A teenager in Brighton 1955-1959

Moved when I was twelve

I was about twelve years old when my family moved to Brighton. We lived in Belgrave Place, Kemp Town and, for a short time, I went to Queens Park Secondary School. In 1956 I passed the 13+ examinatin and moved on to Varndean Boys Grammar School. 

A teenager’s paradise

Brighton in the late 1950’s was a great place to be for a teenager, especially in the summer. Black Rock swimming pool was at the height of its popularity. Maybe I should have taken school more seriously but it seems that there were a few too many distractions.

Comments about this page

  • Nice painting, the simplicity makes it an unusual style!

    By Peter Groves (17/05/2011)
  • I am curious about your mention of a 13+ examination, Ian. What was that – I have never heard of it before, and we are probably in the same age range?

    By Stefan Bremner-Morris (17/05/2011)
  • Hi Stefen, In those days you got a second chance at Grammar School entrance at 13. Don’t remember the details – it was a long time ago, but think it was more restrictive than the 11+ and a pass depended on Teacher recommendation. Anyway there were only a few of us that went to Varndean Boys at age 13 in 1956. Roy Peters and Keith Ely are two I remember well.

    By Ian Hunt (18/05/2011)
  • It does not seem as if the 13plus was universal, as I have met a lot of people who have not heard of it. I took it back in 56/57 in Stoke on Trent. The exam itself was of a similar format to the 11plus. The big difference was the oral exam that one had to undergo at the school you wished to attend. I remember sitting there surrounded by 3 or 4 teachers throwing questions at me. Of the 5 of us who had passed the exam at the same Secondary School, only two of us were accepted. The others had to carry on at the Secondary.

    By Tony Ackland (29/10/2011)
  • Hi Ian. I think I remember you. I went to Varndean in 1956, in Mr Bristow’s class, 3-39. I passed the 13+ from Stanmer Secondary Modern School. The main challenge was French year three as we had learnt Spanish at Stanmer. I’ve never recovered from that stress and have avoided learning languages most of my life. But I had to learn Swahili as we were missionaries in Kenya for 16 years. I have a couple of photos from the early 1960s at Varndean. Best wishes.

    By Keith M W Brown (12/04/2012)
  • Hi Keith, I too remember the trials and tribulations of French – taught by a Scot if I remember? My attempts at the language were so successful that they gave up on me end I ended up in the History O Level class – a subject that I love to this day.

    By Ian Hunt (25/08/2012)
  • I wrote the 11+ in 1947 and went to Varndean Girls but I remember my older brothers getting a chance to write twice, perhaps a 12+. But then they had 3 promotional standards. Which meant grammar school if you passed, secondary school ie Fawcett Intermediate, if you nearly passed and then I don’t remember where. But I know my younger brother ended up at Dorothy Stringer but that would have been about 1957. Greetings from Canada.

    By Diana Anstead (15/11/2012)
  • I had never heard of the 13+ scholarship, but perhaps it started after my entrance to Varndean in 1938. In my time, alternate year’s entrants were taught French or German, and every entrant was taught Latin. The latter’s similarity with Italian (or vice versa) helped me enormously while I served in Italy in the army. My email address is tedb@talktalk.net if you would consider letting me have sight of copies of your 1960’s Varndean pictures. Ian, Keith, Diana, and any other ex-Varndean boys or girls – are you interested in conversing with other ex-Varndeanians, scattered around the world, about the school, Brighton, or any other topic of your desire? If you are please have a look at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Varndean_Chat/ The lads and lasses in the group, of varying ages and occupations, all have Brighton in common, and would welcome you. To subscibe to our group you would, however, need to obtain a Yahoo mailing address.

    By Edward Brooke (01/12/2012)
  • I was at Varndean from 1951-55, and I  must  admit I didn’t hear of new boys coming in having passed a later exam. The  only new boys I knew were transfers  from other towns when their parents moved here

    By Harry Atkins (13/10/2014)
  • Hi all, I have been reading the posts on the 13 plus exam. Being an old Fawcett School boy, the rules on this were quite plain; you had to be in the top two streams or you didnt stand a chance of taking it. However here is the up and down side of the eleven plus exam. There were youngsters who were at school with me who were placed in the bottom stream who by the time they were fourteen years old had got up to the top two streams which enforces the old theory that not all youngsters develop at the same speed, there were also youngsters who passed the eleven plus but could not keep up with the Grammar School curriculum who were then placed into one of the top streams of a Secondary Modern School. However Intermediate Schools were abolished by the Government, but and there is always a but The London County Council School Board had the foresight to change the names of Intermediate Schools to Central Schools which like the old Intermediate was not a Grammar School or a Secondary Modern. I hope this clears up some of the queries that have been posted. If I am wrong on any of this please feel free to correct me.

    By John Wignall (25/11/2014)
  • A little bit more information on the 13 plus. I started at Fawcett Secondary Modern in 1954 and I can remember two boys who were in the Scouts with me passing this Exam and going on to Varndean Grammar School.

    By John Wignall (03/12/2014)
  • I went to Varndean Boys School from about 1954 and left in 1958. My first class was 3-39 or 34. Some names that I can still recall are Dunne, Diplock (or Duplock), Mears (aka Minnie), Stephens (he liked to play cricket), Noble, Della (he liked drawing and I think that was the short version of his surname) and Searle. I would travel to school on the number 46 trolley bus and I think we were all in the CCF where the annual camp took us to some exciting places in the UK. I liked athletics and cross-country running. The course went across the fields, passed the girls school, up Ditchling Road, across the golf course, down through the woods and back passed the girls school again. There was a rifle range for the CCF beyond the cricket pitch.
    The English teacher was Mr Stone (he had a damaged leg). Mr Mathews was for Chemistry. Mr Hutchins was the Head. There was a tuck shop near the changing rooms.
    I went on an Outward Bound course in about 1957/8 for the school which included rock climbing, canoeing and it lasted a week.
    Incidentally, I passed my 13+ to get to Varndean from St John the Baptist and I had already taken the 11+ (which was in two parts) twice. The argument put forward was that I lived in Sussex and went to school in Kent.

    By Jim Stapleton (07/03/2016)
  • I went to Varndean GSB in September 1955 having passed the 13+ to go there from Moulscomb Sec Mod. Bruce Carter also passed that year.

    By Eric Norman (19/02/2017)
  • Re thirteen plus exam comments. I ‘passed’ this in 1966 in the north east of England. I was one of about 38 boys who went into the ‘third year’ of my local grammar school. There seems to be very little information about the 13th+ lads (and lasses) and the effects of a ‘late’ grammar school entry upon them. I think I, and my peers did mostly pretty well from it. At 13 though it was a heck of a culture shock and all the other stuff going on at that age.

    By Stuart Smith (05/05/2017)
  • Is there anybody who would know where the results of 11 plus exam held at St Johns college coolhurst  Sussex in 1957 can be accessed.

    By Graham (18/05/2018)
  • As it is West Sussex, the county archive at ‘The Orchards in’ Chichester may have them.

    By Geoffrey Mead (18/05/2018)
  • To all above correspondents:
    The 13 + exam was a further chance for say, late developers to advance their educational chances by sitting a test and the results of this endorsed by a head teacher’s recommendation. For my part, as I had shown in 2 previous years a bent for more practical than academic things, I was chosen to attend, not a Grammar School, but a Secondary Technical School. In hindsight, it was beneficial inasmuch as I went on to do a 5 year trade apprenticeship in the aircraft industry, but academically I felt held back due to the fact that those who were 11+ successes, held up any chance of progression into the upper forms. We became sort of no-hopers in the eyes of the staff and not seriously encouraged to progress into the “upper echelons” of the school. I would be interested to hear other opinions from those with similar experiences. By the way, the school was the BSBE in Hanover Terrace, Brighton.

    By John Snelling (23/10/2019)
  • I was interested to hear about life at Varndean Boys Grammar School during the 50s and 60s as I myself was at the neighbouring Dorothy Stringer Secondary School (having failed the 11 plus exam.) then.
    At that time I knew Ian Campbell – Walker who was in the cadets at the school. I later lost contact with him and would really like to hear from anyone who may have known him during those years.

    By Jane C Carter (30/04/2020)
  • To Jane C Carter, are you the Jane Carter who with a friend,
    Julie Schooling were members of the Brighton Y H A group
    in the early sixties. I remember Ian Campbell also Adrian
    Biggs a good friend of his. Other names that may jog your
    memory are Stan King, Mick Hills, Mick Tully and many others.
    If you are that person I would like to hear from you.
    David Ward.

    By David Ward (09/06/2020)

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