HOME PAGE
WHY THIS SITE?
A HISTORY OF THE SCHOOL
THE CENTENARY 1854-1954
THE 1930's
THE EVACUATION TO RIPON
A LETTER FROM MISS LONGWORTH
UNIFORMS
MORNING ASSEMBLY
TEACHERS
LESSONS
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO OLD SO-AND-SO?
MISS ARMES' STORY
HYGIENE & SEX EDUCATION
SPORT & SHOWERS
SPEECH DAY
THE SCHOOL SONG
SCHOOL DINNERS
CRIME & PUNISHMENT
A SCHOOL REPORT
TO JOAN
FAMOUS OLD GIRLS
OLD MODS
RETURN TO SCHOOL
BACK TO THE FUTURE
DOCUMENTS
PHOTOGRAPHS


RETURN TO SCHOOL


“There is magic in the memory of school friendships; it softens the heart, and even affects the nervous system of those who have no heart.” Benjamin Disraeli


As you know, the purpose of the Lawnswood High School Alumnae Website is to preserve something of our school and what it was like to be a pupil there. Although we're recalling the past, we're not dwelling in it: rather we're recording it so that "Lawnswood's name be known with fame in every generation" (to quote the school song). Well, if not with fame exactly, at least with affection. Many of us feel that our school days have been instrumental in forming what we are today. Even though some of it may have been painful or humiliating at the time, we look back with a sense of warm affection.

So, although the website is about the school between 1931 and 1971, it seems appropriate to have a section concerning school visits and our present relationship with our alma mater. The Back To The Future page deals with the plans for the present school, and what will become of 'our' school.

If a group of you have visited the school, or been part of a reunion of long-lost friends, please e-mail lhs.alumnae@gmail.com with your story.

“In 1992 when my wife and I were given a tour of the "old" school, and it was showing it's age then, I was shocked to see that the hall had been converted to a basketball court. That was sacrilege to my mind as I had listened to such personages as the Duke of Kent and Albert Schweitzer speak from the platform. We always had a personality there for Speech Day.” Edric Clarke ’31-’38





“Saturday 18th October 2003.

The Official Opening of the new buildings was combined with an Open Day for new parents.

What a difference three months has made! When we went to the Events Day to mark the end of the old buildings, (see report below) the school was unkempt and uncared-for. A general air of neglect and lethargy hung about the place. Now, it’s vibrant and buzzing with enthusiasm. From the keenness of the students who fairly pounced upon us in their eagerness to show us around, to the barely-concealed excitement of Head Teacher Mr. Davidovic who was just about bursting with pride at his new school, the whole atmosphere has completely changed.

From the outside, it's a modern, two-storey, brick building with a four-storey, white rotunda at one corner. The four ‘wings’ of the building enclose a central quadrangle or courtyard. Whether or not you like it depends on whether you like modern architecture. Personally, I do. The brick harks back to the red brick of the old buildings and the rotunda rises rather elegantly above. When the demolition of the old buildings is complete, the grounds are to be landscaped.

Inside, the corridors are light and airy. The stairwells are colour-coded to help pupils and staff find their way around. The classrooms are perhaps a little bit smaller than the ones we knew, but there are more of them.

What struck we Old Girls the most was the amazing amount of computer and other technical equipment in the classrooms. Also, the indoor sports facilities that seemed to go on forever. I had a look at the showers (no stone left unturned on your behalf!) - would you believe proper shower cubicles? I’m told that the girls are a little unhappy about the lack of doors or curtains to the cubicles, but I’m afraid that, after our experiences of school showers, I can’t sympathise with their grumbles. Especially as showers are not even compulsory!

The rotunda houses the school library on the top floor. Behind the library is the sixth form study area, which is an amazing space beneath the dramatic glass dome.


So, how did the day progress?

Those of us who were attending the Official Opening arrived at 9.45am. Guests were former pupils, former Head Teachers (as far as I know, Miss Longworth wasn’t there), teachers, parents of present pupils and various other persons. We were presented with a smart folder containing lots of information about the school and the new building. Also a CD-ROM that gives a virtual tour of the school (handy to show me the bits I missed!)

From reception, pupils escorted us to a room where tea and coffee was served. We were then shown to the main hall where the Opening Ceremony was to take place. First, Head Teacher Mr. Davidovic welcomed us to the school. A Year Seven pupil then read her essay about her first few days at her new school. This was quite moving, as it exactly mirrored the feelings that I, and probably most of you, experienced when we first arrived at Lawnswood. She spoke of wondering if she’d ever be able to find her way around; whether she’d ever get to know all of the teachers, whether she’d be able to find any friends from her previous school. All of it brought back the memories of my own first day in a big new school.

A mixed choir of pupils known as The Stairwell Singers entertained us, as did a condensed ensemble of the school orchestra. Very high standards all round.

Mr. Brian Page, Chair of Governors and a former teacher at The Mod, spoke and introduced Martin Kettle, who was to officially open the school. Martin’s an Old Mod, and presently Assistant Editor of The Guardian. (Click here to read Martin’s details.) Martin recalled that his history teacher had exhorted him to write with “incisive brevity” — good advice for a future journalist, but sadly, something I’ve never mastered! Martin spoke of his days at school in the Sixties and remembered, as we all do, the imaginary line down the field that kept the boys and girls apart. To the boys, the girls’ school was a place of dreams and fantasy.

Martin drew open the red velvet curtains to reveal the brass plaque commemorating the opening of the school. (I tried to photograph it, but it being extremely reflective, I didn’t get much of a result. Sorry.)

A senior pupil rose to thank the visitors and to speak of the new buildings.

We left the hall and began a tour of the school. Home Economics rooms and sports facilities are on the ground floor. When I say sports facilities, I should say that I saw two gyms; a conventional one with wall-bars and ropes, and another ‘commercial’ type of gym with exercise machines and weights as well as a truly HUGE indoor sports court complete with climbing wall. There’s a dance studio with mirrored walls, bars, etc. Also on the ground floor are the state-of-the-art technology rooms.

The first floor has the science labs., drama and music suites. You cannot imagine the wealth of musical facilities available, from a beautiful full-size Yamaha grand piano to practice rooms and a recording studio.

The second floor has the computer-equipped language labs designed to teach several different languages, along with the maths centre where humble textbooks have been supplemented by ‘interactive whiteboards’. (Things that look rather like a ciné screen but are linked to a computer and can be operated by touching the screen.)

The third floor is the library and sixth-form study centre, which as I’ve said, is beneath the dramatic rotunda roof.

In the school are several items that were originally in the old buildings. These include a board from The Modern School remembering the boys who fell in the two World Wars. From Lawnswood High School there’s a board showing the names of Head Girls from 1931 to 1950. (One of the former Head Girls, Jean Dunbar, was present at the Opening Ceremony and was very moved to see the old Honour Board bearing her name.) Also from LHS are — the plaque commemorating the 1932 opening of the old buildings by Prince George; the lectern presented to the school by Miss Holden, the staff and Old Girls in memory of Miss Armes; a display cabinet presented by The Parents’ Association at the time of the Centenary; the memorial to Joan Wright, and a trophy cabinet displaying an assortment of items from Leeds Modern School, Lawnswood High School and Lawnswood School. Click here to see photographs of the Head Girl board and the display cabinet.

We were free to wander at will. The Home Economics department had prepared an extensive buffet for us — sandwiches, chicken legs, wine, fruit juice, etc. etc., all beautifully presented. The music rooms had pupils practicing, and many of the computers had pupils doing whatever it is that they do at a terminal on a Saturday morning. The maths department was staging a quiz. When the pupils were stuck, the visitors were invited to respond. Foolishly, I put my hand up (some habits die hard) to answer a question. I was never any good at maths, so I was somewhat relieved to find I’d got the answer correct and had won a piece of chocolate. Apart from my Life Saving and Cycling Proficiency Certificates, this is about the only achievement award I’ve ever had from school!

It was a pleasure to be in the school. As one of my classmates said, “I’d like to come back to school now please!” It wasn’t just the standard of equipment that was available — more importantly it was the atmosphere that pervaded the whole building. It just felt like a happy place to be, and that, more than facilities, is the cradle for a good learning experience.

In conclusion, I can do no better than quote from Miss Stowell’s comments in the 1947 School Magazine:

“Our premises have been changed several times to keep pace with the ever-changing needs and interests of succeeding generations. Girls come and go, all affecting in some way, great or small, the life of the community and taking from it, we hope, ideas and ideals to stimulate and encourage them in their adult lives.

… … Today our girls have opportunities undreamed of by those same Founders, yet the foundations of our School life remain unaltered. All who now enter the School come into an honourable inheritance which they in their turn must hand on, strengthened and enriched by their work and loyalty, to those who shall come after them. May our School ever and increasingly be a place whose inhabitants learn to ‘choose and cherish all things good’.”


Sandra Midgley (née Baker) ’59–’64.”


“I was shown round the school with the Head of one of Lawnswood’s feeder schools and our tour lasted all morning. We were led by a very nice and enthusiastic young man called Alex, who was charming and typical of the pupils we met along the way. Like you I was impressed with the atmosphere in the school and, although it was very sad to see the old buildings being demolished, they are only buildings at the end of the day, and it is what is going on inside that matters.” Pat Wray ’54-’59

“… most gratifying to learn that they've retained so much of our days.” Janet Ball ’56-’61




“September 2003

A group of Old Girls who had previously had a reunion in September 2002 (see below), had obviously enjoyed themselves so much that they had another get-together a year later. Most of the ladies had started at Lawnswood in 1949, but one or two had started as Kindergarten-ers in 1943. Thanks to Beatrice McLean and Irene Furze for the photo.”



Standing at the back from left to right:

Cherry Stockwell, Christine Tweedie, Hilary Pollard, Margaret Wilson, Kathleen Bryant, Sheila Bottomley, Beryl Davies and in blue Sandra Taylor.

Sitting below at left-hand end (in blue) Sally Norbury and (in red) at right-hand side, Beatrice McLean.

At left-hand end, Ann Cole (in white), Valerie Dooks & Irene Furze and knelt in front of us (in pink) Olive Rice.

On settee from left, Catherine McDonald, Moira Roddy, Jennifer Brownridge, Anne Dawson and (kneeling) Ann Sedgwick.

In front Margaret Yewdall, Marjorie Keane and Janet Smeaton.




“Saturday 5th July 2003

This day was destined to be both sad and pleasurable in equal measure. One week before the end of the final term for these old buildings, and the school had been thrown open to all-comers. Former Old Lawnswoodians, former Old Modernians, present pupils, pupils’ parents, old Uncle Tom Cobbley and all, were invited to attend Events Day.

There was much to see and do, and I think I would indeed have seen it all if it wasn’t for the time spent catching up with so many old friends. From the moment of walking into the crush hall to collect our name badges, it was non-stop chatter.

The school had laid on displays in several of the classrooms. One room (the art department?) had a display of items associated with the different decades of Lawnswood’s existence. I was flattered to see that the 1950’s decade included this site’s web page commemorating Joan Wright.

The library was a real treasure trove of objects from the past. Everything from items of school uniform to silver trophies and cups. Also included were a cookery apron, some portraits of former Head Mistresses, several fascinating photographs, many documents and umpteen ledgers. A lot of this was heaped, higgledy-piggledy onto a table and one simply had to rummage through to see what there was. It was obvious that these riches had been especially retrieved for us to see, as everything was still covered in a thick layer of dust! It was very much as though one had stumbled into a disused attic, and found one’s own past stored there. Dusty or not, it was a privilege to be able to see all these wonderful items.

With so many people crowding around, and so much memorabilia on display, one could only scratch the surface of what was on view. How I would love to go back and spend time sorting through it all.

The pupils had worked hard to present their school to us. There were items on sale such as a perpetual calendar and a print of the school. There was a fashion display in the afternoon, and later, two concerts.

The concerts were an affectionate mix of all types of music and musicians. Former pupils performed, as did the Lawnswood Singers (a choir originally formed by Miss Clayton from former Lawnswood High School girls). The school’s Junior Orchestra did four pieces for us, and I have to say, I thought they were excellent. It was a joy to know that Lawnswood’s tradition of music continues.

But what of the school itself? Sadly, there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s in a very dilapidated condition. Part of this is inevitable, as it’s uneconomic to spend money on a soon-to-be-demolished building, but as one Old Mod said to me, “This neglect goes back much further that the start of rebuilding”. The classrooms and dining hall were clean, but most of the rest of the building wasn’t. The banisters of the stairwell down to the gym were so grimy that one could write (nay carve!) one’s name in the dust. (I knew my education would be useful one day!) The little internal quads were choked with weeds, as were the tennis courts. There was litter on the courts and on the field. And this on a day when the school was full of guests!

Even so, the poignancy of being in those old buildings for the final time was very great. The pupils of Lawnswood School will soon move into a bright new building. Those pupils who’ve spent several years in the old, crumbling building certainly deserve their new home! The old buildings will then be demolished, and all that will be left of our school days are our memories.

It was a mixed day: heartbreaking to see the old buildings in such a state of neglect; distressing to know that they would soon be gone for ever; comforting to know that the present pupils have a bright new school to go to; wonderful to see so many old friends again.

An Open Day is planned for the new school (18th October). I’m very much looking forward to see what the future has to offer.

Sandra Midgley (née Baker) ’59–’64.”


“It was a strange experience seeing the old school. It had changed so much that quite a lot of it was unrecognisable. As I left 54 years ago that is hardly surprising!” Bridget Hoare ’46-’49

“I echo Sandra's comments on the exhibition in the library. I found a photograph I had never seen before of my cousin Pat (L.H.S. 1949-56-ish) on display and also one of a boy I had a crush on when I was twelve. If this comment ends up on the site, Peter Jones, formerly of Queen's Road Junior School and a member of Holy Trinity Church Youth Club, this is you!” Margaret Collie ’59-’66

“I was really pleased I came. I really enjoyed it. My lasting impression, apart from the squalor, is how little everything had changed, particularly one of the labs. The double blackboard, the teacher’s desk still on its dais, and the lab. benches, Bunsen burner taps and even some of the stools all still the same. It was like being in a time warp! Being there early, I was able to sit alone in the room with ghosts from the past! A lot of the other rooms were little changed too, particularly the domestic science rooms, apart from updated equipment, and the hall, gym changing and shower rooms, and the art room. (Strange that I did not like art at school (with Mrs. Mess) and I am now an artist!) I really did not expect that after nearly 50 years there would be so little updating. I was talking to a lady who was there in the 1930's and I think she felt the same. In retrospect I wish I had stayed [longer] at the school, as I would have liked to have seen more and talked to more of the very interesting people I met all day. I could have stayed until it closed.” Pat Wray ’54-’59

“The things which struck me about the boys’ school were:

  • Despite the general tattiness of the place, the old furniture such as teachers' desks, cupboards, the parquet flooring was still there and in good condition. Even the stone steps showed little wear. And the plumbing hasn't changed much either. Will the new school fare as well?
  • As a physics teacher I was amazed that they still had some of the brass and copper apparatus that I used 50 years ago. They even had the wartime siren that we used to frighten the neighbours with!
  • How much smaller it now seems.
  • Meeting a class mate (Peter Smithson) who has been retired 7 years!

... “I realised how much authority teachers had then. Nowadays we have to be the pupils' friend, social worker and servant!

... “This was the first (and last) time I had entered the place since I left at the end of summer term 1961. My experiences there had made me decide that the last job I had ever planned to do would be teaching (especially physics teaching!). SAD.” Robert Tate ’54-’61

“My sisters and I all enjoyed the whole thing tremendously; all the memories came flooding back!

... “What we found distressing though was the dreadful state of the buildings; we thought a deliberate policy of neglect must have been adopted in the pursuit of new facilities, because what we saw was ten or fifteen years of deterioration, both interior and exterior. Surely such buildings are unique enough to have been worth updating and modernising!

... “The grounds too seemed to have turned into rubbish dumps at the Ring Road side ---- heart-breaking, to think of the neat gardens pink and fragrant with cherry blossom that we all knew. I'd be interested to know of the views of others. Does anyone remember at what point in time the groundsmen stopped caring, the paintwork ceased to be renewed, the quadrangles began to run wild? Have there been any refurbishments at all since the building of what replaced the swimming pool?” Heather Newman ’53-’60

“They [Janet’s friends] didn't think it was very well organised in that the room their decade was supposed to meet in had women who left in 1944 - the year we were born! They also thought the library was far too small for the exhibition. They were appalled by the courts and the quads - AND the staff room loos! They went everywhere they could. Still - having said all that they were really pleased they went but surprised not to see a soul they knew.” Janet Ball ’56-’61

“What a day! I found myself very tearful at a couple of stages, particularly when the headmaster said that at 9 am. he had found some 1930's pupils in tears in the crush hall.

... “I always said I wanted to see the "showers". When I went downstairs I first encountered the gym. How come the wall bars looked 20 ft. high when I was small and are only actually about 8 ft? Into the changing rooms and the showers – I had remembered them as much larger. However, I could see Fanny Goodall standing in the doorway urging us all around. An amusing incident was about 4 1950's pupils (presumably aged around 60) running around the showers with their arms aloft!!! I felt like chucking them a gym shirt.

... “The concert was excellent with a mix of classical, modern and rock music.

... “The memorabilia room was great - even found a photo of my brother in 1957 and met an old friend of his so will be e-mailing him with some info shortly.” Joyce Latto ’59-’64

“I was devastated to hear my beautiful old school was to be demolished; however having been to the Open Day 0n 5/7/03 I think it will be the kindest end. The old building, which was so well looked after, is now a slum; it is dirty, untidy and obviously uncared for by the City Council et al for many years. The worst disaster was the entrance hall; does any one remember the magnificent paper sculptures done by the Art mistress about 1950-ish Mrs Bradford? I think demolition will be a kindness.” Catherine MacDonald ’49-’54

“I am a present pupil at Lawnswood School and visited the Events Day on 5th July. It was particularly pleasing to see so many people there of all different ages and most seemed to be enjoying the chance to look around their old school one last time, however I think some of the comments people are making hear may be a little unfair.

... “Litter has always been a problem at Lawnswood in recent years, as in most large city secondary schools. Much of the school site including areas along the Ring Road and most of the playing fields has been sealed off as part of the building site for over a year now and so is out of school hands - I expect Mowlem feel litter is unimportant in these areas where public and pupils cannot gain access. Also, some of the courts and playing fields have seen little use during the building process so a build up of litter is unsurprising. The short drive and gate from the Ring Road to West Building (Girls' School) has been permanently closed for many months to alter the way traffic moves about the site while building takes place, which may explain why this area looked particularly unkempt. Space had to be set aside by the Ring Road to temporarily leave the mounds of earth dug up for the new building - I can asure you they are not rubbish dumps and not long ago were neatly lawned just as old pupils may remember.

... “Inside the school I can appreciate things look a bit dirty and neglected. However, Lawnswood has been like this for many years now regardless of the new school and sadly I think you will find things are similar in many big comprehensives, struggling for finances and staff. With the end of term approaching and a new building in site, some neglect can only be expected.

... “Unfortunately, most Lawnswood teachers and pupils don't have time to prepare perfect exhibitions of memorabilia or dazzling displays of art for one day at the end of term (although wonderful art works are still frequently produced by pupils), but I thought what had been done considering minimal budget and planning time for the day, was very impressive and made for a memorable day.

... “I hope I have restored some people's faith in Lawnswood, because I'm sure that even now, we're all very proud to be a part of Lawnswood School.” Alex Philpott (present pupil)




“Monday 30th September 2002

On 30 September last, three of us who joined the Kindergarten in 1943, Bobby Ure, Margaret Yewdall and myself, together with seven others in our year who started school from 1949 onwards (Janet Goodhill, Judith Goode, Catherine MacDonald, Hilary Pollard, Anne Sedgwick, Cherry Stockwell and Christine Tweedie) met up at the Village Hotel, West Park.

We all managed to recognise each other despite a gap of 48 years in some cases! We then spent an hilarious four hours plus, reminiscing, looking at old photographs and trying to remember names etc., just managing to take a short break for refreshments.

We all agreed we had had a great time and that we should extend the invitation to everyone who was in our year to meet up again in 2003, date to be arranged, when we would all be (shhh) 65.

So, if anyone out there would like to come along - or knows of someone who was in our year - please e-mail me, Irene Wyborn (Furze) yle26@dial.pipex.com or Judith Azdoud (Goode) ghazdoud@blueyonder.co.uk.”



Thanks to Judith Goode for this excellent photo




“Friday 19th April 2002

A reunion of Old Girls and a visit to the school.

After the pleasant and friendly visit of July 2001 (see below) another visit was arranged for Alumnae of Lawnswood High School. This began as a reunion of a group of girls who all started at Lawnswood in September 1959, but the concept expanded somewhat! By the time we met at Weetwood Hall Hotel, we were a party of sixteen!

After much hugging and exchanging of photographs, we settled down to some serious memory swapping!

The only time the school could accommodate us was during the pupils’ lunch break — 1o’clock until 2o’clock. We arrived promptly at the Girls’ School (now called the East Block) and were met by the Acting Head Teacher, Miss Glynis Powell. Miss Powell divided us into three groups and elicited the help of two fifth-form students to show us around. Unfortunately, only Miss Powell had any keys and as most of the rooms are kept locked during lunchtime, there was a limit to how many rooms we could see. However, suffice it to say we went into as many as were available to us.

As the three groups took different tours around the school, it would be pointless to describe the route of our visit. (For a more comprehensive description of the interior of the school, please read the write-up of the visit on 5th July 2001, which is below.)

As you may know, a new building is being erected on our old playing field, and the pupils will move there in September 2003 (builders permitting!) Obviously, with the new building going up, it would be wasteful to spend much capital on the infrastructure of the old one. Consequently, it must be said that the old place looked somewhat tired and neglected.

After touring the corridors and some of the classrooms, the three groups re-assembled in the crush hall. We asked if it was possible to see the gym and the changing rooms, but they were not available to us. Neither was the library, as Miss Powell couldn’t find a key to fit the lock. However, she was able to open the door that leads onto the back of the platform in the assembly hall. We picked our way over benches and assorted electrical equipment to stand on the platform and look out over the hall. The room’s the same, but it no longer has the ‘grandeur’ that I remembered. To be honest, it seemed rather seedy and unkempt.

Some things about the school haven’t changed: the parquet flooring is still in place (although it’s no longer polished), as are the glazed brick walls, the stone staircases and the black iron banister-rails. Although being in the building was evocative of an earlier time, the atmosphere had changed over the years. It looked the same but it didn’t feel the same; rather like revisiting a childhood home, only to find that it’s taken on the persona of the present occupants. Which is how it should be — it’s not ‘our’ school any more; it belongs to the present pupils.

The recollections we have of our school are kept safe in our memories — and, it must be said, a good many of them are contained in the anecdotes dotted throughout this website!

Lawnswood High School no longer exists, but is held in the combined memories of the girls who were pupils there from 1931 to 1971. Whatever becomes of the buildings, ‘our’ school lives on in the collective consciousness of its pupils.

Having left the assembly hall, we posed on the front steps for photographs by the Yorkshire Evening Post photographer. After an all too brief visit, we returned to Weetwood Hall for more wine and reminiscences. We sang the school song — and no, we weren’t completely drunk! Fortunately, a small MiniDisc recorder was on hand: by going to The School Song page and clicking on the link below the words, you can hear the recording of our very wobbly efforts!

We are grateful to the school for letting us see our alma mater once again — there was so much more we would have liked to see if time and keys had permitted! For me, the best part of the day was the warmth and affection of the Old Girls and the chance to renew such wonderful friendships.

Sandra Midgley (née Baker) ’59–’64.”



Photograph courtesy of the Yorkshire Evening Post

Background group, from the back, left to right:
Jane McConomy, Joyce Harrison (née Latto), Margaret Rennison (née Eastwood), Jacqueline Atkinson (née Rowe), Lynne Shears (née Elliott), Irene Wyborn (née Furze), Polly Schlodtmann (née Peller), Celia Bloomer (née Deighton), Margaret Powell (née Anderson), Sandra Midgley (née Baker), Margaret Cobbett (née Collie), Margaret May (née Bradbrook) — all of whom started in September 1959.

Foreground group, left to right:
Jean Maude (née Dunbar) – an original pupil and former Head Girl;
Betty Rowe (née Carter) – an original pupil and Jackie Atkinson’s Mum.
Christine Tweedie – an Old Girl who returned as a domestic science teacher.

Also present, but not on the photograph was Caroline Rowe who had taught French.




“Thursday 5th July 2001.

A visit to Lawnswood School, formerly Lawnswood High School and Leeds Modern School.

Who was there? Maggie Cobbett (née Margaret Collie), Ann Marie Burnett and I — all of whom started in Class 1A in September 1959. Also Roger Mundell who was at the Modern School at about the same time. Roger’s daughter Joanne was with us, as was my husband Trevor. Also doing the tour was an older gentleman whose name I missed, but who had heard about the trip from Roger, and just came along. The school business manager took us round. Miss Austin retired as school secretary in September 1999 after a lifetime working at Lawnswood. Her job was reformulated as ‘business manager’.

We went into the school via the main door in the East Block (known to us as The Boys’ School). Some trepidation about entering the forbidden territory. The buildings are identical, so being in the boys’ school is the same as being in the girls’ school. What used to be the boys’ library is now an office. We were signed in and issued with visitors passes. Looking round the Crush Hall, it seemed to be less formidable than I remembered, as pupil’s art works etc. were pinned to boards to brighten up the area. What would have been the Headmaster's office is now a room to house the printers and photocopiers. There’s a small, private toilet behind the office, so that the Head didn’t have to venture out to the staff toilets. I never knew that!

The boys’ assembly hall has been converted to serve as an extra gymnasium for basketball, etc. At the time we saw it, riser seating had been installed facing the stage.

Moving out of the Crush Hall and past the Head’s office, we should have passed a staff room on the left. It was easy to see where the doorway had been, though it is now bricked up (don’t know why). The staff room is now on the right, and has french windows opening onto the inner courtyard. For the first time in our lives, we went into a courtyard. It was a little overgrown, but pleasant enough with trees and a small fishpond.

From the courtyard, we could look through the windows and down into the boys’ gym.

We went up the staircase to the corridor that overlooks the north drive. Nothing has changed very much: the same stone staircase, the black iron banisters, the glazed brick walls, the parquet flooring — all as I remembered it. The science and physics labs were locked and we were unable to see into them, so we went down the staircase at the other end of the corridor.

The areas that used to be our cloakrooms are now called ‘break points’. They are light, airy and carpet covered. Here, pupils can congregate if it’s too wet to go outdoors. There is a television mounted high on the wall protected by a Perspex shield. All of the cloakrooms have been turned into break points. They are also used as small rehearsal rooms, meeting rooms, etc. The toilets have been modernised. (‘Bout time too!)

Because there are no cloakrooms, the students have to keep all of their outdoor clothing with them at all times. This is quite a problem in winter. They no longer have desks with storages space (just tables), so they have to carry all of their books all of the time. This means they are usually seen around the school carrying huge backpacks, plus sports gear, outdoor wear, etc. There are no lockers because it is not possible to make them secure enough to prevent theft.

We left the boys’ school by the door on the north drive that faces the dining room block. We didn’t go into the dining hall as it was being used at the time. The swimming pool was demolished years ago, and was replaced by an annexe-type building that provides extra classrooms and another staff room.

From the annexe, we came out into the playground on the girls’ side. Of course, as it’s co-ed, the railings that we used to hang onto whilst ogling the boys have gone.

From the playground, we looked down into the girls’ gym. We all reacted with the same terror at seeing the beams, the ropes, the wall bars, exactly as they were in our day.

We went into the girls’ school via the door on the south drive (the door that used to be opposite the swimming pool). This was the door we would have come through as first formers. Maggie could remember exactly which classroom 1A was situated in, so we went in there. Fortunately, it was empty at the time because Maggie went straight to ‘her’ desk by the window and sat down. This was a very nostalgic moment. The rooms look different now, but still have echoes of the rooms we knew. Now, they seem to be covered with posters and leaflets offering advice on everything from AIDS to relationship problems. All the classrooms that we saw were the same in this respect. Notices, timetables, leaflets, posters and memos pinned up everywhere. If you took down the notices and put back our desks, we would have been back in September 1959.

The corridors now have fire doors at either end; also in the middle where the transverse corridors run along the side of the assembly hall. To get from one end of the south drive corridor to the other, one has to go through four sets of fire doors.

We moved to the middle of the corridor, and to the music rooms behind the stage. These are now very small, hot, stuffy, offices. We crossed behind the stage and into the transverse corridor leading towards the girls’ Crush Hall. We peeped into the assembly hall, but it was being used, so we had to move quietly on. However, I did notice that the walnut boards with the gold lettering were gone. These were the boards that listed all the names of past headmistresses, sports captains, etc. Shame.

Now, we were in the girls’ Crush Hall. This was more as we remembered, as the library is still the library, and the Head’s office is still, etc. etc. I would have loved to go into the Head’s office, but ‘She’ was using it; ‘She’ being Mrs. Lindsey Wharmby. And you can’t just barge into the Head’s office like a coach load of Japanese tourists, can you! The firmly shut door still looked forbidding.

The library was locked, so we’ll have to save that for another time. We went upstairs to the labs overlooking the north drive. Our guide tried all the doors, but it was lunchtime and they too were locked. The labs are where they always were: chemistry and physics in the middle of the corridor; art rooms at the corner.

We came down to ground level and immediately turned into the domestic science lab. Although all the equipment has changed since our day (probably several times!), it brought back very sharp memories. Same layout; different cookers.

Maggie had brought her school apron with her and I’m sure that she could have put on her apron and made scones without any problem. (The strange thing was, the apron fitted we grown women perfectly well. What did it look like on twelve-year-olds?) Maggie had also brought her school beret and scarf, which were tremendously evocative.

After the dom.sci. lab, we went out into the playground that houses the annex. This is the playground nearest to where Malcolm’s ice cream van used to park. I asked if they had an ice cream van nowadays. I was told not.

The annexe was never meant to last forty years (it was build in the early sixties to see we baby-boomers though school), and now looks past its best. In fact, it’s rapidly recycling itself as builders’ waste! The tennis court is a car park, although the courts on the north drive are still there. We looked for the commemorative bird bath (‘To Joan’) in the teachers’ garden, but it’s gone. So are the allotment gardens along by the hedge.

We moved onto the south drive. The tennis/netball courts on the field are still there, and the field itself looks just the same, although the trees are bigger! We went into the bike sheds. (Yes, girls and boys together in the bike shed. What would Miss Longworth say!) They don’t have bikes in there now. It’s used as a storage area and is full of all sorts of junk.

We were asked what else we’d like to see, and we immediately elected to view the changing rooms. A certain degree of masochism was creeping in now! There they were in all their glory; painted a different colour (yellow instead of cream), but just as they ever were. I went straight to my peg. I’d swear that these were the original pegs and in fact, I now have a photo of the peg! Just out of curiosity, we went to the place where the dreaded showers were. Lo and behold — there they were, exactly as before. Okay, not quite ‘exactly’ because they’ve obviously been re-tiled over the years, but the U-shaped layout’s the same. We could all visualise Miss Goodall standing there, clutching our towels and saying, “Go round again girls”. Awful. I did do a run round with my arms above my head, but I definitely kept my clothes on!

We peeked into the gym. We’d already looked down into it from the windows in the playground, but now we were able to look in through the door. It seems to have survived very well and looked absolutely the same as when Miss Goodall and Mrs. Johnson used to try to get me to climb those ropes and vault the leather horse. A triumph of hope over experience.

From there, we went back to the office.

Final impressions? Well, it was not quite as bad as I expected. Obviously, it has been allowed to run down in view of the imminent rebuilding. Maggie put it best when she said, “Take out these kids, put in us in our uniforms, and it’s just the same”.

She also said that we’ve worn better than the school has, and I’m inclined to agree.

Sandra Midgley (née Baker) ’59–’64.”




“And Roger Mundell looks incredibly familiar, even after all these years. Glad to see he didn't go fat and bald!” Gill Crossley ’59-’66