Dellfield (Newtown) School

By David Evans

I hold quite mixed memories about the primary school. I spent the first 20 years of my life in Hatfield Newtown and, as everywhere was new at the time, Dellfield school seemed quite old when I joined it at 5. Miss Cotterel, the first teacher, was kind enough, with the alphabet letters arranged around the room and her well worn Wendy house to play in. But you had to stand and face the wall for a while if you forgot your fresh cotton hankie each day!

The following year was with the more strict Miss.Robinson. ‘Strict’ was the order of the day really from the Headmaster Mr.Preston, later ordained a Vicar. We called him ‘Press Button B’. Then through the more psychopathic old-type of school teachers such as Miss Allen, who would hold Country Dancing classes in the hall – standing to one side by the record player, tapping her foot to the beat of ‘The Brighton Reel’ whilst we would form groups and nervously perform the dance routines waiting for her to race across to you in long energetic strides, to hold you up by your shorts with one hand and repeatedly smack the backs of your legs with the other if you’d missed the sequence. This frequent act would completely spoil and change the atmosphere in the room and leave it completely at odds and in contrast to the jolly background music, thus putting me off dancing forever.

We also had ‘Music and Movement’ in the Hall, where the teacher would just tune into a BBC Radio programme at a certain time and you’d just follow the radio broadcast. ‘Now children – Make yourself BIG like a tree … stretch those branches … skip around the room again and now make yourself small – as small as you can’. Good bludge for the teacher, who was usually Miss. Allen.
Mr Pomfrey was reserved for the older children. He had an almost bald head and a strange almost Nazi-officer kind of a sweat on his top lip. He always seemed to be just on the edge of exploding I felt, finding it quite hard to contain himself. His frequent use of the ‘slipper’ (a black plimsoll) on children’s bottoms for little reason  was probably, I later deduced, concurrent with his betting shop losses. He could frequently be spotted hurrying out of ‘Uncle Stan’s’, one of the bookmakers in the town centre. Indeed – His only real interest it seemed was sport and certainly not teaching.

Mr.Rhodes and Mr.Jolly added to the above, with their dark green, leather-elbowed jackets and were, to my way of thinking the old order. Poorly trained, untalented, uninterested and just pounding their feet to their pensions on the whole. But there were shining lights. The post-war late 1950s / early 1960 era was a time of great change and not least within the teaching profession. New staff were coming into the school and one such teacher I recall with great affection was Miss Shutes – gentle, calm, unflustered and good humoured. Her craft class was heaven to me. She was young, looked nice (she had coloured ‘wings’ on her glasses which she’d change each day) in her bright print ’60’s shift dresses. She always smelled nice too and she and Mr Graham were the opposite of the old timers I thought. I always helped Miss Shutes tidy her classroom after school.

Oddly at 60, I can still recall some of the people in my classes and generally within the school: Brenda Kirby, the Caretaker’s lass (wee’ed herself in class on occasion), Carol Perrett (I had to be seated away from her at the request of her Mum, as she was pretty and I kept ‘bothering’ her!), my mate Stewart Bullen with his amazing white hair, Steve Wasnock (excuse the spelling Steve!), Dennis Day, Barry Osbourne, Linda Reece (who once had a cat-fight after school with another girl, to everyone’s delight), Tony Bell, Michael Carney (strange!), Billy Lacey (who must without doubt have ended up in prison), Billy Pratchet (poor lad had a bad stammer), Gary Sage (a really likeable chap who had to wear calipers for a while through polio), Alison Dunn, and for a short while the red-headed Sorcha (Sor-ka) and Pichot (Pee-ko) Cassidy (The twins) who were nicknamed Pinky and Perky and who moved on to a Catholic school after a couple of years.

About the school – I can certainly recall the stinking outside toilets – uncleanably heinous and vile. I’d hold myself to the point of busting rather than ever use them, with walls and floors dripping wet in water and urine, the green-streaked dark satanic urinals were a taboo, no-go area to all but the sick or the desperate! In fact, one of the playground taunts included threats along the lines of, ‘Do that again and I’ll chuck you in the toilets’.

There was an attractive line of conker trees to the rear of the school in the seemingly large playing field over which I’d day-dream my time away. Miss Ingrey, the cook, would come each mid-morning, pushing her bicycle towards the kitchens to produce the usual school food of the day – liver and bacon, boiled fish, mash and cabbage, spotted dick. I was lucky; I could go home for lunch!. In fact, one classroom only had a thick-grey curtain partitioning it from the dining room/kitchens and you could hear and smell the food being produced.

The old building did have something about it I suppose. With its dark-maroon windowed doors, parquet-floored corridor and hall, it served (as did all new town’s) the over-spill of London together with the children of the swathes of workers up at ‘De Hav’s’ more or less adequately. But to me, it seemed a place uncomfortably wedged between two worlds, the old and the new and never quite managing to be one or the other.

This page was added on 19/02/2014.

Comments about this page

  • Just discovered your post, Shirley, and am wondering if you remember my sister Sheila who lived on Selwyn Crescent? She was born in 1936, so she was probably a year below you. She went on to St Audreys. I was at Dellfield from 1952 and, apart from Mr Pomfrey, have very fond memories, probably because I kept a low profile – or the teachers were too scared of my mother! I quite appreciated Miss Allen’s discipline and remember learning quite a lot in her class, times tables and spelling.

    By Christine Boreham (26/07/2018)
  • I was born in Hatfield in 1935, lived at 61 Wellfield Road until marrying in 1956. I went to Dellfield School from 1939 to 1945, passed the scholarship (11+) at age 11 and went on to WGC Grammar School.
    Miss Boyle was the baby class teacher. On my first day in school mum proudly dressed me in a yellow smocked dress. When the monitor brought the milk bottle to me I promptly spilled it down the front of my dress. When I went home it had dried and stiffened and I stank of sour milk.
    My next teacher was Mrs. Walby and my classmates included Shirley Monday, David Dunbar, Jean Chapman, Audrey Peyton, Rosalind Selous. I have a photograph of this class with Mrs Walby which I will try to post soon.
    I am now 83 years old and live in the USA but I will never forget my days at Dellfield.

    By Shirley Warburton nee Bacon (04/07/2018)
  • Hi there, just flicking through and saw the Caretaker mentioned. Brenda his “lass” just happens to be my mum and said Caretaker is my grandad Reginald Kirkby. I have a few memories in the early 80’s of visiting my grandpa who still worked at the school, on summer holidays. I must have been 4-6 years old and the school was very haunting at that point, and he too lived in Dellfield Road for a very long time.

    By David Jordan (04/03/2018)
  • Fantastic reading – exactly how it was, school dinners conker trees. I was in Mr Barnes’s class then Mr jolly next year Miss Allen (lake district trip) then we finished the last term back with Mr Barnes, where me and my mate Charlie Tutton did our impression of Peter Cook & Dudley Moore for the pensioners.

    By Stephen (mini) Mynott (30/12/2016)
  • Just a couple of additions to my previous post.  I spoke to my Aunt, Kathleen Halsey, about what I’d written and she added the following tale about Miss Cottrell.  Apparently my Aunt committed some misdemeanour for which she was told to stand on a chair with her hands on her head.  Such was the fear instilled by Miss Cottrell that she was found some considerable time later by the caretaker, after everyone else had gone home, still standing on the chair with her hands on her head!  She had apparently wet herself rather than getting down to go to the toilet!  She was duly packed off home.  When my Grandmother heard about this she was so upset that the following morning she waited for Miss Cottrell to walk by (they lived in Dellfield Road) and then gave her a piece of her mind! Save to say my Aunt received slightly better treatment from then on.

    David, if you’re interested in getting in touch I’m on Friends Reunited under Newtown Primary School, Hertfordshire.

    By Stewart Bullen (04/01/2015)
  • Well David, after all this time!  Your memories are very vivid!  OK, the white-blond look, well my hair’s not quite so blond and not quite so much these days, but that’s time for you!  I remember once that there was a fire in the space under the Hall where chairs and other spare stuff was kept, probably arson.  I do remember the school was closed for a while and also that some of us older lads were used to help clear the burned material away, something that would be unlikely today!  I remember the long corridor along which we progressed as we got older, entering the school at the right hand end as seen from the front and gradually working along it as time passed, eventually leaving from the other end, in our case from ‘the huts’.  Those toilets, enough said really!  I remember country dancing well.  Miss Allen and as we described it, ‘heel and toe, heel and toe, gallop, gallop, gallop’ will stay with me forever. There was an incredibly tall teacher, by our standards anyway, called Mr Willis who was quite a pleasant guy.  Miss Cotrell it shall be noted had a fairly fearsome reputation with my mother’s generation before me, as did Mr Pomphrey!

    Those conker trees were very productive.  My Nan lived in Dellfield Road which meant I had plenty of opportunity to get into the field out of hours and get a good haul of cheese cutters.  Then there was the marble season when the playground became a battle zone and walking became hazardous.  Some lads had family members who worked at British Aerospace who, as a consequence, had ball bearings with high tariffs on them, something the rest of us could only aspire to!  My best marbles were ‘fourers’, very run of the mill.

    One of the greatest indignities was to be sent to stand under the clock near Mr Preston’s office.  I can’t remember which was worse, the looks of the other kids, a mixture of pity and joy that it wasn’t them, the thought of what was to come, or the actual slippering that was often administered by Mr Pomphrey as a consequence. Mr Preston as a man of the cloth did not not use corporal punishment himself!

     

     

    By Stewart Bullen (03/01/2015)
  • I take issue with your calling Mr Rhodes and Mr Jolly ‘untalented’. Mr Jolly never taught me, but on a school trip when I was taken ill he (and Miss Gregory) were extremely kind and caring.

    Mr Rhodes, my form teacher for two years, was a genius who knew everything (it seemed to us). I would often come home and tell my parents some fascinating new fact – “Mr Rhodes says …”.

    They did both wear tweed jackets, though.

    I was at Newtown from 1960 to 1966.

    By David Edwards (29/09/2014)
  • I have fond memories of Newtown School Mrs Cottrell was my first teacher and I remember the wendy house in her classroom. There was a teacher Mr Cann either from Oz or NZ and Mr Bradley who drove the Land Rover. I was in Mr Jolly’s class when it was in the hut and the heating was via a stove burning coal. The Art room was next to the kitchens and I remember the smell of school dinners, very glad I went home for lunch.  As for the school bully I believe Billy Lacey died a while back.

    By Janis (30/07/2014)
  • I too remember the name Billy Lacey friend of John Ellwood to say the least they gave me a hard time. Would be so nice to catch up with them now.

    By Tony Joyner (14/07/2014)
  • Gosh, so many memories. I also remeber a lot of the names mentioned. I remember Mr Jolly teaching us to write in italics. I had very blonde hair and was best friends with David Seib and Gary Hopkin. Remember |Mr Barnes and going to Windsor Castle. The memories go on!

    By Was....Irene Dixon (19/06/2014)
  • Reading this has brought back so many memories of Newtown school I have a inkling David you may have been in my class some of the names you have mention are very familiar.

    By Helen Swan (20/04/2014)

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