THE 1930's


The type of knowledge taught to Lawnswood pupils has varied greatly over the years. Details of the subjects offered when our school first started can be seen in the advert placed by the Leeds Mechanics Institution when they first announced the formation of a Girls' School. Click here to see what the very first pupils were to be taught.

“We were encouraged to go to concerts in the Town Hall and lectures in The Albert Hall [in Cookridge Street], but I cannot remember details. I think the tickets were at a reduced rate. We did not go as a party. I can remember coming back from a Town Hall concert in thick fog - at night of course - on the tram and having to feel my way on my own down Shaw Lane! I was so glad to get home!” Jean Dunbar ’31-’39

Our day started with assembly. Then, we returned to our classrooms for lessons. Each year, we moved to a different form room.

The classes started with us divided up alphabetically - 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D and 1E. Then we were 2A, 2A parallel, 2B and 2B parallel. Next came 3A, 3A parallel, 3B and 3B non-Latin (or it might have been 3A, 3A parallel, 3B Latin and 3B parallel.) Then, was it 4A, 4A parallel, 4B and 4B parallel? This continued in the fifth form - 5A, 5A parallel, 5B, 5B parallel - though the forms were also known by their room number, as in "5:18". In the Junior and Senior Sixth, we were given the initial of our form teacher; i.e J6N with Miss Norwood and S6Lch with Miss Leach.

Most of the lessons were held in the form room, but for some we went to "labs".

Maths, English, languages, history, R.I. etc., were all taught in the form room - the respective teachers came to us. Chemistry, physics, biology, art, music, domestic science and geography were taught in specific rooms. That is, the chemistry lab, the music room, the art room, the domestic science room, etc. In these cases, we went to the teachers in their domain.

“Few people had refrigerators; there was not even one in the school so when ice was needed for a science lesson I remember going to my godmother on Spen Lane for ice cubes.” Janet Rawlins ’38-’44

“I remember the desks we had in the form rooms where all our books were kept.” Jeannie Carr ’59-’66

“It was fashionable to stick photographs of heart throbs under one’s desk lid.” Pat Thompson (Tommy) ’53-’60

“The two rooms behind the hall each contained a piano where you could have lessons from Miss Gibson or Miss Crowe (or by Mrs. Dixon, who came later).” Irene Furze ’43-’54

“The first three years we were at Lawnswood, we went home at 12.45 on Wednesdays. In the fourth year we had double Games and after that, I think, other lessons. The timetable was rather strange anyway, in that we finished at 4 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays and 3.30 on Tuesdays and Fridays.” Margaret Collie ’59-’66

“Wasn’t it great to have Wednesday afternoons off in the early years?” Sheila Galbraith ’60-’67

Then, when all the lessons were learnt, each summer we took end-of-term exams. Our success or failure was documented in our School Report (see A School Report page).

Finally, when we reached the end of our year in the 5th form, we took our GCE O-Level exams (General Certificate of Education, Ordinary Level). In the 6th form, we took GCE A-Level (Advanced Level). A select few also took S-Level (Scholarship Level) exams. The cleverer you were, the more subjects you could take at one sitting.

Throughout the years Rosemary Jordan has hung on to her GCE papers and here they are! Click here to try your luck at 1959 GCE O-Level Geometry, Arithmetic, French (2 Papers), Algebra, English Literature, English Language, Geography and Biology; also 1961 GCE A-Level papers in General Studies, Physics (3 papers), Chemistry (2 papers) and Mathematics (2 papers). Pleeeeease don’t send any answers to me! (By the way, Rosemary passed all her O-Levels and Physics and Chemistry at A-Level.)

“Does anyone remember the fashion for taking glucose tablets into ‘A’ level exams?” Pat Thompson (Tommy) ’53-’60


Jean Crystall (1959-64) has been brave enough to lend me her fourth and fifth form cookery neat-books for us to see. (For those of other eras, 'neat-books' were the exercise books in which we wrote out our lessons, homework, etc. 'Rough-books' were the thicker exercise books in which we took notes. Fountain pens had to be used in neat-books; Biros were allowed in rough-books.)

It was nearly impossible to decide which parts of Jean's neat-books to include; everything is fascinating. However, I've finally settled on the opening page of her Form IV B// book (which sets out the G.C.E. syllabus), some household management lessons, and two recipes.

A couple of points -

There are no poultry meals amongst any of the recipes or meal plans. It's all meat and fish!

The 'Meal Patterns' would have us all eating four good meals a day. This section runs on for three-and-a-half pages in Jean's exercise book, setting out suggestions for the various meals. I've included the 'Afternoon Tea' selection; it seems we were expected to bake the bread before running up some sandwiches!

“I still have two of my Cookery exercise books which make fascinating reading. Does anyone remember making Nig-Nog Biscuits? Very un-PC!” Jean Crystall ’59-’64

'Nig-Nog' Biscuits are possibly the 1950's equivalent of today's Hob-Nobs.

Jean's 1962 GCE Cookery syllabus
The joints of lamb
The calorific content of a breakfast menu!
Nig-Nog Biscuits
Keeping milk cool in summer
Cornflake Crunchies
Meal patterns
Afternoon tea (two pages on this!)

“And do we all still use the 'Conservative Method' for cooking cabbage? I certainly hope so! For those that may have forgotten this includes ... 'stand in cold salt water for 10 minutes to remove grubs'. Is that me or the cabbage?” Jean Crystall ’59-’64

“Lots of reference to 'Cox' & 'Hildreth'. (I wonder what Miss Tweedie would make of Jamie Oliver or Nigella Lawson.)” Jean Crystall ’59-’64

“I have a lovely drawing of a cow labelled with all the different joints and price per pound (5 shillings for a pound of Topside!) Under the Offal section there's a reference to 'Sweetbread'. I hope you all remember ... 'This comes from certain glands. It is light in colour and texture and easy to digest. It is used in invalid cookery'. Thankfully I have never had to do any invalid cookery ... yet!” Jean Crystall ’59-’64

If any of you Old Girls still have your school books, and would be willing to share them with us, please e-mail lhs.alumnae@gmail.com


“We moved on to DomSci, didn't we? My brothers liked that because there was always an offering for tea! The most famous one of all was the concoction they termed 'South Drive Scones'. In I biked to school. Well, as you may imagine, trying to get your cookery home on a bike was not easy! My scones got a liberal dusting of South Drive grit, but they were still eaten.” Gill Crossley ’59-’66

“I think the raspberry buns were the only edible things I ever produced in Domestic Science lessons. I was certainly not a favourite with Miss Heap!” Margaret Collie ’59-’66

“Miss Heap taught me (along with my Mum) to bake and even today I remind myself when creaming marg and sugar together to make sure I beat them enough to make them light, creamy and fluffy!!” Margaret Eastwood ’59-’66

“... dear Scottish Miss Riddoch the Domestic Science teacher. In one of my earliest cookery lessons when starting at Lawnswood we were learning how to make sausage rolls. Our teacher demonstrated every process then put hers in the oven and burnt them to a crisp.” Sheila Fingret ’41-’47

“There was Miss Riddoch who taught us to make wonderful cakes and buns but could not discipline us though we were all so fond of her.” Penny Woodings ’52-’57

“... at the end of the lesson your sink and your dishcloth had to be totally dry. Consequently I was forced(!) to wring the cloth out in another sink before putting it on the pulley - I'm really sorry if it was your sink!” Veronica Skirrow ’59-’64

“I wonder what became of my apron? I can remember it with the purple flower embroidered on it - we all got a choice of transfers, didn't we?” Gill Crossley ’59-’66

“Do you remember in Dom Sci we had to take a hanky in and wash and iron it, stretching the edges to ensure it ironed really square? An excellent lesson as of COURSE nobody's mum would let them take a dirty hanky.” Janet Ball ’56-’61

“Miss Tweedie - she tried to teach me to iron, sew and cook - I only had to approach an electric sewing machine and it would stop. The apron patterns were enormous and I was very small - I could have shared my apron with about six classmates!” Sarah Sharp ’64-’71

“It must have been in the 2nd year that we were taught how to iron a man's shirt. There was something 'hush, hush' about the procurement of a shirt and we were told that if we had neither father nor brother living at home, we were to approach the teacher at the end of the lesson. Having ironed thousands of shirts since this must rate as the most useful thing Lawnswood ever taught me.” Margaret Bradbrook ’59-’66

“I too remember learning how to iron a shirt with Miss Heap. It’s stood me in good stead – with a husband and 2 sons.” Sheila Galbraith ’60-’67

“Does anyone else remember the horrors of Mrs McClintock's needlework lessons? She put me off sewing for life.” Margaret Collie ’59-’66

“We made some knickers once - the gusset was about 1" wide with a sort of cross shaped seam in the middle and no lining!!! Imagine that with your sanitary belt and towel!!” Janet Ball ’56-’61

“I remember the BASIC BODICE PATTERN. This was a wonderful formula with which when, stranded on a desert island far from shops where one could buy a paper pattern, one could run up a little number whatever one's vital statistics! It was, they said, a vital accoutrement to adult life! The pattern itself was a long list of totally meaningless measurements, which could have been Chinese for all I knew. However to make sure we'd have it on the said desert island we had to learn it by heart and of course reproduce it from memory on the next Domestic Science exam.” Margaret Bradbrook ’59-’66

“What about the blouses we moved on to next? Those were awful! Mine was blue gingham, and not a pretty piece of work, for all the seams were bias binding and so on. Do you remember how we had to queue up to show her our work and be told what to do next?” Gill Crossley ’59-’66

“... the turquoise and white blouse we had to make in the 2nd form was followed by a hideous pair of baggy shorts. Needless to say, I never wore either and they were consigned to my Mum's ragbag.” Margaret Collie ’59-’66

“Does anyone remember making horrendous baby-doll pyjamas in sewing lessons? Mine lasted till I was thirty?!?” Katy Brady ’59-’66

“I had forgotten the shorts we made. Yes they were ten times worse than the blouses.” Gill Crossley ’59-’66

“I did well in English but what I really enjoyed were the practical subjects such as Sewing, Cookery, Art, and Agnes Clayton's wonderful choir.” Beryl Midgley ’55-’60

“Miss Clayton was always on the look out for new talent for her choir. For this we had our voices tested about once a term. It was humiliating to have to sing solo in front of the class when, like me, you could not sing in tune. It seemed unlikely that if I could not sing in September I would have suddenly got the gift in January! The girls who found singing difficult always chose 'Jesus good above all other' to sing as it was the easiest tune.” Margaret Bradbrook ’59-’66

“Who can forget Miss Clayton: 'Queen Ethelburgers girls!!' she would shout as she tried to correct our pronunciation and, 'Send Her Victorious' as we sang the National Anthem; 'Not Victorias - they are plums!!' Miss Clayton used to use the phrase 'Queen Ethelburgers' to get us to pronounce our words with some dignity. I think Queen Ethelburgers was some posh school somewhere!!!” Susan Rolfe ’58-’63

“I have never sung since Miss C demolished me in one of her spectacular rages. I was 11 and she terrified me. Don't think Miss Clayton was always unpleasant I just met her on a bad day.” Catherine MacDonald ’49-’54

“I remember Miss Clayton with awe, affection and some trepidation with links from school but, also, as I went to Headingley Methodist. I was and am definitely not a singer so the first fearful encounter was the horrific experience of singing solo to check one's potential as choir material. I'm sure it would count as child abuse these days!! The agony of waiting till you had try to open your mouth to sing at the grand piano in front of the whole year was about my worst memory of Lawnswood. Don't know how I managed to get through the words (Jesu, good above all other, first verse only, Hymn 59, p80 - I still have the hymn book), with beetroot red face to hear Miss C say, "bit nasal, sit down"! I presume that means out of tune and awful. My other semi worst worry about singing at school was the Carol Service with the candle lit procession which was one of the most moving events of the year. In my last year I had to lead the procession and practised for weeks at miming the words of 'O little town of Bethlehem' so no one would hear me out of tune.” Rosemary Jordan ’54-’61

“She [Miss Clayton] once made me sing scales in front of everyone, and stopped me, asking, "Has no one ever taught you to breathe?" I replied that it had just come naturally - general hilarity all round.” Janet China ’65-’70

“I sang in the choir for Miss Clayton - she was a wonderful choir trainer.” Jane Baxendale ’62-’69

“School orchestra – I saw a lot of references to the choir but not the orchestra. I think it was started around 1960 but I can’t remember the teacher’s name. One year we put on the Pirates of Penzance in the Civic Theatre with the boys from the Modern School.” Joan Hardy ’58-’65

“I did enjoy the Gilbert and Sullivan concerts which LHS did with LM every year in town though.” Jennifer Pearson née Peace ’63-’68

“I was a pirate in the chorus of the school's production of The Pirates of Penzance. That was the highlight of my last year of school. My Mum used to take me to the Gilbert and Sullivan productions held at the Theatre Royal every year in March, and it was my ambition to one day be a part of one of G&S's comic opera's. Well, I only made it as a pirate but it was still a thrill for me.” Beryl Midgley ’55-’60

“It was always a disappointment to me that I could not sing - still can't, in fact - because singing was so important in the school - I expect all my contemporaries remember the all-singing, all-dancing production of Pirates of Penzance. Oh, how I yearned to be part of it!” Val Hill ’56-’61

“Music was not for me and one well-meaning young teacher spent several weeks of lunch breaks singing scales with me, convinced that everyone could sing. Finally, she gave up and I don't sing even now in church, I am so scared I will cause embarrassment.” Jennifer Pearson née Peace ’63-’68

“... I got into the choir whereupon Miss Clayton decided to cream off all the best singers to form the Special Choir.” Irene Furze ’43-’54

“By the time I was in the VIth form, the main thing in my school life was the choir.” Merryll Francis ’58-’66

“I remember taking piano lessons from Mrs. Dixon in one of the rooms at the back of the stage, and after that at her house in Headingley.” Joyce Latto ’59-’64

“Music was so important to the school — everyone had piano lessons and sang. I remember walking down the corridor (alone, so I don't know if I was late or had some excuse!) and hearing piano practice floating down from one of the music rooms.” Anne Watson ’64-’71

“I remember playing the mother and spirit of maternal love in "The Blue Bird" and thinking how wonderful to be an actress.” Sheila Fingret ’41-’47

“Do you remember those DREADFUL chamber music concerts in the assembly hall? Can't remember if they were a trio or quartet but they seemed ancient. There was a woman who got engaged to one of the blokes and we all had to clap politely. Loads of people got detentions for doing the hand jive during the concert.” Janet Ball ’56-’61

“Does anyone remember 6th form music lessons in 1965 for prospective teachers? We were given plastic keyboards that were worse than toy pianos because none of the keys moved at all.” Katy Brady ’59-’66

“Our textbooks really were out date. 'En route' had a picture of French boys around a swimming pool, still wearing costumes with shoulder straps, whereas 'Aufenthalt in Deutschland' had old woodcut prints.” Margaret Collie ’59-’66

“Chemistry was Monday mornings so Science never stood a chance with me.” Veronica Skirrow ’59-’66

“The wonder of seeing phosphorus burn when it was removed from liquid in the special protective cabinet.” Sheila Galbraith ’60-’67

“I went to Science Club after school and we had a talk from a surgeon who had done one of the first heart valve transplants at LGI and he threw a pig's heart valve, which I caught - most other girls were squeamish.” Jennifer Pearson née Peace ’63-’68

“I will always be grateful to Mary White - my language skills, small though they might be, rely heavily on Latin translations.” Joyce Latto ’59-’64

“I have remembered how we spent an entire French lesson (or what seemed like it!) learning to roll our R's. It wasn't easy!” Avril Escolme ’46-’51

“The first time I went to France, in 1965, I realised that I could have conjugated any verb of his choice, but was baffled when the first French boy I met tried to chat me up. En Route and Whitmarsh had not catered for that contingency.” Margaret Collie ’59-’66

“Miss Kelsey: I really liked her and know now how difficult it is to control classes to teach foreign languages. She was far from boring and quite an innovator - I remember our bringing mirrors to watch our lips as we spoke French words. In those days with no reprographics, tapes or videos it must have been so much more difficult and the textbook about Bobette and Toto dated from the 1920s - it was quite an historical experience learning from them.” Margaret Bradbrook ’59-’66

“I enjoyed my Latin lessons and did well and have remembered some declining and conjugating - not that I ever had to use it!” Jackie Rowe ’59-’64

“... Mrs. White's Latin class: "Salvete Puellae!" - Remember her greeting every lesson & we answered without fail, "Salve Magistra".” Jackie Rowe ’59-’64

“I was useless at Latin, but it has served me in good stead in the medical world.” Jennifer Pearson née Peace ’63-’68

“Mrs. White - I also remember her greeting of "Salve Puellae" every lesson, but does anyone else recall that this was always accompanied by her holding the window pole and looking rather like a Roman centurion. Whoever was window monitor had to step forward, get the pole and open all the top windows (no matter what the season!)” Carole Dalton ’64-’71

“Like everyone else I was terrified of her [Mrs. White] too, she told me off profoundly for something. Then I did quite well in the Latin exam and she noticed I liked languages, after that she was very nice to me.” Polly Peller ’59-’66

“Mrs. White used to scare me in Latin - we always had to put our books up to the top of the desk - why was that? She told my parents I wasn't good enough for O level, then I did quite well in an exam & she demanded to know why I was dropping the subject!” Veronica Skirrow ’59-’64

“Mrs White: I admit she was a dragon but I really liked her lessons. When we started a new chapter of Approach to Latin (an inspiring title!), she went through the new vocabulary and told us which English words were derived from the Latin ones. I loved this subject i.e. word derivation, more than anything else on the curriculum!! And her explanations I found fascinating.” Margaret Bradbrook ’59-’66

“Miss Holden was another person you could not forget. She taught us Latin in years 1 and 2, sweeping into the class with gown flowing. It was great for one-and-a-half years - till it got more technical and more complicated - declining and numerous tenses etc. I wish she had been there in my last year as I feel in the 6th she would have been less awesome and perhaps given better advice about choices for further training options.” Rosemary Jordan ’54-’61

“Does anyone remember the little pink coral necklace she [Mrs. White] used to play with all lesson?” Margaret Bradbrook ’59-’66

“I enjoyed all my lessons, though, with dear old Miss Kelsey in 1A and thereafter with the redoubtable Miss George and the unpredictable Miss Leader.” Margaret Collie ’59-’66

“Most lessons are vague now, except for a brilliant History class when we had Miss Norwood on the subject of Whigs & Tories - I can still hear her enthusiasm now!” Veronica Skirrow ’59-’66

“Miss Gill: I really appreciated Miss Gill because although I loved Biology I was so squeamish I would faint at the mere mention of blood. She let me spend the lessons in the library and still take the exam. I thought that was enlightened of her.” Margaret Bradbrook ’59-’66

“Miss Gill also used to say you don't differentiate with birds and fish, as they are ALL animals.” Janet Ball ’56-’61

“Locusts and stick insects: we had both! The stick insects were in a bell jar and ate privet if I remember correctly. The locusts were housed in two glass fronted tanks with egg laying pots and lit by light bulbs for heat. One tank was for the adults and the sand-filled egg laying pots were extensively used!!!!! The pots were then removed, dated and put into the second tank where the “hoppers” eventually hatched. The adults lived on jam jars filled with grass and Petri dishes of bran – and they stank to high heaven! I cleaned out the locusts in the biology lab until I went home with one stuck between my shirt and my vest – foul things!” Miriam Lewis ’66-’71

“I remember Miss Gill as being an extremely good biology teacher. I liked her lessons, even though her bark was worse than her bite. I remember the time we did earthworms and everyone had to pick them up. Not me - I was told I didn't have to if I didn't want.” Margaret Eastwood ’59-’66

“I had a job watering the plants at lunchtime – I seem to remember they were either geraniums or those succulents where baby plants appeared on the ends.” Miriam Lewis ’66-’71

“Miss Gill also insisted that we refer to the stuff that plants grow in as "soil"; "earth" was the name of the planet!” Sandra Baker ’59-’64

“I recall eating toast (intended for break-time) in certain lessons.” Veronica Skirrow ’59-’66

“Miss Gill instructed us as to how to correctly label a diagram; lines were to be a certain length and from a certain direction. Lines to be done in pencil; text in fountain pen.” Sandra Baker ’59-’64

“Does anyone else remember how she [Miss Leader] used to punctuate all her sentences with 'then' when she was speaking English and 'also' when she went into German? It was almost like a verbal tic and I can remember once counting thirty-four instances of it during the course of one lesson.” Margaret Collie ’59-’66

“In geography we drew and labelled endless maps which we then had to remember how to reproduce in tests. We were given a lot of facts about English industrial towns, most of which will no longer be valid as English industry has declined over the last 45 years.” Sheila Galbraith ’60-’67

“Recently I was fortunate enough to travel to Argentina and into Patagonia where the mountain scenery is magnificent. En route one day the minibus was stopped by herds of cattle being rounded up by Gauchos on horseback (the ranchers who were moving the cattle with the aid of dogs).
“I was reminded of a geography lesson in 2b in 1955 when Miss Hall vividly described her visit to Patagonia and the life on the Cattle Estancias. We had to draw about it for homework. The men, who were astride their horses and carrying all their kit, were wearing leather leggings with long leather fringes, black caps etc.
“I should like to pay tribute to Miss Hall for implanting this information in my long distance memory. Also that she was brave enough as a single woman to travel to Argentina, I presume in the early 50s. This must have meant a long sea voyage (my flight to Buenos Aires was 13½ hrs), and difficult long journeys with few roads (we were travelling on many unsurfaced roads). No wonder she was made a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society. A pity I had not visited S America years ago when she was alive so she would know that at least some of her teaching was valued and remembered.”
Rosemary Jordan ’54-’61

“Miss Leach: although when I left Lawnswood I thought my greatest debt was to Mrs Rowe who taught me French in the 6th form, I now think I owe more to Miss Leach. Her teaching of poetry, MacBeth and Jane Austin were lessons I would never forget. I would like to meet her now and thank her.” Margaret Bradbrook ’59-’66

“In the first year we were given an English anthology book to copy and illustrate any poems we enjoyed. What relaxed times!” Sheila Galbraith ’60-’67

“Miss Harlow - the day before my Art GCE she told me that I could draw better in the first form and paint better in the second. I went home and cried my eyes out. But the next day she was kindness itself - instead of putting me in with a group to do the still life drawing, she sat me at a desk at the back of the room and gave me a prawn to draw! Then she whispered, "Draw it as many times as you can, different views". I passed!” Carole Dalton ’64-’71

“I can remember as if it were yesterday when I was issued with my first rough book at Lawnswood. It was thicker than our other exercise books and the cover was brown. We had a lecture from Miss Gill about the need to use every inch of it before daring to present ourselves to her for a new one. She even quoted shining examples of girls who had written in pencil, erased their notes and reused the space. Later rough books were never treated with the same respect as that first one. Higher up the school I allowed myself to doodle and even to inscribe the covers with the names of pop stars and boyfriends, so presumably Miss Gill relaxed her vigilance at some point.” Margaret Collie ’59-’66

“I'd forgotten about the rough- and neat-work books!” Jeannie Carr ’59-’66

“The ritual of backing both exercise and textbooks at the start of the school year. You could use brown paper or old wall paper. Wonder how many trees were sacrificed for this ritual. Later I remember using plastic covers already made for the purpose.” Sheila Galbraith ’60-’67