372 Merryhills Primary School, part 1

If I still have any memories of the first five years of my life, they are so deep down in my brain that by the time they resurface I may well be too old and confused to write them down; so anything I can say is information that I have rediscovered in later years.

I grew up in a quiet suburban cul-de-sac of about 40 houses; there was hardly any traffic, and there were other children about my age in the same street. So once we were old enough we could play out in the street.

No doubt some of us did just that, but I don’t think I did. We were friendly with a family two doors down the road; of our immediate neighbours, the people at no. 10 had no children, and the children at no. 14 were older than me, which matters when you are very young. So I mostly got to know the other children in our three roads when I started school.

Let me introduce the school; Merryhills Primary School. You can still see the buildings on Google Maps (Satellite view). The school has a very nice website, but there aren’t many photographs; it does seem that the buildings have altered quite a lot in the last 50 years, which I suppose is hardly surprising. There seems to be something new running across the Junior playground. An Internet search has revealed no pictures of the school at all, which is unusual.

So let’s go back to September 1952. Imagine a letter H lying on its side, as on the satellite picture. The bottom (east) half of the H was the Infants, and the top (west) half was the Juniors. The right (north) leg of the H was quite short and consisted, I think entirely, of the toilets (boys to the west, girls to the east). The classrooms and cloakroom were along the left (south) leg and led off an open-air veranda (the school was built in the “fresh air” frenzy of the 1930s), though I think this has since been enclosed. I seem to have lost the School Hall; I know there was one, but I can’t quite place where it was. The cross-piece of the H contained the first-aid room and the headmaster’s office, and possibly some other room.

To the north, two playing fields divided by a hedge (Juniors/Infants) went all the way up to Enfield Road. At the very end of my time at Merryhills part of this was closed off to make a site for the new Cardinal Allen School as well as a small public library and clinic.

There was also the south side which I think we weren’t allowed to go to; this was also a grassy area and went down to Bincote Road. It also went down to Merryhills Brook which may be why we weren’t allowed there. There was an entrance for vehicles from Bincote Road at the south-east corner, and a path which, I half remember, went down to a gate at the south-west corner which I think led out to Merryhills Drive. Going to these areas was an opportunity for being naughty in a fairly harmless way.

There were two other buildings which I have to mention; a concrete building at the edge of the Junior playing field, which completed the north leg of the H. I think this was mainly a changing room for games periods, possibly divided into Boys and Girls. And completely separately, near the south-east gate, a building, the source of much misery, which looked as if it had once been either a big garage or an air-raid shelter, but was now the Dinner Hall. The place had a dingy atmosphere, having little natural light, and always seemed to smell of cabbage.

That then is the geography of the school; the next page will tell you some of what happened there.


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