Archive for November, 2009

Victoria School York Rd Leeds

November 1, 2009

Eric Sanderson relates his memories of Victoria School, York Road Leeds and remembers, fondly, his teachers and the layout of the buildings Blog Victoria School

                              VICTORIA SCHOOL in the 40’s and 50’s

When I first moved into the senior school in the late 40’s, the large playground was surrounded by a high, wrought iron fence which served both to keep the pupils in (and safe) as well as others out. This fence was later taken down , said to be because of a shortage of raw materials for the burgeoning post war steel industry.

Victoria was a physically large establishment with separate junior and senior schools as well as a further building for both woodwork and domestic science, the latter two also serving other schools in the area, with the “notorious” Mr. Clegg being the arch villain to many visiting (and resident) woodwork students. There was also a separate toilet block between the Vinery St and Vinery Grove exits – goodness knows how the residents of the houses adjacent to this revolting facility managed to live with the nauseating miasma , It‘s malign odours can still easily be recollected even after all those years. 

The imposing Victorian, almost Palladian, senior school building, built around 1904 was a two story affair with boys inhabiting the ground floor and girls the upper floor.

All in all, the total area of the school grounds must have been of the order of  2 to 3 acres making it one of the largest schools in the district.

In addition, a new build annexe was opened  around 1950 ,on Londsboro Terrace ( just behind the Special Needs School) on East Park Parade. This housed one year’s class of both boys and girls and had an adjoining, newly built refectory providing cooked meals for the whole school. Until that time, school meals had been served in the main hall which must have been an enormous daily disruption to the smooth running of the school.

The class sizes were, by today’s standards quite large, I counted 43 in my particular year in 1949 and where pupils were seated in groups of approximately similar academic ability.

In 1951, the class was dramatically reduced in size by about 20% because of good results at the 11 Plus, but, this did have a downside consequence, more of which later.

In common with other school stories, Victoria had it’s “character” teachers who each seemed to us at the time to possess some idiosyncratic tendency or other, ranging from a volcanic temper to a near sadistic personality, visited upon us pupils for the most trifling of peccadilloes. Today, any teacher practicing even a fraction of such disciplinary procedures as were then common, would be shown the door in double quick time.

The senior school teachers in my recollection included messrs Ratcliffe, Thompson, (Johnny) Jackson, Brown, Hetherington & Cox. They all taught virtually the whole curriculum with no specialist teachers, which was a major and significant between the primary and higher schools. The headmaster at the time being, Mr. Hunter, a quietly spoken, strict, but kindly man.

“Johnny” Jackson was my teacher one year and although he was a no nonsense type, very capable of administering stiff corporal punishment, he was generally well regarded by most.

I managed to play a trick on him one time when I’d obtained some fake £ notes which looked just like the real thing when left peeping from the paper wallet. However, when pulled from the wallet, printed in big red letters was the message – “HARD LINES – BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME”.

I managed to slip these between some exercise books he was marking at the time , just nicely protruding out so that he couldn’t miss them.

His reaction was a classic, a quick glance when spotting the plant, followed by a disbelieving stare with eyeballs bulging like a long past it’s “sell by date” kipper. Making a febrile  grab for the wallet, naturally thinking this was his lucky day, they disappeared into his jacket pocket quicker than the proverbial rat down the drain, obviously hoping nobody had seen him slip the booty out of site as he clearly had no intention of sharing or establishing it’s provenance

Unable to contain himself any longer, he quickly disappeared, undoubtedly to count his exciting find, returning a couple of minutes later with a thunderous look on his face.

Oh dear (or something similar) I thought as he demanded to know the culprit who’d pulled the stunt on him.

Admitting my misdemeanour, he called me to the front where I expected a whack from the slipper but, bursting into a huge laugh gave me a gentle clip on the ear saying how much he’d enjoyed the joke. (I’ll bet !!)

He also devoted a lot of his (spare) time to coaching the junior school football team and, along with that provided by one lad’s father, an ex professional, contributed much to the success of that side, so for that alone, he merits great credit.

I left the school before reaching the classes of Messrs Brown & Cox & I must say it was a great relief to me as they both had fearsome reputations and epitomised the dour, unfriendly tutors of my nightmares. However, talk about jumping from the frying pan into the fire, my new school was run like a boot camp, making me yearn for the old days, but that’s for another time.

The Victoria of the post war years was well known for it’s football teams, their skills being honed in twice daily schoolyard games as well as the weekly, full afternoon, school run sessions.

The well known Willie Knott preceded me by 3 or 4 years but there were many other good players as well. I recollect one, part of the Willie Knott era, whose life was tragically cut short in about 1948 whilst he was still at school. His name was , I think, John Firsbrook, another outstanding footballer and I  remember his death casting a pall over the whole school as he was almost as famous as Willie.         

The junior team of 1950/51 had a very successful season, winning every game except one of the two finals it appeared in, as well as the league championship. Unfortunately for the team, seven of the team regulars ( including the best player and captain – Nev Kaye) left the school after passing their 11 Plus, thereby reducing the chance of the side going on to become as big a success at senior level as some of it’s predecessors , which it very probably would have done. 

All manner of games took place in the schoolyard, frequently resulting in bumps and bruises as a result of high speed collisions between pupils often playing different games in different directions. One occasion saw a lad from my year run straight through one of the two sets of glass front entrance doors. They’d obviously had one of their infrequent cleanups that day and the lad (I think it was a Mike Uttley) thought they were wide open, with pretty nasty consequences for him and yet further restrictions on schoolyard behaviour.

The natural slopes, smooth surfaces and large uninterrupted areas of the schoolyard made for ideal roller skating and was a regular summer evening pastime for much of the local youth with some developing very impressive acrobatic skills – as well as a few battered limbs into the bargain.

Regrettably, the school is no longer there (although the name continues at another site near the Skelton Rd football ground) and the lovely old building has been demolished. No doubt the new school’s facilities are much superior but, will it be held in the same widespread regard, pride and affection as the grand old “Vicky” of the 40’s and 50’s ?