From Elm Grove to Hollingdean

Wildlife Garden and views across Brighton
Photo by James Guthrie
School Percussion Band 1933
St.Josephs School collection
The playground 2008
Photo by James Guthrie

(This article has also appeared in Hollingdean News, an independent community newsletter.)

The original school serving the Parish of St Josephs, Elm Grove, fronted onto Milton Road,in a building which had originally been both the church and the school. The church was later replaced by the much bigger and grander building at the bottom of Elm Grove.

A small school
The school registers began in 1880 with just 17 children, paying 2d a week for Infants and 3d for Juniors, these numbers grew to 152 by 1893. The school was always regarded as too small, on a site with absolutely no room to expand. By 1932 there were 198 pupils using a large room partitioned into two and a small infants classroom. The outside area was a long narrow yard with only 4 toilets. A pupil at the time recalled that playtime and dinner times involved playing in the then two way road outside – although what little traffic there was horse drawn or bicycles. Only much later were  “road closed” signs used during playtime!

Short of space
Being short of room craft lessons had to be taken elsewhere, such as St Lukes school, and once a week the boys walked up to the Race Hill for games. In order for the whole school to assemble together the heavy partitions between classrooms had to be pulled back and the rooms re arranged.There were no facilities for school dinners so pupils took packed lunches or money to buy food outside – “one pennyworth of chips,a half penny bread roll and a half penny left to spend on sweets”!

Plans for a new school
Even in 1903 the school managers report included many concerns about the facilities, at this “happy in spirit”, but overcrowded school. Condemned as unsuitable in 1908 it was however to be over 50 years before the much needed replacement school was finally planned and built. Miss Clark Head in 1946 commented “our school building may look poor but we are rich in talent”.

The “new” St Josephs school
The new school opened in January 1956 at the Davey Drive site, on the then newly developed Hollingdean Estate. It was the first new build Roman Catholic school in Brighton (all others having started in existing buildings) at a total cost of £52,000. The Local Authority had made the site available for a seven classroom school to be built but initially only three of these were allocated for the Catholic school. The other four were used by the also overcrowded Hertford Road First school, to house their Junior year groups, as the new housing estate had increased demand for school places.

Two schools one playground!
The new site effectively operated as two schools, with two Headteachers. The sharing even included  the playground across which a line was drawn – a pupil recalls it was “a major operation to retrieve a ball that strayed over the line!” The St Josephs Infants classes remained at the old Milton Road school for the next 5 years, until they too were able to move up in 1961 – when the Hertford children vacated to move to their new Hertford Junior school.

Room to play
For the first St Josephs pupils, many of whom lived in Elm Grove, the new journey to school was a dramatic change and a bus ride away. But the effort was worth it,with the large hall and gymnasium equipment and playground with it’s fantastic views across the City, “so different from the tiny space on the old site”. Although there was “fear of even putting a dirty fingerprint on the pristine building …the Head would have skinned us alive if she’d caught us”.

Extracts taken from the St.Joseph’s School collection of archive material and memorabilia collected for the School’s 50th anniversary in 2006.

Comments about this page

  • I attended St Josephs in Milton Road from 1946 until 1953 and I remember it well. The headmistress was Miss Clark and my first teacher was Miss Beard. Other teachers I remember were Mrs Trunfall, Mr Darby, Miss Larner (who became Mrs Cullen) and the best of them all – Mr Quinn. My best friend was Evelyn Tierney and others I can recall were the Storrow family, the Mustards, Teresa Scott, Rosemary King, Patrick Hollingdale, Thomas Paul, Mary Collins and Teresa Gillon, to name but a few. My name was Kathleen Read. I wonder where they all are now?
    I also remember the school Christmas plays where I was always an anonymous angel; the weekly Friday trips to Mass at the church over the road; the orange juice and cod liver oil we were given every day; and of course the little bottles of milk. Happy days!

    By Kathy Nichols (24/07/2008)
  • Nice to read your article Joy. I was the guy that originally researched the history of the old school. Glad that document has been of use and pleased to see the remarkable number of play area additions the school has had since I was there.

    By Roy Grant (27/07/2008)
  • At last St Joesph’s school has been added. I loved this school. Anyone remember a teacher called Mrs Macultta, my brother used to call her Mrs Smack your tomato. Mrs Pope was a cool teacher. I was there from 1971 to 1973. I was Bridget Dowds.

    By Bridget (17/12/2008)
  • I went to the school from about 1948, it was a time of dread. Miss Clark was a horror! I liked the other teachers and Mr Holland gave me a love of books. The school did have dinners which came in a van, and I wonder did we all use the same spoon for a daily dose of codliver oil?

    By Ann (02/01/2009)
  • I remember lots of the children. Namely, Lily Daly,  Maureen Grout and Maurice Hogley who were in our class. I remember how hard Miss Clark was, but we learnt a lot.

    By Teresa G (05/04/2009)
  • I went to this school. I can’t wait to do work experience there. My brother is in this school, year 5 is the year that he is in. Love the school, miss the school, love all the teachers I had, and it is a great place to send your children.

    By Daniella Moss (15/06/2009)
  • Does anyone remember Miss Smith? I was there till 1996. It has changed a lot since. If anyone remembers this year please reply as I might know you.

    By Melissa Graham (13/08/2009)
  • I attended Milton Road for one year as first year junior, then transferred to Davey Drive for the rest of the Junior stage. Sharing a school was a strange experience. There was little or no interaction between the pupils of the two schools. No one dared to cross the line, no one would dream of going into the other half of the building. One day, as a top junior, Miss Clark sent me with a message to the head of the ‘other’ school, I had to go through the doors and walk into this strange new world. I still remember the adventure. She once sent me with a letter to Moulsecoomb junior school, because I knew how to get there having attended there as an infant. Miss Clark was always very kind and caring to my memory, not so Mr Darby, who seemed an absolute horror. Amazingly, I met him in London some 15 years later, and he turned out to be a lovely man. Mr Holland, top man with craft – who, today, would give a bunch of 9 year olds stanley knives and let them loose making books? Mrs Taylor also stands out for me. I left the school July 1961, and for the first few days of the holiday I was back in the school helping with the moving in of the infants on the take over of the whole site.

    By Richard Crossingham (16/11/2010)
  • I had a strange and mixed journey across all the RC primary schools (St. Joseph’s, St. Mary Magdalen and St. John the Baptist). I went to one of them twice, and am trying to remember when I was where! I was at St. Joseph’s when we lived in Washington Street, having started out at St. Mary Magdalen’s when we lived in Preston Street. I think I went to St. John the Baptist in between until my step-mother fell out with the school and we moved to St. Joseph’s! Then the move to Hollingdean came about (I’m a bit confused about dates … think I remember the actual opening of the new school but think I’d have been too young if I’d been at school elsewhere before that – I was born in 1951). Anyway, my step-mother decided that we were not moving to a school in an awful ‘new’ “estate” full of ‘undesirable’ types (she was an awful snob) and neither were we getting on a bus to some ‘God-forsaken out of the way place’. So, now living on Elm Grove itself, before moving ‘upmarket’ again to Brading Road on the ‘better side’ of Elm Grove, we moved back to St. John the Baptist! I then went to Fitzherbert School in Woodingdean, before reluctantly passing the 13+ and being transferred to Westlain! Would have been nice to go to one school and actually remember kids I was at school with!

    By Anna Cronin (07/05/2011)
  • Hi Anna Cronin, did you have a brother Keith?

    By Danny/Dave kimberley (26/10/2011)
  • I remember going to Milton Road and playing in the street at break time- they would put road block signs up to stop traffic. I had a brother who is three years older then me at that school. Also he was Derek Lloyd and I’m Barry Lloyd (Robinson). I remember having to climb out of the top window and go down the fire escape to the rear playground. My mother was told to take me away from school as I knocked a little girl down the stairs and she cut her head open so mum took us all away. We went to the cubs at St Joweys till they came round for subs which was 3d and that was all we got so we knocked that on the head and didn’t go back again. I also remember the vicar coming to see mum and he told her she wasn’t a good catholic as she didn’t go to church. She told him if he came and cooked the Sunday dinner for her she would go, so that was the end of that.

    By barry robinson (29/11/2011)
  • I was pleased to find this site about St Joseph’s school in Milton Road which I attended from 1948 until 1954. I remember many of the names mentioned on this site and a few more that have not been mentioned. I am Thomas Paul and my group of friends were Joe Storrow, Terry Banks & Ronnie Cavadasci. I particularly remember Patrick Hollingdale, Maurice Hoadley, Hugh Stubbs, Brian Meechin, William Hager, Michael Hellet, Lewis Archibald, David Tarrant, Raymond Cooke, Sidney Tilling, Barry Bishop, John Clarke, David Meredith, Douglas Hodson, Harry Sargent, Robert Gillespie, Philip Wright, Peter Coomber, Vincent Brown, Peter Simmons, Peter Cambell and Ivan Devorti. Among the girls, I remember Kathleen Read, Evelyn Tierney, Brenda Mustard, Teresa Scott, Rosemary King, Mary Collins, Teresa Gillon, Mary Byrne, Josephine Walsh, Patricia Blundell, Valerie Hope, Eileen Parkinson, Carol Dickenson, Mary McKeever, Teresa Perrin, Mary Holloway, Mary Gillespie and Ann Parker. I also remember the remainder of the Storrow family and was sad to hear that Mary had passed away. I would love to hear more about what happened to any of those that I knew. I have a number of photos, several of which I was going to attach but failed to do so. I will need to investigate how to add these unless any of you can help my computer illiteracy. Tom Paul.

    Editor’s note: Hello Tom, please find a tutorial on how to upload photos to the site here.

    By Thomas Paul (01/03/2012)
  • I went to St Josephs in the 1980s/90s. I’ve just been looking for a bit of history and some old photos to show my daughters and stumbled across this. Reading the previous comments I recognise the name Roy Grant – you were my teacher for year 6! (Lisa Martin in those days) I also recognise the name Melissa Graham. You were closer to my sisters age I think (Sarah Martin) and I think our parents were quite friendly at the school bus stop. 

    I’d love to show my girls some old school photos but haven’t come across any yet! 

    By Lisa Herbert (06/02/2015)
  • My sister, Brenda, discovered this site a while go, and just introduced me to it. I remember several of the names mentioned in these comments, including Vincent Brown. I now live on Vancouver Island, and sister Brenda is on Whidbey Island, in Puget Sound, northwest of Seattle. We both went to St. Joseph’s and have many fond memories. We would love to hear from anyone with similar memories.

    By Leonard (Len) Mustard (11/04/2015)
  • I went to St Joseph’s School in 1970 and started in Christine Glennis’s class, what a lovely teacher she was. I also remember our Headteacher Mr Davies and a few other teachers: Mr Palmer, Mr Beech, Mrs Arzonie, Sr Margaret Mary.

    By Claire Humphries (22/04/2015)
  • Hello Len and Brenda, I’m Claire, niece of the late Vincent Brown who sadly passed away in May 1997. My mum, Beryl Cheeseman, remembers you well.

    By Claire Humphries (22/04/2015)
  • Hello Claire. So sorry to hear of Vincent’s passing. I knew him although not well. I also remember your mum, Beryl. I have a vague recollection of her being put in charge of me on my first day in school. Whilst at St Joseph’s I became an altar boy and our head altar boy was none other than Pat Cheeseman. I would love to know who is still around and how life has treated them all.

    By Thomas Paul (24/04/2015)
  • Hello Tom Paul, my mum Beryl Cheeseman is very well and still very active. Dad Pat Cheeseman sadly passed away 9yrs ago. I went to St Joseph’s school in Davey Drive in 1970 and remember Mr Davies our headteacher and a few others namely Mr Palmer, Mr Beech, Mrs Arzonie and my first teacher was the lovely Christine Glennis. My friends were Nicola Daly, Angela James, Catherine Foley, Anthony and Nicolas Craggs. I also remember Johnny Ivory, Lee Robbins. The school will be celebrating its Golden Jubliee (60yrs) next year so please get in touch if you have any photos or memorabilia from your school days at Davey Drive. I work at the school or you can contact the school directly on 01273-556607.

    By Claire Humphries (03/05/2015)
  • Claire – that’s my dad, Peter, playing the triangle in the 1933 percussion band.

    By Pauline Brooker (01/09/2015)

    St Joseph’s School are celebrating their 60th Jubilee in January 2016. We would love to invite all ex staff and pupils to an open day to celebrate with us. Please email me directly or contact the school on 01273 556607 for your invitation.

    By Samantha Simson (04/12/2015)
  • Went to this school from 1996 until 2002. Much changed over the years! Our (my) first headmaster was Mr. Hoare, then Mr. Davies, then Mrs. Smith. Wonderful memories. I remember in Year 5 the boys and girls in our class were separated (because we were horrible)! This lasted only a few months and then we had this lovely Australian teacher called Mr Walden for the rest of the year and we were good as gold.

    By Andrew Szypulski (21/02/2017)
  • It was great to see this message from Kathy Nichols (Reed) and it brought back such a lot of memories of being best friends, we went everywhere together (Evelyn Tierney) now Miller. I loved our days at St. Josephs.  

    By Eve Miller (02/03/2018)

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