Richmond Hill School, Ellerby Lane School & Evacuation


On March 14th 1941 Richmond Hill School in East Leeds was bombed. Betty Nevard (nee Gibbins) tells her story of the evacuation of Leeds School Children that followedRichmond Hill School, Ellerby Lane School & Evacuation 


Schools: Richmond Hill and Ellerby Lane, Leeds.



Betty Nevard (nee Gibbins)

March 1941 saw the bombing of Richmond Hill School and brought to an end seven happy years there. The picture shows my classroom, which took a direct hit. Fortunately it happened at night when the building was empty, so no loss of life was involved. I remember seeing my knitting in the rubble. We girls were knitting socks and Balaclavas for the troops and my efforts looked so pitiful – a khaki Balaclava on broken blue knitting pins. I recall the same air raid resulted in the dropping of bombs in Butterfield Street.

From then on I went to Ellerby Lane School; I was there for just eighteen months before leaving at the age of fourteen years. The teaching staff was: Misses Kelly, Grinstead, Gibbins and Carr and Mr Bannell, Holmes, and the headmaster Mr Dennis. They gave us a good basic grounding for life, for which I have always been grateful. On Miss Kelly’s retirement I wrote to her and her reply I have kept for fifty two years as a reminder of a very caring lady – even though she could be strict at times.  Her sole aim in life was to teach young minds and prepare children for the many eventualities they would encounter.  Those who read this account may be interested in the following quote from the letter I received from Miss Kelly. She thought a great deal of us all.

Quote from letter dated 29th July 1952 from Miss Bertha Kelly:

‘I have always wanted the best for the girls in my care and it is boys too now that classes are mixed and if in any small way I have done anything to help them to appreciate education and to learn self discipline I am amply rewarded………..There are only Miss Gibbins, Mr Burnwell and Mr Holmes left of the staff you knew.

Mr Dennis retired some years ago and is living in Lincolnshire where he was born. These changes do come as we get older and we have to accept them.  I shall miss Ellerby Lane and the children very much. They are a grand set of boys and girls and I have been happy teaching there. I can’t realise yet that I shall not be going back……….I have spent all my life teaching in East Leeds and it will always be a part of me. 

End of quote.

One memory I have of Richmond Hill was of two children in my class: Jessie Cockroft and Kenneth Wainwright who both died at the very young age of six or seven years of age. The whole school lined up in the playground when Jessie’s cortege passed by and we all said our goodbyes.

I have a newspaper cutting dated 17th December 1938, of a much loved headmaster Mr Mulley. He retired in the late 1930s. Others who read this may remember him; he was headmaster at Richmond Hill School from April 1933 to December 1938.

Wartime Memories:

All the houses in the area had their cellars reinforced ours was no exception. Our cellar consisted of two rooms the smaller being used as a larder (before the days of fridges). The larger cellar was for the coal. Dad had made part of the coal area as comfortable as possible – a couple of easy chairs and a place for the baby to sleep.

Dad was always out on patrol during air raids as he was an ARP man. He always tapped on the coal grid of every house and asked if everyone was OK. I was told by neighbours that they found this reassuring.

I was one of the evacacuees who went to Lincolnshire in September 1939. My brother Alan (he was only five years old) came with me and Mum and baby Keith followed next day. Two brothers Norman and Raymond Clough from Dent Street were billeted in the same house as my brother and I, which was a sweet shop in the village of Tealby. It seemed a great adventure, nothing traumatic, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience; in fact about ten years ago I found myself in the same area once again and I called at the house of Mrs Roberts with whom we had stayed. The shop was no longer there and the current owners had no idea there ever was a shop. They were very welcoming and interested in hearing about those days. I have a picture (enclosed) taken one Sunday morning after a group of us walked from Tealby across the fields to North Willingham. The elderly gentleman and the small girl were residents and the other gent is my Dad, who as visiting for the weekend. All the rest of us were evacuees from Leeds.

Raising money for ‘Spitfire Week’ was something I became involved with – only in a very small way, being only twelve years old. I made a stall out of a couple of wooden boxes and with the help and generosity of neighbours I collected lots of small items to sell. I set up a shop at the top of Kitson Street. After sitting there for the full day the grand total raised was 10/- (ten shillings) fifty pence in today’s money. I thought I had done well enough to buy at least one wing for a Spitfire.

Ark Royal Week

Early in 1942 Leeds residents wanted to raise money to help replace the famous Ark Royal aircraft carrier that had been sunk during a sea battle. The objective to be reached was £5,250,000 (nationally). The children at Ellerby Lane wanted to do their bit and collected clean empty jam jars, which were stored within the school. We must have collected hundreds if not thousands. Moorhouses, the jam company agreed to buy them and the school received a cheque for £27.00 from the company (a tidy sum considering that at the time a man’s wage was about £3.00 a week). This was given to the fund. There were many other ways of raising money: dances, whist drives, raffles etc.  In the Leeds City Centre an indicator was erected showing just how much money had been collected. When the indicator was raised there was usually a notable person involved, an example being one of our gallant airmen who had been badly burned bringing home his burning plane. He was awarded the highest honour his country could bestow on him: the Victoria Cross. His name was Nicholson. We also saw the Free French leader: General De Gaulle raising the indicator. Princess Royal did the honours on another occasion.

Our Area:

The hub of our area must have been Accommodation Road, every shop imaginable was there, grocers, butchers, shoe shops, clothes shops, hardware, newspapers and sweets plus the Yorkshire Penny Bank, a pub, chapel and a dentist My mother never had to go into Leeds city centre for anything. Everything she wanted was nearby, what you couldn’t get there you could get in Pontefract Lane where there was a post office, a chemist, pea and pie shop, Coop grocers and butchers, barber shop and cinema – the Princess. What happy times we had at the Princess – Saturday afternoons watching the Three Stooges, and wild western films. Later on I graduated to more sophisticated entertainment.

Rudges bakery at the top of Kitson Street was a magnet – delicious smells of bread wafted out I always wanted a slice of new bread from the oven but it never happened. We had to eat the old bread first or Mam would make bread pudding, full of dried fruit, and sprinkled with sugar then cut into squares. This was always on the dresser when we arrived home from school and we just helped ourselves. From the age of twelve to fourteen years of age I worked at Rudges for two hours every day after school and earned 4/6 (four shillings and six pence), twenty-two and a half pence in today’s money for the week. Half a crown supplemented the family income and I was allowed to keep 2/- but made to save it. With this money I bought my first and only bicycle, which was my transport to work after leaving school. 

Lots of miners lived in our area and an early recollection: is being woken up at what seemed like an ungodly hour by a man tapping the bedroom windows with a pole. You could always hear him as he wore clogs. Not only did he wake the miners up, he woke everyone else up as well.  Most tenants were railway men, the houses being owned by the Railway, if you worked for the Railways you were able to get a house to live in.   Our next-door neighbour, Harold Bell, was a train driver, his wife, Sally, a lovely lady, made the most delicious chocolate cakes; every Saturday I would go to her hoping for a slice. I was never disappointed. Every chocolate cake I have tasted since those days has been compared with Mrs Bell’s and they’ve never come close.

I recall an occasion when my dad bought a settee, second hand of course, from a neighbour. It was many years later that I learned it had been bought from Mr Wiseman of Oxley Street, who was the father of Ernie Wise (of Morecambe and Wise fame). Decades later I met Ernie at a ‘do’ we both attended and reminded him of our association with East Leeds. He told me he had revisited his old home and one improvement made to the house was, it now had an indoor loo.

Other memories of my youth flood back when I see, for instance: packets of chewing gum. I would sit on the wall at the top of Kitson Street with a mate, waiting for anyone to put money into the chewing gum machine at the corner greengrocers. We would just have a half penny to spend but every third customer at the machine would get two for the price of one, that’s what we were waiting for. I was never the one with the money, so having someone who would share was a mate indeed.

Rhubarb reminds me of trips down Black Road where there used to be fields full of the stuff. Armed with a good tablespoonful of sugar in a bit of newspaper we would help ourselves to sticks of rhubarb, dip the rhubarb into the sugar and eat it. This was before rationing so sugar was still plentiful – it needed to be, raw rhubarb is not to be recommended.

Another treat for us youngsters was when we bought a pennyworth of chips from the local ‘chippy’. The first three in the queue got a ‘jockey’ (I have no idea where the name originated) it was just a small piece of fish, enough for a taster. We didn’t often have the luxury of chips but when we did we made sure we were first in line.

East End Park was an oasis for me, the only place nearby where we could see trees, flowers and any sort of greenery. There was a small area for children with swings, seesaw and a roundabout. There was also a tennis court. From one area you could see railway trucks unloading coal into a vast chute. So even in the park you were not far away from coal.

The Star Cinema in York Road was the newest and much larger that the Princess and more plush too as was the Shaftsbury. We didn’t go to the Shaftsbury as often though as it was quite a long way away to walk and we had no money for a tram fare. Occasionally we would go to the Star but the Princess being so local was always our favourite.

Mrs Betty Nevard (nee Gibbins)

3 Responses to “Richmond Hill School, Ellerby Lane School & Evacuation”

  1. Doug Farnill Says:

    Thank you Betty. I too went to Ellerby Lane from Richmond Hill: though I was a couple of years younger than you I think. I remember delivering the milk crates to the classrooms each morning, and me and my mate always felt a bit scared going into Miss Kelly’s classroom because she made it clear that we were interrupting the lesson. Did Miss Kelly have a port-wine stain or burn mark on her neck? It was very nice to read the extract of her letter that you included. I think it was Mr Banwell, not quite the way you spelled his name, who was highly respected. If we had been good boys during the week he would read to us from an adventure story for the last half hour on a Friday afternoon.

  2. keith gardner Says:

    I remember Mr Banwell at Ellerby Lane, he was given a great deal of respect by his pupils and was well loved although we perhaps did not realise it at the time.
    He was a fine characture and can still remember some of his corny jokes. His favourite subject was technical drawing, he had a very sharp penknife that he reconed he could shave with, he was quite tall, single and had been a soldier in the trenches in WW1.
    I do have a photograph of Mr Banwell and his class, I also have one that includes Mr Lilliot [the headmaster] and Mr Taylor.

  3. Barry Tebb Says:

    I remember Mr Banwell and technical drawing.He developed throat cancer but came back for one final brief visit and the dreadful Mr Liliot!

Leave a Reply to keith gardner Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: