Free milk kept nice and warm

The old Fitzherbert School, Once called St John the Baptist Secondary Modern School. Before that it was called Warren Farm.
From the private collection of John Leach

My first school

Warren Farm was my first school. I went there when I was five, or maybe a couple of months short of my fifth birthday. Before I started, my mother and I were given a tour by one of the teachers. She told us I would get free milk every day. It would be kept on top of the radiators so it would be nice and warm when the kids drank it.

I was a quick learner

I learned to read and write very quickly. Only one of my classmates had any reading problems. He was made to wear a dunce’s cap and stand in a corner. That made be very angry; it seemed so unfair. I guess I would have stayed there for years, but I was attacked in the playground by another pupil, an evacuee. She punched me on the nose for no reason and made it bleed.

Out of the frying pan

As a result my mother took me away from the school in my first year and sent me to a Dame School just up the road at a charge of 2s 6d a week. It was called Sylvan Mount and was run by a ghastly women called Mrs Jenner, a creature far worse than the aggressive evacuee. She wore Victorian clothes and had no gift for teaching, unless bullying can be regarded as a gift. She could play many musical instruments and taught the piano and the violin. Kids had their hands jabbed with pen nibs if their writing was not satisfactory. If you didn’t squeeze the violin strings tightly enough, she clamped her hands round yours and forced your fingers painfully on to the strings.

Asking awkward questions

A lot of religion was rammed down our throats but our innocent questions were not answered. “Who made God?” I asked her once. “Never ask a question like that again,” she said. I got the same response when I asked her, “Please miss, what’s a virgin?” She was very keen on archaeology and told us that ancient Egyptians invented the aeroplane.  One of  their planes had been dug up in the desert, she said.

Kids do not complain

I never complained to my mother because I thought her school was normal. Kids don’t complain if things are normal, and they believe that what they see every day constitutes normality. I endured three years there and both my sisters went to Sylvan Mount as well: three half-crowns a week for the monstrous Mrs Jenner. I can’t help feeling we’d have been better off at Warren Farm School.  Anyone out there have any thoughts about that?

Comments about this page

  • I was at the school from 1954 ’til 1958. My memories of the school are not so harsh as Ken’s are. As far as an evacuee punching you in the nose, my mum was from South London and would have gone to the school and given the evacuee a good seeing to. She once gave Sister Anthony a real good telling off after my younger brother came home with red welts of finger marks across his chops. John Crowley, an Irishman, was a hard (not harsh) teacher but very fair to boot. He would not tolerate bullying at all. You knew exactly where you stood with him. If you were in trouble then just accept your punishment and leave it at that. As far as religion goes it was drummed into us to believe some ridiculous things that beggar belief. I am now a confirmed atheist and have been for years. As far as I am concerned seeing is believing. Some years later when I was a bit older I became interested in palaeontology and other sciences and then started smelling rats about my religion. I am a bit Richard Dawkins-like in my outlook on life, and religion.  

    By Mick Peirson (05/10/2016)
  • I was born in the Brighton General Hospital in April 1943. The family home was 10 Channel View Road, Woodingdean. I remember Mrs. Jenner’s school was a large bungalow at the bottom of our garden. It was on Warren Hill next to what was called the ‘Gap’ and opposite the woods. Mrs. Jenner also taught violin and the piano, the noise of her pupils whilst they learnt was grim. It meant that my mother would keep all the windows closed, even in the summer. As I recall Mrs Jenner was a bit of an old dragon and thats being kind!

    A new school in 1948. I’m glad to say my brother John and myself never attended ‘Sylvan Mount’ school, instead we were sent to Warren Farm school and Woodingdean County Primary School. I was proud to be one of the first intake to go into the new school building in 1948. I remember the day so clearly. The whole school walked from the old run-down and cold Warren Farm Buildings, along the Warren Road, to this bright and sunny brand new school. I was only five or six years old, but that is a day I will personally never forget. At that time the headmaster’s name was Mr. Peach; he was succeeded by Mr. Haggard. I remember only a few of the teachers. There was Miss Barns who later became Mrs. Rice, she was a real dolly bird as I remember, and a really  bright teacher who taught me for two years running. I liked her a lot. I would like to think the lovely Miss Barnes is still around, does anyone know? The only other teachers I remember were Mr Betts and Miss Bignal who later became Mrs. Betts and last, but by no means least, was Pop Hemsley, not everyone’s cup of tea as I remember. My parents were life-long friends of Mr and Mrs. Hemsley, and I have stayed in touch with their son Roger who is a year younger than me. Pop Hemsley passed away some years ago, I attended his funeral. I was very sad to have missed the 50th anniversary reunion of the school in 1998. My thoughts are Ken – you would have been better off at Woodingdean CPS. 

    By Chris Wrapson (05/10/2016)
  • I think Mick Peirson might be referring to St John the Baptist Roman Catholic Secondary School in Woodingdean renamed Fitzherbert secondary school in 1961, not Warren Farm school or Mrs Jenner’s “Sylvan Mount” school?

    By Chris Wrapson (06/10/2016)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *