The area around Bromley Common is steeped in local history as this was one of the major routes into the centre of Bromley and on into London. Local people would be there to serve the travellers and traders coming to and fro from the south and so houses and small communities appeared over the decades. Major changes to the area were hustled in by the formation of an effective railway link that connected people to London. Suddenly big housing areas were appearing. Bromley was expanding rapidly.
The 1870 Education Act made education compulsory for all children in England and Wales. At the time, the Vicar of Bromley felt that the right place for all the local children was in the church schools, such as St. Mark’s. However these schools began to get crowded due to the expansion of the railways and the relocation of families, so, a decision was made in 1888 to build two new schools. One would become known as the Valley in Shortlands and the other would become Raglan. The area between Holmesdale Road, Chatterton Road and Southborough Lane was full of new houses, streets and shops and there were lots of newly settled families. This was the beginning of a new community all within easy walking distance of the railway stations. The area was a hive of activity at the end of Victorian times.
Land was acquired off Bromley Common from ‘Baxter, Payne and Lepper’ (Estate Agents) on a rental basis and a temporary iron school was erected and opened in September 1889. The new school was known as Raglan Road School and building commenced on a permanent brick structure. Raglan School, as we know it, opened for business in October 1891. In those days the site had an Infant, Junior and Senior Boys/Senior Girls Schools as well as a ‘remedial’ department. There were over 800 children on site with ages ranging from 4 to 12 and above. Being a school; records, registers and notes were recorded daily so evidence exists that fully illustrate life at Raglan back in those days. There are log books covering the whole of the 100 years. There was even an Ofsted inspection in 1890 and officers went to the various distinct parts of the school. Inspectors noted; “The order and neatness of the girls reflect credit on the teacher. Needlework is generally very well done.” The first Head Teacher of the infants’ school was the esteemed Miss Hodgson who remained head from 1889 through to 1920!
Raglan School has thrived for over 120 years and has seen times change greatly in the local community and the world around it. The end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century was a time of harsh social conditions, extreme poverty and poor health. Immunisation was a dream for the future. In 1890 approximately one third of the pupils were absent with the measles and there were two deaths from whooping cough. Some of the children could not attend school because they had no boots! School was closed for a month due to an outbreak of scarlet fever and the list of diseases and deaths continued at a depressing rate with mumps, diphtheria, chickenpox and, of course, influenza.
We recently received these photos of distant long ago times at Raglan Road infants school. David Lionel Griffiths , now residing in Canada, had a grandfather called Lionel Griffiths who was born in a workhouse in Farnborough in 1899. He attended Raglan Road School from 1906 to 1912. The local address he stayed at was 73 Addison Rd. The first photograph is of the front entrance to the main school.
Raglan was not affected by the First World War (1914-1918) because the action took place in the trenches of Europe. There were, of course, casualties amongst the parents and adults in the local community. Three teachers from the senior Boys Department volunteered for active service before the end of 1914 and were replaced by the first lady teachers in that department. In September 1917 one of the three, Sergeant F. Yelland, was awarded the Military Medal and In October another resumed his post having been invalided out of the army. Three air-raids are mentioned with no detail but two interesting entries give some idea of the living conditions in 1917/1918.
19th December 1917 “Hard frost and air-raid in early hours of this morning. The lateness of trains in
consequences brought in the papers late and all newspaper boys absent this morning”.
1st February 1918 “Queues at shops responsible for the serious falling off in attendance…during
most of the week the school is half empty up to 9:30AM”.
December 1918 “Attendance at school very low owing to celebrations in town over the Armistice.”
In September 1939, the junior school did not re-open after the summer holidays because of the Declaration of War and stayed closed until April 1st 1940. Children could collect homework from school at a set time each week. In March 1940, compulsory half-time attendance came into force. On the 1st April, the juniors reopened on a full-time basis. During these months the air-raid shelters were built. Over-ground shelters were constructed where the pond and garden are now and underground beneath the junior playground. It was on the 26th August 1940 that Raglan witnessed the first air-raid during school time and from this date until June 1941, there were about 120 raids during school hours. The children sometimes had to eat their lunch undercover! Nearby houses and roads were bombed and destroyed but Raglan School remained intact. During 1942/43, the raids eased but drills and gas-mask inspections were carried out on a regular basis. Germany at that point in the war had become preoccupied with other parts of Europe. Unfortunately in June 1944 the raids were back! There were 60 between June and August, as many as 5 a day. These were the V1 raids, the ‘flying bombs’ or ‘doodle-bugs’. By the end of July 1944, 93 children had been evacuated followed by a further 71 later in August. The last air-raid was in March 1945 but the happy entry for 8th May later that same year stated:
“VE day. School closed for a national holiday!” A thanksgiving service was held on 10th May followed by a celebration sports day in the Whitehall Recreation Ground and tea-party back at school.
Here are memories from Mrs T Coombes, daughter of Mr Pepper (Head of senior boys 1941 to 1959).
“My first clear memory of wartime schooling was in Miss Harmon’s class, in the infants, when we all had to try on a gas mask. The instructor showed us the curious box in which babies had to be put in the event of a gas attack, and a ‘little’ children’s mask which had a curious red snout projecting at the front, and the ordinary regulation mask which we older children were expected to put on. I remember some of the class were terrified; their claustrophobic nightmares must have been fully realised. After a time the mask became quite steamed up and one couldn’t see through the eye piece.”
“I remember the children one day being instructed to run all the way home as fast as they could. There were teachers stationed at various corners with stopwatches to check how many minutes it took for each child to reach their home street. This must have been to see how safe it would be to send us home in the event of an air-raid warning.”
“The gymnasium which was the pride and joy of the PE master, was not used by the children at some stages during the war, and the showers were never used; it must have been considered far too dangerous, especially after the dreadful loss of life at Catford when so many children were machine-gunned in the playground crossing to go to the shelters.”
“Although sweets were rationed we were still able to buy ‘penny drinks’ from the sweetshop in Chatterton Road. They were brightly coloured and very fizzy. Ice cream made a gradual comeback towards the end of the war. The swimming baths were open during the summer of 1941 and I was able to learn to swim. (These were the open-air Blue Circle swimming baths in Crown Lane.) There was no regulation school uniform for Raglan Road.”
In September 1969, the senior boys who had occupied what is the present Infants’ building, moved to a new venue. The infants who, at this time had occupied the ground floor of the present junior school building, moved into their present quarters. The juniors were able to use their entire building instead of just upper floor. Suddenly everyone had much-needed extra space! Raglan had two separate schools; the infant school and the junior school! If you look carefully, you can discover evidence of life prior to 1969. In the current junior playground you can see the concreted word ‘Infants’ above the entrance door. That was the infant entrance to the downstairs block. However, in the infant playground you can see the concreted words ‘junior boys’ above the elevated entrance door. Prior to 1969 the junior boys went up those steps into the upper section of the block!
The local community shops were in Chatterton Road. From the 1920s onwards the following shops were well known: Eardley’s Sweet Shop on the corner of Chatterton Road and Southlands Road. Bignell’s Open Air Drying Laundry, E Clarke Tobacconist and Haircuts, Prings Chemists, Willats’ Cycles, Gibbons’ Home Bakery and the Co-op, although on the opposite corner to where it is now! Many of these people were directly involved with Raglan Road School.
The son of E Clark (tobacconist) was Alf Clark who was a pupil of the school, still known at that time as Raglan Road School, went on to be a Jeweller in Chatterton Road and a Governor of the school. His wife Beryl was also a teacher. In 2008, Alf retired from being Chair of the Governing Body, a long-serving and much loved asset to Raglan Primary School.
There were huge celebrations in 1989 upon the occasion of the Raglan School centenary. In October of that year there was a Victorian Autumn Fayre and musical entertainment. A special ‘Raglan Schools’ Centenary’ booklet was produced and currently resides at Bromley Central Library Local Studies department. In those days the Head Teacher of the junior school was Mr Andrew Purkiss. Fellow teachers were Edith Jochim, Anne Pritchard, Anita Reeve (now Beasley) and Jenny Dalmaine.
For nearly a hundred years children at Raglan have only had outside toilets situated at the far end of the playground. It wasn’t until 1956 that these were partly roofed over. In those days there were no wash basins in them and no locks on the doors. In pouring rain or driving snow children have had to dash 40 metres through the elements. This only changed in 1989 when workmen built modern toilets inside!
A decision was made to amalgamate the infant and junior schools and this was achieved in 1991. A new ‘link corridor’ was built that connected the two buildings and Mrs. Jackie Cassin became the joint Head Teacher. She had previously been the Infant school Head Teacher. Currently in the link corridor is an aerial photograph taken by a helicopter in 1990 before the actual link corridor was built! If you look closely enough then you will find a space in the photograph where the link corridor is now! Also in this photograph is a building site where ‘The Glades’ and ‘Kentish Way’ are now. The new ‘Raglan Primary School’ went from strength to strength during the 1990s with awards of numerous ECO awards including the coveted ‘Queen Mother’s Birthday’ accolade, the ‘David Bellamy’ certificate and a front-cover appearance in the ‘Mail on Sunday’. As a new century dawned a strange tradition of giving street parades began. The first one was a ‘Carnival!’ but we have subsequently had a dinosaur parade, a celebration of the ‘Battle of Trafalgar’ and, more recently in 2009, a Tudor Parade. In September 2007, Mrs Cheryl Sutton returned to Raglan and was appointed our new Head Teacher. Just like the earth turning each day, the spirit, ethos and strong traditions of Raglan Primary School carry on and build the future!
Raglan has a tradition of long serving teachers just like the initial infant Head Teacher; Miss Hodgson. Anyone with members of the family who knew the school in the last century may recall Mrs Edith Jochim who taught in the infant school for over 30 years. Miss Betty Kerrigan worked at Raglan after the Second World War for over 30 years; during the war she was in the WRENS! Many older children will remember Mr Pepper who retired in 1959; he started out as a master in the senior boys department but went on to be Junior School Head in 1941. Mrs Beasley (Anita Reeve) is currently our longest serving member of staff having joined the school in 1989! Our longest serving teacher was Miss Norah Fox, who was appointed in 1936 and remained at the school until 1970. She married and was called Mrs Jeans. A total service to Raglan of 34 years!
There are many locally, who have either been educated at Raglan or been educators. People all over the world have had some connection with this school or the distinctly local community that surrounds it. Local characters in the Chatterton Road over the years have sent their children to this school and entire generations have grown up going through the front entrance at Raglan. Local history still preserves the unique people such as Wallace Pring (chemist), Tommy the Lamplighter (with his pole), the Muffin Man (selling muffins and crumpets), Bill Taylor (fish barrow), Joe Russell (3 wheeled handcart with milk churn) and Dr Yelland in Pope Road. Our most famous pupil was David Bowie who attended Raglan as a child and lived on nearby Clarence Road. Raglan and the Chatterton community are linked together and serve each other. I have happily been part of this community since 1995!