Newtown Primary School in the 50s
I started at Newtown in 1953 one of the intake from the adjacent new housing estate having moved out from Islington. I started in Miss Robinson’s Infants 2 then Miss Allen’s Infants 3. After that it was Mr Sheriff’s class 1A (of whom I was initially scared because he shouted then I liked him) who taught in the huts. We had Mr Willis for 3A and Mr Pomfrey (4A) I remember, too, handy with the slipper but had a reputation for occasionally telling jokes. David Evans gives a very good description of him. I also remember music with Mr Ecob.
Joseph Preston was the headmaster who lived at 43 Briars Wood. If you were sent to wait outside his office it was invariably for the cane. I remember two boys from our class received such punishment for weeing all over the toilet floor (it was a large rectangular area with slime covered walls and a gutter along the bottom of each wall. Unacceptable, for sure, but the awful state of the boys’ toilets is described better elsewhere so their efforts did not make much difference. Mr Pomfrey would have nothing to do with them and sent them straight to the headmaster.
Joan Reynolds (formerly Dynes) has mentioned country dancing with Miss Allen. One year Miss Allen wanted to enter a country dancing team in a local school contest and whilst some of the girls were keen the boys were not. Joan Dynes asked me. “Come on, Greeno, you’ll do it won’t you?” I think this was the first time she had ever acknowledged my presence and I was overawed. I don’t remember saying ‘yes’ but I became her dance partner for the competition. I don’t remember holding her hand, I dangled mine in the air where I thought it should be and Joan touched it (never held) or grabbed a finger. I thought she was made of glass.
But after that my regular country dancing partner became Marion Howe. I can’t remember how it came about but just before leaving class for the hall we’d glance in one another’s direction to confirm the arrangement. This was for me a real relief, not having to find a partner every week. We ended up in the same class at Hatfield School.
I was also in the school football team that was made up from boys in Mr Pomfrey’s and Mr Rhode’s classes. Mr Pomfrey was the ‘manager’ of the team. I only remember one instruction he gave us to be used whenever we kicked off. It was for the centre forward (Andrew Wilson) to pass the ball to the inside left (Dave Carney) and he to pass it immediately to the outside left (Stephen Bates) and then he run along the wing with it. That was it. There was a local school knockout competition and we beat Countess Anne 9-0 on aggregate, then Howe Dell 4-2 and faced Gascoyne Cecil school in the final. It was played at Onslow school. We lost 5-1 but Mr Pomfrey was OK about it. At half time each player was given a one-sixth segment of an orange. Our colours was a dark blue body to the shirt with light blue sleeves and navy blue shorts. Our captain was Nicky Barnes who had to do two years in 4A because initially he was too young to take the 11+. He played centre half and his only role seemed to be to boot the ball up the field as far and as high as he could. Perhaps Mr Pomfrey played him to his strengths because Nicky preferred rugby. His mum was Nina Barnes who owned a chemist’s shop in Cavendish Square off of Bishop’s Rise and he had an elder brother Andrew. Both went on to St Albans Abbey school. One team member was Dave Carney – I sat next to him for a while in the 4A classroom and we both had the slipper from Mr Pomfrey because of something we had done wrong. The other team members were Robert Green (goalkeeper), Frank Morrison (left back), Brian Glasscock (right back), Graham Goffee (left half), Dennis Greeno (right half), Richard Berry (inside right) and Bryan Smith (outside right).
As well as those in the photos I also remember Deborah Thompson, Kathleen Rowsell and Angela Schofield. Angela beat me in the first round of a table tennis competition in the hall, 21-19. Up until that point I thought I was good at the game, but the best description of the match I can give is that accuracy beat speed.
Of the lessons in 4A, Nicky’s delight was Problems (arithmetic and deduction) and we each had a printed question book devoted to the subject. Whenever there was a gap to fill in the day Mr Pomfrey would ask what we wanted to do and look in Nicky’s direction.
One lesson Mr Pomfrey held would not be allowed today. He did a verbal character assassination of each class member highlighting their faults, as he perceived them, and how they would be in adult life. It started by a particularly nasty attack on Deborah Thompson and her ‘bossiness’. But, at the time, for all of us it made a light-hearted change from regular lessons though I do remember Deborah laughed at the comments but in the end bordered on crying.