History

A Brief History

Chalton Lower School opened 8th October 1894 with 29 children. According to the original admissions register, still held at the school, the register also indicated that most of these children lived on Common Farm or in Water End Road.

The lessons would have been taught in what is now the School Hall and photos show that this remained the case for many years.

We are told by one of Chalton’s residents, who joined the school in April 1922, that the front car park was originally the children’s playground and that it was divided into two sections boys & girls!

In 1994 the school celebrated its century with a big party! When the school reached 120 years old we celebrated by holding a  Victorian week when the children studied the Victorian way of life.  On the Thursday the children dressed up in Victorian costumes, had a Victorian lesson and we held a party in the afternoon.

In more recent times we had a new permanent class room built which opened in October 2000, offices in October 2003, the toilets have been refurbished and the playground extended with a separate under 5’s area.  The staffing areas have been extended and more recently the kitchen serving area renewed and storage areas replaced.

If you have any memories or photographs please do contact us.

WE HAVE BEEN SENT THIS LOVELY LETTER FROM A FORMER PUPIL AND FELT WE WOULD LIKE TO SHARE IT WITH YOU.

A Short History from a Former Pupil

It was a surprise for me recently to find your charming website.

I first came to the school, which was called Chalton County Primary then, in September 1951, when I was five.  My parents had moved to Chalton from Windsor to be near my father’s work at the English Electric plant on the airfield at Luton.

The headmistress at the time was Miss Devereux, who lived in the house next to the school, but was really from Woburn.

She was helped by Miss. Fawcett, who lived in Toddington.

A dinner lady came in every day to help with the midday meal ,   I remember her face well and I think she was called Mrs. Lane.

The school was divided into two classes separated by a curtain.

Miss. Fawcett took the lower class and was my first experience of a teacher.

We learned to count and reading was taught from the Beacon Readers.

When we were seven we went over to the big class on the opposite side of the curtain.

There we were taught by Miss.  Devereux, who did her best to improve the reading and arithmetical skills of her many recalcitrant pupils. When I think back I think she must have been rather disappointed  that so few of the children showed much academic flair.  I remember her being delighted when Tony Chance went to the grammar school in Luton and the prospect of GCEs, rather than the secondary modern sink in Toddington and escape from the school system at the age of 15.

For some lessons and assembly the curtain was drawn back and the entire school (all 35 of us) sat together.   The shared lessons often involved the wonderful broadcasts transmitted by the BBC for Schools.  The ones I seem to remember best were the nature programmes and the music lessons.

One Particular solemn occasion I remember from the first year in Chalton was the funeral of the old king (King George V1).  The entire school had to come to school in their best clothes and we all sat gathered around the wireless.  We were not allowed to speak and I clearly remember the torture of sitting still throughout the long broadcast of the funeral procession and service.

The next year my sister joined the infant class and did much better than I, in fact I had to put a spurt on to make sure that I could read competently before she did.

At that time Chalton was still very rural and most of the children came from families who were involved in farming in one way or another.  Even so there were a few bright children in the school and although they were inevitably “baited” in the playground I like to think that they eventually went on to better things.

Outsiders were unusual and took time to become integrated.  One particular case has always stuck in my mind.  Jim turned up at school one day.  He had vivid blue eyes and a head of jet black hair.  He wore a blue jacket, heavy black trousers and a red scarf at his neck.  Quite big for his age, he spent the first few weeks in the school without saying a word except “Yes mm”. when he was addressed by Miss. Devereux.  We quickly learnt that he was a gypsy and lived with his parents in a classic gypsy caravan that was parked off the “new road” that led to the new electricity switching installations.  the boys tried teasing him but he was well coordinated and turned out to be extremely quick at “footy”.  After that first term he was joined by his sister Iris.  She was much more willing to talk and Jim was eventually drawn into the business of reading, writing and doing sums and brilliant drawings.  He did very well.  sadly he got pneumonia one winter (1957 I think) and died in the caravan.  His sister still kept coming to the school.  But later on the family moved away.

The facilities at that time were rather primitive.  The playgrounds were pot holed asphalt, but were eventually resurfaced during my stay.  Miss. Devereux’s primary concern was the state of the girl’s toilets.  Like the boy’s facilities these were a series of holes over a midden.   In summer the odour was intolerable.  The construction of new girls toils, with the grudging consent of County Council. was a a major victory for her and a cause for much celebration.

From your website and “Google Earth” I see that the wall separating the boys playground from the girls has now been demolished and that the playground at the back of the school is a car park.  I can wonder at the improvements made on the inside of the school.  Perhaps the coke stove that used to send us all asleep on winter afternoons has given way to central heating. perhaps there is now a proper canteen service instead of the aluminium hay boxes that used to arrive from Toddington every morning at eleven thirty.  I can see you now have television instead of wireless, but I hope that the good humour and dedication that characterized those first few years of my school life still persist.

I left Chalton in 1955 to go to Bedford School in Bedford , which was an entirely different kind of experience.  My sister left Chalton in 1956.  Nonetheless when we get together we still recall our experiences there.  My sister now lives in Nottingham, where she lectures at Nottingham Trent University.  I live in Belgium, where I am partner in a translation company.

With kindest regards ands somewhat rose tinted memories.

Albert Richard Gomperts