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Remembering Woodingdean schooldays

In the winter we would build a huge bonfire for November 5th at the top of Warren Hill next to the big house with the fir trees and a flint wall round it which has long gone.  I was told the bonfire could be seen far out in the English Channel; I wonder if that were true? I do remember that the winters then were much harsher and colder, and heavy snow fall was certain every winter.

We never felt the cold
We would sledge down Warren Hill between the main road and the top of the woods or hike over to Falmer pond to ice skate. In those days we never seemed to feel the cold?  It was great fun! Woodingdean  being one of the highest areas of Brighton, would always suffer more from heavy snow fall and could be cut off for days on end. Then it was ‘No school today yippee –  get the sledge out!

A new school in 1948
Sister Jackie, brother John and myself attended 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 six years old, but that is a day I will personally never forget.

Sister Jackie, brother John and myself

My teachers
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 she is still around, does anyone know?  The only other teachers I remember were Mr. Betts and Miss Bignal who later became Mrs. Betts.

Remembering Pop Hemsley
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 about 4 years ago and I attended his funeral.  I was very sad to have missed the 50th anniversary of the school in 1998 as I was in the USA at that time.

Comments about this page

  • Who remembers Miss Hughes, Mrs Nowvaski and the very strict Miss Backhouse? She put soap in my mouth to stop me talking. I remember her. I used to love the dancing round the may pole and the country dancing in the playground .Mrs Rice tried very hard to teach me to paint but it was just a mess. I loved going to Woodingdean School.

    By Lynda Whymark nee Ruffle (19/02/2009)
  • Christopher Wrapson. Here is another name I remember from the past. I can remember every detail you have written about moving schools. You have not mentioned Miss Retchless (I think it was spelt that way). She was renowned for her very loud voice. I think it made most of her class shudder if anyone misbehaved.

    By Dave Leggett (14/03/2009)
  • I remember Miss Hughes (although, at 5, I thought her name was Miss Shoes) and I have a class photo of Mrs Novaski’s class and the next year in Miss Vigar’s class. Unlike your experience, Lynda, Mrs Rice’s efforts taught me that I really could paint after Mr Betts, for two years before, had convinced me that I couldn’t! Mr Betts did champion me as a writer, though – he made Charles Kemp, Vicky Ward and me the editors of a school magazine which he produced when we were in his class. I found copies of two of the issues in my mother’s effects after she died – she’d kept them all those years! Reading it now, the material I wrote for it sounds very heavily influenced by my father! I really loved Woodingdean School too. Somehow my own children’s primary schools (public or elementary schools they are called here, in Canada) just never measured up to it. That sense of family we had was missing.

    By Jean Jardine Miller (19/03/2009)
  • Hello Lynda and Dave. Thanks Lynda for reminding of Miss Hughes and Mrs Nowvaski, both were very kindly teachers as I recall! Thankfully I don’t remember Miss Backhouse or her bar of soap! However I do remember my mother threatening my brother John and I with the same treatment for teaching the green parrot that sat outside The Richmond Stores rude words! (As they say, boys will be boys). Lynda, were you in my younger brother John’s year with Peter Mann and Roger Hemsley etc? Sorry I don’t remember any other names. Thanks also Dave for reminding of the appropriately named Miss Retchless – a very formidable lady as I now remember! Dave, your memory is better than mine. My father was a relief caretaker for a while in the early 1950s and, as well as Woodingdean School, he also looked after other schools in the east Brighton area. I’m sure Robert Tasker, John Baker and Colin Turner were in my year? Therefore, along with Tom Price, you and I must have been classmates? Another name I remember was Norman Whitehorn. One afternoon during games and playing cricket, Norman failed to take a catch, the ball then hit him on the top of his head, knocking the poor chap senseless. Pop Hemsley and Mr Betts were very concerned about his injuries and the game was abandoned. Thankfully good old Norman lived to see another day. Needless to say he never went on to play for Sussex! The new Woodingdean Primary school officially opened on February 24th 1949. Indeed it’s hard to imagine when we were all small children all those years ago. Sixty years later and via the wonder of the internet. Here we all are with bus passes in our top pocket and drawing state pensions still remembering our primary school days, classmates and teachers! Those same teachers probably influenced our lives more than we ever realised.

    By Christopher Wrapson (21/03/2009)
  • Hi Chris – no I was in a lower year and was not in Peter Mann’s year. Janet Baker was in that year. Do you remember her as the May Queen? I started September 1951. Tommy Price I remember because of his dad’s shop. I worked for my grandparents in the post office just below the Downs Hotel. I seem to remember your surname. When did you all leave Woodingdean then?

    By Lynda Whymark (24/03/2009)
  • Hi Chrisotpher. I think we may possibly have been in the same class at Woodingdean School. We seem to be coming up with the same names for classmates. I have a picture of a class I was in at Woodingdean and I am going to try to find it and possibly put it on this site and see how many people we remember. The photo was included in Peter Mercer’s book The Hunns Mere Pit and was supplied to him by Sheila Price. This was another member of the class I was in. If I remember rightly Sheila was the daughter of Prices, the other ironmongers in the village. They lived in a white, flat roofed house behind Yeatmans the hairdressers and laundry.

    By Dave Leggett (24/03/2009)
  • Lynda, Jean and Dave: thanks for that! Looking at the comments on the main Woodingdean page, I see so many names that I remember and indeed knew in the 1950s. Perhaps I did not know them that well, or for that long, nevertheless it would be good to know where they all are now, and who remembers who after all these years. Tommy Price has been mentioned. I seem to remember Rodney Price – were they brothers? Another name I remember was David Scales.  My wife Lesley- nee Feltham, also has fond memories of Woodingdean school and its teachers in the mid 1950s, especially, Mrs Rice and Mr/Mrs Betts. Her school friends, at that time were, Pamela Pitts and Lesley Frear, she also remembers Avril Barber, Pat Taylor, Diane Phillips and Diane’s younger sister Linda. Lesleys father was Bill Feltham, (The Man From The Pru) a well know Woodingdean character for many years. My family moved from Woodingdean to Saltdean towards the end of 1956, I was aged 13. Lesley and I first met at the very popular Oak Leaf Coffee Bar on Saltdean seafront in 1962. We were married in 1966 at St Margaret’s Church Rottingdean, settling here in sunny Saltdean. We have two children Nigel and Jacqueline, who both attended Longhill School in the 1970s and 1980s. We now have four grandchidren and we still live in sunny Saltdean. Interestingly, The Oak Leaf Coffee Bar first opened in 1959, fifty years ago. I know many Woodingdean and Rottingdean teenagers used The Oak Leaf at that time. Sadly it closed in September 1962. Do any of you lovely Woodingdeaners recall those days? It would be great to get back together again.

    By Christopher Wrapson (28/03/2009)
  • Hi Chris, I remember Lesley. I was in Janice Taylor’s class but also remember Lesley’s dad and her grandad as I worked in the post office, so I knew most of the people in Woodingdean at that time. So good to hear that there are still some of us oldies of Woodingdean about.

    By Lynda Whymark (01/04/2009)
  • Hi again Chris, Sorry I can’t place the faces in your picture. I was in John’s year at school. Others that lived in Rosebery Avenue when Robert Tasker and I lived there were Tony Wilmott, Gerald Wood, Bobby Morris, Joan Byford, Joan and Marion Wisdon, Jean and Susan Roland. I also remember Lesley’s Dad (the man from the Pru), a regular caller at our house. As you remember a lot of our teachers, have you found them on the ‘home’ page? I can recall about half of their names.

    By Janet Gravett (09/04/2009)
  • Hi Chris, Lynda and Dave. I am delighted to have just found this website. Reading it has brought back so many memories and many things I had forgotten. I lived in Downs Valley Road and was at Woodingdean Primary School between 1952 and 1957. I remember all the teachers in the photograph on the home page. I remember Miss Backhouse putting soap in a classmate’s mouth, I also remember her locking a child in the dark storeroom and always had someone standing in the corner facing the wall for some reason or another. Miss Stanger was also another teacher I didn’t like. She used to hit the pupils with a ruler. I was the one to plant that lemon pip in a jar lined with blotting paper originally. It grew to a massive size over the years and used to have quite a crop of lemons each year. Mrs Rice was a nice teacher. She tried to teach us a bit of French and we all had to have French names. Mine was Lily and I hated it! Mr Betts was my favourite teacher of all times. He was an excellent teacher and made learning fun. Mr Bentham was another teacher, but never seemed to actually teach us anything. We spent every single afternoon answering general knowledge questions he put to us. If we weren’t interested, as it did become very boring after a few weeks, we used to just draw pictures. Not sure what curriculum he would have been working to there! Chris, I was wondering if your daughter Jacqueline used to dance at Doris Isaacs. If so, she used to dance with my daughter Karen. Karen is in Africa for four months teaching 5-7 year olds English. She is in Uganda at the moment and moving on to Zanzebar in a couple of weeks. Dave. Have you got a sister Carol and did you live in Kipling Avenue? If so, I used to come to your house for tea with her sometimes after school. I remember having chocolate spread sandwiches which was something I never had at home. I loved those sandwiches but not sure I could eat chocolate spread in a sandwich now! I moved from Woodingdean when I got married in 1967. Having moved to different areas of Sussex through the years I now live in Henfield in a barn which we converted a couple of years ago. I visit Woodingdean from time to time as my brother, Graham Newman, still lives there with his family. He is four years younger than me so you might not remember him although he worked as a paperboy for Ina’s for years, so maybe you might.

    By Wendy Arscott nee Newman (03/02/2010)
  • Hello Wendy, yes that was me with the soap in my mouth. I worked for my Grandparents at the Post Office in Woodingdean. When I left school, Miss Backhouse used to come in the shop and comment how I could still talk a lot (still can). I often see Graham in the village. Is your mum still alive? Mr Bentham was one of my favourite teachers. He seemed to know a lot about everything and could always answer questions. I see Carol most days going to the school with her grandchildren. Do you remember Carol Webster? Ihave been able to contact her through Facebook and have been catching up with her.

    By Lynda Whymark nee Ruffle (06/02/2010)
  • Hi Linda. Lovely to hear from you. I am sorry to hear it was you who suffered the soap in your mouth from Miss Backhouse. It was a horrible thing to do to a child, but thinking back, I wonder if teachers always liked children in those days. My mum, unfortunately, passed away last July. She was very fit until January last year when she decided to jump off a brick wall! At 86 this was not a good idea and ended up with a broken leg from which, if I look back, she didn’t really recover. She is sadly missed as she was always the life and soul of any party. She was known by her grandchildren and great grandchildren as ‘Noisy Nan’ so that says it all really. I have just joined Facebook myself so that I can keep up with what my daughter is doing in Africa. I’m a real novice at it but am learning and can see it’s a lovely way of keeping in contact with people. This website is a wonderful trip down memory lane too and I am so glad my brother found it and mentioned it to me. I wish some more people would add their memories.

    By Wendy Arscott nee Newman (02/03/2010)
  • Hi Wendy. Yes you wonder correctly. Both Jacqueline and Lesley say Hello and wish you and Karen well. Jacqueline, ten year old daughter Amelia is following in her mothers foot steps. Perhaps all the ex Doris Isaac dancing girls should organize a reunion sometime. Kind Regards.

    By Christopher Wrapson (09/03/2010)
  • I have discovered this web site and all the memories of woodingdean. I lived there from a baby to 1978 when I got married. My parents still live in their original house in Cowley Drive (and still going strong). I see mention of Mr Betts a teacher. Is he the same that taught me at Rudyard Kipling 1966-ish? If so, he was great. As he knew I was a big Albion fan, he would let me report on news of their games in lessons. I remember when Brighton had a big cup replay at Chelsea, one evening, he gave me special permission to leave early to go up to the game. He made me feel so special. What ever happened to Mr Betts? Other teachers at Rudyard I liked were Miss Mortimer and Mr Kipling (thought the school was named after him!). I have a photo taken behind the Junior school from 1967-ish of my class. Many of them I can still name.

    By Colin Fines (31/03/2010)
  • Hi Wendy, so sorry to hear about your mum. I remember her with great fondness from when I worked in the post office. I lost my mum 13 years ago - it only seems like yesterday though. I have tried to contact you on facebook but with no luck, perhaps you could try from your end you might have better luck. Lynda

    By lynda whymark nee ruffle (12/04/2010)
  • I sadly report that my Aunty Lynda Whymark (nee Ruffle) a regular contributor to this site and a Woodingdean stalwart passed away last week after a battle with cancer. She was brave till the end and will be sorely missed by all our family and I’m sure the Woodingdean community as a whole. Lynda’s funeral will be on the 18th April at 12 noon. My own mother Ruby Wilson (nee Whymark) passed away in November last year also of cancer. Mum was heavily involved in the Woodingdean community too before we emigrated to New Zealand in 1974. She was a dinner lady and school crossing warden for Woodingdean primary as well as other community based duties. Our family will miss them both and Woodingdean has lost two links to its history. Rest in peace both Aunty Lynda and my mum Ruby.

    By Glen Wilson (11/04/2012)
  • I have found this website very interesting as I too lived in the ridgway Woodingdean in the 1940/1950s
    my brother who now lives in america is mentioned by robert coe.I was in chris wrapsons class at school and well remember miss barnes and the portsmouth outing also remember many of the pupils mentioned.I am now 77 and retired in west maiden name was elizabeth head. from elizabeth.

    By elizabeth hersee (04/06/2020)
  • My aunt lives in Lockwood Crescent still.
    Does anyone remember the shop which was at the top of Kipling Avenue in 1959?

    By Linda Wallace (03/02/2024)

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