I’ve noticed over the five years that this blog has been running that it brings out often hidden sides to readers, and uncovers talents folk didn’t know they had. The young David Evans of late has been discovering a new talent for a genteel, polite form of Urban Exploration.
Not content with buttering up demolition men for vicarious photos of historic rubble, David also infiltrated a remarkable local old barn to great effect. Last week, the man surpassed himself to get images of a building few of us will have been in since childhood, but so many will remember.
The oldsters will remember it as a school, but to me, it was a Youth Club, run by Doug Birch amongst others, back in the day. So sit back, grab a cuppa, and delve into the past…
Cheers to David, as ever, for another great article…
Walsall Wood’s old County Primary School, by Streets Corner
Walsall Wood Junior and Infants’ School, Brownhills Road, Walsall Wood, was opened in 1903 as the mixed and infants’ Walsall Wood Board School. A new infants’ school was erected in 1906, and the original building was enlarged in 1912. (fn. 80) In 1932 the school was reorganized to form a senior school and a mixed and infants’ school. The former became a secondary modern school in 1945, moved to new buildings in Lichfield Road, Walsall Wood, in 1966, and merged with Shire Oak Grammar School to form Shire Oak School in 1970
This is the brief reference given in British History on-line to my own childhood primary school in Walsall Wood. The recent demolition of the derelict St. Johns Junior School a little way away, in Lichfield Road Walsall Wood brought back memories of my own childhood, and particularly my school.
Whereas the St. Johns school had been derelict for many years, the Mixed junior and Infants School , which stood proud and stark by the playing fields with their swings, roundabouts, giants stride, leapfrog and all, had fared better.
The building presently serves as the local Youth Centre. What would I find inside? Had everything been changed beyond recognition, were the classrooms altered, the doors replaced, the headmaster’s office so different as to be unrecognisable?
These are the photos I took of my journey back in time to a land I thought I had forgotten.
Then, as if by magic, long forgotten clouded images and distant, thin sounds came back into my mind with each step I took inside.
The school bell, lining up in the blue brick playground, the brass door handles, the wood partitions, the blackboard and ‘weasel’, the beanbags in the yard, hoops, the girls skipping and chanting, the boys fighting and kicking a ball about, the schools BBC radio broadcasts over that strange and frequently unreliable radio set as we sat on the floor in the hall. The iron desks with their lift-up lids. Ink, leaky inkwells, ink pellets, lead pencils, rulers, blotting paper, cross-legged pen nibs, snappy crayons, that pencil sharpener that did not work, Those primeval painting lessons and rough grey paper to paint on and the bucket for the accident sponge…
Yusuf Islam sings the blues. Still love Cat Stevens…
School friends being away from class with measles/chickenpox/mumps. Reading books, writing practice in those tracing paper books, sums , sums and more sums, times tables, reading aloud those long words to the headmaster, school dinners in the top school hall, the cold winters and the cold pre-fab classrooms. The incredible newts and weeds and things in the school pond; taking young fidgety frogs to school to show Miss, the championship catapult marksmanship trials, the mournful bleakness of the coalmine hooter calling over the school field, the slides in the playground, the whiffy open air toilet block in the playground.
And so, with my photos safely taken, I left this Other World and gently closed the door behind me.
I would like to thank the kind staff of Brownhills Community Centre for so readily allowing me to visit my old junior school in Walsall Wood and take these photos.
David Evans, March 2014