Girls Blazer Badge Boys Blazer Badge

Memories of the 1930s

From Monica Edwards 1934-1938

Thinking back to my own time at the County School for Girls 1934-38, before the present Domestic Science block was built, our class had to walk to the top of the town to St Anne's Crescent, (nearly opposite the Prison) which had allowed the conversion of one of the last pleasant Victorian houses (which presumably the School then owned). Allowed to miss 'Prayers' at school, we soon reached St Anne's and were upstairs in our all-through room of that Victorian house (once the drawing room) which, at the back, looked down onto the garden. The once dining room in front faced the Crescent. (The kitchen then, of course, was below stairs.) This lovely upstairs room was, in winter, sheer heaven, after our cold walk up the hills from school. All down one side of the room was a range with ovens as well as several gas and electric stoves. There were long scrubbed-white tables with all necessary ingredients in cupboards and pantries. With all of them we learned to bake bread, scones, biscuits and cakes for taking back to school at lunch times and thence home.

I expect that the new Domestic Science building was built and equipped during the long summer holiday. As if by magic, it was there, when we returned for a new term and thence, part of our lives. In it ruled Miss Peach, who was a round sort of person with immense knowledge. She always dressed in a crisp white cross-over overall and her little bun of sandy hair was crowned with a gauze cap, the front of which was beautifully embroidered according to whichever country in Europe she had recently travelled.

She had other talents outside school to add to those in the kitchen that were much appreciated by the folk in Lewes, including my parents. She took many parts on the stage of Lewes Little Theatre Company and was then always superbly dressed in black.

I do remember my interview with the Headmistress, Miss Vobes, a lady of slender dignity who, I believe, worked with the Upper Sixth as well as looking after her school. Mostly I remember the characters who somehow moved us from 2B to the Sixth Form.

Miss Philip and Miss Bartlett lived in our village. Miss Bartlett had a motor bike. Hearing her roaring off in the morning (8.45am) reminded us that it was time to get outside for the school bus.

Miss Henry was Queen in the Lab: opposite the short staircase from the opposite second floor to the one leading to the Art Room. Miss Henry encouraged us in Autumn when there were wet days with time for sweet chestnuts. These were brought from home for her to teach us the gentle art of roasting them on the tripods of the Bunsen Burners.!

Mr Georges in the Art Room struggled with our artistic efforts when he was not being shared with the Boys School. He came from Newhaven, I think, and was quite a well known local artist.

On that second landing, perhaps above the Head Mistress's study was the small, well used Library. I delighted in the Billabong Books and worked steadily through them. Each book told part of a continuous story of a family in the Australian Outback. They farmed presumably hundreds, if not more, square miles, with cattle and crops. Families were few and far between; schools didn't exist but there were deliveries, on horseback, bringing packs of text books as needed for school work every 3 months and collecting work already done on the same journey. I expect television has long since taken its place but it all made fascinating reading - of another time and place in history; I suppose she wrote of 100 years, or so, ago.

Miss Hutson was capable of being fierce about maths and Miss Ellis struggled with our French. Miss Forbes was young and kept us busy with hockey sticks and netballs. I think she was one of four sisters who all trained in gym and games and all had schools in East Sussex. They all wore straight green non-pleated, short tunics, probably a little envied by some other staff!

There were probably others too whom I don't remember. An odd occasion in my time was a visit from a school in Holland. About 25 of them came and I well remember how we all went to meet them (all who were hostesses and staff) in the late summer dusk on Lewes station lower platform, the Dutch girls having come in from Newhaven. I expect we took them to London and to Windsor. The girls stayed with school friends in Lewes and villages 3 miles away. I kept in touch with Annie Mettau for many years.

That it has lasted so long and so well is truly remarkable.