In September 2014 two new schools opened in North Kensington. Kensington Aldridge Academy is a secondary school in a brand new building on Silchester Road at the far western end of Lancaster Road. The second school to open was the privately run Chepstow House School, which is located at the other end of Lancaster Road near Portobello Road in a building that has been in educational use since Victorian times. Since many schools have come and gone along Lancaster Road we thought we would recall them.
Portobello Road School by Sue Snyder
One of the first board schools to be built in 1876 in North Kensington was Portobello Road School (now Chepstow House school). The building runs behind the houses on Lancaster Road towards Portobello Road with entrances on both roads. The best view of the two-storey building is probably from the train as it leaves Ladbroke Grove going towards Westbourne Park station.
My mother, Mary Horwood, born in 1913, attended Portobello Road School from the age of 5. It catered for children up to the age of thirteen, although my mother succeeded in transferring at aged 11 to North Kensington Central School on St Mark’s Road opposite Kensington Memorial Park (see separate posting). The entrance on Portobello Road was for infants and girls while the boys entered on Lancaster Road. She described to me how there was an upstairs flat over one of the entrances that was used for training the girls in ‘household” skills such as polishing the fireplace brass and black leading a stove.
After WW2, North Kensington Central School moved from St Mark’s Road to the Portobello Road School building.
Lancaster Road School by Jean Parker
I started at Lancaster Road School in September 1939 when I was four and a half years old. The infants were based on the ground floor with the junior boys and girls on the first floor and the senior boys on the second floor. The senior boys’ playground was on the roof and the infants’ entrance was in St.Mark’s Road. The senior girls went to St Quintin’s School in St Mark’s Road near to Kensington Memorial Park.
Each morning, assembly was held in the hall which was also used for dancing and singing. I remember that my first teacher was called Miss Doncaster and our lessons were simple, just learning to read, write and count. We used a slate tile and chalk. There was no paper or pencils. We had small wooden boxes to store our things and these were kept under our chairs. As war progressed, teachers were in short supply so sometimes we only went to school for half a day.
The Junior lessons were more serious. We had proper writing desks with lids that lifted up so there was space to store our books, paper, pens and pencils These desks had to be kept tidy and we opened the lids every morning for the teacher’s inspection. In my third year I became ink monitor which meant keeping all the inkwells in my class filled. In those days pupils stayed in their classrooms for all lessons while the teachers went from class to class.
I had a happy childhood and Lancaster Road was a big part of it.
Lancaster Road in the 1950s recalled by Mick Kasmir.
When I was at school there were three schools in Lancaster Road. One being North Kensington Central School, which became Isaac Newton Secondary School (and is now coming to the end of its recent incarnation as Isaac Newton Professional Development Centre). It had an entrance in Lancaster Road and one in Portobello Road (which is now The Garden Cafe). The school was mixed and fairly small.
Further down Lancaster Road and across Ladbroke Grove there was Solomon Wolfson Jewish School, a mixed primary school that sat upon the site now occupied by The Lighthouse. Next door to this school was a secondary school named, appropriately enough, Lancaster Road Secondary School, now occupied by the Virgin Gym. This school was quite big, and from what I remember, boys only. It was also quite rough.
Because my stepfather was Jewish (he came with his family from Russia to escape the pogroms when he was a boy), he sent my sister and me to Solomon Wolfson. Also it was near to where we lived in Lancaster Road. Apart from Maths and English, the curriculum seemed to consist of writing, painting, clay modelling, growing plants and even knitting! Boys as well as girls! We also learnt some Hebrew, and in the winter we could all leave early on Fridays to get back home before it got dark so we could celebrate Shabat (Sabbath).
Next door to the school was a cinema, The Royalty, where one could play around the back, and sometimes even get inside the cinema. On the corner of Ladbroke Grove and Lancaster Road there was the Children’s Library (which is still there), where I discovered more literature than both schools put together!
After Solomon Wolfson I went to North Ken Central School which was a Technical school teaching technical drawing, woodwork, metalwork, art and science. My last year, 1959, took place in Wornington Road, when both buildings became Isaac Newton boys Secondary School. And pupils who wanted to take ‘A’ levels had to transfer to Holland Park School, which had just opened in 1958. Isaac Newton finally closed in the late 1970s. I think my science teacher Mr Carter later became the head of Isaac Newton School.
Next door to the Portobello entrance was a really good pie and mash shop that later became Ceres Wholefoods (and now The Grain Shop).
Solomon Wolfson by Pat Kasmir
Before moving to Lancaster Road we lived in Hammersmith and I went to St.Paul’s primary school on Hammersmith Broadway. Then when we moved to Lancaster Road our parents sent both my brother and me to Solomon Wolfson in Lancaster Road, as it was local. This was in 1947.
Although my brother and I were not Jewish (my step father was) and we were Church of England, we attended the Jewish assembly and learnt some Hebrew and the Old Testament. It was a mixed school and had other faiths attending. A nun would come into the school to take the non-Jewish students for their assembly.
I really enjoyed my time there. I was very happy and made lots of friends. I can remember that we had plays and celebrations on the stage in the school hall, we had prize giving and we were taught the usual primary subjects – Maths, English, Art etc.
We used to go out at lunchtime to a sweet shop around the corner in Ladbroke Grove (could be Winkworths Estate Agency now) using our weekly sweet coupons and 5penny a week pocket money. I would imagine this would only be once a week probably on a Monday payday.
There was also another school next door to Solomon Wolfson, which I remember as Lancaster Road Boys School (where Virgin Gym is now). It was a much more rough school and I remember being really frightened walking back to my house on my own as the boys were really quite threatening.
In later years, I believe it became a girls’ secondary modern called Ladbroke Lower School and eventually amalgamated with Holland Park School in the early eighties.
I was very unhappy when I had to leave and go to Secondary school, which was Mary Boon in Shepherds Bush (which by the way I really enjoyed also)
When I moved onto Secondary school, Mary Boon in Shepherds Bush, one day a week we had Housewifery or Cooking on alternate weeks. For the housewifery we came back to Lancaster Road to the Campden Institute. They had a flat on the top floor where we were taught to change the beds, hoover the floors, do the washing and the ironing. It was good fun and I never forgot these elementary rules.
n.b. Campden Institute (now Notting Hill Prep School, is on Lancaster Road next to the Library). There is more information on the Campden Institute on a separate blog posting.
Solomon Wolfson in the early 1950s, Rachelle Stock
I was there from about 1950-54 from five till nine years old, when we moved to Tottenham.
We lived along the Uxbridge Road, so my journey was from Shepherds Bush train station to Ladbroke Grove station. Few people from the working class Jewish immigrant population had cars, well, few people had cars full stop, hence the train journey. There was a group of us including my older brother accompanied by various adults. The walk from the station along Ladbroke Grove round the corner to Lancaster Road was exciting because we often came across chickens that we could chase. They were wandering around the entrance of the alley just along from the station.
The headmaster at the time was Mr Mendoza (a lovely gentle man) and if I remember rightly my teacher or one of them was Mr Lipchitz, a memorable name…….. a chalk throwing, tall, tweed-jacketed scary man. We had large coal stoves in the classrooms, probably the norm in most schools at that time. The highlight of my days was playing marbles in the drains. I was quite the champion and had a tin full of my winnings….If it had been raining before playtime all the better as the coloured glass sparkled like treasure nestling in the drain cover holes. Not saying much for my early education.
Around this time, 1952, Christie was committing his murders and we used to go round the corner to Rillington Place, probably on the way home accompanied by adults since I can’t think we were let out during lunchtime – to see the police activity, lots of digging going on. Fascinatingly gruesome for small children. The film 10 Rillington Place, with Richard Attenborough at his finest brings it startlingly back.
I had a ‘boyfriend’, the first, called David Rose. Strange how I remember that I can still recall him kissing me and the smell of his breath. ..yuk. The worst part of that early education was the way we learned the days of the week and months of the year with charts for days drawn as oblong boxes running from right to left (the Hebrew way) starting with Saturday ( Saturday yellow, Sunday red) and finishing with Friday. Forever my image of a week will be seen that way. For the year a circle divided into 12 segments, each segment a month again. I can’t think of the year without that image. I find that extremely annoying!
I left the school because we moved away and I took my 11+ elsewhere.
Samuel Wolfson School finally closed in 1981 reflecting the reduced size the jewish community in Notting Hill who were moving on and out of the area.