The Magazine of Lenton Local History Society

Lenton Schools At War

From 'The Lenton Listener' Issue 30

September to October 1984

Lenton Schools At War

Once Neville Chamberlain announced that Britain was at war with Germany, everyone fully expected that the enemy would begin a furious bombardment of the country. Arrangements had already been made to evacuate those children who lived in areas likely to be targets for bombing raids. New Lenton fell within the area of Nottingham considered to be most at risk and the Education Authority initiated plans to evacuate the pupils to Worksop. Figures in the school logbooks, however, reveal that relatively few parents took up the offer, the large majority opting to keep their children with them in Lenton.

The schools had all closed down upon the declaration of war, but after a month teaching restarted for those pupils still in Lenton. As adequate air raid shelters were not yet ready, the pupils received part time teaching in small groups dispersed around the neighbourhood. Initially these study groups were limited to ten pupils at a time, but later on larger numbers were permitted. In January 1940 Lenton Junior School adopted the timetable shown here.

These arrangements continued for almost five months until the decision was taken to resume fulltime teaching in the school buildings. As space in the newly constructed air raid shelters was limited, those pupils unable to reach home within five minutes were found suitable shelter in neighbouring houses in the event of the air raid siren sounding.

As most of the children evacuated to Worksop had returned to Lenton by this time, it was largely business as usual again. The major exception was those Cottesmore girls and boys who lived in the Wollaton and Lenton Abbey areas. For a further six months they had to take their lessons at such venues as the sports pavilion on Clifton Boulevard, the Old Estate House in Wollaton and some seventy boys even received their lessons at Wollaton Hall.

The air raid warnings gradually became more frequent, but usually the bombers were bound for destinations other than Nottingham and the City suffered relatively little in the way of bomb damage. Nottingham's worst night came on the 8th of May 194l. The following day was the only occasion when the Cottesmore schools had to be closed so that the buildings could be used as a rest centre for those made homeless by the bombing. The other schools in Lenton were also closed down, but this was because a bomb had hit Holy Trinity Church and not exploded. Until it was defused, the pupils were kept away from school.

Although Nottingham was largely ignored by the enemy planes, other areas of the country were not so lucky. In the summer of 1944 Nottingham prepared to find homes for several thousand children from the London area who were to be evacuated here for safety. In August they began to arrive. Probably more than two hundred children were lodged with families in the Lenton area and attended the local schools. Some only stayed a few months; others remained here until the end of the war. A few like Betty Marriage (see below) stayed longer. Perhaps some even stayed for ever.

Shirley Haynes

Betty Marriage

"My Own Evacuee"
by Shirley E Fuller

I used to live on Rolleston Drive in Lenton and remember very clearly one day late on during the war a bus full of young children appeared on the Drive and stopped at the Park Road end. It wasn't long before my mother found out that they were evacuees and she suggested we take them a drink and see if we could help them. I was upset to see the children so unhappy. Most of them were tugging away at the labels they had pinned to their coats or at the brown cardboard boxes they had over their shoulders, which of course contained their gas masks. The labels on their coats were brown luggage type labels and the string from them was attached round their coat buttons. On each label was clearly written the child's name and home address and date of birth.

Suddenly one little girl got hold of my mum's arm and said, 'Lady, lady, take me home with you'. She then told us that her name was Betty Marriage, that she was from Penge in London, and that she had an older brother on the same bus called Dicky. She explained that her Mummy had told her that she and Dicky must stay together and not lose sight of each other at all. My mum explained to Betty that she had to go and ask my Dad if we could have them. Dad had to be woken up as he worked nights at the Royal Ordnance Depot. Mum pleaded with Dad to let us have the children by saying it could have been one of his three children who was temporarily homeless through the war. At that, Dad said that we could have Betty but we didn't have room for her brother. Mum was not to be put off by that and hurried across the road to her friend, Mrs. Horrobin, and asked her if she could take Dicky as she had a son Dicky's age. She agreed and we now had a home for Dicky.

One Of The Classes At Lenton Junior School 1947

Betty and Dicky were shown how near they would be to each other and they were told how they could have the use of both houses whenever possible. After a good look round both houses they agreed that the arrangements would be most satisfactory. I can remember when Betty first saw her bedroom. She jumped up and down on the bed shouting 'A real bed, a real bed'. Mum wrote on the back of Betty's postcard, already addressed to her parents and sent them the address of her new home and a few brief details of her new family, with the promise that a long letter would follow. Betty and I went quickly to Galloway Road post box so as not to miss the next collection.

At first Betty was frightened when the sirens went and used to shout, 'The doodly bugs are coming'. When she realised the air raids were not as bad in Nottingham as in London and that we were there to take care of her, her nerves soon improved. Betty stayed with us until 1947. My mother and father loved her as one of their own. Although times were hard, if I had any new clothes then Betty also had an almost identical outfit. After Betty's mum came to fetch her home, my mum, Mrs. Rita Haynes, never saw her again. When I was seventeen, I went down to London and met Betty. She took me out to Penge and I met the rest of her family. Soon afterwards I lost contact with her. I recall she had a close friend here in Lenton called Jean Morgan. Perhaps Jean, wherever she is now, knows her present whereabouts - if so, then I would love to hear from her.

Unfortunately this 1947 photograph of my class at Lenton Junior School doesn't have Betty on it, but it shows the rest of us. In those days fashion to a ten-year-old girl was having a winter coat made out of an old one of mum's or a hand-me-down from an older sister. We felt very lucky too when we got a 'new' coat like this. Boys' and girls' shoes at that time were almost identical, being flat lace up style, mostly black in colour and with leather soles that were covered in studs. Studs all over the soles and heels meant that not only did they last longer, but we could slide on them whatever the weather. As you will see from the photo, the headgear for girls was either pixie hats, knitted at school, or berets. I suspect a lot of the pixie hats came off when the photographer appeared.

Boys in those days never wore long trousers at the age of ten but more a knee length type.

The schools in Lenton were considered good schools and most of us were very eager to learn. These schools were also firm favourites with lots of the evacuees who were loved and sheltered in the Lenton area at this time.

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