Spit and Jelly – Trowse Childhood in the 1920’s

“I was told by my mother when she went to Trowse School that pupils had to pay 1d (one old penny) a week. This was in the 1880’s. The headmaster was a Mr Tuck, who was still there when I started at school in 1921.

“Children started school then when they were three. Trowse School, over which the Chapel Deacons had some jurisdiction, took children not just from its own village but also from surrounding areas. I can remember some children coming to school in suppers made from old hats. Until I was twelve, I had to wear callipers as I had been born with malformed legs. These callipers were horrible, noisy things which resulted in me being given the name “Clank”. In my first year J was in the room which is still in use at the Loke end of the building. We had a piano, a counting frame and a small lined blackboard and easel in our classroom. Recently, I saw this old counting frame out in the school playground. Most of the children would eat a packed lunch at school but, living so close, I could go home.

Trowse School 1901

Picture from 1901. Wouldn't want to upset the lady on the left!

Mrs Thrower was the first teacher, followed by Miss Thistlewood, and I seem to remember that Miss Thistlewood was the more “humane” of the two. If we got our work wrong, Mrs Thrower would not use a rubber to erase our mistakes, but would spit on our paper and then rub out our work with her finger! This wet paper was then put to dry on the large heating pipes which ran around the edges of the room. These pipes made a good place to sit in cold weather! No work was displayed in our classroom and the walls were quite plain. The rooms were lit by gas lamps, and the toilets we used were just earth closets, as mains drainage did not come to Trowse unto after the war. The room adjoining was for the 1st and 2nd Standards (the Infants’ Class) and was taught by Miss Edwards. She taught pupils how to hold pencils and pens for word shaping and script writing. The pen had a wooden holder with a metal fixture into which the nib slid. Ink, consisting of powder and water, was made up by a monitor and put into inkwells, resulting in the frequent use of blotting paper! We had small, long desks with backing to the seats, each of which was for four children.

“Moving up through the grades, pupils went into the room which is now the canteen. This was Standard 3, and the teacher was Miss Meadows. After a year with her, the children moved into the Headmaster’s room. Following Mr Tuck’s retirement, a Mr Fred Williams became the Headmaster with responsibility for Standards 4, 5 and 6. I remember the children I was at school with being well behaved but, very occasionally, Mr Williams thought it was necessary to punish a pupil This usually took the form of line-writing or detention, but I can remember seeing him cane a boy just once (I don’t remember what for), and watching the dust fry out from this boy’s coat as the cane came down! There were two blackboards and a harmonium in Mr William’s room, the instrument being played by Miss Edwards for singing lessons and assembly. At nine o’clock Mr Williams would blow a whistle and the children would all stand in lines facing him to be greeted by “Morning, Children” to which they would answer “Morning, Sir.” There were long fixed desks with a shelf under. By pulling a metal flange at the end they could be converted into a seat with a back which was the top where papers and books were used for the lessons. These were eventually replaced by desks and chairs for two, with lift-up lids on the desks. All were in lines, facing the master who presided at a desk with a raised platform two steps high.

At break times the boys used to play with pop-guns from which they would shoot acorns. We also used to play with conkers on strings in the autumn, and collect and exchange cigarette cards. On Fridays, between 3 and 4pm, we would be taken down to what is now the YMCA ground to play football. The girls were left behind to play netball in the playground. They also had needlework, knitting and cookery lessons.

“All the children at Trowse School dreaded the annual visit made to us by theDentist. With his plus fours and protruding eyes he was quite a frightening figure. We would have to sit in a wooden chair and, thinking about his foot-operated treadle drill, we hoped that our teeth would not need to have any work done to them. Many was the time that some poor child had to go back into the classroom with a mouth full of cotton wool “At that time, there used to be allotments on three little meadows where Newton Close now stands. Under Mr William’s direction, the boys grew vegetables which were then sold around the village. Once a year these plots were inspected and judged by a Mr Forsythe who was the Head Gardener at Crown Point (the Colman family home). The top three each received a prize, but I remember that everyone had a gift.
“Because of Trowse School’s connections with the Chapel, the school was closed once a year so that we would go on a Sunday School Outing. We would travel by train from Trowse to Thorpe by train, then change trains for Yarmouth. A steamer would take us on to Gorleston and, two tram rides on, we arrived in time for tea at the Congregational Chapel.”

“One Saturday afternoon every, summer, the children from the school were invited to go to Crown Point by Mr and Mrs Russell Colman for sports and film shows. Afterwards, there would be tea in the conservatory. I don*t remember very much about what we ate except that there was always jelly!”

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