I have a particularly clear memory, so I thought I would set this down while it still is so clear. The idea of making it into a game also occurred to me, but in any case, you can navigate this like one of those fantasy role-playing books of the 80s, choosing where to go next and trying to imagine what it looked like.
You enter the school down a short causeway and up stairs into an Entrance Lobby, effectively a connecting corridor between the Canteen (on your left) and the main Administrative Corridor (to your right). At the top of the steps is a very large, circular concrete tub, narrow at the base and wide at the top, containing a rowan bush. There are several of these around the school.
If you turn left in the Entrance Lobby, you are confronted with a double set of doors framing armoured glass (in those days, glass interlaced with steel wire; all doors in the school are thus, though we weren’t violent kids). Hanging on your left is a David Shephard painting of charging African bull elephants (a hint at the school’s view of kids?). Curtains (yellow/gold?) cover the glass windows in the canteen. Entering the canteen, you see a small hall with the kitchen serving counter at the far, right end. Against the far wall are a row of tiny tables and benches, and the nearer to the entrance you look, the larger (and higher) the benches and tables are. Décor is blank. A drinking fountain lies against the right wall, and large windows fill the walls facing the small playground and school front. We only had water to drink, served in stainless steel cups from a jug at each table. Food came in deep metal (aluminium?) trays, about 14 inches long. I guess each held portions for 10 of 12 kids, depending on their age.
If you continue straight across the Entrance Lobby, you exit another set of double doors into the small playground. During snowstorms, thunderstorms or occasional extreme cold events, we were allowed to queue inside, down the administrative corridor, but otherwise, we queued in the playground, against the wall of Class 7B (I can’t precisely remember how classes were named, but this is close enough). This playground was gloomy, because the sun was usually obscured by the surrounding buildings, particularly the two-storey Assembly/Sports Hall and Class 7A, but if you wanted to feel safe, it was the place to be.
The Assembly/Sport Hall
The Sport Hall doubled as an Assembly Hall (and once per week, also for music lessons). First thing in the morning (I think twice per week, but my memory is hazy on this) the Headmaster and teachers stood on a platform constructed of hollow, wooden blocks painted grey. An upright piano stood to the left of the stage. From a lectern, the Headmaster led us in prayers and hymn singing, after which he might make other announcements (such as the annual visit of the snake man; most of us relished having a boa crawling around our necks!). Long, low wooden benches could be drawn into the centre to provide work-out aids, along with a large, vaulting ‘horse.’ Hanging against the rear (east) wall were climbing frames that extended almost to the roof of the two-story building and could be swung out and climbed (if you were brave enough). Two ropes also hung down from the top frame, but few had the strength to haul themselves all the way to the top. The floor was parquet, as was the floor of the Adminstrative Corridor, although most classrooms had plain tiles, I think.
This was the medium-sized playground and, actually, more of a netball court, as it was the one preferred by most girls. There is not much to say about it, except that it was more open, only having the two-storey walls with the nets and Classes 5 and 6 to block out the sun.
This is the school’s main playground. Many a football or rounders (baseball) match was fiercely fought here, and it could double for most athletic events, with the grass area to the south providing a space for long, high or triple jump. There was a high post with a basketball hoop at each end, and it was marked out for multiple sports. A climbing frame among trees on the grass to the right provided danger and almost allowed me to break both my legs once. But that’s another story… We had the AAA awards for sports each year, during which you accumulated points over a day or two over multiple athletic events to achieve anything up to 5 Stars. These awards were sponsored by Walls (Ice Cream), and I was the first person under 12 ever to achieve 5 Stars in my county (mostly for high jump, I think; I was already more than 6 feet tall, so it was a bit unfair).
When we were very young some of us boys tunnelled under one of the trees and dared each other to scramble all the way under the huts, which I and one other did and got completely covered with mud.
Class 1A and 7B
These adjoining classrooms were in the oldest school building, dating to the 19th Century. Their mullioned windows were unusual; tall and very narrow with lower sashes that tilted out from the bottom edge within protective side panes, possibly designed for child safety (I don’t know what these are called, and I can’t see anything online, so they must be rare now). But these rooms had enormous radiators and thick walls, so they were the warmest in winter. Class A was little more than a creche overseen by two teachers – I don’t remember what we learned there – but I remember being told to stand facing the wall on only the second or third day, so I was already rebelling (I haven’t forgotten the dusky beauty of Mrs Farrow or the sweet nature of Mrs Barnes).
Class 1A and 2 Huts
These were cold in winter. Prefabricated from quite thin wood, probably during the war or soon after, they were suspended on brick plinths (and flexed when you walked!), which allowed cold air underneath. But they did have giant, caged (oil-fired?) heaters at the front of each room (these were in a later school too) which helped when they were on. We often put large blocks of ice or stalactites on them and waited for the teacher (often Mrs L, who was very old and severe) to be wreathed in steam.
Class 3,4,5 and 6
The block for these classes was more modern, perhaps late 50s, with possibly wooden panelling on the outside, like the huts. They were open and airy and had large cloakrooms between. If you had survived the Huts, you went to Class 3, which was downstairs on the south side, and then Class 4, downstairs on the north side, before progressing upstairs.
Special mention should be made of two things here:
The outside toilets, entered from the Sport Court were where boys had to clean off as much mud as possible before each class. I imagine the caretaker must have despaired at the number of paper towels we got through. I remember after one adventure having to raid the girls’ toilets (after yelling to make sure it was empty) for more towels, because I had totally soaked my trousers and used a full dispenser of our own. I often caught colds, and perhaps this was why!
Also, the very warmest place in the school was under the stairs here. This area was only used to store chairs and tables, but if you were sick you would be sent here, and it had the only modern electric heater in the school.
The Administrative Corridor
This ran down the side of Class 1 and 7B from the stairs. First, you passed a small nurse’s station, complete with a bed, weighing scales and medical equipment. We would queue up for our smallpox and TB jabs here, so it was not a popular place. Then you passed a set of toilets (opposite a cloakroom), followed by the staff room and the headmaster’s office. Then you could turn left, to the car park, or right and continue past more offices (whose exact function I don’t think I ever learned) and arrive back at the Entrance Lobby.