Going Back

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A remarkable architectural survivor: The old County Primary School, now Walsall Wood Youth Centre. Imagery from Bing! Maps.

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

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21 Responses to Going Back

  1. Trevor says:

    You have done it again old pal David, I never dreamed when I first found this blog just over 2.1/2 years ago that I would be taken on journey’s back to my childhood down the Wood, I was searching the web for someone from my childhood, anybody, I just needed to find someone who had been through the same great childhood that I had been through, Never did I think I would find so many memories and lost friends that you fellows have given me, Cheers to all of you Trev.

  2. Dave (Eddy) Edwards says:

    Good one David.
    I only did the last two and a bit years at Walsall Wood Junior School as my earlier years were at Norton Canes. Both those years and abit were in the prefab classrooms. I did get the cane (yes at 10 years old) from the Head for running in the corridor of the main building. I never forgave him for that. I think it was Mr Boucher, if not, it was the one who was a member of the Magic Circle. .Not very magical for me.
    Some good Junior school memories though, football team, and listening to “Killer Langford giving the senior boys hell in the metal work class in the next building.
    Plenty of good memories of the senior school when Young David and the rest left us behind to battle on.
    Dave (Eddy) Edwards

  3. andyropes7 says:

    Great youth club photos that took me back to my time with Our leaders Dougie Birch and Doreen Hodgkiss happy days
    Andy Roper

  4. snatchmo says:

    Brings back memories ,the classrooms which later became a youth club were the ones I spent my early years , Mrs Clenton is the only teacher I can remember who’s family kept the butchers in brownhills road by the anchor bridge .My first day at school I was hit over the head with a wooden Pencil case happy days

    • Caz says:

      I remember Mrs Clenton too, she literally had to hold me back and calm me down on my first day at school when i realised my Mom couldn’t stay with me.She also told me off for something I thought wasn’t my fault….a girl tried to take my skipping rope from me…it became a tug of war…… unfortunately i let go and she was pulling so hard that the handle flew through the air and whacked her on the head. Her head came up like an egg and she screamed the place down so it was my fault ??? The headmaster i think was a Mr Roath, and i also recall a Mr Smart, Mr Capper and Miss Fox.

      • snatchmo says:

        Hi Cath thanks for the names of the other teachers ,I can remember the name of the boy who hit me over the head with the pencil case ,but will not mention his name for fear if reprisals lol ,do you remember Mr James the caretaker we used to play on his large mound of coke which he used to shovel in his boiler to heat the school our clothes were always getting dirty to the annoyance of our mom ,happy days so many memories .

        • Caz says:

          hi Snatchmo, yes i remember Mr James well, he was a lovely man, i think he lived in Brooke Lane or near there. He always smiled and said hello when i i used to see him round Walsall Wood. Yes i remember that coke mound lol i have lovely memories of the school not only as a pupil but i worked there for 6 years as a dinner lady and loved the kids and missed them when i left.

  5. Clive says:

    Now this brings back some memories to me. Some of the teachers names are; Miss Jones, Mrs Appleby, Miss Hampton, Mrs Fox. My first day there would be around 1959, and i can remember doing my version of dancing to peter and the wolf, running my little legs of in the hall, which looked massive to me.

  6. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    Cheers Trev! Thanks to Bob for this super presentation. The article “Come fly with me” and the reconnaissance photo 5942 shows the old school, playing fields, whiffed toilet block, and the woodwork block and five pre-fab classrooms, though the sunken air raid shelter in Mr Hamer’s school garden had been removed by then. Mr Belcher was the Merlin-like headmaster, for a brief spell.
    Miss Ellis , married for many years now, of course, still lives in the village
    Kind regards
    David

  7. Dave (Eddy) Edwards says:

    Thanks David….Belcher not Boucher…its you who is the Wizard
    Dave (Eddy) Edwards

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  9. Anne Hathaway says:

    Ah! Walsall Wood Youth Club! Happy days! My Dad also attended the school.

  10. Anne Hathaway says:

    No, George Hathaway was my Father-in-Law.

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  12. Janice Mason was Brandrick says:

    I remember mr Roath and mrs jones and Mrs Appleby but there was a Mr brown when I was there and Mr Allen I started down in the youth club building and my brother was in the last year in the sheds at the side of the youth club I remember waiting for him to walk home with him Mr Pickering was his teacher I used to swing on the gate that used to lead to the park and I remember the toilets in the middle of the play ground

  13. andrew (stan) ballard says:

    wow those youthie pics bring back good memories

  14. David Longley says:

    Mr. Cross was headmaster if I remember correctly and Mrs. Fairclough was the first aid lady. I remember verruca infested changing rooms at the schools’ own tiny swimming pool that had a shin banging plinth that made the shallow end.

  15. Roger says:

    went here from 1958. mom’s told me many time about my first few months or so, i wouldn’t speak to any of the teachers, i don’t know why, but once out in the playground i was different lad. can’t remember any teacher’s names. another thing was i lived around the corner in Common side and for some reason i wouldn’t leave home until i heard the nine O’clock pips on the radio, then it was a mad dash across the top of the play ground by the senior school and down into the pre-fabs.
    Happy Days

  16. Janey says:

    Love this 🙂

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