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The Hope Cove history blog

Wednesday, 24th May, 2023

Malborough Church of England Primary School 1952 - 57

Malborough Church of England Primary School 1952 - 57

At the age of five it was time for me to go to school and along with most children in the village I went to Malborough School. My near neighbour Tricia Yeoman, being the same age, joined at the same time. I think we were the only new children at that time from Hope Cove at that time along with Rosemary Watts and Sonja Lee from South Huish. Getting to the school, some two miles away meant catching the school bus. Usually the bus was – I believe - an old Bedford supplied by Oke Bros Garage, Kingsbridge. Very basic but serviceable. Occasionally we would get their other coach which was a Commer. It seemed very posh with upholstered seats.

Picking up the students the first stop would be the square Outer Hope. It would then go to the Square Inner Hope. Peter Pedrick remembers that on rainy days they would shelter in the porch of the Fishermen’s Reading Room. One day they were told to get out and wait in the rain. He still harbours some annoyance at that action. The bus would then return to Outer Hope and we would be waiting by Herbert Marshall’s garage outside his home – Sea View, sadly no longer there. The garage building is still there but has been bricked up and now serves some other purpose. Most often the garage would be open during the day as Herbert would leave early for work. That meant we were always kept dry.

In later years – having moved to Galmpton – we would walk up what is now known as Parsons Lane and wait in the shelter of what was then known as the Linney where the farm vehicles were kept. Now – inevitably – the fine old building has been converted to holiday accommodation.

I can remember walking into the school for the first time. I went through the left-hand door. I carefully looked all round before entering. The two main doors led into corridors used as cloakrooms and then straight on through to the toilets. I felt no fear. I can remember nothing more of my first day so it must have been free from trauma.

Miss Cooper was the Head Mistress. She was known to be very strict. She had an air that said “Don’t mess with me”.  She would deal with naughty children but I have to say I don’t ever recall really unpleasant incidents. How she exercised her authority is a mystery because she didn’t raise her voice and I know of no occasion where corporal punishment was employed. Once a badly behaved boy physically attacked her but it was dealt with calmly. The boy was sent home and did not return. She always walked bolt upright and encouraged us to use good posture.

If one was fortunate enough to come to school with 3d the first thing would be to cross the road to the sweet shop. I think it was run by Malborough Dairy. Safely back in school, being a Church of England School, we would start the day with prayers. Morning breaks we would have milk which sometimes in the winter would be frozen. The crates would be brought in and put near the large cylindrical coke heaters. One year the milkmen went on strike and we were given milk tablets. They were different flavours and I particularly liked the banana ones. We were quite sorry when the usual milk supply resumed.

We had prayers before lunch and again after lunch. The day ended with a prayer to send us safely on our way.

We had regular visits from the local vicar Rev. Stone. I can’t remember what he talked to us about. I do remember his house keeper Olive Green sometimes came. I thought she had a pretty name and she was a lovely lady.

While I was there the roll was inflated a bit with children from the RAF camp. I remember several but only one name. He was Ivor Osborne. He was a likeable stocky, smart young lad and it was sad when the day came for him to leave.

There were 94 students while I was there and these were divided up into year groups with two-year groups to each of the three classrooms. Classrooms two and three were separated by a huge folding partition. The partition was drawn back for assemblies and school concerts. Mrs Lawrence was the infants teacher, Mrs Braddock the middle one, standards one and two, and the Miss Cooper with the older children – standards three and four. Occasionally we would have two supply teachers, Mrs Gledhall and Miss Walker, both from Hope Cove.

I have a few memories of the early years. The room seemed huge and I loved the high windows with the sunlight streaming through. I remember a little battle of wills with a young girl. Two tables were pushed together and she want one to be about half an inch in a different position. I wanted to keep it where it was so after five minutes of pushing and shoving and glaring we gave up and found something else to do.

One year the partition was drawn back and we put on a concert for the parents. I was still in the primary class and had to be dressed up as an elf. My task was to sing “I had a little nut tree” which I am sure I did with gusto! I wasn’t nervous. I was more concerned to try and see where my mum was sitting among the sea of faces. Once I spotted her I was happy.

The room leading to the left of the main doorway was the kitchen. The meals would arrive from somewhere far away and arrived in aluminium trays. Mrs Hodder was the dinner lady and she would dish out the meals. We would queue up and take our meal back to the classroom to eat. The meals were always well received. Mrs Hodder was assisted by Mrs Wood. Mrs Wood also had the role of lunchtime supervisor. I remember Mrs Wood in particular was a very sweet lady.

Cuts and grazes were a regular occurrence. No first aid kit was complete without a bottle of acriflavine. It was a bright yellowy orange colour that stained and was worn with pride as evidence of injury.

The infant classes were also the lead musicians for the percussion band. Triangle, tambourines and drums were the main instruments. I am not quite sure what the purpose was but the output was far from musical.

Throughout the school we would listen to programmes on the wireless. I have deliberately called the receiver a “wireless” because that is how they were named in those days. The wireless receiver was a very scientific looking machine and we enjoyed listening to this modern technology. In the early years there was a regular programme called Music and Movement. An example can be heard here:-


Wireless lessons for later years were available for History, Geography, Science etc. They lasted about 15 minutes but were very good teaching aids. I am very grateful for being given the opportunity to learn about “How Horatio kept the Bridge” and Hannibal crossing the Alps, Alexander the Great, Bucephalus and so on.  Ancient History stories were things I never came across again in my education so I have a debt of gratitude for having my imagination stimulated at an early age.

In the middle years we put on plays for the rest of the school. I had the starring role in Odysseus. Not because I was a good actor but because I could be relied upon to remember my lines. Some of those lines remain with me and should the school put on the play again I could step in to help if needed although I would more likely be cast as Polyphemus these days.

My good memory came in handy again when I was Joseph in the school nativity. Ann Parsons was Mary and my good friend Tony Lyle was the Angel Gabriel. I can name all the cast in the picture below but can’t always remember where I have left my keys. The play was performed in the Parish Church and with the usual Christmas Carols, and the constant rehearsals, it seemed a very special event.


On occasional days in the summer we would go on a nature walk. We went down through Lower Town which was foreign country to me. I don’t think we learned much apart from an appreciation of the wild hedgerows and the countryside which we probably had anyway.

The wall posters always caught my attention and I can still see one now. It was looking into a cornfield with masses of flowers and animals living there. Some unlikely inhabitants were snakes and frogs. Whilst I love cornfields, I am always looking out for adders just in case, even though I know it would be unusual to see one.

Moving up to Miss Cooper’s class was when the wider education began. The target before leaving Malborough was the 11+ exam. I can see now that Miss Cooper started looking for prospective pass students early on and we were aware of being encouraged.

At this stage we were expected to use cursive writing. We had Penmanship lessons and were taught to follow the Marian Richardson Style. This style joined up the letters but allowed no loops. The Penmanship lesson began with filling the inkwells and distributing the pens. The first job was to ensure that the nib was not clogged or crossed.

One afternoon was set aside for Handicraft when we could draw or make things with plasticine. The girls went to the room next door to do needlework. One day Tony Lyle, Keith Favis and myself were sent next door to sit with the girls as a punishment for constant talking. We didn’t regard it as much of a punishment and we were taught knitting. We were told we were knitting squares which would be stitched together to make a blanket and this would be sent to some deserving child in Africa. By the end of the term we had only managed one square each and the number of dropped stitches made them look unattractive. As a result they were given to us to take home to use as dishcloths.

We enjoyed the times – often at the end of term – when the partition was pulled back and the school got together for a good old sing song with Mrs Braddock on the piano. Old English folk songs such as Early one Morning, Soldier Soldier, Where the bee sucks, Who is Sylvia?, Bobby Shafto, Oh No John, Greensleeves and favourites like “This old Man”. Always very popular was “Jerusalem” and “I Vow to Thee My Country.”

We were never given a reading list but once a term a box would arrive which served as our library. At the end of the term the books would be returned. However, our literary deficiencies were served by Miss Cooper reading her favourite poems to us. She liked poems with a good rhythm such as Longfellow’s Hiawatha” and Alfred Noyes “The Highwayman”. Curiously though her special favourite poet was Walter de la Mare. I suppose that was an attempt to push our appreciation a bit further on.

We didn’t have many school books but those we did have are imprinted in my memory bank. First was the Atlases. I can remember the excitement when a new set arrived. They were much the same as the old ones but brighter colours and in good condition. The other books were for Geography. The focus was mostly on Africa. If you have seen school books from that period you will know what poor quality the images were. They were not black and white but black and grey. Very low contrast. However, there were quite a few pictures and they were just about recognisable mostly showing villagers in mud huts. It came as a surprise when I discovered there were actually cities on the continent.

Occasionally we were allowed on Miss Cooper’s lawn. Why I don’t remember. A few years previously the children dressed up in First Nation Canadian outfits and carried out some event on the lawn. There were also Maypole dances but these had stopped by my time.


Miss Cooper's Lawn - First Nation Canadians


Miss Cooper's Lawn - May Queen

Miss Cooper’s sister emigrated to Canada. On every stage of her journey by ship she sent home a journal which was read out to us. We learned through the letters about her new discoveries such as the Mounties and the Canadian First Nation tribes.

One rather clever method of teaching geography was by means of having a class stamp collection. We were each responsible for one country. We were given an album sheet and at least one stamp. The first task was to write the name of the country on the sheet and mount the stamp. Then in the top right-hand corner we had to draw a map of the country and underneath write something about it. I was responsible for Bechuanaland which is unfortunate because the country doesn’t exist these days. However, if you ever need a sketch map of the country, I am your man.

I was interested in that part of Africa because one of our class – Graham Salter -had emigrated to Northern Rhodesia. The family had farmed at Churchill Farm on the way to Salcombe. Knowing the dreadful things that happened over there I often wondered what happened to that very pleasant young man.

When we were in her care we soon realised that Miss Cooper was not a dragon. We found at the end of our time that she was soft hearted and generous. In our final year those who were leaving – Standard 4 -had a group photo taken. We were disappointed when we were told that the pictures hadn’t come out. Imagine our delight when she produced the photo and gave each of us one as a gift.


Just as I can remember how I felt in the first minute entering the school, I can remember the last minute when I left. I was slightly worried because Kingsbridge had male teachers which was something out of my experience. I was also deeply sad to be leaving the place where I had been very happy. I remember Tricia Yeoman coming up to me saying “Don’t cry or you will start me off”. I smiled and we walked together down the path to where we queued for the bus. I didn’t look back but over the years  I have been back in the playground once or twice during school holidays. I have a sentimental attachment to the school and a profound respect for those teachers who gave me a good start in education. I have enjoyed doing my five years again if only in my mind.


The Hope Cove Local History Group were recently delighted to meet Sheila Neve neé Yeoman who was born in Inner Hope in 1928.

Sheila had a few earlier memories of Malborough School. She started school at Galmpton and moved up to Malborough in 1936 at the age of eight. Sheila says even by then she didn’t know her 2 times table because the teacher had spent all her time ‘smoking and reading books’. However her teacher at Malborough was called Mr Pritchard and he was very good and taught them well.

Within a few years the war caused the arrival of a lot of evacuees. The number of children then doubled and they had to have lessons in the houses around the school – she specifically remembers lessons in people’s bedrooms and in the house that is now the Post Office. The evacuees brought their own teacher but she was ‘young and not able to keep them in order’.

Her son says “her best memory was when a bomb dropped near the school during the war. They asked if they could go and see the crater which was down the lane. They were refused permission as there wasn’t time before lessons. Mum however, reasoned that there would be time if they hurried so they all went to see. They were then late back and all got ‘the cane’. Mum received double strokes for being the ring-leader.”


The bomb landed at Coombe and is shown on this aerial photo from 1946.

Hopefully if Sheila remembers more we can add to this account.

Colin T Harvey February 2023  for 150th anniversary of the school.

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This post is intended to share local history information, to promote discussion and inform research. The information included is to the best of my knowledge and belief accurate, and obtained from reliable sources. If you find inaccuracies or omissions it would be really helpful to know, so that we can update our information. Maz.

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