The school in the 1940s

From the 1940s, children went to Freshwater from the age of 11 (and the little school at Hulverstone gained its share of scholarships to Newport Grammar School). Audrey Rann (Barnes) remembers: when the war began, the older children moved on to Freshwater School, the young ones went into the big classroom and the soldiers were billeted into the small classroom.

Children of all ages walked long distances to attend school, from Hoxall Lane in Mottistone, from the two cottages at Longstone (there was one thatched cottage, now long since gone), from Compton Farm, from Chessell, and even from the top of Broad Lane. Mary Pettit recalls: the Kitsons and myself walked to Hulverstone School across the fields and the wood at the top end of Brook House grounds, and out through the main gate and along the road to Hulverstone. Miss Nichloson was our teacher, she was very strict, we often had a rap across the knuckles with a ruler or got the cane for some misdemeanour. I can remember being caned once for not obeying instructions on how to draw a table lamp to scale. My effort was about 2 inches high in the middle of the A4 size paper, and I received a stroke of the cane on each hand. 

Tony Pettitt who did the same walk when young, remembers when a Shotters’ bus was provided: Fred Driver who drove the bus, stopped to let us pick up conkers at Brook shute. We went to Compton Bay for swimming lessons, and on nature rambles to find wild flowers to press in books. We picked rose hips to send away for rosehip syrup. 

Although the school day finished at quarter to four, for Ron Emmett there was still much to be done: In those days children never had time off as such, there was always plenty of work to do once you got home. My job after school was to go to the Sun Inn and help the landlord, Fred White. Fred was a bit of a cripple so I used to do all of the work like milking his two cows, sawing up firewood, digging the garden, swabbing out the stone floor in the bar. Fred’s wages by the way were sixpence a week ~ a nice, shiny sixpence and sometimes I didn’t get home ‘til 9 or 9.30 in the evening, after leaving home at 8 in the morning and then, next morning of course, the cows still had to be milked, so before school it was down to the cowshed to milk the cows again and then off to school...

Traditional rural influences remained strong to the end; the Rector took regular scripture lessons; the school closed for a week at potato harvest. But the modern world produced new problems – ‘dinner now arrives by the 11.55am bus,’ and no caretaker could be found. Margaret Pettit at age 16 was being employed to wash up. Soon there were no more than two dozen names on the roll. The School Log from 1940 to 1947 shows the decline in numbers and gives a brief insight into typical days at school. Nurse Rann regularly visited the school to inspect heads, and there was no outbreak of ‘nits’ at all in those seven years. The doctor was a regular visitor, as was the dentist. It is interesting to see how very little treatment was required in the early years. In October 1942 only three children needed dental treatment, but after the war, in January 1946 13 children needed treatment.

In December 1947 the school closed after 75 years, and the remaining pupils transferred to Freshwater and Brighstone.   As the school roll declined, Anne Hookey at five remembers: I don’t have many happy memories of my early school days.  I suppose coming from living on the farm I wasn’t used to mixing with lots of other children and looking back there was some bullying involved.  Anyway, no matter, when Brook School closed I moved on to All Saints Junior School at Freshwater and settled happily.