Reminiscences of Gladys Titcomb, former school teacher at St. Mary’s.

This year of 1971 is a centenary year of St. Mary’s Church of England School, Shackleford.  Because of this I have been asked to write something of its history.  I cannot go back to its beginning but I can reminisce for perhaps the last 50 years of its life.

The first five years of my school life were spent within its walls under the guidance of Miss Kemp, the infant teacher (beloved by all) and Mr Williams, the very “alive” headmaster.

It was here that a love of dancing was instilled into me.  The school walls often rang with country dance and sword music, not forgetting the merry jingle of bells when we performed Morris Dances in readiness for pageants enacted in the beautiful setting of Peper Harow Park.  Academic work was not forgotten and several of us gained what was then called ‘junior scholarship’, a very intensive examination ending up with an oral interview at Kingston.  This enabled me to go on to grammar school and then to college.

After a lapse of time during which I taught in several parts of Surrey I came back as teacher once again under the roof of St. Mary’s and spent 16 happy years, mostly with Mr Wickens, who has only recently passed away from us .  Things weren’t always easy as the Second World War was still with us.  A scheme of selling meat pies run by one of the managers of the school resulted in a sum of money being offered to me for school use.  I immediately asked for a Wendy House which has given much pleasure to the younger generation over the years.

It was during this time that our village school atmosphere was rudely awakened by the coming of Dr Barnardo’s Home to Shackleford. One morning we had all the boys arrive at school, all thirty of them, sixteen being delegated to my junior class thus bringing the number up to over 40.  And they never to be forgotten!  The Matron of the Home was renowned for her discipline so the most difficult children were put under her care and thus ours.  There were some sad cases and one had to be a good psychologist in dealing with them.  I taught country dance throughout the school and was able to get them to share the enjoyment of music and rhythm.  They were even keen on maypole dancing which we featured in the flower shows, also held in the lovely surroundings of Peper Harow. They became quite good actors in the Christmas concerts we used to give.

At this time the youth club, under the very able guidance of Mr Astbury, was in full swing.  The younger children from school came from 5 to 7 p.m. (for a time for children went up to 15 years of age) after which the ‘adults’ took over and had some wonderful badminton evenings (besides other things).

I am still teaching, now in another school, but I have occasion to enter St. Mary’s school as a parish councillor, because we hold our meetings there.  I often think of all the stories the old walls could tell.

The old order changeth, the old building may pass away, but memories, happy and sad, linger for ever.


(Mrs) Gladys Titcomb