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The 1920's, 1930's & 1940's

Shirley School History – Collated Memories

The 1920s, 1930s and 1940s


The oldest pupils that we’ve heard from are Gwendoline Kitchener (nee Gwendoline Hancock), aged 97, and Mr Scammel, now in Bitterne, who was born in 1916. Mr Scammel came into school as part of the school centenary celebrations and, together with the youngest child in the Infants School, placed the final piece in the Centenary Mosiac. He remembers Shirley School being a hard place and a place you endured not a place you enjoyed yourself. His school memories are here School Memories-EScammel.pdf. Caning was used often, especially if you were late and he did not remember there being any school trips.

Gwendoline Kitchener (nee Gwendoline Hancock) was born in 1915, lived at 39 Wilton Rd (now demolished) until the mid-1930s and attended the school from 1920-1929. She was interviewed for the Friends of St. James' Park (FoSJP) Shirley Heritage Project, an oral history project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and excerpts from these interviews have been shared with the schools. Her memories are included here School Memories-GKitchener.pdf. She recalls being happy and working hard at school:

“The teachers I remember were Miss Fryer – that was the last teacher, Miss O’Dell the physical exercise teacher and Miss Cornish who was just well there and Miss Knight who was the head teacher. Every Empire Day we used to have a tableau – all the children dressed up as the countries of the Empire – and Miss Hawksworth always used to sing Land of Hope and Glory and of course we were all very proud of the Empire but of course it’s not there anymore is it?”

It’s a three storey school as you know – with infants, girls and boys.  The headmaster at the time was a Mr Downton – Dicky Downton we used to call him but of course but of course we didn’t see much of the boys because their playground was away from ours and the children’s.

The headmistress was Miss Knight – of course we had Barnado’s Girls going to our School then because they lived over the other side of the Recreation Ground in Wordsworth Road I think and they had Hollybrook Home for the boys at Hollybrook .

I don’t remember much else – I was very happy at school – it was a very happy school and I liked the teachers very much but I don’t know what else I can tell you about it.”


Kath Vincent has written in to tell us about her mother, Violet Stansbridge (born in 1920), who was at Shirley School in the late 20s-early 30s. She has sent in this photo; Violet is on the left of the photo standing 6th in line wearing a lighter cardigan. Violet lived at the lodge in Hollybrook Cemetery.

Stephen Massey’s great uncle’s son Jack Symons (born 1920) attended Shirley school and this photo shows his class. Unfortunately, Jack died aged about 13.

Ray Hancock (Gwendoline Hancock’s nephew) wrote to say that his mother (Freda Hancock nee Freda Jurd) attended Shirley School, as well as his father and his mother’s two brothers and most of his father’s nine brothers and sisters. His mother Mrs Freda Hancock was interviewed for the Friends of St. James' Park (FoSJP) Shirley Heritage Project, an oral history project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and excerpts from these have been shared with the schools and are included here School Memories-FHancock.pdf. She was at Shirley School from 1927, leaving in 1936 when she was 14, and she talks about her memories of the school and the teachers, including using slates and slate pencils in the Infants School, which she started when she was 5 in 1927. When she was 7 she moved up to the Senior School which was on the 1st floor of the building (the boys were on the 2nd floor). She remembers that partitions between 3 classrooms were removed to make an assembly hall. They were taught Arithmetic, English, English Literature, Penmanship and Handwriting, History, Geography, Hygiene, Art, PE, RE, Anthology, Cookery, Laundry and Housewifery. She remembers school trips to the Isle of Wight, and to Windsor Castle and Hampton Court. She has sent us some of her school work and a photo taken in the school play. She remembers playground games including: Dibs, Skipping, Oranges and Lemons, The Farmers in His Den, and a variety of ball bouncing games.

Her older brother Raymond was also at the school before her (leaving in 1931). He was killed in 1944, aged 27.









Domestic Science






Margaret O’Connor has sent us some lovely old pictures of her mother, Joan Massey, nee Joan Symons and her aunt, Dorothy Pearce, nee Dorothy Symons who were at Shirley School in the 1920s, with Joan leaving in 1932. Joan was the Head Prefect and she has sent in her school reports and references written by her class teacher School Memories-JMassey .pdf.


Joan Symons is in the middle of the back row, her sister Dorothy is next to her, possibly in their school uniforms.


Hazel Crates (nee Hazel Hicks) was born 1924 and attended Shirley School. The Hicks family ran a milk bar and dairy shop on Shirley High Street and in 1930 they entered a float in Shirley Carnival, which raised money for the Shirley Children's Hospital.

Betty Riggs was at Shirley School in the early 30s and she sent in a school photo. She remembers Miss Cornish and Miss Fry (teachers) and Doreen Dimmock, Betty and Peter Allen, David Atkinson, and Pamela Holloway (children).

Jean Doe was at Shirley Infants School in the mid-30s. She remembers it as a sad time: she had been sent home from a sanatorium and was living in Hollybrook Homes. She was there for about 8 months, unbeknownst to her mother and step father who were also in hospital.

Carole Tidd (nee Carole Parsons) (Shirley School 1949-1955) told us about her mother Irene Parsons, nee Irene Trim, and her friends Betty Watts (nee Betty Hollingsworth) and Larsina Robertson  (nee Larsina Plowman) who started school together in 1929, aged 5 years old and have stayed in touch since they left school aged 11. In addition, Carole’s sister Nicola went to Shirley School and her nephew, Christopher, started school there in 1994.

Rosemary Earle is now 87 and attended Shirley Junior School from the age of about 7 (around 1932). She particularly remembers feeling concerned about the children from the children's home (up Winchester Road) as they had no gloves to wear.

Mr Harrison came along to the School Centenary Celebration Evening and brought these photos of his Infants School class (1936) and Junior School class (1938).

Infants School 1936

Junior School 1938


Jean Behan, nee Jean Spencer, was at Shirley School remembers leaving the school at the outbreak of war in 1939 to be evacuated to Bournemouth.

Ann Bassil was at Shirley School from 1941 to 1945; her mother did not want her to be evacuated so delayed her starting school. She says:

“When I started I believe the Army were still using the school - (I did not know that Shirley pupils had been evacuated, my older brother was removed to Bournemouth with Taunton’s - he had a pretty awful time) so I went to classes in a room at St James Methodist church. That was only a few weeks then we transferred to Shirley and I remember there were odd writings on the walls - Sergeants Mess, Ablutions and other odd notices..”