Mount Pleasant Junior Mixed Council School Quarry Bank

By Pearl Taylor, nee Mullett.

Around the 1930’s the Education Authority, Staffs. South West Division, decided that pupils who lived in the vicinity of the Black Delph Bridge should not have to cross this bridge to go to school. It was a safety hazard, the road turned and the bridge was hump-backed. My Mother therefore transferred me from the Infant School at the top of Hill Street, Brierley Hill to the school at Mount Pleasant.

I soon learned all the roads, lanes, fields, up to my new school. (This area is now part of the Withymoor estate). I could and did include walking along the ‘cut’, canals were a part of our scene. Some children were privileged to ring the school bell; it was quite a different tolling from ‘Ee Jayes’ (EJ+J Pearson's) bell alerting the workers it was time to start work. I usually went to school by way of Delph Road. On our way home we often gathered acorns and then wandered down ‘Turkey’ (Turk Street)’ and through a farm. We regularly played on logs by the pit, now dismantled and re-erected at the Blackcountry Museum.

Miss Hunt was in charge of the Infants. I remember she had difficulty in putting me in the right class, and eventually she sat me by Josie Maiden. There were two classes in my room so I was able to observe Miss Hunt and her class. It was said that Katherine Hogg, Methodist Minister’s daughter, and Dennis Doyle were too friendly; so Miss Hunt saw to it that they were put in different classes. She often slapped the pupils in her class. Two of my friends, Brenda Timmins and Emmie Webb, who were good well-behaved pupils were slapped and Brenda showed me the back of her hands where they had been scratched by long nails.

The teacher in my next class was Miss Mabel Mullett. She was my Dad’s cousin, but my family never met her socially. She introduced us to 'problems', and when I had finished mine I moved over to help pupils who were having difficulties. I sat by Geoffrey Brown at the back of the class; in front was Donald Jones and Dorothy Shaw, and in front of them sat Roy Raybould and Hilda Bridgewater. Girls were taught how to knit, and I made a blue-grey scarf that my Dad proudly wore to go to work. Out in the playground we enacted the ‘Pied Piper of Hamelin’. Jack Wragge was the butcher and I was the butcher’s wife with a new homemade white apron. We had our photograph taken.

In the big school I did not go in Miss Cartwright’s class – she lived in our lane: nor in Mr. Shufflebotham’s class (of course you can guess what us naughty children called him.)

My next teacher we always called Polly, but we did know that Miss Widdowson’s name was Phyllis. She introduced us girls to sewing: tacking, hemming and gathering. We made a cotton pinafore, orange and blue coloured, which covered us front and back with ties at the sides. It was a lot of hemming for beginners. We chanted our ‘tables’ every day. She introduced us to ‘Alice in Wonderland’, and we took it in turns to read it round the class. We were told about Beowulf who lived in a great hall and there were many battles. For a short time there were 63 children and extra desks in our class. ‘Poor Miss Widdowson, poor Miss Widdowson, something should be done about it’ whispered the other teachers. Higgledy-piggledy arranged desks brought me in contact with Jack Roberts who told me that his Mother, his Sister, and he shared the same birth date, which many years later he confirmed. A PT Inspector came and drilled us in the playground: next day we all complained, we had such aches and pains.

One day a new teacher, recently returned from America, took us for an odd lesson and told us all about Helen Keller. It was a breath of the world outside coming into our classroom. This was my introduction to Mrs Hilda Mantle. (Eventually she came back to the school and was teaching there in l937 at the time of the coronation when my sister Nell was in her class, as were John Allchurch, Geoffrey Maiden, Edna Mole, Irene Taylor, Hazel Higgs, and Desmond Crannage. She was still teaching when she was 80 there being a shortage of good music teachers. Surprisingly, I got to know her better when she came to live close by).

Miss Widdowson taught us to do our writing between two lines. We did Hundred, Tens, and Units sums – H. T. U. and of course Pounds, Shillings, and Pence - £. S. D. We did dictation, and composition. I have my papers to prove all this! I remember Albert Crannage whose writing was not up to standard. Well, he was left-handed! He just could not find the cane in the cupboard: how we sympathised with him.

Mother asked that I be given homework. ‘Pitman’s Common–Sense English Course’, for pupils 9–10 years, was based mainly on short poems and Aesop’s Fables: it was such a pleasure to do.

We were marched one day to the opening day celebrations of two new Senior schools (sexes separate) at Coppice Lane, Quarry Bank, Mr Tipper was transferred there, for our school was no longer to be an all-through school.

A new teacher came to our school – Mr D’Arcy Jones, and we all longed for the day when we should be in his class. The long awaited day arrived: we were in heaven. All my previous teachers had been women! We all had such great expectations, and we were not disappointed!

I was amazed to see that there were already a dozen or so pupils already in the classroom, and in the best places, who were destined to spend two years in the top-but-one class in our junior school. I took one look at some of their faces, and I could see why! We were told to occupy the remaining desks. My soul rebelled! ‘Me sit with dunces?’ I went up to Mr Jones and complained. ‘Never mind Pearl, we shall have a test at the end of the week and put things right. Mary, my desk-mate, wanted to make friends and offered me a biscuit. I did not want a biscuit or to be a friend. Teacher saw it all. We were sitting under his nose so-to-speak. I just glared at him when he said ‘Pearl does not eat biscuits in class’. He moved me to a desk at the back of the class and with my peers I was happy.

Our voices echoed to the tune of the Lincolnshire Poacher, Shenandoah, Raggle-taggle Gypsies O, and the Plymouth Maid. We sang rounds: London’s burning, and Three Blind Mice. One half of the class sang 'Pack up your Troubles', and the other half, 'It’s a long long way to Tipperary' - all at the same time. We had no piano: only the magic of a tuning fork!

Mr Jones introduced us to fractions. He picked up Donald Jones and turned him upside down. This was a rule to remember for the division of fractions. It was such fun! When we learned of Robin Hood and one of his merry men Alan-a-Dale, we made up our own play about it; and it was Donald who got married in the greenwood: you can guess who to!

We were taught a bit of History: Boadicea and Caradoc, and a little Geography. I learned to love poetry from a little red book.

Every Friday afternoon, when Mr Jones had completed his weekly register, it was serial time. Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’ tale of Mowgli enthralled us. This was followed by a tale of buried treasure: an introduction to codes. We had all got to work it out at home. On the Monday morning following it was obvious to us all that only Donald had succeeded. He came to the front of the class and was rewarded when he searched along a tall window sill where he found two new pencils.

Only two boys were good at Art: Jack Wragge and Jack Roberts. Other pupils were Howard Marsh, Sadie Dingley, Bill Holden, Mary Hill, Hilda Bridgewater, and twins Dorothy and Lesley Field.

Around the age of ten years I discovered Brierley Hill Library: it was a disaster. **

Mr. Jones arranged a school outing to Whipsnade zoo and the coach stopped at Woodstock. He took a photograph of me feeding the bears.

I did go to Mill Street Junior School to take the scholarship exam but it was not at all like our normal school work and I did not pass. I had had no preparation for it. Mother had been to the school and asked that I be put in my right class. The Headmaster, Mr Cadman, said that it could not be done. The very next year a favoured teacher’s child did ‘jump a class’!

Pupils in classes were not categorised by their ages, or ability. The Headmaster only had a small class, and obviously pupils were fitted in.

In 1934 I remember Mr SE Williams, Headmaster of Brierley Hill Intermediate School, coming to school to select his pupils. He had before him the tests we had taken based on our school work. They had been easy. Donald Jones, Frank Hanke, Edith Kendrick, Betty Dudley, Josie Maiden, Nellie Hazelwood, and me, Pearl Mullett, he accepted. Some children who had ‘passed’ did not go because their parents could not afford to buy the uniform!

By this time Miss Hunt had left and Miss Baker came to be Head of the Infants, bringing with her a revolution, especially to the intake class. In those days it was almost unheard of for a child to be on the premises at midday. One day, by arrangement with Miss Baker, mysister Nell and I had our sandwiches sitting on the recently arrived carpet with toys and a rocking horse around. What an introduction to schooling – I could not believe my own eyes! To me Miss Baker was a ministering angel, who away from the classroom called my sister ‘the little manager’. During the Second World War when I saw Miss Baker queuing for provisions at Cradley Heath I worked it so that she was away from the shop before it opened for normal customers. (I was let in to pay my firm’s bill). Later on she asked my Mother if I would coach some pupils for the ‘scholarship’. I would not!

Around 1938 Council houses were being built at the back of the school; consequently the school gardens had to go. My sister Nell enjoyed gardening on Friday afternoons when at this time she was in the headmaster’s class, by now Mr Allchurch. His son John was also in the class.

When later on there was a vacancy for the Headmaster, Mr D’Arcy Jones very much wanted the job for his heart was in Mount Pleasant school. The Governors did not think it would be right. Eventually he went to Mill Street Junior School as Head, and in time, my sister came to be a teacher there too.

The buildings of the Woodwork and Domestic Science block, no longer in use after the Coppice schools were built, became in due course the School Dentist – the old flat irons were on view for quite a while. After this the rooms were used for the Metalwork department of Mill Street Secondary School.

PS Mr Jones taught my sister and her school pals Modern Dancing; I decided to follow suit. We went to his home/studios, which was pulled down to make way for Stourbridge’s Ring Road. I met his first wife and his brother there. He came to Nell’s 21st Birthday, her wedding, and funeral at Stoke in 1973.

** See my article on Brierley Hill National School – Summer 2003 Vol 3 The Blackcountryman
Brierley Hill Library - Autumn 2005 Vol 4

Further Reading ‘The story of Mount Pleasant Primary School, Quarry Bank’, ‘110 NOT OUT’, by the Local History Group led by Ned Williams.