Memories of Schooldays in Lancaster Road – Part 1

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

Old entrance to Portobello Road School - infants and girls. Photo taken in 1995

Old entrance to Portobello Road School – infants and girls. Photo taken in 1995

Isaac Newton Centre 2010. Originally the boys' entrance for Portobello Road School, and now Chepstow House, a private school.

Isaac Newton Centre 2010. Originally the boys’ entrance for Portobello Road School, and now Chepstow House, a private school.

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

Ladbroke Lower School for Girls in 1970, formerly Lancaster Road School. photo RBKC.

Ladbroke Lower School for Girls in 1970, formerly Lancaster Road School. photo RBKC.

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.

Part of the Isaac Newton Centre in  2010, formerly Isaac Newton Boys School.  Photo Sue Snyder.

Part of the Isaac Newton Centre in 2010, formerly Isaac Newton Boys School. Photo Sue Snyder.

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.

Solomon Wolfson School, 1970. Photo RBKC local studies.

Solomon Wolfson School, 1970. Photo RBKC local studies.

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!

Royalty Cinema, Lancaster Road with Solomon Wolfson to the far right, 1970. Photo RBKC.

Royalty Cinema, Lancaster Road with Solomon Wolfson to the far right, 1970. Photo RBKC.

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.

 

Solomon Wolfson class, 1960s.

Solomon Wolfson class, 1960s.

Solomon Wolfson class in 1965.

Solomon Wolfson class in 1965.

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.

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25 Responses to Memories of Schooldays in Lancaster Road – Part 1

  1. Gwen Nelson says:

    A lovely nostalgic trip down Memory Lane. Thank you so much. I too have happy memories of the children’s section of Ladbroke Grove Library. One had to go downstairs to access it and have written permission from one’s parents if you wanted to borrow books from the adult section upstairs. I repeatedly borrowed “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” which was a big book bound in red fabric. I loved the illustrations which were always very scary.

  2. Stanley Morris says:

    How wonderful! I too remember tthis so clearly. Going downstairs to the children’s area and going straight to the Biggles books, (and earlier to the Enid Blytons) and being so dissapointed if the shelves for them were empty. Across the road was I think a sweet shop or toy shop or stationers perhaps which kept me glued to the window at Parker pens and Watermens pens which so enthralled me. At 11 I was sent to the school across the way – North Ken Central School I think where a wondrful teacher of french had me unabashed and fluent in my limitatioins before being upgraded to St Clement DAnes Grammar school the following year. There Mr Gush failed me with his more progreesive teaching style whereas Miss ? who taught strictly by rote had me a year or two ahead of my new ckassmates. Dear Mrs french teacher, if you are still with us , thank you so much.Dear Mr Gush – I do remember you with affection behind your cigarette smoke.
    Life with access to a downstairs library before television had much to offer.

  3. Annie says:

    I also lived in ladbroke grove but in the 1980’s and it’s fascinating to hear your recollection especially as I can relate to some of the places you mention. But I’m a little confused as you mentioned that you went to Mary Boon school for girls. I went to Mary Boon but it was in Olympia on Hammersmith road not in shepherds Bush. Could you throw some light on that? Did it move I’m really curious to find out.

    Annie

    • Pat Terry says:

      Annie,
      Mary Boon was originally in Lime Grove Shepherds Bush attached to the Art School. It did eventually move to Olympia after I left at the moment I do not know the year but it would have been after 1968. I might be able to find out which will be a bit long winded but I will have a go. It was a lovely school originally referred to as a Trade School which meant the students started at thirteen years of age and chose a trade to study cookery,upholstery art etc. In 1952 the intake started at eleven and I was one of the first.
      Pat

  4. Arnold Carmel Ph.D. says:

    I, too, remember my days at Solomon Wolfson from 1947-1953. My brother and I would walk from Maxilla Gardens past George’s, a confectionary store on St Marks Road, and turn by the bakery onto Lancaster Road to get to school. We were always greeted by Mr. Drake, the caretaker of the school who was hovering in the playground area as students arrived. I have the fondest memories of Mr. Mendoza, even though I was a regular visitor to his office. He had great patience with me. I remember Mrs Drury, who too, had patience, but more importantly she ignited my imagination and motivated me to explore the world through literature. I became a regular visitor to the library on the corner of Lancaster Road and Ladbroke Grove. Those primary/elementary years I recall with great fondness- the school friends, who for the most part are etched in memory at the ages we were at that time. When I left after the 11+ I went to Central Foundation Grammar in the city, at the same time we moved from Maxilla gardens to Highlever Road, leaving behind the memories of Lancaster Road, and the school

    • Stanley Morris says:

      Hello Arnold! We lived in Brewster Gardens, and played a little together a bit and I think you came to a birthday party or two. I think our mums were friends. One would probably pass Ellis Turim’s home on our way to visit Do you recall? May be went to the park together where I think we payed a version of cricket with one man per side.
      Mrs Levey – do you recall as well?

      • Arnold Carmel Ph.D. says:

        Hi Stanley,
        I remember you well. We did indeed play together. I cannot say I remember Ellis Turim. I tried to locate an old photograph that I have from those days. There is one particular one with our year
        ( around 1952), on the stage in the auditorium. I was sitting in the front row next to Stanley Lions, and you were in the fourth or fifth row, at the end of the row. For the most part those years were idyllic with nothing but pleasant memories. I also remember Mrs. Levy, Mr. Supperstone, Mr. Busky and others from the faculty.

    • Graham Caine says:

      Arnold
      Was your brother Alan?
      I lived on Highlever Road as well at number 123. If I recall your mothers name was May?

      • Arnold Carmel Ph.D. says:

        Graham,

        Yes, my brother is Alan. Both he and I remember your parents very well. They were many times your parents came to visit our house and vice versa. We to lived on Highlever road, I think 169, though not sure. We also remember you too.

        Arnold Carmel

    • Lee says:

      Hi, I’ve been doing some family tree research and found an address for Mary sweeting 169 highlever road in 1953. After a few searches one of your comments saying you lived there around that time. Just wondering if you can remember if you knew her and had any information. Thanks

      • Arnold says:

        My parents bought the house 169 Highlever Road in 1953 round about September. We lived there until 1959 when we moved to Wembley. I ‘m afraid I do not remember the Sweeting family

  5. Karen Long says:

    My mother wasnt Jewish but went to Solomon Wolfson and speaks of her time at school with very fond memories. I am in possession of a cookery book that was presented to her on 5/12/1950 for her good work and excellence of character and was signed by the the Head Master Mr Mendoza

  6. tina burke says:

    Mary Boon Secondary School moved to the Olympia site September 1959. My year was the first intake aged eleven-the older years moved over during the first term of that year. Hope this helps

  7. Janet Suckling says:

    Mary Boon School was in Shepherd’s Bush in 1957.
    It shared a building with an Art School.
    It produced outstanding results with pupils in Cookery, Design, Dressmaking,
    Art, Embroidery, Theatre Costume, it was a Technical School.
    Many girls went on to work with these skills some of them to the Designer Houses of the day.

  8. andy anderson says:

    oh wow i can see my brother there !

  9. Elaine king says:

    Elaine king
    I went to mary Boon school in Olympia and left in 1969 does anyone remember that year ?
    I could not wish for a better bunch of girls in my class

  10. Ayfer says:

    Does anyone recall Ladbroke Grove lower and upper school for girls in the 70’s? would love to get in touch with the girls who took English with Miss Lang (hope that’s the correct spelling for her name) she was inspirational.

  11. James Farndale says:

    I attended North Kensington Central School from 1950 to 1954 which I always thought was North Kensington Secondary Modern.When did it change names? I always entered the school from the Lancaster Road entrance a short distance from Ladbroke Grove and used the Portobello Road entance at lunch time. I seem to remember a cafe near the entrance and a shop where it was possible to buy a single cigarette. (buy one?….. who me?) Nah. I remember Mr Markham as Headmaster and a teacher Mr Palmer. The folly of youth, I wasted most of my time at school, and regretted it in later life.

    • Bob Bremner says:

      I went to North Ken secondary modern from 1946 to 1951. Percy Markham was Headmaster. We kids were all terrified of him.The cane was a regular punishment. I remember a Mr Wilson,sports master belong a good guy,and a Mister Davies,Maths teacher belong a tyrant. Miss Matthews was deputy head.and dealt with the girls. We received a fair education when you think the war had just ended and the country was on its knees, with lots of bomb damage in that area. The School was in a great position .Right on Portobello Rd ,with the market and stalls. I lived in Tavistock Rd ,Number 123. They were great days for us kids. Very tough for our parents. Bob Bremner.

  12. barry cheese says:

    Hello Stanley I remember you and Arnold, you also mentioned Ellis who sat next to me in
    class.
    Miss Walker was our teacher.
    Barry Cheese

    • stanley Morris says:

      barry cheese! as soon as i saw the name a bell rang in my head! good god it is 70 years ago. a bit advanced to be saying,’how you doing?’ I can’t remember much about those days but would love to hear and share more with you. I was corresponding withArnold but lost the address. Also love to hear from Ellis too and anyone else. stanley lions, Alan Shwartz, Geoffry gitter and some girls – Gloria, Carol Susan Fineman?

      • barry cheese says:

        Hello Stanley.I lost touch with Ellis but I managed to speak to Edwin Bennet who lives
        in USA, also in touch with Michael Sable and Flower Moses who both live in London.
        Barry Cheese

  13. frank howard clark says:

    I lived at 200 Lancaster Road and went to the infants school there in 1951. I then attended Oxford Gardens Junior school. I remember coming back from shopping on a Saturday and seeing crowds at the top of Rillington Place. The victims bodies had just been discovered.
    My sister went to Quentin Park school. Her name was Rosalind Ann Clark. I spent many happy Saturday mornings at the Royalty minors. Does anyone remember going up on the stage on your birthday? I remember an enactment of the boat race being played out. Flash Gordon springs to mind too!!
    Mum worked in Crumpton’s the butchers on Ladbroke Grove so we got to watch the Queen go by from an upstairs window after her coronation. I was a regular at the library having discovered W E Johns and Biggles. I can see those steps leading down now!! Do you remember the index cards when you wanted to find a particular book?
    I also spent my time singing in the choir of St Helen’s Church. Miss E Betty Roe(MBE) who was my choir mistress still lives in Barlby Road. She is now 86. They were such happy days and its good to read others memories of the times. Take care all. Frank.

  14. barry cheese says:

    Hello Arnold hope you are well

    Barry Cheese

  15. Anne Madeline Branson says:

    Hello, I attended the school on Lancaster Rd. for a very short time. My friend was Marion Burrows. I lived at #76. I had happy times there until Dec.’49 when we left for Canada. I visited London 4 yrs. ago and went to see #76. It was forlorn with eaves troughs (rain gutters) drooping and overgrown bushes bordering the sidewalk. In my head tho’ it was the same as before. I remember the Chippie around the corner where for sixpence I could get a meal, live eels in a barrow and sweet peas in the garden behind our house. I was peeking over the brick wall one day and the gentleman gave me a bunch. 68 years have passed. Sweet memories. Not so sweet-my dad, Basil Eustace Branson was a pilot in the R.A.F. and was killed several days after the war ended when the plane went down over Corsica. I never saw him.
    Anne Branson, Toronto, Ontario, Canada Brrrrr. Snow, minus 7 celsius.

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