Early History (See also Edwardian Bexhill)
The school celebrated
its centenary on March 7th 2007. The children dressed in Edwardian costume for the day; a "tea party" was held for the
children, with a table running the entire length of both halls, plus tables on
either side of the halls. We had a birthday cake with 100 candles and after
tea we released 100 balloons kindly supplied by the Bexhill Observer.
"A Children's palace..." the Bexhill Observer's comment on the opening of the school in 1907, click HERE
Prior to 1907 all schools in Bexhill were "Church" schools, in 1903, as a result of the 1902 Education Act, Bexhill formed an Education Committee responsible for Elementary Education in the town. This committee's first task was the building of a school independent from the influence of the Church.
The new "Down Council" school was built on
the site of the old Bexhill Workhouse (known as Workhouse Field) and close to
the first drill hall, built in 1901. The school cost a total of £7718 plus £1000 for the land.
Many local people thought this was much too expensive for a school.
The first headteacher was Miss Lucy Brizley, with a staff of four other teachers, one trained and one untrained teacher for the Junior Girls section and one trained and one untrained teacher for the Infants section.
School records show that the number of children attending school during the early 1900s
was often affected by bad weather and sickness; 'flu, measles and
mumps, heavy rain or snow meant a large number of children would be
absent. September also recorded high absence figures due to children
In 1910 the school was divided into two
separate departments, Juniors and Infants, under two headteachers, but both in
the same 1907 building. The building was extended in Dec 1912,
the new part being used by the Infants section.
Days or half days off were often given to the children to attend Church and Sunday School "treats". Between the wars monthly half days or full days off were awarded to the school for good attendance.
August 1914, Britain declared war after Germany invaded Belgium, this was the start of World War 1.
In October 1914 the school
was closed for seven weeks while the Down Road site was used by the army, The
school was then re-opened at Whindown School until November 1915 when the second drill
had been built. (Whindown was a large house off Westdown Road that had been run
as a school for German boys, at the start of war they returned to their home
country, leaving the building vacant. The school later became St Francis Girls
School, but is now a housing estate, the lodge and gatehouse being the only
remnants of the original house.)
Extract from School Log: "A boy named Arthur Morley was this morning badly hurt at playtime. he was on the Down where boys are allowed to play, when a soldier, galloping along, knocked him down, the horse kicked him in the face. I sent for Dr Mc Culloch who attended him, he told us there were no fatal injuries, but told us to send for Hand Ambulance to send him home. This was done, and two teachers Mrs Austin and Miss Hill accompanied the boy home, and saw him put to bed comfortably. Miss Wall, the Cookery Mistress kindly put the Scullery at our disposal during the hour and a half we were waiting for the ambulance, and gave us a supply of hot water for the hot water bottles." (This event took place while the school was at Whindown)
Other interesting items during the First
In February 1919 the "First Class Girls" performed a scene from "King John" and some folk dances, starting a long tradition of traditional dancing at the school.
Miss Brizley retired in February 1920 suffering from bad health, and was replaced in April 1920 by Mr Fredrick Smale.
In April 1921 the school became a
"Central" school providing education up to the school leaving age of 14. The
number of children attending increased to 269. "Houses" were set up and "House"
sports, debates and concerts began. There were monthly "House" meetings, was
this the forerunner of the "School Council"?
August 1922, Mr L Hyde took up the position of Headmaster.
April 1923 the school had a days holiday to celebrate the wedding of the Duke of York to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. (The Duke was crowned King George VI in 1936, his daughter is our present Queen)
Classrooms were very different in 1926,
desks in neat rows, no wall displays and very little furniture. Children were
only moved up into the next class when their work was good enough, not on their
age as happens today. In 1939 the start of the school year was changed from
April to September.
July 2nd 1927, a party of 58 children travelled by charabanc (the forerunner of the modern coach) to London, the first annual school trip. Trips were stopped at the outbreak of war, and did not start again until 1959.
An infants class in c1929, This photo was taken in the section of the building erected in 1912, in what is now one of our Reception classrooms. Notice the dolls house, wall displays and the toys the children are playing with. Why do you think the boy on the left is blurred?
A "Handicraft and Domestic Centre" was
opened in 1929, near London Road, it is now, the soon to be demolished, High School nursery.
In March 1931 2 teams of girls took part in a "Country Dancing" competition, continuing the tradition of dancing, started in 1919, that is still practised at the school today.
May 1935, King
George V and Queen Mary celebrate their Silver Jubilee.
12 December 1935 the children were given a half days holiday to attend the official opening of the De La Warr Pavilion.
Sometime during the 1930s the original "hot air" heating, quite an innovation at the time, but not very efficient, was replaced with conventional radiators and the fireplaces were bricked up.
May 12 1937, Coronation
of King George VI.
May 1938, the school had become so big
that 94 children were transferred to temporary accommodation at the Methodist
Chapel on Belle Hill (now 1st Friends Day Nursery) until the new Bexhill Secondary
Modern School (later the High School) was built. Due to the start of war this was
delayed, the new school was partially opened in 1941.
September 1939, the country was at war again.
At the start of World War 2 the school were temporary
hosts to a school evacuated from London. With Bexhill in the path of a threatened invasion
the school was closed from July 21st 1940 until November 24th 1941. 304 children from
the school were evacuated to Letchworth where they attended Pixmore School, but many were unhappy being away from home.
"Battle of Britain" the threat of invasion lessened and children
started to return to
Bexhill and the Down School was reopened.
Extract from School Log "December 16th 1942: ARW 1.45 to 2.45. Hostile aircraft
and machine gunning after 3.15, wretched weather, dismissed children at 3.40."
were several instances in the town of civilians, including schools, being machine gunned by
low flying enemy planes.)
On April 19th 1945 cooked school meals started to be served, they were cooked at the "Central Kitchens" now the Council yard in London Road. The "Central Kitchens" also supplied dinners to the High School.
The school was closed for two days, 8th and 9th May to mark VE Day
On August 31st 1948 Miss W M Kirby was appointed headteacher. There were 436 children on the school roll arranged in 11 classes.
In 1949 the open gallery in the 1907 hall was enclosed and converted into a "Study Room", now used as a "Resource" room.
The Down Council Junior Mixed School became known as the Down County Primary Junior School, the first reference to this being in January 1962.
(This history has been compiled from local history, ex-pupils memories and references in the School Logs, some of which are very brief, if you have any further information I would love to hear from you; king(at)kingoffa(dot)e-sussex(dot)sch(dot)uk; our thanks also to ex-pupils and their families who have supplied photos.)