Woodham Ley Primary School 1928-1988

My Childhood Memories

This photo was taken from the area of St Peter's Church looking down towards Chesterfield Avenue. The area beyond the house, which still stands today, is now known as Manor Trading Estate. Date unknown.

Formerly known as New Thundersley County Primary School and situated in Rushbottom Lane, just past St George’s Church. Rushbottom Lane runs from the A13 at Gt Tarpots right through to Pound Lane in Pitsea.  The road was made up as far as the church, there was then a concrete footpath as far as the school and after that the road was completely unmade with a ditch that was kept clear by council workmen or farmworkers.

First Recollections

My first recollection of the school was in 1941. My older brother and I had been evacuated from London to Devon. We then travelled north to Lancashire to join mum and younger brother. After my father had left for the Middle East and mum had saved enough money for the train fare south, we returned briefly to London.  To escape the bombing we came to Essex, staying with a widowed relative by marriage, in the very last bungalow in Rushbottom Lane, just past its junction with Woodside Avenue. We stayed for a few months that summer and I attended the school for a short time.  In the autumn term the weather made it too difficult for us to walk safely through the mud in the lane.  My older brother got very ill and we returned to London for 2 years, sleeping in the tube shelter until there was a disaster there when about 170 people died.

Return to Essex

My mother then decided to return to Essex managing to put down a small deposit on a bungalow in Church Road and I returned to the school in May or June 1943.

The School’s construction

The school was built of dark clapboarding and was on stilts. It comprised 3 main classrooms with a small cloakroom at each end. Across the corridor, which ran alongside the classrooms, was another small cloakroom with a wash hand basin and 2 other smallish rooms – the headteacher’s office and staff/stockroom. Lavatories for the children were across the playground in a brick built building. Attached to the front of the school was the coke store. This fed the large boiler in the middle classroom and kept the whole school warm in the winter. The caretaker topped up the boiler when he was on duty but otherwise the teacher had the job. Well, it was near her desk!

The classrooms

This middle classroom was for 3rd and 4th year juniors. The class nearest the playground was for infants – all of them between 5 and 7 years and were taught and mothered by Mrs Gould, a kindly older lady.

The class at the road  end of the school was for 1st and 2nd year juniors, taught by the headteacher, and which also held the piano.There was no school hall.

I went straight into the middle classroom and was taught by Miss Adkins.

Rows of desks

There were many rows of old fashioned double desks with an attached bench seat and lift up desk lids with an inkwell and grooves for pens/pencils at the back – no biros then.  Just “dip in” pens with sharp nibs which naughty boys occasionally pinged up to the rafters with a ruler. Given the opportunity these lads would dip girls’ plaits in the inkwell!

When you first joined the class you sat nearest the windows – and remained there if you were a duffer. As you got older and progressed you moved towards the desks on the corridor side of the room.  Work was written up on blackboards ranged along the front wall with often a free standing board as well to cater for the varying capabilities. We often had mental arithmetic or a spelling bee before registration which sharpened up our knowledge of tables, feet and inches, £ s d and pints and gallons. After registration we had stories from the Bible, both old and new testaments and then came arithmetic up to playtime and every morning.

More subjects

I used to like addition, long division, multiplication, LCM, HCM, shopping bills (all useful stuff) but I couldn’t get the hang of ‘problem sums’.  English was for after play or maybe History or Geography. During the afternoon we often changed classes with Miss Wilden’s class and had hymn practice or social singing of traditional songs like ‘Hearts of Oak Are Our Ships’ etc The girls also had needlework or knitting lessons with Miss Wilden, whilst the boys had handwork with Miss Adkins or went outside for football, cricket or rounders.  I recall making a wearable jumper and a skirt in floral cotton by the time I was 11 but I enjoyed these lessons.

There was an old fashioned radio when we listened to nature programmes and we sometimes walked along the lane to gather sprays of  blackberries or acorns to study and draw.

Art work, like all work, was done at your desk. There was little room to move about with such large numbers in the classes, especially in 1944 when the school had to cater for up to 50 pupils in class as families fled London and the V1 and V2 rockets. Even one of the small rooms, probably the stock room, was taken over and when the door opened it appeared to be bursting at the seams with miniature tables and chairs, it was rather like the woman who lived in a shoe.

At the end of the afternoon the teacher read a story and judging by the rapt silence this was enjoyed by all. From Spring when the weather improved the children were encouraged to do gardening in the small “allotments” where the new Primary School now stands. Behind the allotments stood the large concrete air raid shelter.

School dinners

If you really couldn’t get home for lunch and mum could afford the few pence, you had a school dinner, brought into school in metal containers. Jokes abounded about lumpy mashed potatoes or custard but I don’t think the meals were too bad from what I heard.

Outdoor lessons and sports day

P.E. and games or Country Dancing were always held outdoors if the weather permitted and we would sometimes sit on the lawn under the big oak tree for a lesson.

Occasionally the school held a Jumble Sale to raise funds and Miss Wilden persuaded my mum to buy a wide brimmed hat “for shading her face when working in the garden”. Mum often wore it for that purpose too.

Towards the end of the Summer Term we had Sports Day on the big adjoining field. It seemed the sun always shone and the day was greatly enjoyed, more so if you won a big coloured ball or a skipping rope.

I remember the Spring and Summer flowers growing in the garden alongside the school and the sweet smell wafting in through the open windows on sunny days.


Crowded though the school was and discipline strict the school usually had one or two children pass the 11+ each year. I remember my time at “the little school” as being a happy one. In later years all 3 of my children attended this school.

Eventually, the old wooden building had had its day. It had been extended with a hall and demountables but a new brick built Infants was built next door and was later enlarged to accommodate the Juniors and it became a Primary School.

I hope its pupils are as happy as I had been in “the little school” of my childhood.

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  • My sister and I went to this school , I was there from 1952-1958. My sister was Lorraine and I was Cheryl Dickenson, I then went to King Johns Secondry as was then. I left the area when I was 17 , but family still live that way .

    By Cheryl Payne /nee Dickenson (31/03/2023)
  • Hi James Dawson, I went there from February 88-july 88. I was in Mrs young’s class. Mrs Smeetan was the headteacher. Mrs Thomas was in charge of a class, I think she was a kind of headteacher there. Would you know anything else about her?

    By Shane ogrady (05/01/2023)
  • I remember a lot of the names on these pages, I went to this school in 1954 and remember all the teachers mentioned. Mrs Griffiths had 2 sons John and Richard, I was in the same class as Richard. Mr Browning made me captain of the football team, and as Rushbottom lane was unmade when we played football against another school the transport bringing them could only get as far as St Georges Church, so I was instructed to greet them and escort them to our school with my football boots draped round my shoulders. Good memories.

    By Ian Beveridge (23/12/2022)
  • Hi everyone. I also went to New Thundersley School and lived off Rushbottom Lane, which was unmade for many years. I have fond memories of my time there and can remember some of you on this page who are about the same age. I remember my first classroom was in the church hall and then moved over to the main building later. Oh those outside toilets – so cold and miserable!
    For those of you who have moved away from the area, you wouldn’t recognise the changes. I still live in Benfleet and actually just round the corner from where I grew up. The property has now been demolished along with another next to it and a whole new close has been built in its place.
    It’s lovely visiting the Benfleet History site as you come across some forgotten names that take you back and really good memories.

    By Patricia White (nee King) (06/09/2022)
  • Hi!
    I have had fun reading these posts which initiated a flood of memories. I was in the same class as Alan Billam, Delcie Daniels, Beryl Jiggins, and remember them all well (all already mentioned).
    Special ‘Hi!’ to Graham Patrick, as my mother worked in the kitchen with his and were friends.
    I remember Christine Howell (had the same piano teacher as me), Eileen Forester, Marian, (surname begins with ‘B’; can’t remember, sorry) Lesley Wright, Eileen Vine, Sharon Hinton (who sadly died in her early fifties), David Perrie, Cheryl (can’t remember surname) and others I’m sure I would remember if someone jogged my memory. The school was strictly run, but I thought my friends were great and my favourite memories are playing in the playground and playing netball. Miss Sullivan was dedicated to giving us a great experience with her netball coaching.
    I’m sad when I return to Great Tarpots, as I think it has changed, not for the better, from our days. I visited when the Olympic bunting was up in 2012, and felt very emotional at the thought of the Olympics coming to our little backwater. I couldn’t help thinking of walking to school and jumping ditches, down a muddy obscure little lane.

    By Eileen Petchey / nee Doubleday (14/02/2022)
  • I remember you Mavis Turner you were in my class. Yes I remember Miss Adkins, Wilden, Hood, Martin and Mrs Griffiths her son John was in our class and Mr Browning and mustn’t forget Mr Ridgeon. I liked nature walks best, up the lane, do you remember the Oak tree had fungus we weren’t allowed near it. I have happy memories of being taken to school on my Dad’s pushbike he had a basket on the front. We are all so lucky to remember those days.
    Doreen Batchford, now Doreen Colvin.

    By DOREEN COLVIN (17/10/2021)
  • Hi, did anybody on here make a record about England and the World Cup? 1980s? Or know anyone that was in the group.

    By Wendy Reynolds (12/07/2021)
  • I went to Woodham Ley infants and junior school. My teachers I remember were Ms Glazier, Mrs Haylock, Mrs Young and Mr Steeples (I think) and headmaster Mr Porter. I remember a camping trip to Mersea island in our last year. Then Mr Snell from Appleton came to introduce himself before we went there but that’s another story.
    I’ve noticed all the junior school buildings are now gone, what happened?

    By Matt (19/03/2021)
  • I lived in Church Road, for 20 years. I remember Tony Baptist, as our budgie got out and flew to his garden. His parents had an aviary. Our budgie was a very good talker and knew our telephone number, which he told to Mrs Baptist and she contacted us, so we got him back. After that they looked after him for us when we went away.
    I didn’t go to the school in Rushbottom Lane, I went to St.Margaret’s, Bowers Gifford along with our next door neighbour Peter Renaut. I also remember James Easter, I used to go with his sister Mary.

    By Diane Bennet (nee Rayer) (11/11/2020)
  • Having read david playfair. I must have been in the same
    class as I recall the mending of the bucket high tech stuff
    in those days. my pals were trevor harding, Denis Mitchell
    we lived in Waverley rd. I went to Cubs at the Methodist
    church in kennington ave. Sorry about the typing ,im
    sure Miss Wilden would have given me a good shaking!

    By steven ernest barnett (13/05/2019)
  • I remember after they stopped delivery of meals in tin cans we had a cook named Mrs Gates, she and her helpers made nice meals. She also warmed the small bottles of milk we had to drink when it was cold in the winter. Also the toilets were across the playground, made of corrugated iron but we were only sent home once in my time when the water froze.

    By Richard. Balman. (16/01/2019)
  • I started at Rushbottom Lane school in 1943. I remember Miss Hood, Miss Atkinson, and Miss Wilden. Some of my memories were having lessons in the school air raid shelter with Miss Hood. Miss Wilden was head teacher and could be scary at times. I lived down Albert Rd. The house was falling apart but they were happy times.

    By Richard Balman (16/01/2019)
  • Hi David Playfair your old next door neighbours we used to have fun playing at home !!! Glenn is living in Surrey and I am in the lakes Good times eh don’t do Facebook but I am on Instagram under massive Lorri

    By Lorraine (Graham) Mitchell (11/12/2018)
  • I’m Graham Patrick. You might remember me as I set fire to the recreation ground after school! Long story. I remember going to Battles Bridge for swimming before we got a pool. Once the coach tried going up Church Hill and had to back down as it couldn’t make it; My Mum used to run the kitchen for a time; Mr Browning’s car with a honeycomb radiator; the teachers mentioned so far; my sister was head girl in 1957. Such a long time ago. 

    By Graham Patrick (15/09/2016)
  • Just found this site when looking up something completely different and was amazed to see my name under the Rushbottom School comments from Alan Billham. Have a terrible memory for names especially surnames but have a vague recollection of Alan. Still have contact with Arthur Taylor. Used to live in Selbourne Road and can only remember Dennis Axel from there. Went to Sweyne after Rushbottom and then to Ford’s and ended up in Germany with Toyota Motorsport and stayed there till now. Can be reached on Facebook  / LinkedIn if anyone wishes to contact me.

    Many memories about Rushbottom especially being a Milk Monitor and being worried about bringing the crate of milk to the class with the “young” teacher that wore green tights, very strange for an impressionable young boy in the late 50’s.

    By Peter Houghton (19/07/2016)
  • i was at Woodham Ley infants and junior school in the early 70’s. Certainly remember Mr Jones, the head, along with Miss Murrant (not sure of spelling) my teacher. Miss Wallace and Mrs Wasp could have been other teacher’s names. My journey to school was a mere 10 min walk down Overton Road whilst I also remember coming home for lunch each day, leaving school grounds promptly at noon

    By Nigel Davies (13/04/2016)
  • I also went to New Thundersley school, but I didn’t start there.   Dad was RAF stationed in Germany and Mum, Sylvia and I joined him in 1950. We lived in the ground floor of a big house in a small village, Bad Rothenfelder and also had a maid, Elle. Sylvia had started school at New Thundersley but I was too young. Our school in Germany was run by Miss Wright (Eng) and Miss Dopheidie (German). We both learned German and used to take Mum shopping. We came back to Tarpots and resumed living at 50 Lower Church Road. I started school about a month before the Queen’s crowning, which we saw on Mrs Goome’s TV. My first teacher was Miss Wolf in the classroom closest to the playground. Then Mrs Butcher in the classroom that was in St George’s Church, then back in the school with Mrs Griffiths, Mr Hills and Mr Murphy then the wonderful Miss Adkins. Miss Wilden was there too but only took classes to give the teacher a break or when they were sick. Miss A and Miss W were wonderful teachers and I can still easily remember my times tables thanks to the pair of them. Class 4 was the infants in the separate building run by Miss Mathews.  Any time there was a thunderstorm Miss A would select four senior girls to go and help Miss M with the infants.   The buildings were wood boards and use to rattle pretty good when the thunder struck. There were 48 kids in Miss A’s class and she could handle them all with ease. I now live in Canada where the teachers complain if they have more than 30 students. I ended up as head boy at New Thundersley and look back very fondly at my time spent there.

    By Tony Baptist (09/04/2016)
  • I went to New Thundersley Primary school from 1955 to 1961 (I think) when I lived in Hatley Gardens, just round the corner from Allan Billham.
    I remember virtually all of the names that mentioned above, plus a few more that come to mind. Terry Farfort, Trevor Harding, Alan Barnett, Dawn White, Alan Wakeham (passed away a few years ago, I believe). Apologies for any spelling mistakes, but it was a while ago. No doubt a few more will come to mind after hitting the Send button.
    My favourite teacher was Mr Browning. I always remember him repairing a galvanised bucket for the school caretaker, Mr Ridgeon, using a fibreglass repair kit. A very educational lesson!
    I was never ever teachers pet when it came to the Misses Wilden and Atkins, unfortunately. Far from it in fact and have often wondered why they took such a disliking to me while they fawned over their favourites.
    I remember we had recorder training in the music class and one morning we were asked to play a simple tune during assembly. We must have done well as Miss Wilden congratulated us and asked if we could play another piece, if we knew it. Before we had a chance to tell her we didn’t know that one some smartarse at the front (one of her pets who obviously had a talent for music said ‘Yes Miss’!) The following cacophony you can probably imagine. After a few moments of complete bedlam she thanked us and asked us to stop. Very embarrassing for all concerned and I have often wondered what happened to the musical genius who led us into such a disastrous shambles.
    Happy days!
    PS Also on Facebook if any of my old school mates want to say hello. Search for diplayfair

    By David Playfair (28/01/2015)
  • Allan the teachers name was Mr Browning he also ran the football team which I played in along side John Lake. I remember the trucks Essex Carriers, happy days.

    By Colin Taylor (23/10/2014)
  • I went to Woodham Ley Primary for a short while, 1987-1988(ish) and lived along Stansfield Road before my family moved to North Essex, can’t recall any teachers names. I remember being volunteered with a girl (Kerry I seem to recall) to pose for the local paper in 1950’s style school clothing – The things you remember 🙂

    By James Dawson (03/10/2014)
  • I lived in West Green and went to the school from 1955 to 1961, remember Miss Adkins and Miss Wilden well – they were still at the school in the early 60s. My mother Helen helped at school I remember her being on playground duty, and have a picture of her in the swimming pool whch was constructed in the late 50s (I think).

    My contempories included James Easter, Neil Hambridge, Norman Lobb, Peter Houghton, Arthur Taylor, Beryl Jiggins, Delcey Daniels, ?? Patrick (male). There was a male teacher who I recall taking us for classes in the outdoors identifying leaves and trees. There must have been a flood in Rushbottom Lane at some point as I have a memory of a truck, maybe army, transporting us to school – other times it was across the fields catching dew covered spider webs in twisted grass stalks. Happy carefree times.

    By Allan Billham (25/06/2014)
  • I lived in Church Road, and went to New Thundersley Primary School and was taught by Miss Adkins and Miss Wilden. I was born in April 1947, and started school on my 5th birthday. I remember reciting all the times tables, dinner times, the dinner ladies would watch over you as you ate your dinner up, I still hate greens.

    By Mavis Ann Thurley nee Turner (28/07/2013)

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