Victoria Road School

Victoria Road school has a curious history. Following the Education Act 1870, a school board for New Shoreham was established in 1872, taking over the National Schools and replacing them with a new school in Ham Road in 1875.

In 1915 older children went to the newly built Victoria Upper Council School on the site of the derelict and overgrown Swiss Gardens.

Comparison between 1910 and 1915. The site of the school as seen from the church tower. © SAS Marlipins Collection
Image from Britain from Above ©2020
1927 shows the basic design and kitchen block. There was no hall. © Historic England

The road that became Swiss Gardens in 1915 was previously just a pedestrian track. Even in 1927 Swiss Gardens ended at Freehold Street and it would be another 10 years before Connaught Avenue would be laid out. The photograph above shows the Grammar School Gymnasium in the foreground and the Meads unfenced all the way to Swiss Gardens.

The Headmaster, Oswald Ball presided over the school that had an average attendance of 200 in 1919.

Image from Britain from Above ©2020
Modern day view compared with 1927. Note the school hall was a later addition. The cart shed in the Meads dates from the time of the Swiss and lasted until the 1990’s © Historic England

Victoria Road School was also the site of Shoreham’s Library and Reading Room (1930-1938) prior to being relocated to New Road where the library occupied premises below St. Mary’s Hall until 1974 when it was relocated again to Pond Road.

In 1932 the Junior school gained a Hall and extensions to both wings. Note the Infant school plot was still tree-covered and was only developed a year after this photo of 1937 © Historic England

From 1937 senior boys went to Shoreham and Southwick Senior
Boys’ Council school, Middle Road; and senior girls to Shoreham and Southwick Senior Girls’ Council school, Southwick. With this change, the Ham Road school closed in 1938, and the new infant school built alongside the junior school. Both juniors and infants were accommodated in the extended Victoria Road site: the school buildings were re-styled Shoreham County Junior and Shoreham County Infant schools. During the Second World War the Meads was the location for air raid shelters for the schools… the ground marks still evident during droughts in recent years.

1946 Air raid shelters in the Meads and 5 curious structures in the Infant playground. © English Heritage
1980’s Photo from P Osborne

By 1937 the school was headed by Miss Ball, the daughter of the first Headmaster, Oswald Ball. Other teachers were Miss Ogden, Mrs Bratley, Mr. Baker, Mr Jones, and Mrs Kimble.

In the mid 50’s Miss Ball was still headmistress of Junior School. Mrs Burtenshaw was head of Infants. The names of some teaching staff were Miss Allcock 1952-53, Mr Filmer 53-54, Mr Ford 54-55, and Mr Jones 55-56.

1949 – Percussion Band

In 1972 the Headmistress of infants was Miss Barker. The staff in the late 1960’s and 70’s is generally regarded as a roll call of great teachers: Mr Ketley (Head of Juniors upto 1971), Mr Phillips (Head of Juniors from 1971), Miss Barrett, Mr Whittaker, Mr. Baker, Mrs Collins, Mrs Jackson, Mrs Grey, Mrs Alexander, Mrs Burtenshaw, Mr Filmer, Mrs Edgeler…

In 1974 the juniors were transferred to Buckingham County Junior school, Buckingham Road (which had opened in 1958) and the infant school expanded to take over the whole site as Shoreham County First School and later Swiss Gardens School.

Junior School 1983 © Paul Osborne
Junior School building in 2020 © Google Images
Infant School 1983 © Paul Osborne

The clues to the past: Swiss Pleasure Gardens

The original Swiss entrance in 1900 and the same position in 2020 © SAS Marlipins Collection and Google Images

If you look closely there are a few clues to the former use of the school site – the Swiss Gardens pleasure garden (1838 – 1910). The Lake is the most obvious, to the South of Swiss Gardens road. Hidden in the gardens of Homehaven Court is the remaining wall of the grand theatre.

1913 looking North as they clear the site to make way for the new school. Note far right: the undulating boundary wall that you can still see in the Meads
1900 / 2020 The Infant school hall occupied the site of the Swiss Ballroom © OS Maps and Google Images
2005 Could this be the stage back wall? © Paul Osborne

The tall boundary wall to the North between the school and the Meads, looks to be the original wall of 1838. This had an undulating top and a kink in its alignment (until part of it was pushed down in the 1990’s) . If you refer to the the poster illustration of 1875 it suggests this 12 – 15 foot wall was the back wall to a theatre-style open stage (to the right in the poster below). There were cart sheds / stables that are evident in early photos of the school. The cart shed in the Meads lasted until the 1990’s and whilst the boundary wall has been repaired many times it is possibly that is the only visible 1830’s structure left.

1875 poster – view looking West over the site now occupied by school carpark © British Library
2020 the same view today, looking West with old Swiss boundary wall at far right.© Google Images

By the early 1900’s the site had been abandoned by the proprietor of the Swiss Gardens and local children explored the wild overgrown site. The derelict gardens lent themselves to painting and was inspiration for local artists. By 1915 the site was cleared and the new school replaced the wilderness.

Paul Osborne 2020

Images from writer’s collection, Diane Ruff, Sian Phillips, John Lyne, Sue Vincent, Aerofilms, BritainfromAbove, Marlipins Collection, British Museum.

9 Replies to “Victoria Road School”

  1. Hi Paul -I love your blog on Victoria Road School. My father (Norman Piper) attended there from 1921 under the Headteacher, Mr. Ball. I then attenxed there from 1953 to 1959 u der the Headship of Miss Ball, the daughter. Teachers I remember were Mrs Jackson, Mr Baker, Mr Filmer, Mr Ford and Mr. Preston. In the Infants I was in the class of Mrs Ritchie and then Mrs Bounds. Happy days.

    1. Thanks for your comment Sue. It is a pretty impressive record that the same family headed the school for so long. In my time (65-71) Mrs Jackson, Mr Baker and Mr Filmer were still there. You knew Mr Baker was on his way down the corridor because of the clack of his metal blakies sole protectors. I recall in one class he berated a boy for asking for “a atlas”. “What is it you want?” he repeated. “A altas sir!”. “What is it boy?”. “A atlas sir?” “No it is not.” “Can I have a map sir?” “No! – it is AN atlas!”

  2. Lovely memories. I think the ‘Miss Barker 1972’ photo may include my school friends, Fiona Pitcher (far right) and Amanda Evans (in front).

  3. Oh happy days, although had a couple of bad experiences with Miss Jackson in the infants and the terrifying Miss Barrett in juniors, I loved Mr. Boothright and Mr. Filmer lovely teachers, still not sure about Mr.Whittaker tho. Miss Jackson and Madame Lock for French. On the whole a good experience, fond memories…

  4. The German conversation class led by a local German teacher met in Victoria Road School sometime after 2010 (I think). One of the class members hated the venue because it reminded him so much of attending there as a boy years ago.

  5. I was at Victoria Road school from 1942 to 1947 when I, Howard Barker, Jack Shepherd and David Cunningham all won scholarships to Steyning Grammar School.
    My teachers in the infants were Miss Maynard (I think that was her name) Mrs White (who always had a large jar of sweets which would be handed out as a reward for good work and, presumably, to keep the school dentist busy) and Mrs McCulloch in the top class.
    One of the photographs above has five structures in the infants’ playground. These were air raid shelters, one for each class. We spent many an hour in these in the dark as German planes flew overhead. To relieve the boredom we would sing Knick Knack Paddy Wack much to the annoyance of our teachers.

  6. My sister Carole went to Victoria Road School from 1947 to 1953.
    In the 1953 class picture she is seated on the extreme right. I think she is also in the band photo, second row down, fourth from left.
    She got a scholarship to Worthing High.
    Sadly she died in mid 2021.

  7. In June 1944 I had a serious illness and was off school until the following summer term. I had been destined to go straight into year 2 juniors but when I returned to school the teacher was off having a baby so her class was divided in 2 and I was moved up to year 3 with Mrs Ash so I had the pleasure of her teaching for 4 terms. I was then let loose on the marvellous Mr Jones who along with Mr Baker had not long returned from War Service
    I particularly enjoyed Mr Jones’ spelling B’s.

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