North Pentland Primary School, Billingham c1940ish

This was my first school, I started there in 1951, the school was officially opened on the 10th of June 1938. The school consisted of two identical buildings separated by a pavilion, this pavilion had two pillars holding up the roof.

The buildings had five classrooms either side of the main hall, the hall was an unusual design with a semi circular bow front and an Oast house style of roof. The building to the left of the pavilion is the Infants school, the Junior school is to the right. The school faced South and every window in the classrooms of the buildings could be opened, when this happened it was very nearly the same as being outside.

When first opened there were no houses in front of the school and the playing field extended as far as the railway line about a quarter mile away, it was only rough scrub land the beginning of which can be seen at the bottom of the photo.

The school was built to serve the needs of the large number of people that were moving into Billingham from all parts of the country, all of the houses surrounding the school were built by ICI to house the incoming workers, this is similar to the Furness shipyard building their estate at Belasis in the 1920s.

In the late 1940s Billingham Council built the Junction Estate using a large part of the school field for a section of Cotswold Crescent, about ten years after this another part of the field disappeared when Braid Crescent was built.

Things I remember about the school were wood parquet flooring, which, in combination with boots with “Seggies” made a satisfying amount of noise, terrible outside toilets that froze solid in the Winter, nearly every school in Britain had similar sanitary arrangements at that time, extremely high ceilings in the classrooms with lights on long flexes, a “coolie hat” lampshade and tiny bulb that cast very little light, cast iron double seated desks, china inkwells, scratchy pens that made good darts and of course the best known of all, the frozen milk perched on top of the bottles.

I attended three different schools in Billingham, The North, The South And Campus Stephenson Hall, the first two were built in the 1930s and are still in use, the last one was built in the late 1950s and is long gone.

Photograph and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman.

St Gerards School, Haverton Hill

Bill Burnett has written his memories of his time at St. Gerard’s school for my album project and I thought it may be an idea to use his words. Bill was at the school in the early to mid 1950s.

‘There were just four classrooms in the school with folding partition ‘walls’ between them; infants at one end, the seniors at the other. When the folding partitions were opened up a fair sized space was created, which had been used in the past for Sunday mass; though I don’t remember it being used for that purpose while I was there. Miss McNamee took the infants, Mrs McGloghlan took the next class, then Mr Carroll took the third class, and finally the headmaster Mr. Morrisey took the senior class. I have a clear memory of my first day at school and being paired with another boy – his name long forgotten – who was very tearful after his mum had left. We were given a toy ‘shop’ to play with. At some point in the proceedings Miss McNamee asked if anyone could count to more than 10. My hand shot up and I confidently counted 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace; my parents and grandparents were keen card players and I was all too familiar with the hierarchy of a pack of cards! Miss McNamee was highly amused but my mother was mortified when she told her. On another occasion we had an inspector visiting the school he wrote the initials B.Sc on the chalk board and he asked if anyone knew what they stood for. Muggins responded with “British Sugar Corporation”. Well – at that time if you went shopping and bought sugar it came in blue paper bags with British Sugar Corporation printed on the side; a reasonable mistake to make I think.

Behind the school there was a playground with a toilet block and to the side a sloping playing field, which was out of bounds in wet weather.
The lower part of this field was largely devoid of grass and after rain we would often find small coloured patches on the surface of the mud, indicating that there was a metallic object buried beneath. These would be eagerly dug up in the hope of finding a coin. In those days we used to have free milk delivered to the school in 1/3 pint bottles. In the winter the milk often froze and pushed the foil top off leaving the creamy top part sticking out of the bottle – ice cream!’

Courtesy of Bruce Coleman and Bill Burnett.

Stockton and Billingham Technical College, Going, Going, Gone c2003

These photographs were taken by my late uncle, Albert Abbott, they show the demolition of the Technical College on Finchale Avenue in Billingham in 2003.

Many thousands of people passed through this establishment learning scientific, engineering and artistic skills and went on to many different occupations, teaching, acting, engineering and much more besides.

As a child I remember it being built and it was a terrific playgound for young boys, heaps of sand and gravel, piles of bricks and holes filled with water,we could get dirty and damp within a few hundred yards of our homes, sheer magic.

In later years I did evening classes there, night school as we called it, at both the Billingham and Oxbridge sites and also went to the theatre a number of times, including the opera ‘Don Pasquale’ with my school music club, my first and last foray into the world of opera.

It had most likely past its usefulness with the rise of University education for all and a lesser requirement for technical skills as industry faded away and administration and service work increased, still, it is always sad to see something you have grown up with disappear forever.

Photographs and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman.