Monday, 5 December 2016

Looking in at the class of 1951 in Chorlton C of E

We are in Chorlton C of E Primary School sometime in the early 1950s.

In many ways it is one of those timeless images of school life which with a bit of judicious alteration could be any school anywhere in the country at almost any time.

The students stare back at the camera caught in the middle of a lesson with their books out on the desk while their teacher stands to one side making sure the young people are the focus of attention.

And as ever in any classroom the work of the children is there on the walls for all to see.

But what makes it unique is that it is the only post war picture of a Chorlton classroom in the collection.

Long ago I added a fine series of photographs from the late 19th and early 20 centuries, some of which were taken at the old school on the green.

None of them however were of the inside of the school and so this one is special.

Looking at the picture is to go back sixty years.

There were still ink wells in the desks and Ann who provided the picture was the ink monitor.

In the corner is an open fire which would have been lit everyday from late October and maintained during the day.

Many of the boys and even some of the girls are wearing ties and there are those zip up jackets which were called windcheaters.

I can still remember mine.  It was made of brown canvass with a chequered woollen inside and had a distinctive smell which I have never forgotten.

So much so that when I come across the smell it still has the power to transport me back 55 years to carefree days and countless adventures.

School uniforms had yet to become standard in junior schools but a sort of uniform is there.  I doubt that I ever wore exactly the same clothes to school as I did for going out to play and judging by what you see in the picture the same was true then.

And there will be many who remember those all in one desk and chair units which came in single or doubles with a lift up lid which gave access to the interior where books and that old fashioned pencil case made of cardboard could be left all day, all term and pretty much all year.

Now there is a very real danger that I shall any minute slide into a comfortable and rosy bout of nostalgia, so I will end by saying that open fires were fine if you sat three rows back.  Those at the front could be toasted while those at the back felt the icy bite of draughts from the gaps in the door leading to the corridor.

Lessons were still chalk and talk, and the cutting edge of classroom technology came in the form of the schools radio broadcast.

That said some of these were magic.

I have never forgotten the excitement of the history ones where the two children were transported back to a time before now encountering anything from dinosaurs to the wrath of Nero and it didn’t matter that they were not tied to a scheme of work which took the student from one period to another carefully worked out against a set of learning objectives and required skills.

The fun and the learning came with the story.

And that is where I shall leave our cohort of 1951, some of whom I know.

At the back is a young Ann Stevens who in the fullness of time went on to become an art teacher, somewhere also near the back is John Ager who still lives and works in Chorlton and in the middle of the front row is Mary Yeadon who went on to marry an explorer who "went up the Amazon.".

Picture; from the collection of Ann Love

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