All About Wadhurst

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Schools History


Wadhurst's first school was built at Pell Hill around 1840 on land belonging to Mr. G.C. Courthope but in 1856 the National School was rebuilt in Lower High Street, now used as a Youth Centre Mr. Charles Bocking was its master but he retired in 1890 when Mr. F.W. Larcombe was appointed headmaster. Originally the school had been divided into Boys, Girls and Infants but in 1910 was reorganised into two departments Junior Mixed and Infants.

After Mr. Larcombe there were two more headmasters Mr. Abba and Mr. Wilkins, until in 1931 Mr. Clifford Bailey Mould - affectionately known as 'C.B' and to the boys as 'Tough' - took up the post as headmaster. He was greatly respected by his pupils. As well as being headmaster for many years, he taught the top class or Standard Seven and taught the boys to garden. He took an active part in local affairs being Chairman of various Charity Committees. He was a founder member and later President of the Wadhurst Bowls Club and proved to be a very skilful player. He won many cups and medals and represented Sussex on many occasions.

Before the Second World War children were not transported to school as so many are today. It was quite common for children from outlying areas to walk several miles to the Church of England School in Lower High Street. As school meals were not available many went home for their mid-day meal as the break lasted for an hour and a half, and so this meant that some children made this walk four times a day.

Every year selected children were chosen for the choirs which entered the Tunbridge Wells Music Festival which was held in the Pump Room on the Pantiles, where Union Square now stands. In 1936 Wadhurst School won the Lady Henry Nevill's Challenge Banner and the Wace Challenge Banner while the 'under eleven's' came second in their class. These achievements were all due to Mrs May Newington who was responsible for training these choirs. She was a very respected teacher who - in spite of being seriously arthritic - was a strict disciplinarian. It was considered to be a great honour to be chosen for one of her choirs.

During the 1930's events were organised to help raise money to build a new Church of England School in Sparrows Green. Building was started just before the Second World War and was not entirely completed until after it ended. In 1941 it was damaged by one of the bombs that fell in Sparrows Green. Situated next to the then Fire Station some of the rooms were used to house weary fire fighters from London who were brought down for a brief respite.

In 1949, following the 1944 Education Act, this building became the County Secondary School and remained so until 1961 when it was transferred to a new building situated on the site of an old house called 'Uplands' in the High Street. The Church of England Primary School then moved from Lower High Street to Sparrows Green Wadhurst County Secondary School changed to Comprehensive Education in 1973 and was renamed Uplands Community College. It is now a thriving centre of education offering many facilities for the Parish. It not only educates children living in Wadhurst, but children from many other villages and towns - and offers a range of classes for adult and further education, as well as having a flourishing Sports Centre, whose facilities are also available to the whole community

Children in the 1990's have so many more opportunities to widen their horizons. In the 1930's there were few extra curricular activities apart from gardening for the boys and cookery for the girls. The boys had a school garden and an allotment in Lower High Street on the land where Stone Cross houses now stand. Girls from Wadhurst and Tidebrook schools had cookery lessons every Friday in the Institute room, now used by the County Library.

There were other schools in Wadhurst. In 1864 a National School was built in Cousley Wood. This school was, until 1970, also used for Church Services. Miss Hannah Page was its first headmistress. It had only four headmistresses during its existence. Miss Marjorie Larcombe, daughter of the Wadhurst C of E School headmaster, was its last. When Cousley Wood School closed in 1949 she joined her sister Gladys on the staff of Wadhurst School. Miss Frances Funge completed no less than sixty one years at Cousley Wood School. At the age of four years she started as a scholar and then went on as an assistant teacher until her retirement. According to old log books supplies were very scarce in the early days.

Tidebrook School, another National School, was built in 1859. In August 1944 it was destroyed by a 'Flying Bomb'. Although it happened in school hours thankfully the headteacher Mrs Hunter, her assistant Mrs Guest and the thirty five children were unhurt. The School was not rebuilt and the children were transferred to other schools in Wadhurst

In Woods Green, at Gate House Farm, in 1874 a non-denominational school was built by a Mr Sanderson Thomas from Monks. Miss Humphrey was the school mistress, helped by Mrs Thomas. This school had a very short life because about 1914, when Miss Humphrey died, it closed

The Sacred Heart School in Mayfield Lane was founded in 1935 and was run by the nuns from the nearby Convent. In 1975 the school took on salaried teachers and became a fee-paying school educating both Roman Catholic and non Catholic pupils alike.

Wadhurst College, a boarding school for girls, at South Park in Mayfield Lane was opened c 1930 by Miss Mulliner. Its numbers grew and other large houses were acquired to house the girls, namely Durgates Lodge, Aston House, and Wigram. In the 1980's the Legat Ballet School joined the establishment and in the early 1990's Wadhurst College was amalgamated with Micklefield School from Seaford and became known as Micklefield Wadhurst. In 1997 it had a further change and is at present known as Bellerbys. Pupils from the college have in the past taken part in the life of Wadhurst. They have helped with bell ringing and senior pupils ran a Sunday School for twenty years. It was a common sight to see the girls walking in a crocodile to church every Sunday morning.

During the Second World War, when the Girl Guides were not able to camp under canvas, Miss Gowdie the headmistress kindly allowed the First and Second Wadhurst Companies to hold their summer camp at Aston House, now known as Beech Hill. The girls slept in the house and used the grounds and the swimming pool by day. Many local children had cause to be grateful as this is where many of them learnt to swim.

Opposite 'Bassets' in Durgates was a privately owned Dame School which in the 1930's was run for young children by two maiden ladies, Miss Tobitt and Miss Cutbush. This was known as Southlea School.

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