Chanting times tables, playing in a sandpit and popping home for lunch. Jane Nicholls (now Onslow) and Heather Skinner (Dyer) recall happy days at the old Upton Noble School in what is now the Village Hall
What dates did you attend the old Upton Noble school?
Jane: I went between 1955 and left in 1958 when the school in Upton Noble Village Hall closed. After that we all had to catch a bus to Bruton Primary. I was seven when this adventure started.
Heather: I started in 1957 and left in 1958 to go to Bruton Primary with Jane.
Did any other members of your family attend?
Jane: My father, Ivan Nicholls, would have gone to this school when he was young. He went on to Sexeys School in Bruton afterwards. I had two older brothers — Tony, who went to Upton Noble School, and David, who, because he suffered from ill health, was home tutored.
Heather: My mother, Dorothy [Skinner], went to Upton Noble primary school in the 1920s, while my two sisters, Pamela and Angela, also attended the school.
Where were you living at the time?
Jane: We lived next door to the hall in Fairview. I remember my mum, Mary Nicholls, telling me that I would watch the children going to school and want to join them. As a result, the teacher, Miss Baynon, let me go for short periods of time before my actual school life started.
Heather: At the time I lived in Ivy House. I now live next door in Ivy Cottage.
What do you remember of your old school friends?
Jane: I remember all the children as we all grew up together in the village. My best friend was Mary Dowding, who lived at Stalls Farm (where John and Margaret Sutor live now) with four siblings — Richard, twins Margaret and Marion and the youngest, Ann. Mary moved from the village when she was 14 and now lives in Cornwall. We remain best friends, writing and phoning regularly, as well as visiting each other. She still calls Upton Noble home.
My other close friends were the three Skinner girls, Pamela, Heather and Angela. Heather is the only one who still lives in Upton Noble. Pam is now living near Weston-super-Mare, while Angela is in London.
Also at school were the Gould siblings — Jennifer, Josephine, John and James — Eric, Peter and Mary House from Gorinda, Rupert, Delia and Caroline Dewey, who lived in Lovell House (then known as Manor Farm), Janet and Michael Singer, who lived where Derek and Maggie Love are now, plus Elizabeth Brunt and Ronald and Sheila Wheeler. I really enjoyed the company of the other children.
How many children were there in total?
Jane:I suppose there were roughly 15 attending the school at any one time, but by the time it closed there were probably only seven of us.
What are your memories of the building?
Jane: The old school building was certainly different from today. It consisted of one large room, with cloakrooms at either end. There is a kitchen in the building today, but when it was a school that wasn’t there. The paths went all around the building and a gate separated the outside boys’ and girls’ toilets. I remember sometimes that a large green curtain was pulled across the hall, although I’m not sure whether this was used to section the pupils of different ages. I do know that behind the curtain there was a Belfast sink with a wooden draining board, and when the nit nurse came you went and sat behind the curtain.
I have vivid memories of the old round stove that stood in the hall. Before the small extension was built you could still see the square markings on the floor where it had stood. Can you imagine the health & safety issues that would be involved with a stove in a school today? However, even back then it was surrounded by a mesh guard.
Did you wear a uniform?
Jane: No, there was no school uniform. Every day was mufti day.
What did you do about lunch?
Jane: Because my family lived next door I would go home for lunch, but I do remember that meals were brought in daily in a white van for other pupils.
What do you remember about the school day?
Jane:The day started with an assembly, during which the teacher would play the piano. During lessons we had to chant our times tables. I imagine the hours were 9am until 3pm, but I can’t really remember
Heather: I remember on sunny days playing in the sandpit on the grassy side of the playing field.
What are your general memories of the village?
Jane: The village was a lot quieter than it is now. The garage was there, as was the Lamb Inn, which was always very popular and now much missed. The church and the chapel were well attended every week and, as far as I know, there was a pub called the Railway Inn down Chapel Street. I heard people talking about it.
When I was growing up the Post Office was run by a Mrs Gillbanks, who lived at Brier Cottage, opposite the school field. When Mrs Gillbanks gave up, my mum took over the Post Office and ran it from the back of Fairview for 25 years. She also ran a little shop selling things such as chocolate and cigarettes. I remember it as if it was yesterday.