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A Brief History of the Schools in Potters Lane

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Early Days

On 16th September, 1913 Lewes County Secondary School for Girls was opened by the County Council on the Potters Lane site with 59 pupils, headmistress (Miss Lilian E. Vobes) and four teachers. Miss Vobes had joined the Pupil Teacher Training Centre in Lewes in September 1906; Miss Henry (science) and Miss Pratt (history) also transferred to the new school. Miss Henry taught at the school for 29 years until her retirement in 1942. Within a year the number of pupils had risen to over 100, and two additional staff members, including Mr Frank Georges who taught art, had been added.

Women teachers were obliged to leave if they married as married women were not permitted to teach in those days; so there was a regular turnover of staff. However, there was a core of very long serving teachers including Miss Bartlett 37 years, Miss Henry 29 years, Miss Finns 29 years, Miss Peach 29 years and Miss Vobes 22 years. The restriction on married women was lifted with the coming of the war in 1939.

The school was fee paying, but was required to offer at least 25 percent of its places as free scholarships for pupils from public elementary schools.

The School Chronicles continually refer to the high demand for places. The Chronicle of 1931 notes that "the school is facing the familiar problem of fitting rather too many people into rather too small a space. The admission number of the last entrant shows that over 1000 girls have been or still are science block members of the school. The completion of our first 100 was the same year as the outbreak of war" [in 1914]. There were 300 pupils by 1937, the science wing and gymnasium were added that year which relieved some of the pressure. In 1943 Miss Henshaw wrote "It is encouraging to note that more than four years of war has failed to check the vigorous growth of the school. Saturation point was reached owing to lack of accommodation for all the girls who wish to enter the school." The impact of war is reflected in some of the activities undertaken by the girls, for instance involvement with the Merchant Navy Comforts Service and the British Ship Adoption Society.

The original school houses were Cliffe, Kingston, Caburn and Firle. By 1943 there were six houses; Priory, Gundreda, De Warenne, Neville, Mowbray and Sackville.

Grammar School Days

The 1944 Education Act (Butler Act) created the system of Grammar, Technical and Secondary Modern schools. It created the 11+ examination system and also introduced compulsory prayer into all state-funded schools on a daily basis.

The County School for Girls thus became Lewes County Grammar School for Girls in 1946. This change was only mentioned in the School Chronicle of 1945 with a passing reference to a new Board of Governors. The 1946 Chronicle notes the full inspection of the School, Miss Moss expected the report to be satisfactory. A new wing with a school hall, library, additional classrooms and 5 new tennis-courts were added in 1957. The new building was officially opened on 8th November, although it had been in use since the beginning of the autumn term. This new wing obviated the need for rooms in Southover Grange to be used as overflow classrooms.

On 28th September 1951 the school held its first Commemoration Day to commemorate the School's opening on 16th September 1913. This event was held was held each year until the closing of the Grammar School.

In 1963, the School celebrated its 50 years of existence, with Professor Asa Briggs, Pro Vice Chancellor of the University of Sussex invited to attend and to plant a tree in honour of the occasion. There were various events at the school to mark the event including Jubilee Gym on the field and Modern Educational Gymnastics in the gym; and Period Songs and Dances.

Priory School

In 1969, the County Council amalgamated the Girls' School, the Boys' School and the Lewes Secondary Modern School to form a Comprehensive School called the Priory School. Between 1969-1980, the Potters Lane site housed the Priory Lower School (ages 12-13).

When the Priory School became centred on the Mountfield Road site, the Potters Lane site became vacant, and is today enjoyed by two Primary Schools: Southover Church of England Primary School and Western Road Community Primary School.

Janet Pope