Mary Ridgeway's memories/1

At school in Battle Street - with a slate and no paper

When I was five years old I went to the local school in Battle Street. We were given a slate and slate pencil to do our work. There were no paper books to write on and we had open fires to heat the classrooms. We used to take a potato for our lunch, which our teacher collected as we came into class and would put into the ashes under the fire to cook.

To this day I can remember every detail even that our headmistress Miss Hamlyn always wore a long brown dress with mandarin collar and very full skirt, which she had to lift to go up the three steps to her desk.

My sister started school at the age of four as I could look after her. We had quite a long walk to the school across a common before reaching Battle Street. As soon as we were out of sight from home Doss wouldn’t walk, so I used to have to take her on my back to get her there, until someone told mother what was happening, Doss was so plump and I was so skinny I think they must have felt sorry for me. It really put the cat among the pigeons as the headmistress went to Mother and said she was not feeding me properly. This was totally untrue as however poor we were we always had plenty of good food.

When I was a little older our then new head teacher Miss Haytor and her companion Miss Lansdowne were going to London and asked if they could take my friend and me with them. It was such an adventure for us. I think we were under 10 and had never been further than Taunton. We had a bedsit with a gas fire - such luxury! We didn’t even have electric light a home. We were taken to all the places one has to see. Looking back, what an education it was for us, and I can still see it all in my mind to this day.

Not long after this Mother decided to move us from this school to Hemyock, I was very unhappy at first as I had left my friends, and it was all so different. However we had to do as we were told in those days,

Then came exams for Grammar School. A certain number of free places were given each year. I didn’t win a place but had done well enough that I could have a place by part payment. As this was out of the question I stayed at Hemyock School until I was 14 years old.

Read more of Mary's Clayhidon memories:
- My working life begins at 14

- My wonderful dad: horse whisperer and first car owner in theparish

- No NHS, and I nearly die of a burst appendix
- How teenagers had fun in 1937