next to Avril Watts who lived at the bottom of my road, Hickstars Lane. And no one can forget Kay Fairweather! Peter Hughes had a D.I.Y. haircut and he could play the accordion without reading music. During that year every pupil had the opportunity to make woollen scarves on small wooden looms which we could take home in the evenings, a belated initiation into the industrial revolution perhaps? The school library comprised 2 bookcases in the corridor outside Tom William’s room.

Mrs Butler’s original classroom is now a thriving pre-school nursery and Quilter’s restaurant and bar (now called “The Ivory Rooms”), extends down the whole of the north side to engulf Tom William’s room. This still exists but is hardly recognisable. Such a shame, but that’s progress I suppose. The other part of the building has been tastefully refurbished and is occupied by the Billericay Arts Association, known as The Fold. On a recent visit, I was pleased to see that some original features had been preserved, such as the lovely brick arched doorways and open fireplaces in some classrooms. During my years there, I don’t recollect any fires actually being lit in them. The school field is now a housing estate and I remember sports days on it, complete with bunting, tannoy system and prizes on the table. One year I came 2nd in the slow bicycle race; my only sporting achievement.

The photo below was taken at the seaside in 1959 and shows me with my mother, Evelyn (nee Cullis) who attended the school in the 1920’s and my elder brother Robin who attended from 1949 to 1953, he left just as I started.
My Mother Evelyn with my brother and I
The three of us were present at the school’s centenary in 1978, which was a wonderful and nostalgic occasion. Much time was spent reminiscing in former classrooms and perusing old documents, photographs and memorabilia.

The buildings are not listed and for some years, all the windows were boarded up. It appeared to be derelict and ripe for demolition. Thankfully it has been revitalised and put to good community use. Long may it continue!

TOM WILLIAM’S CLASS 1958/59

BOYSGIRLS
AdamsDavidAffleckSusan
BlackieJohnAugustDaphne
BlackieStuartBassMarilyn
ChristianJohnBaylissPatricia
ClarkeKennethBexKathleen
ColeGCarpenterMarion
CorcuttPeterCousinsGlynis
EdwardsDavidCummingsJennifer
EndicottMartinFairweatherKay
HirstStephenHannaPatricia
HughesPeterHannaGillian
JacksonBrianManderGillian
LockhartTerenceMayhewLesley
MilbournPeterMillsAnn
PurdyMichaelNewmanBarbera
ShuttleworthJohnOdellSue
SmithDavidShoesmithCelia
SteelJohnSmalleyAnn
StevensonRobertSpareSarah
TalbotJamesSpellerJudith
WatermanDerekWattsAvril
WattsDavidWilkinsonMary

In June 2016 and for the first time in 57 years, Sue Odell and Terry Lockhart had a reunion at the former Great Burstead County Primary School. They were both in Tom Williams’s class in 1958/59. The photo was taken in the front infant playground, now a car park to The Fold

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  • I enjoyed reading the responses from John and Peter. I’m not offended that you don’t remember me John. It was a big class by today’s standards and I sat on the other side of the room behind Susan Affleck, with whom I now enjoy regular and amusing email exchanges. So, you ‘bunked it’ to Australia? I considered emigrating there once, Brisbane, but when I met my wife she soon changed all that! I believe the names of the twins you mentioned were Patricia and Gillian Hanna who lived in a large house, which has now been demolished opposite the old fire station in Western Road. I remember you too Peter. Didn’t you live at the end of Southend Road? It would have been opposite the Cullis engineering factory owned by my Great uncle. Lucky you to now live in Brighton. Apart from 6 years near Guildford I have lived rural Doddinghurst for all my married life. We have 3 grown up children and 3, soon to be 4, grand children. Nice to hear from you both, and maybe others too in the future.

    By Terry Lockhart (19/01/2015)
  • I enjoyed reading this piece and the comments. I was in the same class as Susan O’Dell and sat behind her and Sarah Spare. I have wonderful memories of the school and the teachers. My elder brother John Corcut was at the school and Paul Corcut, a year younger than me was also there. Names I also remember are James Talbot, Stephen Hurst and Lesley Mayhew. I occasionally  have a look at the building when I visit friends at Writtle.

    I went on to King Edward VI School at Chelmsford before a career in teaching which included a number of years working in Kenya and Brunei. We now live in Brighton – quite a change from Great Burstead but it has the advantage of the sea.

    By Peter Corcut (18/01/2015)
  • What a wondeful nostalgic blast from the past. I too was in Tom Williams’ class of 58/59 and remember most of the names quoted above. But I regret to say I cannot recall Terry, (my apologies). Other names I remember are Barbara Newman and the Williams twins, Hannah and Gillian, who lived in Western Road. My memory of the scarf weaving is taking the loom home one evening and cutting the wrong strand of wool. Fortunately on return to school someone was able to fix it so that it was not a write off.   I remember the field adjoining the playing field where I used to watch a man use a horse to do the ploughing. I went on to Brentwood Grammar and was involved with Billericay Carnival for a number of years. I now live in Australia with my wife. We have one son and three grandchildren who live in South Africa.

    By John Christian (14/01/2015)
  • I attended this school from 1925 – 1929 and I can remember having to recite the times tables by ‘chanting’. Mr White was the Headmaster and he had 2 daughters, the elder one was called Stella. She was very friendly with the vicar’s son at Gt. Burstead. I sang in the choir at Gt. Burstead Church and one day when I was leaving I heard the vicar’s son outside saying to Stella “have a cigarette, your mum won’t know” Oh happy days!

    Audrey Maddock (nee Cullis) age 94

    By Audrey Maddock (06/08/2014)
  • Hello to Terry, Sue and Judith! Terry certainly has a wonderful memory for our days at primary and junior school.  Thank you so much for writing this article for the website. Mr Tom (as opposed to Ray) Williams was an outstanding teacher and I think we were all devoted to him.  What large classes they had to deal with in those days, though.  

    I too went on to Brentwood High and trained as a teacher after University, though I later changed career. I too, like Judith, attended the Mala School of Dancing and loved it.

    Sue Odell

    By Sue Odell (13/07/2014)
  • I was in the same class as all those mentioned and went on to Brentwood High School and then trained as a teacher. I married a writer and live near Oxford. I have 2 sons and 4 grandchildren. I spent a lot of my childhood at the Mala School of Dance. Loved it.  

    Judith Pullman (Speller)

     

    By Judith Pullman (08/07/2014)
  • I lived next door to Youngman’s shop. Dorothy gave me a Saturday job and woe betide you if you sampled the sweets!! Reg also ran a printing business. 

    I was in the same class as Susan Odell and Terrence Lockhart. I use to sit next to Stuart Blackie and I clearly remember the day of the 11 plus results. Tom Williams was concerned that Terence should not feel left out.

    My mother Nayda Affleck was a staff nurse in Casualty and I am still in touch with Jenny Simpson whose mother was Captain of the Girls Brigade.

    By Sue Barton (28/06/2014)

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