p004-red-cross-street-school

Red Cross Street School

Red Cross Street School

Red Cross Street School

No matter what age you are, you never forget the place of your birth or your first school. Number 1 on our Map of North Street – Red Cross Street School.

The headline above an article in the Express and Star from 1939 stated… CLASSROOM or FAIRYLAND?.. and it related to the fact that Wolverhamptons first Nursery School got underway in February of that year and was thought by some to be going into fairyland mode; when they actually taught a class of twenty, four old children, to behave with “sweet obedience” instead of naughtiness, being managed without threats or raised voices, and combing their hair and cleaning their teeth without protest.

Disbelieving mums only had to take a peek into the class at Red Cross Street School to see the children put into an environment which gave them surroundings and conditions to develop their minds and bodies.

Some said the new system was encouraging mothers to shelve their responsibilities – while others thought it was giving the child a good start in life.

Now you may have come from around north Street and had this good start in life. If so,  I hope this little tale takes you back a bit!

Aerial view of Red Cross Street School - centre foreground

Aerial view of Red Cross Street School – centre foreground

On the above photograph Birchfield Street is immediately behind the School and runs from Left from North Street to the right, where it joins with Molineux Street. As you can see from the picture North Street and Molineux Street at that time formed a triangle, at the apex of which stood The Fox Inn (The Wanderer). The base line of this triangle was Red Cross Street in which the front entrance to the School stood.

On the corner of North and Birchfield Street, was Marstons Lock Factory, which at the time of my story were busy making Mills Hand Grenades for the War effort. One hundred yards further along North Street was the entrance to the Londes at the bottom of Camp Street. the Londes led up to my home in Nursery Street.

Aerial view of Red Cross Street School - centre foreground with key

Aerial view of Red Cross Street School – centre foreground with key

This sets up the scene for my story -

On my first day at Red Cross Street School there was a police escort for me.

October 1941. Great Britain was two years into the War with Germany, evacuees were arriving in town, Air-raid shelters were being delivered to our streets but these issues did not concern me that day at No. 11 Nursery Street Wolverhampton.

Evacuees from the East End of London, billeted in Marsh Lane, Fordhouses

Evacuees from the East End of London, billeted in Marsh Lane, Fordhouses

Anderson air raid shelters being delivered by the Great Western Railway

Anderson air raid shelters being delivered by the Great Western Railway

Dad was off somewhere at work, mom was upstairs in bed (poorly I thought), and with two of my aunts and Mrs Bott from next door flitting about all this strange commotion coupled with the thought of leaving our cosy kitchen to go somewhere I’d never been was making me really upset.

Today was to be my first taste of School and the task of escorting me on that first day fell to our kindly next door neighbour Mrs Bott. A good natured lady, with a lovely Irish brogue.

Mrs Bott cleans up the backyard at No. 10 Nursery Street

Mrs Bott cleans up the backyard at No. 10 Nursery Street

Off to school. At a quarter to nine with a certain amount of unease, my coat, scarf and gas mask on my back, we left for Red Cross Street School. Down our street, along the Londes and into North Street.

Map of North Street

Map of North Street

Although the route took less than three minutes to walk, it was a dangerous one for there was the busy North Street to cross; so at the top of Birchfield St. in the front of Marston’s Lock Factory , there stood a Police constable, manning the school crossing, which in those days was the duty of the local force.

A typical school crossing scene of the day

A typical school crossing scene of the day

When we arrived at the School, I was left with a few others in the care of Miss Duncan the Headmistress. She did her best to dispel my feeling of nervousness, but as soon her back was turned I left the School and made my way back home.

Now I don’t know whether it was because I’d crossed the busy road on my own, or because she had other things to do, but Mrs Bott wasn’t very pleased having to take me back to School once more.

Looking up North Street from the bottom of the Londes 1939

Looking up North Street from the bottom of the Londes 1939

Neither was the constable, who at this time had left the crossing and was making his way up North Street on the way back to his station in Red Lion Street.

“Back we go,” He said to Mrs Bott “Ill see to him,” and took my hand. We crossed North Street again then down Birchfield Street and into the infants School.

Looking down Birchfield Street, the Marstons Building on the left, the School on the right 1970s

Looking down Birchfield Street, the Marstons Building on the left, the School on the right 1970s

After explaining to Miss Duncan, the cause of my anxiety and the circumstances at my home, which had been told to him by Mrs Bott, he left.

"The Copper & Miss Duncan" Cartoon courtesy of Paul Howe

“The Copper & Miss Duncan” Cartoon courtesy of Paul Howe

I cant remember much about the rest of that day at school except I feel as though I must have enjoyed it. And the reason for all the concern at home that day was on account of the birth of my first sister, Mary.

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  6 comments for “Red Cross Street School

  1. February 4, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Yes I also was a pupil at Redcross street school in 1942. I recall sleeping outside in warm weather, under the watchful eye of a teacher, wonderful. After being cheeky to my teacher one day, she confiscated my skipping rope, I hit the roof.After school I took my complaint to the policeman on crossing duty, who duly marched me back into school. I remember seeing them both giggling together, but I got my rope back.To this day I still am a pioneer for justice. Happy days.

  2. November 13, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    I READ THIS TO MY MOTHER, MARGARET WILLIAMS WHO LIVE AT 33 NURSERY STREET WITH HER 4 SISTERS AND A BROTHER. SHE LOVED IT AND PRESUMES THAT THE WRITER WAS A FRIEND WHO OFTEN CALLED FOR HER AND ASKED FOR MAGGIE. HER MOTHER SARAH (SALLY) WOULD NEVER LET HER GO OUT TO PLAY UNLESS THEY CALLED HER MARGARET. SHE SAYS THAT SISTER MARY BORN THIS DAY WENT OFF TO LIVE IN AUSTRALIA, THANK YOU FOR THIS WEBSITE, I WAS BORN IN NURSERY STREET MYSELF AND SPEND A LOT OF TIME VISITING MY NAN AND GRANDAD, AND AUNTY JEAN AND UNCLE BILL WHO LIVED NEXT DOOR TO THEM (WE WE HAD ALL PREVIOUSLY LIVED). ALL LIVE IN ST IVES IN CORNWALL NOW AND THIS WEBISTE HAS BOUGHT BACK SO MANY MEMORIES,

    THANK YOU

    JAYNE

  3. November 15, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Hi Jayne.
    Thankyou for your favourable comment. I knew the Williams family very well growing up in Nursery Street, I am the same age Sheila.
    I do happen to see Betty on occasion, and last saw Jean about 30years ago. please join the forum so we can keep in touch.

  4. Yash Mahay
    November 25, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Hello there
    I recently stumbled on your site and it took me back to when I used to live at Dawson Street with my grandparents. Our house was one of the last few emptied before the bulldozers moved in. I remember using the shops along North St on my way back from Redcross School that I attended as a child.

    I especially remember the barbers which my granddad used to take me. I can still picture the barber boarding his shop window on big match days. I also remember the butchers and newsagents that we used often; the butcher was a big jolly fella.

    From looking at this site it brought back memories where my dad used to play football for the Fox-in pub. I also remember the Bell pub where my granddad used to drink at and occasionally take me.

    Thank you for putting this site together as it has brought back pleasant memories, which I am sharing with my children.

  5. Brian Jackson
    July 31, 2013 at 4:23 am

    Hi Billy

    I have been following your web site for the past year and find it really interesting, anyway I stumbled on this page (Red cross St school).
    I used to live in West St and attended the school starting around 1951 and seem to remember having the cockpit of a Lancaster bomber in the playground for us lads to play in, does anyone else remember that?.
    When I started work it was with the MEB in Clarence St, then to Major St, both sites have now gone.
    I left England in 1970 and started a new life in New Zealand, away from the colder weather, then moved again in 1999 to settle in Singapore, now its always hot and sticky but enjoy it all the same.
    Whenever we come back to England we try and look up the old places from my childhood. so this site is full of good memories for me.
    Keep up the good work with the site

  6. Jeremy Bryant
    January 21, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Dear Sirs

    My pupils have excavated and restored a WW2 Anderson Shelter and are turning it into an exhibit for a local museum.

    I was wondering if we could use the attached image on our interpretation boards.

    Many thanks

    Jeremy Bryant

    Acle Academy

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