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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.