Cobham Conservation and Heritage Trust

Memories of the Cedar Road School

Memories of the Cedar Road School - School days in Cobham

From an ancient resident (Alan Wiseman April 2013)

I worked my way through the local school system from 1945, when I started my education at the Infant School (now "Tiltwood") in Hogshill Lane, graduating to the Junior School in the Cedar Road School, two years later. If memory serves me right the Headmistress was Miss Pavier.

The educational methods differed rather in those days, promotion through the classes depending on ability and form position – no question then of holding back the brighter children in the interests of co-education; I found myself in the top form within two years and therefore spent the best part of two more years in that grade. As the older and brighter children left at age 11 to go to the Senior (Secondary) School just round the corner where the Library now stands, I progressed up the examination ladder until it was confidently assumes that I would be top of the school for my last examination. However, a few weeks earlier a new resident in Cobham arrived and she (Denise) beat me by a couple of marks in the finals – to my fury. I always maintained that she beat me because of her neat handwriting. Mine was-and remains- execrable.

These were the days of the Eleven Plus Examination and both Denise and I passed and were granted places at Surrey Grammar Schools Because the final Junior School exams were in the spring, we attended the Secondary School only for the summer term of 1951 before beginning our more exalted school careers.

Looking back, my "lower" school experience was delightful. The summer of 1947 was one of the longest and hottest periods on record – we were very happy children, The Junior School had access to its own gardens on the opposite side of the road (built over many years ago) and we spent many happy hours in gardening and nature study experience; the chestnut tree which still stands in Cedar Road was a convenient source of our 'conkers'. I particularly recall being in charge of the thermometer graph in that glorious summer and regularly recording daytime temperatures of up to 130 degrees (Fahrenheit, not Centigrade- or Celsius as we must say these days) until I was told that the thermometer should be placed in the shade, not in direct sunlight!

Miss Taylor was the Headmistress in those days but the teacher who must surely be best remembered was one-armed Mr Robinson a delightful, good-humoured man and invariable football referee and coach; practices and matches took place in the Recreation Ground. Will anyone taught by him ever forget the standard joke about his 'waistcoat pocket dictionary' – an enormous tome which he would produce from his desk. I also remember Miss Bloomfield and the globe of the world on her desk; I would spin this round and wonder if anyone could ever remember the names of all those countries! Mr Wyatt joined as Deputy Head just after I left and remained a popular local figure for many years.

My form-master in the newcomer's class at what we called the 'senior' school was Jack Taylor, a dry, witty man who, shortly after, became Headmaster of the Junior School, a post he served with great distinction for many years. How was I to anticipate, at the age of 11, that many years later I would marry his eldest daughter!

Luckily for me I lived in the High Street in those days and my garden overlooked the two schools in Cedar Road. In the summer evenings and holidays the whole playground was empty and made a wonderful playground for me and my friend, David Hartfield, whose father was the Caretaker and lived in the house illustrated in the February Newsletter. riding bicycles furiously round the playground and down Cedar Road (with no worries about oncoming traffic)

Ebenezer Hall, Cedar Road in 2013The Ebenezer Chapel (shown left) served as an overflow classroom for the Junior School in those days. I actually wrote and tried to produce my first play in this building; tried because my dramatic propensities were quickly dissipated by the refusal of the cast to learn their parts or behave themselves during rehearsals. Very fortunately no copy of that tyro effort survives in the archives. Many years later, the local Dramatic Group, 'St. Andrews Players' – now 'Cobham Players', planned to use the Chapel as a permanent home for drama in Cobham – plans aborted due to sudden Council Adult Education cuts.

Incidentally, adjacent to the Ebenezer Chapel and cottages in Cedar Road stood the original Methodist Church, long since demolished and replaced with a smaller, more-modern, building; the actual area of the original church is now allotted to car parking. The Church was surrounded by a dense shrubbery, which made an excellent playground for local children.

As a footnote to these reminiscences, one of my favourite occupations, like all small boys, was fishing in the River Mole. It was purely accidental – and frightened the life out of me- to find that an enormous pike in the deeper water just below the Mill simultaneously swallowed the minnow on my hook. Having landed it by luck rather than judgement, David Hartfield and I carried this trophy proudly through the High Street. it was nearly as big as we were!

One last memory. One summer evening I broke a window in the senior school with a badly aimed stone. Great fear was experienced for days while the culprit was being unsuccessfully investigated. I never owned up,

On a totally different subject, David Bellchamber's article 'Cobham's Tree Skyline' reminds me of perhaps the most famous tree in Cobham. In the '70's I bought a house in Oak Road which, in its garden, featured a giant Oak Tree, planted in 1807 by General Sir John Moore, brother of Admiral Graham Moore of Brook Farm, who famously died at the Battle of Corunna in 1809 insisting on his death bed that a glass of water should be given to a dying private soldier nearby ("Not a sound was heard, not a funeral note")

The tree has (had?) no less than three preservation orders on it, one of which insists that the tree must be visible from the road. During the great storm of 1987 we awoke to find that the whole garden was covered by huge branches blown down from the great tree; some of these were three or four feet in diameter and required a chain saw to reduce them to manageable proportions. And yet, when we looked up at the tree itself, there was no sign of any disturbance in its symmetry, so huge was the tree itself. We wondered what would have happened had the whole tree been blown down; it would certainly have demolished the house (with us in it) had it fallen. We renamed the house, number 11, 'Moore's Oak' as being a fitting memorial to the great warrior.

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