55. School, College and Work

Nottingham Girls’ High School

Mum finished at Nottingham Girls’ High School in the summer of 1950 when she was still 15.

School Play 1950 – “The Critic

In January of that year, she went to see the school play, “The Critic”. This is an 18th century satirical play by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Valerie Frith, who played the heroine Tilburina, is mentioned as one of mum’s friends in her diary (see Chapters 39 and 40). Mum considered the play very good and noted that she came home with Angela Davison.

Article in the school magazine concerning the play “The Critic” with picture (above)

Other School Exploits

Also in January 1950, mum noted that she dropped a desk lid out of the window on to the roof of the covered way. However, she did not explain why or how this happened! She did say that Anne Taylor got it back through the gym window. Other things she noted during her last year at school included the following. In March 1950, Shirley Sadler went to an exhibition at the LMS station. Mum and Jeanette Crowley wrote to Clarice (perhaps a penfriend or former pupil?). At the end of March 1950, the Boys’ Brigade visited the school. In April 1950, mum went to school for a play rehearsal but there were only four there. In June 1950, she scored good marks for cookery for preparing “an invalid’s meal”.

The Head Miss Merrifield Leaves

Mum also noted, in March 1950, that the head, Miss Merrifield left. According to the school magazine, she left to become head of the Notting Hill and Ealing High School having been at Nottingham Girls’ High School from 1936, which covered almost all the time mum was there (see Chapter 39). Mum noted that the girls bought her a case and two sheets while the parents bought her a fur cape. The school magazine notes that the staff gave her a canteen of silver. A news cutting among mum’s papers identified Miss Frances Milford as the new head.

News cutting from 1950 announcing Frances Milford as new head of Nottingham High School for Girls

A Lantern Lecture at School

In April 1950, an American came to school and showed views as part of a lantern lecture. For an explanation of what a lantern lecture is, please see this book extract.

School Sports Events

Mum also noted some school sporting “events” during this period. She was less than thrilled in March 1950 when she had to play hockey in the pouring rain. She thought she caught cold as a result. In March 1950, mum noted watching a staff versus students hockey match which the staff won 2-1. At the end of March, mum was in a team that played the sixth form at hockey and lost 7-0. In May 1950, mum stayed for gym and she also played tennis at school.

Form Prefect

In April 1950, mum was made form prefect, something of which she seemed proud.

Mum became a prefect at school. This photo is labelled “Note the Prefect Badge”. The photo is dated June 1951 but presumably is from 1950


In February 1950, mum started exams and these covered Arithmetic, Biology, Cookery (practical), Domestic Science, English Grammar, English Literature, French, Geography, History and Needlework (practical). Perhaps these were mock exams but, if they were, I don’t see her results anywhere.

In June and July 1950 mum took her exams for the School Certificate (see Chapter 39). On 12 June 1950, mum prepared her cookery practical exam and had the exam on the morning of the 14th. She commented that it wasn’t too bad. The next day, she had her French oral exam and she commented that the man was very nice. Her exams started in earnest from the 22nd. She had had English Literature, Geography, English Language, History, French dictation, French exam and Arithmetic by 28 June. However, her Biology exam was not until 6 July, domestic science was on the 10th and needlework practical on the 13th.

After mum had finished most of her exams (but not her needlework practical), on 11 July, she went with other Upper Fifths on a school trip to Castleton. Mum commented that it was nice but windy. Over the next week, she handed all her books in and helped Miss Gornall in the library.

School Certificate

In September 1950, both mum and grandad noted that mum heard that she had passed the school certificate. It seems she was notified by postcard, which she retained among her papers. This notes that she achieved credits in three subjects – History, Biology and Domestic Science and mum noted this in her 1993 CV.

Postcard mum received in September 1950 notifying her of her School Certificate results with envelope above
Exam results 1950 with results for mum (S Parkin) and her friends (S Sadler and J Crowley) highlighted

School Prizegiving

In October, mum went to the school prizegiving with grandma and Barbara Coupe. She got her school certificate and a prize “Private Angelo”. This is a novel by Eric Linklater that was published in 1946. A film based on the novel was produced in 1949.

Mum received a copy of the novel “Private Angelo” as a school prize in1950 

Old Girls’ Association

In June 1951, she went to an Old Girls’ Association meeting at the school.

Photo labelled Upper VG NGHS 1950 – this shows mum and I think the girl on her left is Jeanette Crowley

Miller’s Business College

In January 1950, mum went with grandma to Miller’s Business College in Mansfield for an interview and she was offered a place. This was a private college, owned by the Miller family, established in the early 1900s to offer intensive courses in shorthand, typing, bookkeeping and business studies for young people leaving school. Classes were held daily from 9.30am to 12.30pm and from 2.00-4.00pm. The college was located above the Handley Arcade on Leeming Street. Those attending were mainly, but not exclusively, girls. The Mansfield College closed in July 1962.

Handley Arcade in Mansfield circa 2008 © Dave Bevis and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence. This is where Miller’s Business College was located

In July 1950, mum went to see the headmistress of Miller’s Business College, Mrs Nicholls, and mum started there at the end of August. She liked it immediately. However, she did not note much detail of her time there. Most of her diary entries were simply “went to MBC”!

She missed some days in 1951 because on one occasion the college closed as it was being used for a dance that night and, on another occasion, she missed an entire week because there was no coal. She also missed one day because she took a holiday (!) to go to the pantomime in Nottingham. In February 1951, she missed two weeks because she had a sore throat. On the last day she was off sick, she went shopping in Nottingham with grandma and grandad and went to the cinema with grandad!

Bookkeeping, Shorthand and Typing Exams

In December 1950, mum had a bookkeeping exam which she said was not too bad. Two weeks later, she had a shorthand exam and she gave it the same rating. She had a typing exam in March 1951 and, in April 1951, noted that she was now in the advanced class. In June 1951, she had another bookkeeping exam but considered this one “awful”. In July 1951, she had a typing exam and then a shorthand exam. She managed 90 words per minute which she considered “not bad”. She finished at Miller’s Business College at the beginning of August 1951. According to her 1993 CV, she gained the following qualifications – Pitman’s Typewriting Intermediate, First Class; Pitman’s Shorthand Theory Stage II; and Institute of Book-keepers Intermediate. These certificates were among her papers along with earlier elementary or preliminary levels.

Mum’s certificate for intermediate level bookkeeping that she obtained from Miller’s Business College in 1951

Work as School Clerical Assistant

In October 1951, mum went for an interview at Mansfield Education Office and was offered a job as a school clerical assistant. Grandad described this as school secretary.

Hillocks Secondary School

Mum started at the end of October 1951 at Hillocks Secondary School but immediately disliked it. Grandad described her as “not thrilled”. I have only found one reference to this school which appears to have been in Sutton in Ashfield. Presumably, from the name, it was located on the Hillocks but there is only a primary school there now. Perhaps the secondary school closed or it became the primary school? There is a photo on the Ashfield Community Pages which is labelled as Hillocks Secondary School but the same photo is labelled as the primary school elsewhere. From Google it definitely appears that this is the primary school. 

Hillocks Primary School Tom Courtney and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Huthwaite Church of England School

The next day, she went to Huthwaite Church of England School but she still did not like it.

Huthwaite Infants Church School was one of the schools mum started working at in 1951 but she did not like it. This photograph is of the school in 1925. Image licenced for re-use from Inspire.

Hillocks Infant School

She then went to Hillocks Infant School. This school is operational but it seems to have had some problems. From there, mum went back to Hillocks Secondary but did not like any of them! So, she went back to the Education Office and they arranged to move her to Kirkby.

Moving to Schools in Kirkby

The following week, she started at Kingsway Boys School, which she considered “v v nice”, and Vernon Road, which she did not like as much!

Kingsway Boys’ School

There is a primary school in Kingsway but no secondary school currently. According to the Healey Hero website, the senior schools were Kingsway, Vernon Road and Mowlands but Kingsway and Vernon Road became junior schools. There is a photo (#2) of Kingsway Senior Boys’ School from 1935 in Nottinghamshire County Council’s book “Kirkby-in-Ashfield: A Pictorial View 1889-1989”.

Kingsway School (now Primary) © Dave Bevis and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Vernon Road School

I think the Vernon Road School became an academy when the primary school closed in 2017.

Mum worked for longer at Vernon Road School in 1951 but she did not enjoy it as much as Kingsway Boys’ School. This photograph is of Vernon Road School in 1925. Image licenced for re-use from Inspire.

Working Between Kingsway and Vernon Road Schools

Essentially, mum split her time between these two schools – Monday and Tuesday at Kingsway, Wednesday and Thursday at Vernon Road, and Friday split between the two. She also worked some Saturday mornings alternately between the schools.

As with school and college before, mum did not say much about her work there. She mostly just wrote “went to K” or “went to VR”. In November and December 1951, mum went to the bank and Roy Case (who I think she knew from church) went with her. At the end of November, grandad commented that mum got her first pay cheque and that it was for £11 9 2. In January 1952, she noted that she tidied the stockroom at Kingsway. Mum was ill in February 1952 and was off work for two weeks. When she went back, grandad described her as “not thrilled”. In March1952, mum noted that at Vernon Road she watched plays all day. Her comment was that she wished she worked in an office.

Applying for Other Jobs

In May 1952, mum applied for, and had interviews, at the Mansfield Education Office itself and a company called Fordham and Burtons. She got the latter job and started working there in June 1952. Among mum’s papers was a letter from Notts Education Committee to grandma and grandad concerning mum leaving their employ. Their understanding was that it was because of illness. Nevertheless, they were very complimentary about mum saying she had “been very efficient indeed & one of the best assistants I have had”. It seems odd to me that they wrote to grandma and grandad and not to mum directly but perhaps that was the practice then particularly as she was only 17.

Letter from Education Committee when mum left her job to join Fordham and Burton

Fordham and Burton

Based on an advert in a Kirkby-in-Ashfield directory that I have from 1969, it appears that Fordham and Burton manufactured lingerie and had a factory in Lindley’s Lane. It appears that this remained Fordham and Burton into the 1970s when it became Wood Bastow and then Celestion textiles.

Fordham and Burton advert in Kirkby-in-Ashfield directory 1969

Working at Fordham and Burton

Mum worked from 8.30 to 12.30 and then from 1.30 to 5.30. In October 1952, she noted that they did stocktaking in the afternoon and again, in January 1953, in the morning. In January 1953, she noted that she had to work late two nights running but did not say why.

From the outset, mum immediately liked working there. In August, she noted that she received a ten shilling rise. In 1953, mum went on work social trips to London and Scarborough and to see “The Desert Song” in Nottingham (see Chapter 52). She went on the last trip even though, by this time, it was two weeks after she had left Fordham and Burton.

Other People Mum Worked With

Mum also mentioned other people who worked at Fordham and Burton including Iris, Joyce Elliot and Joy Munns. In August 1953 mum, Joyce and Joy Munns went to a St John’s meeting from work. Joyce Elliot attended mum’s birthday party in 1953 with her partner, Joe and they feature in a photo that mum has of this event (see Chapter 52).

Leaving Fordham and Burton

Mum worked for Fordham and Burton for just over a year. In September 1953, she noted that, Mr Fordham told her and Iris that there was not enough work for them all so they were to leave the next day. Among mum’s papers was a letter to this effect.

Redundancy and reference letter from Fordham and Burton

Kirkby Cooperative Manufacturing (KCM)

A month after she left Fordham and Burton, mum got a job with Kirkby Cooperative Manufacturing (KCM) who made hosiery. Mum described it as the “coop factory in Byron St”. She noted that it was a lovely place inside. They also had an advert in the 1969 Kirkby-in-Ashfield directory. Mum started working there on 13 October 1953 and she continued to work there until the end of this period.

Advert in Kirkby-in-Ashfield directory 1969

Edith Searson Had Also Earlier Worked at KCM

In her book(let) “I Remember”, Edith Searson noted (p25) that the reason her family came to Kirkby in 1917 was that her father had been appointed as Manager of Kirkby Cooperative Society’s farm at Coxmoor Lodge. She also noted (pp26-27) that she worked for Kirkby Cooperative Manufacturing for ten years until she got married, that is from 1919 to 1929 which was well before mum worked there.

Mum’s Work at KCM

Mum appeared to work for a Mr Seabrook and she sometimes noted when he was away. She also worked with someone called Janet. In August 1954, mum noted that everybody was on holiday except her and Janet. Within a month of starting, she received a five shilling rise and was receiving £3 14 9d per week at that time. In December 1953, she had a half day on the 9th because there was no work. The same thing happened in April and September 1954. However, the job continued and she returned to work, after a short Christmas holiday, on 28 December including working on New Year’s Day. From January, mum noted how much tea money she paid. It appeared that she paid 10d per week but sometimes paid for multiple weeks.

Mum Also Helped in the Shop

When grandma and grandad were sick in August 1954, mum went into KCM for a couple of hours each day. She was also looking after grandad’s shop at this time. She only resumed working at KCM full-time in early September 1954. In September 1954, mum also enrolled in Kingsway night school to study embroidery.