My involvement with academia began at Kingsley Church of England Primary School in 1950 when I was five. There were then two teachers Mrs. Garforth, (or something similar ), who was the then head mistress and Mrs O’Donnell who taught the younger children. Shortly after I joined, but I don’t remember exactly when, the head mistress retired and was replaced by Mrs. Morris. The Morrises lived in the school house which adjoined the school and had a door from the main classroom into what was then the living room. As far as I can recall the main class room ran from the house easterly and is where the present shop, entrance hall and rest room are now. The large room that is at the end and at right angles to the road was a later addition. There was a cook house or kitchen and, I think a smaller classroom at the rear of the building. The toilets were outside as were the bicycle shed and coal bunker. Two features of the main classroom stick in my mind and these were two large cast iron stoves, one at each end of the room on the back wall. They were surrounded by tall steel framed fire guards. The stoves were filled from the top with coal or coke from coal scuttles. These provided the heating during the winter months and it was fairly common for the class to sit around the stoves when it was very cold outside. The other feature which sticks in my mind was the huge map of the world which hung on the back wall. This was probably six feet long by about three feet deep and, of course had large areas of pink upon it. Those were the countries which were British and formed The British Empire and in those days there was quite a lot of it.
As a church school, it was normal for the vicar of the day to come into school a couple of times a week to hold prayers and give a talk at assembly. In fact I don’t think we had assembly when the vicar was not present. There were close links between the school and the church which resulted in many joint events occurring. Jumble sales, Christmas Bazaars, flower collections for Mothering Sunday, and, of course the Christmas Nativity Play.
My memories of Mrs. O’Donnel l are few but I do recall that she cycled into school each day from a village near Alton which I think was Shaldon. It’s difficult to imagine an elderly lady doing such a cycle ride today and for the purpose of getting to work. They made them tough then !
Most of my memories of the school involve Mrs. Morris whom I liked very much. If there was such a thing, she was my kind of teacher. Lessons tended to be irregular and to some extent unpredictable. By this I mean that it didn’t take much for Mrs. Morris to take us out on a nature walk or to wander down to the green by the pond when the foxhounds met or to go off collecting primroses for Mothering Sunday etc. All of which commended itself to me and most of the other children. It was, in the summer, quite usual for class to be suspended and relocated under the large mock orange tree which grew in the school house garden beside the road. There Mrs. Morris would read to us from Enid Blyton books The Famous Five and The Secret Seven etc. I think we all loved these sessions and they certainly inspired us, a) to read and b) to go forth and build camps etc. in order to emulate the Blyton characters. There would also be the occasional cinema trip and I well remember going to Farnham on two occasions to see Rob Roy featuring Richard Todd and also Ivanhoe. Both subjects had been covered in our history lessons.
The nature walks were a great favourite and the common provided rich pickings as did the pond and the river beyond Fir Hill. Many of the larger British Moths could then be found on the common and these included the Emperor, Oak Eggar, Deaths Head Hawk moth, Privett Hawk Moth, Drinker, Puss Moth and many others. We would find both moths and caterpillars and the latter would be brought back into the classroom where it would be fed and looked after until it changed into a beautiful moth which would then be released. It was as a result of our studies into Lepidoptera that Mrs. Morris bought some silk worm eggs. These we hatched and had a thriving colony of the caterpillars and they had to be fed on Mulberry leaves. These,it was discovered,could be sourced from Cold Harbour the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Jones. In spite of the fact that two of the Jones family attended the school, Robert (Plum) and Hillary, Lewis Batty and I got the job of walking to Cold Harbour a couple of times a week to pick the leaves from their Mulberry tree in order to feed the silk worms. The walk took us along the path behind the church behind what were them the Haydon’s strawberry fields on past Titch and Mrs. Elks little thatched house, behind Goldhill and then over the common at a slight angle to reach Cold Harbour.
Cold Harbour was a small farm or perhaps a smallholding, but in any event the Jone’s had quite a large herd of goats and these would be taken out daily and tethered on the common where there browsed upon the heather and gorse. Due to the presence of a Billy or two one could smell the goats before they could be seen. I developed my own love of goats from those early experiences and have kept quite a few over the years, in fact I still have two today. They are very affectionate creatures and the Jones’s herd would always delay Lewis and I whilst we patted and rubbed then and brought them handfuls of feed which was just out of their reach. Mind you it didn’t take much to cause the pair of us to be delayed. Upon reaching Cold Harbour we would report to Mrs. Jones who would give us the go-ahead to pick the leaves. There were two or three quite large Mulberry Trees to choose from. It is often said that people seem to have the characteristics of their animals and I remember often thinking that Mrs. Jones had a distinct facial look of her goats. This is not meant to suggests that she was ugly or strange,for having fallen in love with her goats, I found her quite pleasant and very kind. She also had horses and we would often find her tending these when we arrived and yet again we were delayed on our mission by Mrs. Jones’s explanations as to what she was doing and why. If that was not enough in the form of delays there were then the poultry to add to the list of essential tasks by which delay became inevitable. Ducks, geese, chicken and bantams all conspired to ensure that Lewis and I remained outside the classroom for a number of hours. Having collected our Mulberry leaves and thanked Mrs. Jones, which often involved yet more delay, we would depart upon the return trip.We never felt under any extreme pressure to rush back and the appearance of a basking lizard, butterfly, bird or any other form of living creature would invariably extend the time it took us to complete the trips. I do not recall Mrs. Morris ever getting heavy with us over the time it took us to complete our weekly leaf gathering tasks.
During the winter months it was usual for the hunt, the Hampshire Hunt, to meet upon the green just above the pond and close enough to the Cricketers for drinks to be served to the riders. The Hampshire Hunt country then covered a vast area and, of course, included the whole of Kingsley and its surrounding areas. There were, and I suspect, still are lots of foxes to be found in the area. The biggest problem encountered by the hunt in those days before antis had been thought of, were deer. Ones hounds got into Alice Holt Forest or the wooded hangers that were all around, it was difficult for the huntsman to keep them from ‘rioting’ on the many deer that they came across. Hounds and indeed all dogs love the scent of deer and it takes a very steady pack to stick to the line of a fox when deer are around. This often meant the pack would split and result in hounds being left behind at the end of the day. I well remember the great joy of finding a hound at the end of the day and keeping it until the huntsman came to collect it. Although telephones were then uncommon, the message seemed to get back to the kennels, at Ropley, that hounds had been found with great speed and they didn’t remain at large for very long. But as far as school was concerned, class would be suspended and we would all go down to the meet and remain fondling the hounds until they moved off. Great fun, great memories, I can’t imagine it happening in a school today.
Mothering Sunday, Easter and other church celebrations would, depending upon the time of the year, result in flower gather expeditions. Wild daffodils would be collected from the hanger at Wyck which can be seen on the O.S. map beginning where Pookles Lane does a ninety degree turn to the west. The hanger then goes along almost to the site of the Roman Building. In my childhood days those woods were full of the beautiful little blooms and Mrs. Morris obviously obtained permission from the land owners to pick them in order to decorate the church. Our primroses were collected from a number of locations but the most prolific site was the large hill at the top of the 'Old Lane', this readers will remember was the name then used to describe the lane running from Bakers Corner, northwards, all the way up to the middle of Binsted. I wonder if it is still referred to as such today?
However, the hill in question can be seen on the map, on the left, in the area between Pondfield Copse, Stubbs Farm, and South Hay Farm and opposite the right hand turning which goes back towards Kingsley and The Straits. Roughly half way between Bakers Corner and Binsted. The hill is marked on my map with the figures 42.
Incidentally, my mother was born at Stubs Farm and the family lived there before moving to the Straits. But, back to the hill, I imagine it had a name but I don’t recall what it was. It was then covered almost all over the top and down the sides to the south with bramble bushes. These were low and had plenty of gaps and make shift paths between them and it was hear in amongst the bushes that primroses grew in profusion. We would collect huge amounts of those fragrant and delicate little blooms and in spite of this there were so many that our collections would go almost un-noticed. I recall gathering the blooms there for a number of years until the farmer rooted out the brambles and cultivated the hill. This marked the end of the primroses and all that then remained was a grassy hill upon which cattle grazed. Many years later,when I was a teenager,the hill would feature in Sunday afternoon walks and my girlfriend and I would often sit on its summit and admire the lovely views of the surrounding countryside. Hey Ho nothing stays the same. I believe it’s called progress!!