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The 1950's


Jean Scott (nee Jean Brown) started Shirley School in 1949. She says:

“Fascinating to think that the school opened the same year as Titanic went down. I wonder how many pupils lost their fathers in the accident as I know many of the crew lived in the Shirley area. Luckily my Grandfather turned down working as an engineer on Titanic as my grandmother was expecting my father that fateful April though they were still living in Liverpool in 1912.”

She sent in the school photo and her school report! After passing her 11+ in 1956 she went to the Girls Grammar School along with about 15 others. Her reports show the subjects taught in the Girls School were English, Arithmetic, Handwriting and Needlework. Now living in East Yorkshire, she still has relatives in Southampton.

She has written a brilliant resume of her time at Shirley School School Memories-JScott.pdf, from which I have extracted some memories:

 “Although we didn’t have a strict school uniform the school colour was green and where possible we were encouraged to wear green.”

“The main school building was divided into three sections. The ground floor was for the mixed infants, the middle floor for Junior girls and the top floor for the Junior boys. The boys played in the front playground facing Wilton Road and the infants and girls on the back playground which had a large wooden opened fronted hut where we could gather on cold days. It also had a couple of Nissen type huts for extra classrooms, outdoor loos and a small climbing frame. “

“Once in the Junior Girls we were divided into two classes according to ability. Lessons were very structured with everyone facing the front and working individually. As we progressed up the schools some lessons were focused towards the eleven plus exam. If you passed your eleven plus there were several schools the girls went go to The Girls’ Grammar in Hill Lane or St Anne’s. The boys went to King Edward’s or Taunton School. Otherwise you went to Regent’s Park or Shirley Warren which were mixed secondary schools.“

“Towards the end of last summer term at Shirley School not only did we enjoy a boat trip to the Isle of Wight to visit Carisbrooke Castle, most of the class went to spend a week down at Calshot. There were very few outings although we did go to the Common to sketch trees one summer. “

We have also heard from Joan Guy (nee Joan Hunt) (also in the photo above!). She was at Shirley School from 1952 to 1956, before going to St Anne’s Convent Grammar School on passing her 11+. She still lives in Upper Shirley and also has a copy of the school photo and memories of the school trip to the Isle of Wight School Memories-JGuy.pdf.

Maurice Rowles (1949-1956) wrote in and made a special mention of Mr Spratley, who:

“had the marvellous knack of getting the best out of us children.”


Val Stoten (nee Val Stilwell) filled in a Memory Form at the Centenary Summer Fair, here School Memories-VStoten.pdf. She was at Shirley School from 1950-1956, when Miss Toms was the Head of the Infants School and Miss Ferrant the Head Mistress of the Girls Junior School. In those days, the school day was from 9-12, 1.30-4. She remembers that the classes were arranged in rows of wooden desks, with about 40 pupils per class and 3 classes per year. In her first year of Junior School her class was in a hut in the playground with a coal burning stove. Punishment was being hit on hand with a ruler and writing lines. She recalls being tested on mental maths and spelling each week and moved placed in class accordingly. The cleverest person sat in the top left hand corner and least able in front row right – in front of the teacher!

Alan Warwick-Moore kindly sent in some pictures of the school play and school choir as well as the school photo from his time at the school in the mid-late 50s. He remembers Mr Spratley in charge of the choir (in the picture of the choir below) and Mr Wheeler the headmaster.

Boys School class school photo mid-late 50's. Mr Wheeler, the headmaster, on the far right.

School choir (Mr Spratley on far left)


Stephen Massey was at Shirley Infant School and Junior School, starting the Junior School in 1953, and has written in with his memories. Brother to Margaret O’Connor, his mother Joan Symons went to the school as did his children and his nephews. He includes a wonderful description of teacher, Mr Spratley:

“Rodney Spratley seemed a giant of a man, hugely liked and respected by most, who with enormous enthusiasm bestrode the class with an extraordinary ability to look one way but, with laser like accuracy, throw a piece of chalk which would ping off the head of a talking boy.”

Mr Spratley organised a week long school trip walking in the Lake District and devised an inventive way to keep the children safe:

“Our mothers had to knit us brightly coloured "Pom Pom " hats, so we didn't get lost on the Tube, crossing London, or on the Fellside.”

Stephen emphasises the change in lifestyles over the period – his grandparents’ generation were at sea (his grandfather (George Symons) was a look-out on the Titanic) and his great uncle’s children died young of illness and in childbirth. His mother remembered being asked to stand if they had lost a relative in "The Great War" and they celebrated "Empire Day" and had "Bevois Treats" which was an outing for all school children in Southampton.  In his year nearly all the children from Shirley School passed their 11+ and went to King Edward’s or Taunton’s. He mentions Michael Bichard who was in the year below him at Shirley Juniors and followed him to University and to Law College and is now Lord Bichard of Nailsworth, and Brian Maidment, Professor of English at Salford University.

Val and Dave Corbett met at Shirley School in the 1950s before going to Regent’s Park School and marrying in 1966. They came along to the Centenary Celebration Evening and brought Val’s class photos (both from the Junior School, apparently before and after the introduction of school uniform!) and a photo of Dave dated 1949. Dave says:

“We remember the school well and I have painful memories of the Air Raid shelters where I remember running round and tripping over landing on my nose against the railings, my Mum was not impressed when I went home after school and she looked at the state of my face!!!”

Carol Waters (nee Carol Gardner) brought her class photo from 1953/54 to the Centenary Summer Fair.

Class photo 1953/1954

Sue Burgess (nee Sue-Ann Jefferies) sent in a set of photos of the school recorder group and of the school choir with Miss Dominic, the conductor from around 1956/1957.

Angela Cox (nee Angela Hughes) and Susan Ponsford both remember Miss Ferrant from their time at Shirley School in the 1950s. Susan remembers Mrs Caddy was school secretary, and the teachers were Mrs Anderson, Miss Light, and Mrs Prendergast. Angela and her six sisters (Marilyn, Pamela, Yvonne, Lorraine, Wendy and Valerie) all attended Shirley School. Angela’s form mistress in her last year was Mrs Dennis who was a keen needle-worker; Angela remembers:

“She was a keen needleworker and every Friday we had "nail inspection" to check clean hands and fingernails before doing any needlework. A spelling test was also done every Friday plus we learnt our tables by rote. We all moved on to either Girls Grammar or the grammar course at Regents Park.”

Susan Ponsford very kindly allowed us to scan a collection of letters which she was sent from her school friends while she was in the Children’s Hospital in 1952, her school reports from 1951, 1952, and 1953, school photo (below), writing book dated 1948 (when she was 6), and her Coronation Scrapbook, for which she won a school prize.

Margaret O’Connor (nee Margaret Massey) was at Shirley School from 1952 to 1959, following her mother (nee Joan Symons). She remembers receiving the coronation mug and has sent in the following photo of the swimming team and of the teacher MOConnor-school memories. She remembers Miss Ferrant as the Head Teacher in the late 1950s.

Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Mug presented by the Town of Southampton to all Southampton school children,. June 2nd 1953


John Stonehouse got in touch after hearing about the School Centenary Celebration on Radio Solent. He lived in Bourne Avenue and went to Shirley Infant and Junior Schools from about 1952/53 to about 1960, before going to Regents Park Secondary School. He remembers Mr Beard, Mr Hoskins and Mr Seabrook as teachers and school trips to Weymouth, Swanage, and Bristol Zoo.

Maggie Read (nee Margaret Scullard) sent in a school photo from 1953/1954 (shows the houses in Shayer Rd which were knocked down in the mid-late 1980s).


Jean Bull (nee Jean Russell) filled in a Memory Form at the Centenary Summer Fair; she was at the school from 1954-1958 when Miss Ferrant was the Head Mistress. She remembers her classroom being in a Nissen hut in playground for 2 years and the cane being used for punishment.

Julie Smith (nee Julie Sharp) was at Shirley School from 1954-1961 and has written in with her school memories and photos School Memories-JSmith.pdf. She mentions the outside toilets which were replaced during the time she was at the Junior School and the punishment line:

“I don’t imagine that any pupils from Miss Ferrant’s era will have forgotten the punishment line. For misbehaving in class you had to spend playtime standing in the corridor facing the wall outside Miss Ferrant’s office. No matter how much you tried to look as if you were reading notices on the wall it was quite obvious to everyone streaming past after playtime the reason for you standing there!”

Josephine Sanderson (nee  Josephine Sharp), Julie’s sister was in the year below Julie and has written in with her school memories. She was at Shirley School from 1955-1962 when she left to go to the Girls Grammar School. She remembers:

“Mrs O'Driscoll, the last teacher I had in the Infants school was lovely and mumsy and came to my birthday party.  Milk left to warm (awful!) by the heaters in the outside classroom.  The old shelter in the playground that we had to stand under during wet play times.  The punishment line (only once!).  Mashed potato left on the floor of the hall after lunch that was trodden on in bare feet during PE.  The excitement of the odd occasion when we listened to an educational broadcast on the radio. How I cried when Mrs Renkin left even though she had half terrified me when she was my teacher.  Did Mrs Hathaway really have a cane in her cupboard?

We had tests every term the results of which determined where we sat in the classroom for the next term - the girls with the highest marks sat at the back and then we sat in order until the bottom of the class sat under the teacher's nose at the front!  My parents and my teacher were puzzled as to why I would be within the top half dozen after one term's test, and so seated at the back of the classroom only to be moved to the very front of the classroom the next term because my marks were so low.  It was then discovered that my eyesight was poor and I could not see the blackboard (with the test questions on it as well as the term's lessons) from the back of the room.”

Mrs Julie Mackay, who retired as head of the Infant School a few years ago, was a pupil at the school herself from 1955. Her grandfather (Mr Edward Hoare) had been the head of the Boys school and her aunt Miss Edith Hoare had started her teaching profession at the school. She remembers regular tests in the Junior school, the results of which determined where you sat in the class and a school trip to Kew Gardens.

We heard from Heather Eves (nee Heather Lever) who has sent in her school memories School Memories-HEves.pdf and a fantastic collection of photos of the school, her class, the choir, recorder group, rounders and netball teams! Heather was at Shirley School from 1957 to 1963, as well as her sister Joan Symons (nee Lever), and was followed by her nephew and niece. Her great-niece is currently in Yr 4. (Also see the contribution from Teresa Willis (nee Symons), Heather’s niece, below.)

Shirley Infant School Late 50s

Junior Class Photo 1963

Junior Rounders Team c. 60s


Carolyn Fayle (nee Carolyn Croad) attended Shirley School from 1958-1962 followed by her sister, Jane Brown (nee Jane Croad) 1963-1970. Carolyn went on to become a teacher at various schools in Southampton, culminating in Head Teacher at St Denys Primary school for 11 years before retiring in 2011. She has sent in copies of her school report and her memories of the school School Memories-CFayle.pdf. She remembers the teachers: Miss G Ferrant, Mrs Y Fish (Class 2), Mrs K Anderson (Class 4), Mrs E Renkin (Class 6), Mrs A Hathaway (Class 8).

“There used to be a punishment line outside headteacher’s office—hasten to add I never joined that but it did look ‘scary’.

I always went home for hot lunch cooked by my mother, walking each way rain or shine!

Cannot recall any trips but playtimes consisted of skipping, two-ball, 5 dibs and mostly 10 jacks/ball.

Each class had 1 teacher with no teaching assistants and it was a climate of regular testing working towards 11+ tests when 11 years old – the Shirley schools had a very good reputation for results in the city so we were constantly prepared/ trained for good outcomes particularly in the last year.

We were seated in order of outcome, having marks for each of the subjects above and an overall combined mark. The brightest sat in the back row and those girls needing more help were in the front, so we were moved according to marks.

Although in the same building as Shirley Junior Boys –we never ‘worked’ together or even saw the boys!! They resided on the top floor and used the Wilton Road play ground –we (the girls) were in the Bellemoor Road playground with the Infants.

All in all happy times”