memories of yeovil

memories of yeovil

Yeovil High School for Girls remembered by Patricia Ann Smith


Many, many thanks to Patricia Ann Smith for taking the time to recall all these fascinating memories of, and insights into, Yeovil High School for Girls -

 "I was still at YHS in 1959 when the school moved from 45 The Park and Park Lodge to Stiby Road. I can well remember the smell of the varnish on the new floors and the "plastery" smell of the new building. I must confess that I didn't like it very much - I liked the quirkiness of the old buildings and at the rather characterless Stiby Road there was a rule that if you had a class on anything other than the ground floor you had to go up a staircase on one side of the building and could only go down again by continuing up to the very top floor and taking another staircase which was right over on the other side - no going back again, or descending from the floor you were on if not the top one - I'm sure that kept us fit! Because of the new floors we were supposed to wear Clarks' "Everywhen" shoes only, but they were not only "fogey" but were expensive and not everyone's parents were willing or able to pay out the money for a new pair of shoes when a pupil owned a perfectly good pair that weren't yet worn out!

The new school had something which we hadn't had in the previous buildings - showers! However, these showers didn't have nice cubicles, but just heavy green canvas curtains between them which some of the girls found it amusing to pull back. I, for one, hated this, having had an upbringing of total modesty!

The Stiby Road premises must have saved us an awful lot of time between classes as everything we needed was on site. Previously we had had to walk (in a neat crocodile and in a "one way" system, as shown in one of your photographs) from 45 The Park to Park Lodge (not very far, but it still took time) and back again, since the Science Block was in the garden of Park Lodge and certain classes were taught in specific rooms. For instance, the Domestic Science room (complete with both gas and electric stoves and a Rayburn so that we could learn all types of cooking), the well equipped gym (which doubled as an assembly hall) and some other form rooms were in 45 The Park. The Art Room was situated in what used to be the attic of Park Lodge, with sky-lights which were very suitable for the kind of work we did there.

Another time-consumer was the fact that we had no dining room and those who partook of school dinners which were compulsory if you didn't go home (you had to produce a doctor's certificate to say you were on a special diet if you wanted to bring sandwiches!) had to walk, again in crocodile, from the assembly point in front of Park Lodge, to the Centenary Hall in Clarence Street, near Bruttons' Brewery. School uniform was very strict although, by the time I started at the school in 1954 the velour hats had been phased out and we had berets, with the Pegasus school badge on the front and a button on the top. We had navy blazers or gabardine raincoats, navy pinafore dresses (much nicer than the gym-slips of former years) or navy skirts and white blouses. Our ties were navy with gold and silver stripes and, as I think you already know, the blazer badge was Pegasus the winged horse with "Palma Non Sine Pulvere" underneath - "No Palms Without Dust", or "don't expect to get anything without working for it"! It was possible to earn a "Deportment Badge" for conducting oneself in an erect manner (I slouched around, so never got one) and the First and Second Eleven hockey teams wore white or yellow sashes (I didn't have one of those either, being rubbish at games).

We young girls used to try to get away with some sort of individuality - ankle socks pulled up too far, berets with badges turned down so that they didn't show, skirts longer than the regulation length (obviously this was in the days before mini-skirts raised the opposite problem for the staff). We didn't get away with much as I think the staff were aware of the fact that, on the way to the Centenary Hall we had to walk past the rather "posh" fee-paying Park School where the uniform was rather more spectacular and, to our minds, desirable: long bottle green capes and quartered berets with different coloured tassels for each of the school's "houses" - I remember the tassels being pale blue, mauve and yellow, and I think the prefects' were white. Eating sweets (or anything else) when outside in school uniform was strictly forbidden and we were expected to look immaculate at all times. There was no punishment, as such, but the mere threat of a visit to Miss Jackson, the Headmistress, was enough to keep us toeing the line.

Once at the Centenary Rooms (down a rather horrid alleyway and up a dark and dismal staircase), we were seated on forms at long tables for about eight girls, a mixture from each year, with a sixth former in charge. The staff sat at a table to one side of the hall, with Miss Drury the school's Second Mistress, as head. There was a rumour that Miss Drury couldn't eat anything red or pink because she was a Quaker! We girls were really silly!

Our school dinners were brought in big metal containers from some way away - I think it may even have been as far as Taunton! Monitors from each table queued up in a side room and were served the food, each carrying two or three plates back to the rest of the girls at their table. We also had water in a jug and multi-coloured plastic beakers and used to contrive to make an awful mess with it. Some of the school dinners were rather odd - I can remember having beetroot with orange segments and mashed potato on occasions! There was always a dessert and a groan used to go up when we found it was tapioca or sago - the ubiquitous "frog spawn" of everyone's schooldays! I remember we used to have competitions when seated at tables out of sight of the staff table - "frog spawn" fired from a dessert spoon at the dado (the Cententary Rooms were decorated in cream paint and brown varnish and were far from clean), where it stuck and then trickled down behind the piano! The winner was the one whose projectile stuck longest before sliding down and we used to inspect from time to time to see how the debris was faring before being cleaned up!

As I said, the Centenary Rooms were not terribly clean, with dusty bare wooden floors and beams high above us. Now and again we used to see a girl go up to the staff table, holding out her plate (rather like Oliver Twist, but not asking for more) to ask if she could have another dinner as something nasty - dust or cobwebs - had descended from the beams onto her plate! It was all good fun!

Unlike many other schools, there was no playground, as such, at 45 The Park and Park Lodge. Instead, breaks were spent in the garden of Park Lodge where there was a sort of concrete "island" where the younger girls could skip and play hopscotch whilst the older girls used to stroll around the gardens, or sit in huddles and gossip (mainly about boys and clothes, as I remember!). The modern Science Block took up quite a large portion of the gardens and consisted of two classrooms, cloakrooms and a laboratory where Biology was taught. In my time the Physics and Chemistry lab was in the 45 The Park building, although I think the Park Lodge lab may have been used for Phys and Chem as well.

The garden consisted mainly of lawns and pathways with some very nice shrubs and ornamental trees. Unusually, there was a Ginkgo tree and a lovely feature of the garden was the Weeping Ash, just outside the Sixth Form Common Room. This tree was fenced off early in the year by the gardener/caretaker, Mr Hurt, and his assistant, his son-in-law, Mr Austin, so that the thousands of crocuses which were planted underneath many, many years before, could grow. I always remember the yellow ones coming out first, followed by the mauve and white ones later. As the Ash tree was, of course, deciduous the crocuses were very much on show. Once they had died down, the ropes were taken away and we were able to hide under the tree which by then had leaves on it, and which provided a beautiful "tent".

There were also bee hives in a separate part of the garden which was not open to the girls taking their break - you normally only went in if you were a member of the Beekeeping Club, run by Miss Greaves, the Art Mistress. Extraction day was great fun as we set out, veiled, hatted and gloved, with smokers to make the bees drowsy while we stole their honeycombs. The combs were then taken over to the Domestic Science room in 45 The Park where we cut the "lids" off the cells, put the honeycombs into an extracting machine (a sort of hand-cranked centrifuge, rather like a spin-dryer) where they were spun so that the honey was ejected from the cells. We then turned on the tap at the bottom of the extractor and poured the honey into jars. A little "perk" of this process was that (unknown to Miss Greaves), we used to chew bits of the beeswax we'd cut off the tops of the cells because there was a certain amount of honey left on them, and then threw the chewed wax down behind the Rayburn! I wonder if it's still there?

Incidentally, my mother was a housemaid at Park Lodge as a young girl when it was a private dwellinghouse, before it was taken over by the school. She therefore knew of various "secrets" of the house - for instance, a cupboard with a false back that led into another cupboard in the adjoining classroom (these had formerly been bedrooms, so why there was a "secret" door in the cupboard is a matter for conjecture!). My knowledge of that led to some quite funny adventures. When we were messing about one day four of us hid in the cupboard in our form room and the English mistress (Mrs Phillips, an Irishwoman) came into the classroom, probably realised that something was going on and stood leaning against the cupboard door so that we couldn't get out. We then panicked a bit, found the catch and opened the "secret" door in the back of the cupboard (this was a bit like "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe"!) but instead of Narnia we found ourselves in the cupboard in the next classroom. Not knowing what else to do, we burst out suddenly in the middle of the Maths lesson that was going on in the adjoining room, tipping over a desk and nearly giving Miss Wills (the Maths mistress) and the rest of her class heart attacks! Thereafter the four of us had to stand on the landing between lessons until the teachers arrived, lest we should do something else as awful!"