Stourport First School by Audrey Cooper reprinted from Stourport Civic Society Newsletter(October 1997)
This year, Stourport First School, once known as Tan Lane Infants, celebrated its centenary. Existing records date from 1897, though contemporary directories say 1893. Earlier in the Spring and Summer, the children took part in many local events and activities, such as the Victorian Weekend, when staff and pupils alike dressed up in the style of the 1890s, totally entering into the spirit of every occasion, On May 9th, a special commemorative stained glass window was unveiled at the school in the presence of parents and friends. The head teacher, Mrs Liane Billingsley, and her staff, notably Susan Key, have produced an excellent illustr¬ated book documenting landmarks in its history; copies costing £2.50 are still available from the school. The earliest class photograph is of the beginning of the 1900s, when Miss Drew, headmistress from 1900 to Jan 1936, was newly in charge.
One photograph of a class from 1931, mostly girls apart from two or three boys too young to be shunted off to the boys' School in Bewdley Road, was used to illustrate a Civic Society poster in May 1996. In consequence, several 'old' pupils, now in their 70s, intrigued by this sudden thrust into the limelight, decided to organise a reunion lunch and attempt to keep up an occasional 'get-together' to encourage other contemporaries to join in. One of our members, Eva Jones, formerly Eva Buckley, who has a considerable collection of memorabilia and photographs of Tan Lane School, and of Stourport, was instrumental in helping the school staff compile its history, and even composed a poem for it. She also has photographs of this year's special day, May 9th.
We all have different memories of those infant days, but we all remember hitting triangles & shaking tambourines in the percussion band, swap likes and dislikes of the teachers, some popular, others less so! Miss Drew the headmistress, white-haired, kind or stern depending on varying experiences, Miss Medlicott, Miss Wight, and a favourite with everyone, the beautiful Miss Kenwrick who later became headmistress. Some of us enjoyed, others hated the daily weak and watery Horlicks, dispensed from 1929 for a ha'penny a cup, before the days of school milk.
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The school is still used, although it is now known as Stourport-on-Severn First School. One elderly Stourport resident went to school in Tan Lane when she was only three: "The babies had their own classroom with a swing attached to the beam and the teacher used to push me in it. We wrote on trays of sand with our fingers then we shook the tray to clear it. It was very efficient. I don't suppose we learned much but it kept us amused."
Margo Addison started when she was four and remembers:
“It seemed huge to me in those days although I suppose it wasn't really. You had to go up steps to get to your desk, I always remember climbing up those big steps. They were arranged in tiers, as in a thea¬tre, and the desks themselves were in pairs. The room was divided by drawing a big curtain across, then when there was singing or music the curtain was drawn back to make one big classroom. First of all we wrote on slate board with a chalk then when we were older it was pencil and paper. The teacher had a huge blackboard at the front of the class, she wrote the letters on this board and you had to copy them.
My father started going to Tan Lane School when he was only two. His family lived in the house which is now Keith Newnham's Pet Store, and when his mother was eight months pregnant his father died. She had four or five older children, and because my husband was the youngest, Miss Drew, who was headmistress at the time, used to let him go over to the school and she would give him pencil and paper to draw with. Later, he was very good at drawing and passed his exams to go to Art School but couldn't afford to go,"
For many years, Elizabeth Mills was Chairman of Tan Lane School:
"I have seen a lot of changes over the years, a friend of mine had two boys and she taught at Tan Lane before 'Learning by Discovery’ came along. When her two boys were, old enough to go to school, she came back to Tan Lane to teach, Later, I met her and asked how she had been getting on. She told me that on her first morning she had been given the five-year olds. She had been used to the children sitting down and not moving until they were told and she was appalled to find them all over the place. She concluded, "Shall I tell you something? At the end of the morning, one, little boy was sobbing his eyes out. I said to him “Whatever is the matter?” He said “Well Miss, if I had known it was going to be like this I wouldn’t have come!” I told him “neither would I!”