Attending Senior School c1950s

A pupil in the 1950s

There does not seem to be much existing information about Pelham Street Secondary School. Over the years I have tried to find memoirs or pictures of the school but without success.  I attended the school from 1953-1957.  My name was Trudy Wirthmiller then, and I was at the school from 12 years of age onward.

Remembering my teachers

The teacher’s names I can remember are; Miss Funnell who was an extremely patient teacher with a class of pupils who didn’t really show great enthusiasm for French; Miss Goodall  and Miss Scott Physical training, which in those days seemed to consist of jumping over a wooden horse onto a mat. And the unforgettable form mistress of my class Miss Freda Markwick.

Miss Markwick

Miss Markwick also took us for general lessons as well as French. She would read books to us, ‘The Secret Garden, and ‘The Little Wizard of White Cloud Hill’, being the most memorable. Although she was not young at the time, Miss Markwick was always very attractively dressed.  I remember vividly when after the holidays one year, she acquired a pair of lorgnettes.  It was so hard not to laugh.

A gift for teacher

I spoke far too much during lessons, and of course one day, due punishment fell to me, to stay behind and write lines. I did not want to ‘fall foul’ of teacher, so the next day I went with my best friend Rosemary Kent to a cake shop in Bond Street. I bought a stale gateaux cake with an iced violet on top, as a sort of placatory gift. To my relief it was received with gratitude, teacher little knowing the actual scheming behind the plot.

Break time was best

In Domestic Science, the lesson seemed to consist of scrubbing wooden tables and ‘going with the grain’. I remember the cookery classes were problematic because it was so hard for my parents to afford the ingredients. And as my Father would say when I took my efforts home, “Trudy it’s not even edible”.  After so many years it is hard to remember names, but my best friends were Rosemary Kent, Vivien Mayles, and Joyce Richmond The best time was break time; of course taking great care to miss the obligatory bottle of milk.

Playground games

In the playground we played hoola- hoop, skipping games, Mikado (with Lolly sticks) 5 stones, ‘Fag Cards’, and marbles. It was the era of luminous socks and waspie belts! School dinners were in fact very good, but as kids you think it’s your duty to complain, and so  sometimes we would give lunch a miss. On these days we would go to a workman’s café at the corner of Bond St for soup and bread. We continued to do this until we were caught and earned a red disorder card.

A sad incident

The head girl was called Diane Woodward. I think of all my memories of the school, the most powerful was of a girl called Pat who was at school on a specific Friday and was due to appear on the stage in a local pantomime. When we returned to school on Monday morning were told she had died of pneumonia. I never forgot this incident all my life long and in some way it influenced my own journey to God.  The teachers did there best God bless them, with what I realise now was ‘ raw material’. I wonder if anyone remembers anything else about the school?


Comments about this page

  • Trudy, did you have a sister called Paula  and did you live in a house on the Locks Hard in Southwick? I was around there as a teenager. I remember you and If I am right your Mother was Barbara and she ran the ‘Good Companions’ marriage bureau. Your father had an estate agents business in Middle Street? Everyone knew me as ‘Butch’ in those days. I was always around the fishing boats doing odd jobs or making a nuisance of myself.

    By Ian Wallis (16/07/2010)
  • The only thing I can say about Pelham Street Schools is that it was right next to Fawcett School which I attended from 53 to 56. If you knew a girl by the name of Ann Goringe we are childhood mates.

    By JOHN WIGNALL (17/07/2010)
  • Trudy, you are not alone. I was at Pelham 1952-1955. Four girls from that year’s intake met up in Queensland in 2008- two of us live in West Australia and the others live in New Zealand. We had a great time going over old times and got on like a house on fire. I might add none of us were school friends while there. Our memories of Pelham were lovely and one of the girls has contact with a few others. It seems we are spread around the world.

    By Yvonne Duplock(nee Brown) (18/07/2010)
  • Any more info about Pelham St school? I was there from about 1956 until it closed. The headmistress at that time was a Miss Bolton who scared the life out of me. I also remember very clearly Miss Markwick who again we were all in awe of. We had respect for our teachers. Miss Goodall, Miss Collins p.e teacher, a science teacher who everybody played up- her name escapes me at present. I remember some of the girls’ names in my year: Loel Kirby, Yvonne Curd, Anne Basilio, Eunice Pittam. Any more info would be appreciated

    By Patricia Downer nee Hall (21/01/2011)
  • I went to Pelham Street school. I remember teachers Misses Collins, Goodall and Markwick, Mrs Scutt who we had for needlework and Miss Bolton the headmistress. I didn’t like her. I can remember one lunch time, my friend and I went over the Level – a lot of us girls used to go because the boys from the school next were over there and we put make up on forgot to take it of and Miss Bolton was on the gate when we got back and she made us scrub our lips with a nail brush and and gave us a detention. I remember Ann Gorrige, also in my year was Pat Stevens, Ann Brooker, Pauline Langridge, Eileen Bryant, Shirley Prior, Sheila Legg, Sylvia Fenson, Hazel Dainty to mention but a few. We had some good times. I think Miss Markwick went from our school to Whitehawk. Kathleen Catt (nee Cornford). If any of the girls would like to contact me, my email address is Has anyone got any school photos?

    By Kathleen Catt (01/02/2011)
  • I was at Pelham Street School in 1953. I remember the teachers that have been mentioned and the girls. There was also Pat Steven and Ann Brooker who were both very good at running. We used to have to walk to Preston Park for games as we never had playing fields. There was also Maragret Jupp, Irene Press and Theresa Wilson. They were good days back then but we all used to say we wished we were leaving but I think back and they were the best days.

    By Kathleen Catt (nee Cornford) (08/03/2011)
  • You forgot me Kath, I was there too -Joy Smith, and there was Jackie Brand too. I  don’t have any photos of Pelham Street when we were there. I remember Miss Knowls, Miss Collins and a few others you mentioned. Joy (nee Smith)

    By Joy Panteli (09/06/2011)
  • Yes John, Ann Goringe was in my class. Remember Wendy Brown? She always came top in maths – until one year I beat her. I couldn’t believe it! That was in Miss Knowls class… remember that Wendy? Yes, I remember Miss Bolton, and Mrs Scutt who took us for cookery class….those red gingham aprons we made in needle work. We all had different colours depending on what group you were in – either red, yellow, blue or green. Joy (nee Smith)

    By Joy Panteli (09/06/2011)
  • I too attended Pelham School for Girls from 1952 until 1955. I remember the teachers mentioned and also the others – Miss Keysey (the dragon!) Miss Markwick of the beautiful twin sets and pleated skirts – she was my Form teacher. Miss Adams – Science Mrs Scutt – Music, Miss Mottershead – Art, Miss Stubbs was the head Mistress. I was one of the “Girls” who met up in Queensland with Yvonne Brown – great time. I live in New Zealand and have contact with Linda Thrussell and Philomena Noakes, who live here also. I am also in contact with Ann Rushworth and Gloria Robinson who are coming to visit me in NZ next year. I’m also in touch with Cynthia Dixie. Does anyone remember these “girls” or me – I was known as Bertha Byrne (ugh) but am now called Elizabeth. Please get in touch Pelham holds fond memories for me.

    By Elizabeth Byrne-Fong (26/06/2011)
  • Schoolday Memories …. My sister, Ann (Pamela) Kent stumbled upon this site just yesterday! We both attended Pelham Street School from late 1954 until I left in 1958, I’m Rosemary Hillman nee Kent and am mentioned under Trudy Wirthmiller’s reminisence as her friend which indeed she was and still is! We re-discovered each other just a couple of years ago through the wonder of the Internet. I was in the Seniors, my sister Pamela was in the Infants. I’m pretty sure that Pamela is on the very left of the bottom row shielding her eyes from the glare in the Infant’s group photo of 1956. In the Seniors I recall all the teachers named but not many of the pupils. My group consisted of Trudy, Vivienne Mayles, (now Bishop, we remain in contact), Sheila Winterbottom, Sheila Tickner, Christine Burnett, Rita Citrone (deceased ?), Sylvia (?), Valerie (?). There was also a girl called Theresa, a thalidomide victim, her hands being totally deformed but she still coped with daily school life.
    I do remember working on a cookery apron and a head cap for nearly two years. I then learnt how to wash and starch it! Later I was taught how to make a baked stuffed potato and, later still, chocolate fairy cakes with Stork margarine. I recall us having to walk all the way to Preston Park to play rounders (summer) and hockey (winter). Miss Collins (PT and Dance) got our class to perform a modern dance in bare feet in the Dome to the music of Grieg’s ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’. To this day if I hear this music played I have an image of us all leaping about in bottle green knickers with matching green tops, (no such thing as ‘T’ shirts then!), with the slight aroma of cheesy feet adding to the image! At some point I was also in the choir and recall singing ‘Jerusalem’, ‘Early One Morning’ and the ‘Magnificat’. Except for the latter I’m still word perfect on the first two titles. In recognition of its era, morning assembly always had a religous background. Initially, I was curious when a few pupils left us but later understood that these were Catholic or Jewish children. However I never felt that they were ‘different’, just felt sometimes that they were lucky to be able to escape!
    One teacher not mentioned was Mrs Kimber who took us for English and Drama studies. Under her guidance the school did ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and I played the Duke of Athens. Part of my costume was created with a big white fur collar contributed by Mrs Kimber! She was pretty ancient then but lovely. She instilled in me a great love of literature which remains with me to this day.
    I remember the Fawcett Boys school next door where we would go once a week for a film show related to Religous Studies. This was always a thrill as there was a good chance of seeing some BOYS! I recall a day trip to (I think) Hampton Court and somewhere in the archives I may have some old black and white photos of a group of us posing by the coach. We stopped by a field where there was a pony. In an attempt to show off, I got on the pony which then promptly bucked me off into the mud!
    I now live in Hampshire, and have done for many years, with my husband Alan. The latter part of my working life was, following a period of nursing, a management role in the NHS from which I am long retired. My sister has had a long and successful career in journalism. Last January I passed a ‘mega’ birthday and spent a long weekend in Brighton going down memory lane. Sadly, I didn’t have time to visit the school, although I did some years ago. I believe it had been turned into some form of technical college but the fabric of the building appeared the same. I remember Trudy’s parents, and her sister Paula very well living first in Middle Street and then later in Southwick. Both these landmarks are long demolished. How amazing is the technology that allows us suddenly to open a door on our youth! Would enjoy hearing from anyone that can add further to the days I have described.

    By Rosemarie Hillman (nee Kent) (01/03/2013)
  • It’s so good to hear old school friends talking about their days they had at Pelham Street Senior School. I now live in Turkey but was in the UK in the new year and I went passed the school – it hasn’t changed a bit from the outside. I would have loved to have looked inside. I remember our class was on the side and next door was the cookery class overlooking Cheapside, the rest of the class overlooked Pelham Street. It is good to see that it is still being used. Please note my email address has changed to

    By Kathleen Catt (nee Cornford) (02/03/2013)
  • I recognise the teachers’ names as my sisters always spoke about them; it must have been around 1952 to 1955. Does anyone remember them – Mary and Diana Barry? I am 9 years younger than them so they used to collect me from Pelham Street infants after school.

    By Christine Barry (31/07/2014)
  • I also attended Pelham secondary school from 1956 until it closed. I am mentioned in Patricia Downer’s writing about the school. I remember you Pat very well, along with Pat Lenton and those that you have mentioned.

    I also remember Miss Markwick who we had for French, Miss Cholerton for science, Miss Goodayle for geography and so many more. I too was afraid of the head mistress, Miss Bolton. I don’t think that I ever saw her smile in the years I was there.

    Any of my old school friends are able to contact me on:  I would be glad to hear from any of you.

    By Eunice Pike (Pittam) (31/05/2015)
  • I remember Diane and Mary Barry, I believe they were twins, I was at Pelham Street from 1952-1956 great days. Wish I could find out about Andrea Lilley, if anyone has info, would love to hear.

    By Brenda Brown (19/12/2016)
  • Does anyone want a tour of the schools as I work there and also I could listen to your stories……

    By Andrew Buck (26/04/2017)
  • I was unable to remember any names from Pelham until the name Miss Bolton was mentioned, when I checked over my shoulder to see if it was safe……………. 😉

    Briefly went to Fawcett before leaving for London in 1961.
    Lived at No 7!! Can remember it having a fire (in the kitchen?) and the evacuated pupils crowded the street and tried to stop the Fire Engine reaching it! (Not ME of course, I was a good boy and watched from my house, honest)

    By Dave Bran (25/01/2020)
  • Miss Stubbs was headmistress when I was there, also miss Markwick who would inspect us before leaving school no buttons missing off of coats and no headscarves. Other teachers were miss Wood, very young blonde Mrs wood, needlework, miss Pugh cookery, and most of the teachers you mention,my best friend was Audrey Bartlett I remember my school days as fun and enjoyable.

    By Patricia Jackson nee simmonds (28/01/2021)
  • It’s great to reminisce. I recognise some of the teachers names. I left in 1954.

    We had a group called the WASP pack after our first names. Winnie Watson, Ann Avis (me), Susan Day and Patricia Bacon. Lots of others in my class that I remember: Isabel Glasgow, Pamela Hawkes, Marion Churchill, Kathleen Goodyear (left to go to Australia), Rose Halsey, Gloria Nibbs, Kathleen Nolan and the two Maureens: Oberrhansley and Gilbert; they were good friends with each other and one went to USA.

    I now live in Australia (Homebush)

    Best wishes to all

    Ann McCluskie nee Avis

    By Ann McCluskie (09/06/2021)

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