THE 1930's

THE 1930's

I am very grateful to Mrs. Jean Maude (Jean Dunbar), who willingly took it upon herself to collect, edit and write up the memories of herself and her fellow Old Girls. Well done Jean!



Reminiscences contributed by Betty Carter, Jean Dunbar, Miriam Pearce, Muriel Ould and Dorothy Stone, who were all at the school in the 1930's.

Click here to see a 1933 school report of Miriam Pearce. Miriam was aged thirteen-and-a-half, and was form leader of Upper IIIA at the time.

The Leeds Modern School for Girls in Vernon Road was separated from the Kindergarten Department in Willow Terrace Road by a lane. The cloakroom was in the cellar. Both departments were due to be moved in 1931. The pupils would go in September to a new building on the corner of Otley Road and the Ring Road, West Park. However, there was some delay. Among the new intakes in 1931 were Betty Carter and Jean Dunbar, so they started in Vernon Road and at half term moved with all the pupils to the new school. The old building became the Leeds Domestic Science College (or 'Pudd School' as it became known).

“My father's three sisters attended the earlier school at the turn of the 20th Century. They were: Margaret (Peg) and Lilian Hudson, born around 1899 and 1902 and Marion who was quite a bit younger. Lilian was once the President of the Leeds Business and Professional Women.” Rosalie Hudson ’43-’49

“Miss Gilman called my friend Margaret Sykes and I ‘the two aspidistras’ because we sat in the bay windows at Willow Terrace Road when in the lower school.” Margaret Sarvent ’30-’39

Muriel Ould, aged eight, and hoping to start as a pupil after Easter in 1932, remembers being taken by her parents for an interview with the Head Mistress, Miss E A Willey. They got off the tram at West Park and walked slightly uphill towards the school. When she saw the red brick buildings - girls’ school on the left, the boys’ Modern School (they kept the old name for their school) and the swimming baths in-between, she says it was just a wonderful sight. The playing fields were extensive, having two hockey pitches, two netball courts to the side and two tennis courts at the front, with more courts marked out in the summer.

We remember the school being opened in September 1932 by HRH Prince George (the Duke of Kent). (See the original “Official Opening” programme.) A guard of honour was formed by a representative from each form. Other pupils lined the school corridors at various points and, as the Prince approached, gave 'three cheers'.

“My mum is Betty Akers. She remembers the Duke of Kent opening the new school, and also that in his speech he got the name of the school wrong, and called it something like 'Langwood' - it began with an 'L', but definitely wasn't Lawnswood!” Jean Redfearn ’69-’76

School uniforms were bought at Matthias Robinson's in Briggate and later at Rawcliffes in Duncan Street. Blouses and summer dresses could be hand made.

Navy gabardines or reefer coats.
Navy felt or velour brimmed hat with regulation red/white/black hatbands. Some had elastic under the chin to keep them on!
Black outdoor shoes.
Long black stockings.
Navy pleated 'gym' tunics, with a fringed navy sash. (Tunics no more than 4 inches above the knee when kneeling.)
White long-sleeved blouses.
Black indoor buttoned shoes.
(Sixth-formers could wear plain navy skirts and white blouses.)

Very dark navy blazer with red school badge on the pocket.
Cream panama hats, regulation hatband.
Cotton dresses - blue, butcher blue or pale blue / white check. White 'Peter Pan' collar - later could be pointed - short-sleeved with white cuff.

All clothes had to be marked with Cash's name tapes and other belongings with written names. Click here to see a copy of the wartime regulations for uniforms.

Pupils went to their cloakroom where they had their own numbered peg, hung up their clothes and changed their shoes. A bag held indoor shoes. A bench ran the length of the pegs and underneath was a locker for outdoor shoes.

Outside the cloakrooms were notice boards. These showed, amongst notices, lists of team members wanted for practices and matches - inter-house and against other schools. The Captain ordered refreshments for after the game and all the team acted as hostesses and did the washing-up afterwards.

After changing in the cloakroom, pupils gathered in their form rooms went along to the hall where they sat cross-legged in rows. The staff sat on chairs down the side of the hall and towards the back. Sixth-formers sat on chairs down the side and near the platform. When the pupils were ready the Head Girl knocked on the Head Mistress's door, collected her books (hymn, prayer books, Bible and notices) and took them into the hall, placing them on the table on the platform. The Headmistress followed. The senior mistress, standing on the platform, could see, through the glass doors, Miss Willey leave her room. She then signaled us to stand. Miss Willey took a short service, followed by notices and sometimes reprimands - such as not having snowball fights with the boys next door!

Miss Froggatt, the music teacher played for hymns and the music for marching out. From time to time pupils - Ruth Johnson, Ellen Smith and Dorothy Stone - took her place.

The Jewish girls and late arrivals came into the hall for the notices.

It is difficult to mention then all, but they were conscientious, mostly kindly and the odd one sarcastic - "You lot will have shovels, not harps!"

Miss E A Willey, the Headmistress, was a stickler for discipline. No talking or running on the corridors - there were beautiful wooden floors, but very highly polished and therefore dangerous. When Miss Willey came into the hall for prayers we knew we were in for trouble if her face was red! Nevertheless she was highly respected - as were all the staff - very well qualified and she encouraged the pupils to go further afield than Leeds for college or university training. She must have been very satisfied when the six sixth-form pupils, leaving in July 1939, all went on to further education; three to Leeds University, one to Anstey Physical Training College and two to Saffron Walden Teacher Training College. They were -

Leeds University: Margaret Midgley (Botany), Dorothy Stone (English), Betty Wilman (Medicine)

Saffron Walden Teacher Training College: Isobel Cathcart, Joan Kemshell

Anstey Physical Training College: Jean Dunbar

Miss Stowell - Senior Mistress and an 'Old Girl' herself, - was a well-qualified English teacher with much patience and so very pleasant always.

Miss Gilham - physics - also taught writing to the young pupils; I think Lower 3.

Miss Wallace - history - we remember her, on entering the classroom in a very determined way, saying "Good morning (or afternoon) people", always to the top left-hand-corner of the room. How to remember those lists of dates?

Miss Croft - Latin - what a hard time she had imparting her knowledge, but those of us who had to know Latin for terminology in our careers were forever grateful. She produced 'Antigone'.

Miss Watson - maths - although very tiny and small-made, when she greeted us in the classroom, just stood there and got immediate silence.

Miss MacIlvean - domestic science - methods of ironing, making shortbread, knowledge of vitamins and hygiene are still remembered today.

After she left, Miss Riddoch came - not a very good disciplinarian but we all loved her. She married after her retirement but her husband died very soon afterwards. Jean Dunbar and her husband went to live in Wetherby, where Elsie Ashworth (née Riddoch) had gone to live. They met frequently. In her eighties, Elsie decided to go back to Northern Scotland to be nearer her married nephew (now her nearest relative) and in June 1985 they visited her there. She came from a large family and had lived a most interesting life - a Queen's nurse in France in the 1914-18 war; later a domestic science teacher, very well read being interested in the arts and indeed an artist herself. While still in England she had attended reunions with other Lawnswood retired members of staff including Miss Holden. She became totally deaf and died aged about ninety-two.

Miss Eleanor Boyd - gym - remembered for standing on a stool in the corner of the gym to take us for our exercises, balancing exercises and vaulting. Accompanied by music from her gramophone we did countermarching; country dancing (and how we laughed) on wet games days; occasional gym lessons outside on hot summer days; she encouraged us in swimming, particularly in taking life-saving exams. Her work was non-stop - organizing Sports Days with help from other members of staff at the finishing lines, house matches, and inter-school matches. (Click here to see Miss Boyd in action!) We could never beat the University 3rd XI at hockey, but we did manage to win for the first time the James Graham Cup for Leeds Schools' Tennis Teams. (Click here to see the photo of the winning team.) Miss Boyd was joined by a part-time P.T. teacher in about 1937 called Miss Aubrey-Smith and she, too, was an advocate of good posture and good sportsmanship.

Pupils were divided into four houses - dark green, pale green, dark blue and pale blue with a Captain chosen from the sixth form if possible, or failing that, the upper fifth. Miss Boyd organised the inter-house matches and was particularly helpful with the gym competition when the House Captains had to choose a team from their own members and take them for a gym class in front of an adjudicator and some members of the school. Points were awarded for winning these matches, and Cups awarded. A larger Cup was given to the house which was the overall winner with the most points. The Cups were kept in the library.

Miss Froggatt - music - also taught violin and piano. A great worker with the choirs for Speech Day, she was responsible for various productions such as Ruddigore and the Mikado. She Stoops To Conquer was produced in 1934. Phyllis Grapes (now Mainwaring) remembers it particularly because that year her form was studying it for School Certificate. (To see a photograph of the cast of Ruddigore, along with the signed cover of the script, click here.)

Miss Armes - science teacher - lost her life when the Germans torpedoed the City Of Benares in 1940. It was taking evacuees to Canada.
[Click here for more info. - S.M.]

Miss Sketchley was in charge of the Kindergarten. When she left to go to Miss Davies' in Otley Road (where she taught Muriel Ould's daughter) her place was taken by Miss McLeod.

“Somebody mentions that Miss Sketchley was succeeded by Miss McLeod - but they were both there together, Miss M taking the younger children. She married a widower, Mr Lillie of Lillie’s in Albion Street. (We met again in later years and remained friendly until she died.) Miss S. gave me a kitten called Fluffy. My father felt such a fool calling for it we changed her name to Kitty.” Janet Rawlins ’38-’44

As the 1930's progressed older members of staff were replaced by younger ones. Miss Hazel Guest, daughter of the Leeds Director of Education was one of them. When she left to get married and live in Cambridge she invited three sixth-formers (Isobel Cathcart, Joan Kemshell and Jean Dunbar) to spend the weekend with her and her husband at half term. We went by train and had a lovely time. She had a child, but unfortunately died soon after and we were terribly upset.

Mr. Lund - the caretaker - lived with his wife in the cottage at the Spen Road entrance. Mrs. Lund, with helpers, made the school dinners. The apricot pie and custard was delicious!

Miss Towler and a girl helper were in the 'office'. The dinner tickets (9d each) and service tickets (1d each) were sold here. Those having a service ticket took their own meal and ate at a table in the domestic science room where crockery, cutlery and water were provided. The money for these tickets was collected in the form rooms first thing in the morning and taken by the monitor to the office.

If you went anywhere other than to your own home at mid-day the school had to be notified. It was strictly against the rules to eat anything in the streets.

When Miss Towler retired, Mrs. Senior, an Old Girl, took her place.

The Head Girl was chosen from members of the Upper Sixth. She wore a silver badge.

Prefects also wore badges.

“The prefects wore their metal PREFECT badges. I remember reading this inaccurately and asking - I think it was Margaret Sarvent - ‘Are you perfect?’” Janet Rawlins ’38-’44

Sub-Prefects from the Upper Fifth wore red felt shield-shaped badges with 'S.P.' stamped on. These were sewn onto the gymslip.

Each form had a monitor.

There were four House Captains who had silver badges. (Click here to see the scroll that was presented to a departing House Captain.)

Other honours. Gym ties in the school colours and similar to the hat bands were awarded for good work in the gym and games activities and were worn down the front of the navy tunics - from the neck and tucked into the sash at the waist.

Hockey Badges in red and black were awarded to First Team members.

SPEECH DAY in the hall was a great occasion with limited tickets for parents. Mr. Roscoe, the Chairman of the school governors, praised the school dinners at 9d a time on each occasion. A guest visitor gave out the books to those who had merited good work or who had held the office of Head Girl. Miss Froggatt organised the musical programme and sometimes there was verse speaking.

OUT OF SCHOOL ACTIVITIES. We were given the opportunity, at a reduced price, to attend the following on suitable occasions: -
Town Hall concerts.
Grand Theatre.
Mechanics Institute (lectures).
The New Brotherton Library at Leeds University.

Outings were arranged to Whipsnade Zoo, Stratford Upon Avon and Warwick Castle. (Click here to see a photo of Miss Stowell and Miss Holden at Stratford.)

BALLROOM DANCING. Miss Cooke-Yarborough took classes at 6d a session in the lunch hour. This prepared us for the annual Christmas party, when we wore long party dresses and had programmes to be signed by our partner. We were expected to ask at least one member of staff to dance. Miriam Pearce remembers vividly being clasped to Miss Croft's 'ample bosom'!

We could dance in the hall on wet lunch hours if we could persuade someone, usually Ruth Johnson, to play for us.

“... dancing in the Hall at break and in the dinner hour when it was wet - the Valeta and the Palais Glide.” Janet Rawlins ’38-’44

SOUTH ACCOMMODATION ROAD SCHOOL in one of the poorer districts of Leeds came under our care with various efforts. There was an annual picnic on the playing fields. Those of us who went took the food for the event and we had organised games. Ellen Smith remembers that, when we had the South Accommodation pupils for the annual picnic, we gave them each a present. One year, flat cheese boxes were covered with silver paper and filled with sweets.

“I remember knitting for Christmas parcels for South Accommodation Road School.” Margaret Sarvent ’30-’39

[For more about Lawnswood’s relationship with their ‘adopted’ school, please see the 1936 School Magazine. - S.M.]

MEDICAL CARE. There was a rest room where girls could be taken and looked after, or if necessary, sent home by taxi.

A doctor and nurse came to inspect pupils for medical, dental and eye deficiencies. If anything was wrong, parents would be notified by letter. Remedial classes were taken by Miss Boyd for those with poor posture, breathing or foot and leg problems.

THE FORM ROOMS. Individual wooden desk with its own little ink well. A lid which lifted up and you kept your text books and exercise books inside.

The long wooden pole with its metal hook on the end, for opening the top windows. Quite a hazardous task!

When the teacher entered the room and left the room you had to stand up, and say, 'Good morning' (or afternoon).

THE BOYS� MODERN SCHOOL. Strictly no fraternisation! However, on December 20th 1938, instigated by the boys, a joint Sixth-formers Christmas party took place in the girls' school. The games and dancing seemed to be enjoyed by all. (The full story is on the "Old Mods" page - click here to see it.)

From time to time, the school invited someone to talk to the girls after the morning assemble. Jean Dunbar was greatly honoured to be asked by Miss Holden in the early 1950's to speak of "My three year training as a Physical Training Teacher". She had attended the same college as Miss Boyd.

THE ANNUAL MAGAZINE in its red cover, contained reports of school activities, a report from each form, the names of girls whose work merited awards and items of verse and prose submitted by pupils.

[Click here to see Jean Dunbar�s 1936 copy of the school magazine.]

PUNISHMENTS. 'Order Marks' were issued as punishments and these appeared on the reports.

THE END OF SCHOOL YEARS. For most it was a happy school and when it came to leaving most were glad and were looking forward to the next stage of their life. A few were sad and tears were shed.

Great attention had been paid not only to academic and science teaching, gymnastics and games but to general tuition in what would help us in adult life. At all times we were encouraged to make the best of our appearance and to keep our standards high.


Margaret Sarvent has written with her memories of school in the 1930s. Margaret is one of three sisters - Margaret, Evelyn and Hilda - all of whom were pupils at L.H.S. in the 1930s.

“... Memories too as a past Chairman of the Old Girls’ Union and running the O.G.U. hockey team. Just recently I came across the rough copy of the poster I designed for a match O.G.U. v Stafford played in aid of funds for ‘Wings For Victory’ week.

No doubt the many school clubs we were encouraged to join - Guild of Help; Debating Society; League of Nations Pioneers (junior members of the League of Nations) - all started pupils in the many rőles they later held.

Evelyn was on the rota of 2 staff plus a pupil who nightly acted as firewatchers - this was after we returned from evacuation to Ripon with the school.

In connection with school clubs, we have happy memories of our connections through the Guild of Help with South Accommodation Road School in Hunslet - the annual tea party, picnic-style in the field (or hall if wet); dressing dolls; decorating round cheese boxes with fancy paper for sweets; knitting sets of hat and scarf - all for taking by the club’s representatives when they were invited to Christmas festivities at the Hunslet school.

Memories too of school visits - Warwick Castle and Whipsnade Zoo to mention a couple.

I trust that the old school motto - ‘Nunquam Non Paratus’ - will still apply to pupils in the new school.

In one of Alan Bennett’s “Talking Tapes” he speaks of being a scholar at Leeds Modern where education was free to all. Not so in our day at L.M.S. or L.H.S. We still have the receipts for each term - 3 guineas!! (Approximately £155 in today's money.) Besides these fees, parents had to buy all stationery and text books. So, before the year started, a visit to Sadler’s Book Shop was followed by backing the books with brown paper, ready for inspection by teachers. Parents also had to provide winter and summer uniforms; indoor, gym and hockey shoes; overalls for science and domestic science; fees for violin and piano lessons and fees for Greek dancing. So not exactly free education!”


“I will get my Mum [Betty Carter ’33-’38] to write down her memoirs. She has so many stories - she was the 'Alternative Old Girl' of the 30s; a naughty tomboy and proud of it - from flicking ink at the teachers' skirts to telling her Head in an interview about possible careers, "I want to be a crooner!"” Jackie Rowe ’59-’64

“My mother, Joan Mossendew, remembered the Latin teacher in the [1938 panoramic] photo used to sarcastically call girls 'her little flowers of virtue'.” Roger Mundell (Old Mod)

“I was a paying pupil and can remember taking cheques of three guineas to the office on the first day of term, but cannot remember whether this was annually or each term. Exercise books were given to all form members, but other books had to be bought from a shop in Leeds.” Jean Dunbar ’31-’39

Here are a few reminiscences about school life in the late 1930s from some un-named pupils of the era. Thanks to Elisabeth Stephenson for collecting these.

“Jean Collins was Head Girl in 1937-38.”

“Miss Gilman was our Form Mistress in Upper VA, and along the top of the blackboard she wrote this quotation which we looked at the whole school year: ‘Her voice was ever soft, gentle and low, an excellent thing in woman’. Must have had some impact for me to remember it all this time!”

“In our day, while at school boys and girls were kept segregated. There was an imaginary line down the centre of the playing field, and prefects watched that it was not crossed at lunchtimes when both schools were using the field. It was forbidden.” [NB I don’t think this had changed much by the 1960s! E.S.]

“A lot of us traveled to and from school by tram. Obviously both sexes used the same transport. But when we arrived at school, first the tram stopped at the South Drive for the boys to get off - this was only used by them - and then it moved a few yards to the North Drive for the girls to get off, this being the one we could use. Same in the evening - first the girls got on, then the tram moved to the boys’ stop. At least going home we had first pick of the seats!”

“The reason all the teachers were single was that married women were not allowed to teach. They had to leave to marry. Didn’t apply to the men though!”

“When we were in Upper III-A it was decided that an experiment would be undertaken (nothing new, is there?) and instead of it being a five-year course to School Certificate a few pupils would be chosen to do it in four years. I cannot remember who the others were, but I think we would number about eight. We went into Lower IV-A as normal, but skipped Upper IV-A the following year going straight into Lower V-A. We had extra tuition in Maths and French to keep us on par with the form we would join. In History we missed the Plantagenets, Wars of the Roses etc, and I have never to this day fully understood what happened in those years. Obviously the experiment couldn’t be proved to have been successful until our results at School Certificate were known. I think we all made the grade, but whether four years became the norm I have no idea.”

“On the outbreak of the Second World War, those girls who wished to do so were evacuated to Ripon. In the mornings our school had lessons in a church hall, and in the afternoons we took over Ripon High School for Girls. By Christmas it was decided to bring all the evacuees back to Leeds. Before this my mother had decided I had to leave, unfortunately - she couldn’t stand me being away from home, so I had got a job.”

...and this from Sheila Fingret ’41-’47:

“Yes I also remember the teacher putting on the board ‘her voice was ever soft, sweet and gentle, an excellent thing in woman’”


In 1964, some of the original pupils had a reunion. They are:

Back Row
Miriam Pearce, Betty Carter, Dorothy Stone, Margaret Midgley, Margaret Sarvent, Jean Dunbar, Hilda Jackson.

Front Row
Miss Morison (French teacher), Barbara White, Marion Archer, Betty Wilman.

Do you remember any of these ladies? Were you a pupil in the 1930s? If so, please get in touch at lhs.alumnae@gmail.com