Welcome to Part 2 of The Bewsian. In this section you can read my memories of life at Bewsey Secondary Modern in the 1970s, as well as more photos and reader memories, plus the demolition of the school.
My Memories of Life at the School
My first Bewsey School Photo, taken in September 1974.
I attended Bewsey Secondary Modern between September 1974 and May 1979. I remember my first day with trepidation. I was used to having all my lessons taught by one teacher in primary school, so it came as a bit of a shock when I entered the library lesson on that first Monday afternoon. Everybody watched me walk in, having been escorted there by an older pupil.
I soon settle down to my new routine. In my first year I was in Class 1D. There were three bands of class, with two classes in each band. So Band 1 included 1A and 1B, my Band 2 was 1C and 1D, and Band 3 being 1E and 1F. I was a shy pupil, but I did enjoy my studying. It has continued into my adult life, hence this website. I liked Maths, English, Geography and History. I hated P.E. and Games. Biology didn’t interest me. And even though I like technology, I wasn’t a great lover of doing science experiments.
In one lesson the teacher made up a concoction of chemicals and asked us to taste the result. Not as drastic as it sounds, but nobody would taste it. He didn’t tell us what the components were, but the final result was sodium chloride, common table salt. It was only when the janitor brought in some equipment and he tasted it first that we trusted him. I do remember pupils playing tricks on one science teacher when they turned up the wattage on the electric dial and laughed when we saw smoke rising from the desk.
I was not a sporty person. I’m not now, although I do watch rugby league. Regular readers of mywarrington will know the cross-country story from the Sankey Valley page, but I’ll include it here too.
We had a shorter cross-country route around Bewsey Woods and this came to my advantage. It was a well-known fact at school that I was not a lover of sport (C- “far too timid, must try harder” was on one of my school reports!).
So Sir must have been very surprised to find me asking to go on the cross country run every lesson. What he didn’t know was that I used to run out of school and off into the woods on the short route.
Except my short route was even shorter than the official short route! As soon as I got out of site of the playing fields I used to stop in the woods for an hour before going back to school. He never did find out!
As you entered Clapgates Road entrance, these bike sheds were round the corner (The Cheshire Lines Railway ran behind the bike sheds). The boys’ toilet is the block in front of the car. Through the playground is one of the temporary classrooms to cater for the extra pupils. We waited by the bike sheds for the games master.
Photo © DJ Kenny.
Swimming finals were held at Legh Street baths, using the Gala pool. I DID have a go, but not being a strong swimmer I came last, but the teacher did compliment me on my efforts when I eventually got back after my second length.
And I did take part in indoor cricket in the summer using a soft ball. In my final year I played table tennis with my class mate. In baseball, the teacher used to select teams by writing 1 or 2 on your hand in pen so you knew where you were.
In one year my Timex wind-up watch was stolen whilst in games. The teacher kept everybody back and released them at five minute intervals to give them a chance to place it on the bonnet of a car outside. Nobody returned it and it was replaced with one similar from the Deputy Headmaster’s collection of unclaimed ones. And we never did see anybody wearing my original in school after that.
The bike sheds view on 2 Dec, 2006.
I worked hard in my classroom lessons, which paid off at the end of my second year. I came top of the class and moved up to 3B the following year. Mind you, my dad was disappointed at the end of the third year when my results showed me as 15th. Dad asked why I came top one year and dropped to 15th the next. In fact I had gone UP to 15th. Regard it as a First Division football club winning that league and playing in the Premiership the following season. Or put another way, if there were 31 pupils in each of the six classes, my position at the end of my Second Year would have been 94.
At the end of my Third Year I was in overall position 46. But dad didn’t see it that way at the time.
We didn’t call it Year 1 from Infant School through to Year Whatever in Senior School as they do now (I first heard that in Neighbours). My Maths teacher did suggest I do the O-Level examination as I would have passed it easily. But you had to pay extra for the examination and I was a bit scared of asking dad for the money in fear of his reaction. So I never did the extra, but did get the Grade One C.S.E. pass in the subject.
English literature was one of our subjects. One book I read in school was A Kestrel for a Knave, written by Barry Hines, another being Lord of the Flies by William Golding. It was made more interesting when the teacher invited each of us in turn to read out a section. Yet another book I read was Emil and the Detectives, which I have now modernised by downloading it my Kindle reader.
The school playing field with the Cheshire Lines Railway in the Background. This is the point where the railway split for the “straight” and “loop” sections, the “straight” section (nearest to the camera) had already closed in 1968. Read more about the Cheshire Lines Railway in Making Tracks. Photo taken in 1978.
Even though the film version of Hines’ book (called Kes) was made in 1969, I hadn’t seen it, which I suppose is good in one sense because a film doesn’t always portray the book in the style of the original author. Kes was about a young schoolboy who trains a kestrel in his spare time. Lord of the Flies was Golding’s fierce morality tale about schoolboys marooned on a desert island and reverting to religious savagery.
Another book we read was Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner. This is the story of a boy who stumbles across a master criminal plan to rob Berlin’s richest bank. I remember it being a small blue book.
Thankfully, we never did any Shakespeare. Sorry, but the Bard didn’t interest me then and doesn’t interest me now. But it does remind me of the Family Fortunes answer given by a contestant who was asked to name a famous “Arthur” and he replied “Shakespeare!”
As mentioned earlier, the games master taught us the various dances for the Christmas party, which seemed to be stage-managed with a stopwatch! Now we have this dance, then we do this, now you can line up for your refreshments… It might not have actually been like that, but parties never really interested me at school anyway. I only remember attending one Christmas party.
My History teacher had a strange way of teaching – or at least it felt strange to me! He was into summarizing every piece of text! He would read something out to us and before we wrote it down he then start asking us how we could write down what he had just said in a summary. He would go right round the class until he got it as he wanted.
It took longer to write out the edited versions than it would have done to write it down the original. I wonder if he was secretly in charge of the School Exercise Book Budget? I’m glad he’s not editing my website. This would have been a one-page website!
Another of my teachers had a car which was – well – past it! In fact, he always said it was held together by faith and rust – in that order! He was our Religious Education teacher.
One time somebody asked him how to spell Benjamin. He replied by saying its BEN with JAM IN! And the story of Noah and the Ark got his comical twist. He imagined the sceptics laughing at Noah by asking him how he was going to get the boat to the water. Noah’s reply? I’m not. The water is coming to the boat!
The Old School Tie.
The school tie has just reminded me of another story. You didn’t dare turn up to a certain Maths lesson without one. Why?
Well, one particular teacher would make you one – out of paper! It would have a pretty coloured front AND he would make you wear it for the rest of the day in every other lesson. You came to school next day wearing your proper one! Many pupils called him Hitler because they assumed he was German. He was actually from Scotland, while Hitler was actually Austrian. Two minutes before the end of every lesson he would always say “Collect up the books, put the cat out, feed the mice!” I also remember the time when I copied the wrong questions out for homework on the Friday and when we marked
them on the Monday he announced to the class that I had made a “pig’s ear” of the copying. He did let me have the marks though because I had got the answer right to the wrong questions, if you see what I mean.
I also took in my copy of Guinness Book Of Records at one time and he went to the store room to get me some card to create an alternative cover to keep the original clean.
Hitler? No chance. He was one of the best teachers in the school! And it was when he called into Lowes (Warrington) Ltd booksellers on Sankey Street (long gone) where I had my first job that he announced his disappointment at me not taking that O-Level Maths exam.
And there was one teacher who NOBODY liked to have lessons from. His method was to colour-code everything. It would look good on the blackboard and must have took him all his lunch hour to write up there.
But then WE had to write it in our exercise books using the same colour scheme! Talk about paint the whole world with a rainbow! And if you were slower than others, hard luck, you had to catch up off your fellow pupils.
In the first couple of years we had to do drama. Acting just wasn’t my scene. Having said that, I did get involved in the research for the previously mentioned Bewsey and Dallam Play (called The North Face of Longshaw Street, by the way).
I didn’t act in that, but did show up at rehearsals in the version 10 years later for the opening of the Pyramid Arts Centre in town centre. I was there to offer any input, but ended up in the play. Some would say I didn’t act in that version either!
During the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Year celebrations in 1977, all schoolchildren across Warrington were presented with a commemorative coin.
Anyway, back to drama classes. As I say, not my thing, but the teacher was involved in the Octagon Theatre in Bolton. It is also interesting that our lessons took place in our octagon-shaped hall on the old Girls’ School side.
School Assembly took place in the Octagonal Hall for 1st and 2nd years and in the big hall for 3rd, 4th and 5th years – with music
played before assembly started (often a famous classical piece).
Some pupils picked on the weakest by throwing their hymn books on his or her chair for him to hold until the end of assembly, leaving them holding a whole pile of hymn books for the rest of the session. I took part in many assemblies, with a reading or something.
We had a few school trips as part of our education, although sometimes they were just for pleasure – Blackpool Lights, for instance.
It was only day trips for me, such as North Wales and Delamere Forest, but some pupils were able to go abroad to France or Italy. The teacher involved in the foreign holidays used to make his own cine films of the holidays and it gave me my first insight into how they make cartoons.
I watched him filming one open sequence with the letters running across the screen showing the destination. He would lay the letters out, photograph them, then move them across the page slightly, re-photograph them, and so on until his sequence was shot. The technical name for it of course is stop motion.
He would return from the holiday and show the film. It was great to see, especially when he ran the film backwards to see one of the skiers pick themselves up from a fall!
This is DJKenny, age 13, modelling the school tie.
The first photograph I took at school in 1977 as part of photography lessons. The teacher loaded up the camera with a roll of film and we all had a chance to take one photo. A bike was a popular subject, but I chose the lamp post.
The subject matter has been the bane of my life ever since! Everywhere I go round the town taking photos for the website there is always a lamp post trying to get in the way. Look out for a new page called Lamp Posts of Warrington!
My most enjoyable subjects in my final two years was photography. Of course, in my time it was all on film. Digital was only mentioned when you asked what the time was, if you happened to have a digital watch! I miss the procedures of the processing techniques as I never set up a darkroom when I had left school. The school had a well-equipped darkroom and studio facilities.
We used Praktica single lens reflex cameras and 35mm black and white film. We were charged a penny a shot for each picture taken and a small amount for the paper (Ilford brand in those days). We used Durst enlargers, but the teacher always preferred to use the older version they had. He once said you can use those flashy Dursts if you like but I can get a better print from the old one in the corner. I thoroughly enjoyed this subject and it even came in useful for another of my C.S.E. subjects as I took pictures in my local church to illustrate my Religious Education project.
Praktica MTL5B. The type we used in our photography lessons.
They were manual wind on after each picture was taken but one of the best film cameras ever made.
Horst Günther Burkhardt III
Link to Wikipedia for licensing.
We visited a film processing lab in Lancashire to see how the professionals process colour and black and white film. The teach said if we ever wished to take colour photos then our marks would be lower because the film would need to be sent away for processing.
When we had an exhibition in the school I told the story of that visit on a mounted board. And it’s a good job my dad had his wits about him because I was describing how the film was stored on a roll and spelt it ROLE. Yoo wownt fynd enny spelllling mistakkes lyke thatt onn thiss websssite!
One pupil asked how they managed to take a photo of the earth from space. The teacher replied: “stand well back!” As part of my compulsory English lessons you had to give a talk on a subject for about 15 minutes and then answer relevant questions from the other pupils in the class. I was brave to choose the procedure for processing a film, beginning with taking the film out of the cassette in a changing bag, spooling it onto a reel and placing it in the light-proof tank ready for the processing chemicals to be added. The bravery was actually doing it with real photos I had taken for the photography course.
A Durst F60 photographic enlarger. Made in Italy. Image copyright Rickjpelleg. Link to Wikipedia for licensing.
Something went horribly wrong and they didn’t come out too well. The photography teacher offered a rescue plan by suggesting I used a process calling intensification.
This involved reprocessing the film in a different chemical to bring out the rather faded images. When that didn’t work he said I won’t charge you for the negatives. He then said what I should have done was use a dummy strip of film and add water to the tank in the English talk! Why didn’t I think of that?
For our written exams the teacher set the questions out as a multiple choice sheet where you blocked in a circle to indicate you answer. His answer sheet had holes where the correct answer was and if he didn’t see a mark on your paper through the hole on his sheet you didn’t get a mark. why he went to so much bother beats me. He reckoned he could mark answer sheets much quicker that way. Whichever way was best, it got me a Grade One in my finals.
An early example of still life in my first few weeks in Photography class. You couldn’t mistake my pens – they had my name on. Can’t remember if this was my original watch or the school replacement.
I seem to remember mum and dad buying me the pens for Christmas one year, having ordered them specially for me with my name engraved. I treasured those pens at school, but can’t remember what happened to them after that.
When we started the course in September, 1977, he didn’t give us that much confidence in the subject because he told us that, with his qualifications, his application to the top photography companies in London would not get him any further than that application form, and yet he was teaching us! It’s a good job we put that behind us right away.
Here is a Patterson developer, film spool and tank used to process the film. If you wish to view it, there is a video on YouTube showing how to develop a film using similar equipment. The video is about 18 minutes in length and although some things were slightly different to what I remember, it still brought back happy memories for me after 36 years! And when you’ve watch the video you’ll be saying thank goodness for digital! Great days though.
A view of the old Boys’ School in modern times. Photo taken 2 Dec 2006.
In the fourth and fifth year I was selected to be a school prefect. One of my duties was to be posted at one of the doors at break times to ensure that pupils stayed out of the building, apart from using the toilets. It was quite an honour to be chosen because they only chose you if they felt you could be trusted.
I didn’t have any problems from other pupils because I had been chosen. I remember my final day at school as a prefect we were asked to stand by the fire alarms so nobody could set them off. Well it wasn’t me that set them off! Actually, I don’t think they did get set off. Not before I left the building anyway.
Both of the junior and senior schools had a weather vane on top. I hope the weather vane on the senior was kept for future use somewhere. However, the one on the junior school on Lodge Lane is still in place (seen here in the first photo on 18 May 2013). That school has had some alterations done to bring it into the 21st century. The weather vanes were identical and are seen together in the second photo.
Bewsey Old School building as it looked 0n 2 December 2006 (above, centre).
During my life at the school I walked down these steps many times. They led into the
playground of the original Girls’ school in the days when pupils were separated. The kitchens occupied the area in the building seen here.
This was my form room in my third year. It was added to the school in the later years and was one of the science classrooms. It was where I took my C.S.E. Biology exam – not my favourite subject.
This shows the original main entrance into the reception (it was bricked up in later years when disabled access was added to the building on the opposite side after the school building was handed over to Social Services). The window is that of the secretary’s office where pupils reported to on return from hospital appointments.
The following six photos were provided by Conrad Williams. Link to his website www.conradwilliams.net. Many thanks Conrad for allowing the use of your photos.
This next set of photos formed part of my C.S.E. Photography course in the my fourth and fifth years between 1977 and 1979. The quality of the negatives has deteriorated over the years, but I have cleaned them up a bit for the digital age.
Two assignments now
Assignment No 1
Assignment No 2
The next six photos were kindly supplied by D. Hardman. They taken after the school closed in 1993
When I had left school I became involved in working for the elderly in my local community. It led to me re-entering the school some years later when the school was happy to offer facilities for committee meetings and eventually for the Help The Needy & Over Sixties Club to meet there every Wednesday. When I was back at the school I met up with my old games master and asked if he was still teaching games. “Oh no” he said. I’m too old for that now! I teach Maths these days.” I mentioned the skiving at cross-country and he laughed. He said “If I’d found out, you’d have got the slipper!” Not allowed of course these days.
Help The Needy gave the school the chance to continue its community involvement because many pupils willing gave up their lunchtimes to assist with the serving of meals to the housebound members. The pupils, both girls and boys, really enjoyed their time there and I’m sure it inspired some of them to consider social and care work as a career when they left school. In fact, even when the over 60s club found permanent accommodation at Whitecross Community Centre, some of the children still came over from the school to help out at lunchtimes. Their effort was greatly appreciated and there were so many wishing to take part that they had to be put on a rota system.
Two views of the school building when it was the head office for the council’s Social Services department, and known as Bewsey Old School, with a modern lamp post. The name Bewsey Old School was not the original choice of name for the Social Services building. They wanted to call it Lockton House, but the local residents complained that it wasn’t in keeping with the memory of the school. Who or what was Lockton anyway? I still don’t know. The authorities did use the name Lockton in another way – Lockton Lane is the road leading to
the site from the north end of Lodge Lane by the roundabout. Photos taken 2 Dec 2006.
But what about the names of the roads for the houses built on the old playing fields when Cheshire County Council sold them off in the 1990s? Danby Close, Brompton Gardens, Salton Gardens, Levisham Gardens, Helmsley Gardens, Normanby Close – sorry, I haven’t a clue if they have a connection with the school.
And now it’s time to say goodbye to the school building forever
The building was demolished in May 2013. Here are some photos of that process. Many thanks to Excavation & Contracting UK Ltd and BT Skip Hire for guided access to the site.
One thing I was asked and still don’t know the answer to is this: where was the time capsule buried when the school closed in 1993? One suggestion has been outside the entrance in the area shown in these two photographs. Although I didn’t witness it, my friend DJKenny had asked the demolition crew to remove one of the flag stones to investigate (it was the area I was going to suggest they
looked at as one flag stone is larger than the others). Were you part of the team who buried the time capsule and can you pinpoint the location for us? Had it already been removed?
I visited the site on 16 May 2013 and was told that no trace of the capsule had been found. So the mystery goes on.
Kathy Barker nee Spero remembers her teachers from her time at the school between 1954 and 1958.
|MISS ELLIS||If she found you had headlice, she would send you home|
with a letter and a dark brown bottleful of ‘lotion’
|MISS SWAN (later became MRS HAIGH)||Art|
|MISS LOUDON||My favourite teacher to whom I gave a bunch of flowers from our garden, every Monday morning which were always put in a vase on her desk.|
|MISS HATCH||Physical Education|
|MISS BOWE||One of two needlework teachers|
|MISS STONE||Religious Instruction|
|MISS HARRIS, MRS JOLLEY and MISS ENTWISTLE||Domestic Science (cookery)|
Kathy then described life in the school during the 1950s
I attended Bewsey Girl’s Secondary Modern between 1954 and 1958.
I remember my first day at Bewsey because I was SO proud to be wearing my new uniform… something I’d never had to wear at Primary school. I remember my belted ‘burberry’ (or gaberdine) but mostly I can remember my navy beret complete with green pom pom… yes honestly, it had a green pom pom on top. I was a little girl who’d always worn a hair ribbon bow on the top of my head, so I was quite thrilled with my new ‘headgear’… until I got to the bus stop and while waiting for the school bus, I was teased and had the beret pulled off and passed around. Worse still when I got to my new school and saw only one other. I was tormented and bullied unmercifully. At home time I took my beret home minus pom pom, and needless to say I never, ever wore it again.
I was a very forward and pushy child and had to be at the front of the queue for everything. I loved sports especially running and would enter as many races as possible.
I think the first 3 winners in each race went on to represent the school at the Town Sports which were held in Victoria Park. I never managed to get there until one year, someone fell ill and so I took her place. I failed though, I came LAST!
Because music was a favourite lesson of mine, I joined the choir. All went well until one day the teacher had all of us (about 40) up on the stage. Me being tiny, was stood on the front row. She walked slowly along the line listening carefully to each one of us, but me being very nervous of her, clammed up and just ‘mimed’. I was thrown out of the choir there and then.
Then there was the Drama group, how I loved that. One year I got the part of the Angel Gabriel in the Christmas Nativity. I was on stage throughout the whole performance being the narrator. Another year I played the part of Beelzebub. I remember having to drag off the stage, a girl on my back who was much bigger than me and had her hands around my neck Then there was the time I made Chelsea buns in the cookery class and put SALT in them instead of SUGAR. Mum made me eat every one (she was SO annoyed with me). I cried the day I left when I was 15. I had enjoyed every moment of my time there.
I remember in one cookery lesson with Miss Entwistle, I sat at a table at the front of the class and someone left the classroom door open, asked to please shut it, I got up… so did the girl next to me, we both dashed to do teacher’s bidding and I caught my leg on something very sharp, sticking out of an old tin larder/cupboard. I screamed in pain as my knee was ripped open and was carried over to the Headmistress’s office where she wanted me taken to hospital to be stitched up. I was SO terrified at the thought of being ‘sewn up’ and refused to go, so I was bandaged up and sent home. I still have the scar today, 47 years on.
In my final year in needlework class, I made a petticoat with matching knickers. Miss McGinn insisted that as I was such ‘a little thing’ with absolutely no shape, my petticoat would be a straight one with no cups and instead of lace edged panties, mine would be ‘granny type bloomers’ with legs reaching almost to my knees. I used to try and fake ‘sickness’ every week on sewing day, but as Mum had paid out good money for material etc, I HAD to go to school and get the hated garment finished. I never did wear it… can you blame me?
On a much happier note, were the school dinners… ooooh, I can smell them even now. Proper mashed potatoes (not your dried packet stuff), cabbage, homemade pie, lovely gravy etc, then there was lovely thick rice pudding or my absolute favourite, semolina with either a blob of jam or a big thick ginger biscuit which we called NIG NOGS. Also chocolate sponge and chocolate sauce, gorgeous custard, blancmange etc. Only thing I didn’t like was ‘frogspawn’… tapioca. Yep, school dinners were excellent, not like the quick and convenient stuff they dish up nowadays (and I should know, I spent 12 yrs in a school kitchen in the 80’s).
I was in FURNESS HOUSE throughout my time at Bewsey and at the last House Festival before I left the school, I presented Mrs Furness with a lovely bouquet of flowers. I remember my little speech: “As I leave school this Christmas, this is the last House Festival I shall ever attend. Please accept these flowers on behalf of all the pupils here at Bewsey”
Seeing again the pic of the Caretaker’s house, reminded me of the AVIARY that was in the playground alongside the toilets and each holiday, I used to volunteer to come in and feed and water the many budgies and canaries that were there. My brother and I used to walk from home at Orford, call at the caretaker’s house each morning for the key then clean up the aviary, giving the birds fresh seed and water. I don’t ever remember it raining on these occasions so we would spend ages just enjoying them. That was a lovely job which we looked forward to every holiday.
They do say schooldays are the best days of your life and for me they certainly were.
Don’t forget to send in your own memories of life at Bewsey School. It would great to hear from you, especially if you were in my class. Surnames I remember for people in my 5th year class were Algie, Anderson, Brown, Burrell, Chilvers, Dobson and Heaton. These were just the boys – in fact, one of the teachers called all the boys by their surnames, and the girls by their first names. Thanks to DJKenny for the year and to Philippe for the exact date of the closure of the school – 31 August 1993.