Sunday, 21 September 2014

School Days, Chimneys, and Pilgrims ~~~

Gentle Reader ~~~ Just one more entry on chimneys for now {but I do promise that this is quite different, and also that in a while more will follow, for I have already taken photographs} I hope you will humour me, for this one is not just any chimney pot, as you will see, this, rather, these are the chimney pots of the old, Victorian built school house in the village ~~~ this journal entry has turned out longer than I normally write, but this building is especially important and meaningful to me in many ways, so I hope you are sitting comfortably?  Make yourself a mug of tea {coffee, or hot chocolate if you prefer} and take a slice of cake.  Draw your chair closer to the fire and settle in ~~~ for this is my account, in my own words of some of my own memories.

Here is the little unclassified road that leads from the centre of the village, past some quaint stone cottages of old, and down the hill to the old Victorian school house ~ can you see it, just peeking around the corner?  The little bell tower complete with bell rising up, ready to ring out the clarion call to class ~ this is the road that I, and many hundreds of children over the years, walked each day to go to school.  Can you see the ghosts of little children, some in Victorian dress, some in Edwardian, some from the eras of WWI and WWII, some well to do, others poor, across the many years walking past the old cottages to school?  Boys playing pranks, running along atop the hedge, pulling the braids of the girls as the go walking arm in arm, playing with their dollies, giggling at the antics of the boys ~~~ oh! what a tale this little stretch of road could tell ~~~



*my mother did not travel this road, she came from the other side of the hill, for she lived in the cathedral caretaker's cottage, for her father, my Dacu, was the cathedral verger and caretaker for many years in the early and mid 1900's.  That is another story waiting to be told ~~~

As you come around the corner, this is the view that you will see ~~~ a view that has changed only very little during my memory, save that the school house now has an extension and a new purpose ~~~
Built in Victorian times it was, originally, the Church in Wales Voluntary Assisted School for many decades until the end of the 1960's when it was re~purposed as the school canteen.  It is now a centre of pilgrimage, welcoming pilgrims as we have done for centuries.




The extension to the left houses the offices and main entrance to the new pilgrimage education centre {see below}. The original porch with all its charm {where we hung our gabardine rain coats} that stood over the original entrance door {below} has been demolished, but you can see the inverted "V" where the roof and walls were placed. Other than the addition of a disabled access ramp, the school is quite recognisable to me, and here you can see the two sturdy chimneys on the outside of the building ~~~




Several generations of my family attended this school.  I cannot be certain if my great grandmother attended but my mother and grandmother both did, as did I from 1962 until the building was replaced by the new, clinical and modern, state of the art building a short walk away. I was the only member of the family to attend in both buildings, and I spent my last year of primary eduction in the new building before moving up to Grammar School {another beautiful Victorian building}.  For all the modern conveniences of a new build, it had no character, no history, and was a strange and alien building after seven years in a beautiful, old, stone built, historical building that housed the spirit and energy of decades steeped into the very mortar that bound the stones.  I believe the ghosts of pupils gone before must have been so very sad to see us leave ~~~

For at least twenty years after the "new" school was built, the "old" school served as a school canteen for both the Church in Wales and Council {CP} schools across the road.  Then, in the 1980's tragedy struck and the CP school was destroyed in a fire. The two schools amalgamated and another new building to accommodate them was built, complete with canteen which ultimately led to the abandonment of this beautiful Victorian school house. But this is an aside, it is not the history I am following.  Let us return to the beautiful Victorian building, now abandoned and left to ruin, and some of the memories I have of my own happy days spent there and those of my mother.

Internally, the building was divided into three sections.  There was a big, pull~back concertina dividing wall that separated the Infants from the rest of the school, and a high screen that divided the rest of the building.  For concerts and other gatherings, these dividing sections were easily pushed back to create one big communal space. By the 1960's there was also a Portacabin outside as there were now too many students to fit into the old Victorian building.

In my mother's day the schoolhouse was big enough on its own for all the village students, and those who came in from outlying hamlets and farms. There were two big, roaring, coal fires, one in each of the fireplaces, but only in the depths of winter.  I remember in my day, we had no fires, they were boarded up, so it was never comfortably warm in winter, although we seldom had to wear our coats until playtime, and often scorching hot in summer with the big, west facing windows letting in the sunshine.  Still, as children, such things never seemed to bother us. 

I did not like the long trek to the outside toilets, the toilet paper was harsh and flimsy, and there was only a cold water tap, some horrible carbolic soap, and paper towels to wash your hands with. Ugh!

In the winter of 1964 the school had to be closed for three days because the water pipes froze solid!  Three days off in the middle of term with snow on the ground ~ imagine! ~ such a jamboree we did have, building snow men, tobogganing, snowball fights, and more! Then, the pipes thawed and back to school we had to go ~~~

We had proper blackboards and chalk, and the boys, would vie for the task of cleaning the duster ~ taking it outside and shaking it like mad, thumping it against the wall, then returning with a clean duster but covered in chalk themselves!  Silly boys!

There was an upright piano that sat in the corner and was used for teaching us how to sing, most of which was done in preparation for the annual Christmas concert and party.  Every class would have several items to perform, and at the end Mr Jack Smith {a local green grocer} played the part of Father Christmas, and each child would receive a gift from his sack of presents and an orange.  One thing I will always remember is that each child received a different gift, and each one bore a handwritten tag with the child's name individually written on it.  

In my mother's day, months before Christmas, the head teacher, Mr Perkins, would write a list of presents on the blackboard.  Each child was given a slip of paper and asked to write the gift they wished to receive.  His wife would then make as many of those gifts that she could ~ dressed dolls, embroidered handkerchiefs or dressing table sets; books and such were bought, all out of his own pay, a Christmas gift for each and every child in his care.  I think this gesture was so sweet and kind of them.

Sometimes, there were inter~school competitions, and once a year there was an Eisteddfod.  I won several prizes, mostly certificates awarded for a short poem, handwriting, or some other skill.  I do remember one award in particular, when I won a book for a drawing that had been entered by my teacher into a national competition.  It was Enid Blyton's "Tales After Tea" and ever since reading the story about the girl who ate too many green sweets, I have never enjoyed green sweets and actively avoid them from any packet offered to me!  I still have the book. 

Every day, the milk man would deliver crates with a small bottle of milk for each child. These were the days before Mrs Thatcher "milk snatcher".  I have never cared for milk, so I was appointed 'Milk Monitor' and it was my responsibility to make sure that each child received their bottle, with a straw, and that all the empty bottles were gathered up and placed in the crates for collection. Strangely enough, my mother was also designated Milk Monitor, and in her day the milk was put near the open fires.  As Milk Monitor, she would put her own bottle a little bit closer than all the others for she liked her milk hot!

Fortified by the daily bottle of milk right before morning break, we would tumble, pell mell out through the porch door into the yard that surrounded the building; the boys playground was to the left, the girls to the right.  Oh! there were so many games to play. Many long forgotten, and are they still played in any way today?  There is such a list from which we could chose ~ "What's the time Mr Wolf?", "Statues", "The Farmer Wants a Wife", "Oranges and Lemons", "Hopscotch", "Tag" {or "Touch"}, and any number of ball games to be played in groups or solo, and skipping in its many forms with one or two ropes.  Who remembers two long ropes turning, full of girls jumping, to hop out when your birth month is called?  Ah! Those were the days before thumbs began to mutate over keypads. 

From the school yard we would walk out for different services at the Cathedral, at Christmas, Easter, and on March 1st to celebrate the Feast Day of David, Patron Saint of Wales, who was born nearby and who founded the monastic settlement that made St Davids such an important place on the pilgrimage and ecclesiastic maps.  We would walk, holding hands, two by two, in a long crocodile, never daring to talk or step out of line as we represented our school in public.

For several years, the future of the building hung in the balance. Speculation abounded as to what it may, or may not be used for, and all the while the state of repair declined.  Windows were broken and boarded up; weeds flourished where once school yard games were played; walls crumbled; slates slipped and slithered to the ground allowing water to seep in; trees seeded in the very foundations; and each and every time I walked past the decaying building it was crumbling a little bit more and my heart cried.  

Then, one wonderful day, it was announced that the Church in Wales, who owned the building, had secured funding and permission to restore the school with the purpose of creating a centre of education and pilgrimage.  My heart sang with joy!  I do not think anyone could have come up with a more appropriate and suitable purpose for this once and future centre of education.

So, Tŷ'r Pererin came into being and you can find out all about it and the work they do here.



Part of the restoration included a new, replacement, fully working bell that is often rung ~~~




Here are the two original chimneys ~~~ taken on a foggy day in early Spring, shortly after the newly dedicated centre was opened ~~~



and you can read what the BBC said here

Here are some images now from the inside.  The lighting was not brilliant as it was a foggy day in the Shire, but I think they will work ~~~


If you click on any image, it should bring up a larger version ~~~ this is an image of the new building ~ the original building was the main rectangle, the two sections on either side are the extensions but the division of the space remains faithful ~~~



The main auditorium/meeting space which originally housed four classes {in my day they were the very sweet and patient {my favourite teacher} Mrs Walters, Years 3 and 4; and the strict and disciplinarian Mr Salmon Years 5 and 6}~~~



The new kitchen is beyond the far wall.  That area was originally the Infants One and Two, under the guidance of the lovely Mrs Bird ~~~



The original windows still form part of the back wall, which is now enclosed on the other side by a passageway which runs along the former outside wall, creating a covered walkway from one end of the building to the other ~~~



The passageway, from one end to the other showing the traditional stonework of the original exterior wall ~~~ 




Looking out from the passageway {which covers a section of what was playground} across the part of the former playground {which here had not been fully landscaped} ~~~



The view from here, across the valley, is, on a clear day, quite beautiful.  If you look into the mist, through the trees, in the distance you can see the outline of the tower of the Cathedral.
The steps on both sides of the wall lead down to where the original outside toilet blocks stood ~ girls to the left, boys to the right ~~~ 



This is the new extension, the new entrance, and the administrative centre is to the right ~~~


A copy of the icon of Saint David is on the wall.  This is from the Shrine in St Davids Cathedral dedicated to David, Patron Saint of Wales ~~~



The door, left, was the internal door from the original porch.  This was Mrs Walter's classroom where I spent many happy hours. In my day, the walls were bare stonework ~~~


The class room space is much smaller than I recall, yet this is the original space ~~~ imagine it full of desks, filled with seated students all eager to learn {well, some more eager than others!}


A misty day across the valley ~~~


Gentle Reader ~  I hope you are still here and have not gone to sleep, or wandered away, and have enjoyed this journey through my early school days, and that you worked out the time line as I bounced along!  It is difficult to stick to a straight line when there is so much to say, and I've really only scratched the surface, as I know you can imagine ~ next time, I must try to get back to something to do with the garden, for colours are turning, seed heads bursting, and the harvest is winding slowly down ~~~ even though I cannot get to work with a fork or spade, remember that ~~~



~~~A Gardener's Work Is Never Done~~~

26 comments:

  1. I live this peek into yours...and those who came before you's....schooldays & the beautiful building I which you studied! Glorious photographs, Deb...thanks so much for sharing xx

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    1. Thank you Rachel. It is a beautiful building and I'm so happy it is restored ~~~waving~~~

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  2. Oh Debs, I had chills as I read your beautiful post and looked at your stunning photos... what memories they hold!... and you are right, I am sure the ghosts of students past still visit... perhaps laughing and the boys playing pranks on each other as they did so very long ago... happy ghosts, of course... and the bell tower!... how lovely it must sound... I am constantly in awe of your beautiful countryside... thank you so much for sharing it with me, and your memories as well... I love hearing others stories about their childhood and those precious memories we carry close to us in our hearts... just waiting to come out and be told as you have today... and those precious teachers... making sure each and every child received a gift at Christmas time... oh, and like you, I don't like milk!... infact, I cannot even tell you what it tastes like!... I threw my bottle away as a baby and was given juice instead... in grade school, kids always fought over who got my milk that I took and gave away... just the thought of tasting it makes me say "yuck"!... hope your back is improving each day... much love to you, xoxo Julie Marie waving across this side of the pond!...

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    1. Thank you Julie Marie ~ oh! how I wish I could remember more, but I intend to explore the recesses of my memory for more snippets. Things, no matter how insignificant, must be written down, or the finer points that make the picture of our history are easily lost.
      I never could drink milk, yet I love cheese and chocolate both! ~~~waving~~~

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  3. Another lovely post and walk though your village and school house...The song, "In The Little Red Schoolhouse", came to mind. I have that record and remember my grandmother singing along with it when I was little. Although your schoolhouse isn't red, the words of the song go perfectly with your schoolhouse. I love both the old and the new of it. And, what wonderful memories to have shared with so many generations in your family. Our milk came in the little paper cartons and I always got chocolate! Every time it smell chocolate milk, I am immediately transported back to my kindergarten room, my little desk and our milk being delivered to our door in a red dairy crate. Hugs and healing for your back from this side of the sea ~ Donna E.

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    1. Hello there Donna, thank you ~ for your kind comments and your memories of milk that seem better than mine! I might not have disliked my milk so much had it been chocolate! ~~~waving~~~

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  4. What a delightful journey into your past school days. And so similar to ours in New England when I was growing up, too. What magical building to study and learn in! Ours was wonderful and old (for us! Not like yours!) But it was red brick and double story. So much more atmosphere than the modern glass and steel sprawling ones now. I am so glad I grew up back then. Thank you so much for sharing! Trust your back is improving. xoxo

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    1. Thank you Jane. Yes, a wonderful building indeed, and I love that it is now re~purposed to something very near to my heart. Red brick is a lovely material too. Our new village school is designed on waves! Well, I think that is what it is supposed to be! ~~~waving~~~

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  5. Oh, Deb! I can almost hear the school bell ringing! Your Victorian schoolhouse is such a treasure. Truly beautiful! It is amazing to peek inside Mrs. Walter's classroom where you spent such happy days. I also remember playing 'Statue Maker,' 'Tag,' and 'Hopscotch' on the playground. We played 'Double Dutch' with two long jump ropes during our recess time. It's just wonderful that the schoolhouse has taken on an important new life ~ still teaching and encouraging all of the children who visit this special place! Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful memories and family stories about this very special schoolhouse at the heart of St Davids! As you shared the tales of walking along the road to school, it felt like we were walking to school together! ♡

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    1. Good Morning Dawy! It is a beautiful building with a beautiful new purpose. The cathedral and surrounding area mean so much to me, from a deeply spiritual point of view, and my family history. I enjoyed reminiscing, and I'm happy you liked my little ramblings again! ~~~waving~~~

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  6. And I want to add, too, what a dear little road to walk up each day past those sweet village cottages! So picturesque. I can just see the children through the ages in their period dress as you described! I was a cookie monitor (not monster, I hope!) in our classroom! We would have a large box -- about a 12 inch cube (30 cm) -- full of small chocolate chip cookies. They were doled out at recess each day -- 2 a piece! We saved the boxes and decorated them with crepe paper at Valentine's Day and made a slit for the children to drop their Valentine's in about a week before. Then we would have a Valentine's Party and pass out the Valentines. It was always fun to see who sent to who, and some were secret!! Lovely memories! And your photos are fantastic. How wonderful they have preserved the bones of the building in remodel. A truly lovely building. xo

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    1. Hello again Jane! Thank you for your kind comments. I wonder if you ever sneaked an extra cookie? ~~~waving~~~

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  7. What wonderful memories to share...thanks! It made me think of some of mine. I had a new school, no lovely stone, just red brick. But the memories of playing is just the same.

    My grandchildren don't know what to think when I tell them girls had to wear dresses every day and that meant in the Winter, too! Walking to school in the dead of Winter in a short dress is something I would like to forget. Oh my poor frozen legs! LOL!

    Hope you are still on the mend and all is well there!

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    1. Hello Dear Friend! I am with your grandchildren ~ I don't think we ever wore trousers back then either. It simply was not done! I do remember, however, being part of an unsuccessful campaign at Grammar School to allow the wearing of trousers for girls, but our uniform code was very strict and didn't change until recently. ~~~waving~~~

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  8. Deborah, I very much enjoyed your remembrances, and it is wonderful that so much has remained the same--like the little road leading to the school. After going to grades 1 through 4 at the same school we moved around so much there was only one school I went to for a second year. One of the houses I lived in is a parking lot now, and one of the high schools is now the middle school. I have no idea about the other schools. They are all in the South and Midwest and I do not go there anymore as there is no longer family there. So it is so nice when people have a history that can still be a part of. I am glad your school building has been saved and repurposed in a meaningful way. I was wondering how you came to live in the US and from what years you were here.

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    1. Yes, much changes but much remains the same ~~~ the little caretaker's cottage where my dear mother was born, only a few steps from the school is still there overlooking the cemetery as it has done for many decades now. I feel deep pangs of sadness when homes and community buildings are destroyed for car parks though. It is good to record and share too, and I love visiting your blog for those very reasons ~~~waving~~~

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  9. Oh how wonderful that this lovely school has been restored! How thrilling that so many have studied there from your family. I absolutely love the beautiful bell tower. What a beautiful village you live in! Thank you for reminding me of my early school years--my how times have changed. I hope and pray that my grandchildren will have lovely memories also. ♥

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    1. Now that I can see the quality of the restoration, I wish I had taken pictures of the dereliction too, but it was so heartbreaking I could not. Yes, times have changed indeed, and I feel certain your grandchildren will have lovely memories ~~~waving~~~

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  10. Such a delightful blog -- the photos and history are fascinating, and I love the storybook script font, which suits the content perfectly! I've added it to a list of positive blogs I keep on my own site. :)

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    1. Hello Meg ~ thank you for your sweet comments, and I hope you will visit again, and often ~~~waving~~~

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  11. Dearest Dear Deborah!
    This was a wonderful story!! I have books by Miss Read, and
    I want to go pull them out to read again. I really enjoyed this post
    and appreciate all your memories and information that you poured
    Into it! :-)

    My laptop computer crashed so I'm writing from my kindle
    ( it's a bit challenging for it wants to correct words with silly substitutes)!!!!
    Many many blessings and warmth, Linnie

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    1. yes! Miss Read! Oh, do read them again. I am currently revisiting Anne of Green Gables. Do you love Maeve Binchy also? She has a wonderful way of drawing you in so that you never want to leave ~~~
      So sorry about your laptop, I'm struggling with a new one which is, I think, some kind of evil creation sent to frazzle and frustrate me!
      Hope you get it sorted soonest! ~~~waving~~~

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  12. Such wonderful memories and such a lovely building!

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    1. Thank you Michelle, it is a lovely building ~~~waving~~~

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  13. Oh my, what a beautiful picture you have painted with this post! I love historical buildings and their past and present tales. You live in such a stunning part of the world, I so love reading your posts and seeing your pictures! :)

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    1. Thank you April. I guess I do live in the middle of history, having grown up in a community that established around a Christian monastery and origins back over 1400 years, I hope I do not take things for granted.

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Thank you for stopping by today ~ I love reading your comments