memories of yeovil

memories of Yeovil schooldays

Brian Allinson's memories of Grass Royal and the 'Tech'


Many thanks to Brian Allinson for his memories of his schooldays in Yeovil.



My earliest real memories go back to the early 1950s and to a life 'below stairs' In Charlton Musgrove House, a lovely big country house near Wincanton, where my mother was the cook / housekeeper. In 1958 we left the slow pace of life in Charlton Musgrove and moved to Yeovil. We moved into a brand new, but quite small, terraced council house in Monmouth Road. The development was so new that Monmouth Road itself was as yet un-surfaced. All the homes in the area were similarly newly built.

Another big change for me was my new school, a big secondary modern school called Grass Royal. It was quite frightening at first because, of course, I had only experienced much smaller schools, like the one in Wincanton which had a total school population of around 80 to 100, and quite small class sizes.

In contrast, Grass Royal had at least six times that number of pupils, spread over four ‘year’ groups. Each ‘year’ was then also split into three further class groups, dependent upon the academic skills of the pupils. It was evident that my earlier schooling at Wincanton had been of a good standard because I was allocated a place in the top class group for my year.

There was still very little car ownership by ordinary families at that time, so we all either walked or rode our bikes to school. I don’t recall anyone being driven to school or even arriving by school bus.

For me, Grass Royal was a good school and opened up some interesting new subjects for me. We learned French (or tried to) and we also had music and drama classes. Once the initial shock at the change of pace wore off, I began to really enjoy my time at Grass Royal. However, quite suddenly it was time to sit the 13+ examinations, which provided an opportunity to move on to a grammar school education. (Even today I don’t recall ever taking the 11+ which presumably I must have failed).

A few weeks later, I learned that I had passed the 13+ and was to be interviewed regarding which school I was now to be sent to. The interview took place within a fairly short time and I was subsequently allocated a place not at the grammar school, as had been expected, but at the secondary technical school situated much closer to the centre of Yeovil.

Yeovil ‘Tech’ was another new experience altogether! Firstly, it was an all-boys school and instead of a relatively newly built complex like Grass Royal. Yeovil Tech was spread over a number of Victorian built, fairly run-down buildings. The main assembly room, for example, had the floor and desks raised cinema style, giving the teacher a clear and unobstructed view of his class. As its name suggested, it specialised teaching technical and engineering subjects, to the detriment of any of the arts. Unlike Grass Royal, which had a fairly relaxed discipline regime, discipline at the Tech was very strict and rigidly enforced.

The Tech also introduced another new experience to me, that of wearing a uniform. The mandatory uniform consisted of black or navy blue trousers, a black blazer with light blue piping around all edges and pockets, white shirt, school tie, and school cap which again was quartered black and light blue. The full uniform was to be worn at all times during the school day including on public transport to and from school. To be seen on a bus whilst not wearing your cap was to risk having to write several hundred lines of “ I must wear my cap on the bus” after school that day.

Lessons included the usual maths and English, but now introduced algebra, geometry, physics, technical drawing, workshop theory and practice, building construction, woodwork and physical training (PT). The only ‘soft’ subjects taught were geography and history. Class sizes were relatively small, at roughly fourteen boys.

As indicated earlier, discipline was very much a factor and was enforced firmly. To be caught talking in class risked having to duck quickly as a heavy blackboard rubber whizzed your way. Any failure to comply with the rules would result in a very painful visit to see the headmaster!
Nevertheless, it was a great school to be part of, and the spirit of camaraderie amongst the boys was excellent. Wednesday afternoons were devoted to sporting activities, usually football and cricket, dependent on the season, but occasionally cross-country running was an option introduced to build up stamina.

Much emphasis was made on the importance of passing your GCE’s by the time you left school and so, increasingly, we were sitting mock examinations taking previous years examination papers for our questions. In the last six months of our schooling, were we not only being pressed by the need to pass the exams looming ahead of us but also now the equally important subject of having a job to go to. The idea of our not having an already settled future employment was something our class teachers or the headmaster would countenance.

My love of cars, especially fast ones, had caused me to make my way to the local Jaguar dealer, W Sparrow & Sons, where I enquired if they had any jobs suitable for a 16-year-old. They appeared to like my initiative and agreed to take me on once I left school. So that was settled! Now for those GCE’s.

My studies paid off, because ultimately I left Yeovil Tech with good grades in maths, English, physics, history, technical drawing and engineering workshop theory and practice. Better than average passes and a very good report. In my final year, I had been appointed head boy and senior prefect. I was even allowed to issue the most basic punishment to miscreants, that of writing lines.

Sadly that great school was never to survive the move to comprehensive education that came along a few years later. It was closed and demolished. The big new District Hospital was built on the site, and today there is no sign of the great times that I had there.

My last day at the Tech ended in a big party at the school one Friday in July 1961. We said our goodbyes to our friends, many of whom we would not see again. The Tech, being a somewhat specialised school, had taken pupils from across Somerset and, in many cases, it was unlikely that we would bump into our friends again.

I was told that it was important that I should start my working life immediately and so on the very next Monday I found myself reporting to Sparrow’s garage in Sherborne Road. I had been found a job as the clerk in the 'Cost Office'. My working hours were 8.30am to 5.30pm each working day plus 8.30am to 1.00 pm on Saturdays. A lunch break between 1 and 2pm was allowed, but was unpaid. This all amounted to a 44.5 hour week. For which I was to paid the princely sum of £3 14s 7d per week. However, to my dismay tax and stamp etc. brought my take-home pay packet down to £2 18 1d. I certainly did not feel rich.

What did come as a much worse shock however, was the massive increase in my hours of work each day. School had started at 9.00am and usually finished by 3.45pm at the latest. So the nearly 3 hours per day extra, plus the 4 and a half hours each Saturday, came as quite a shock to the system.