Bury Mill End School

Hemel Hempstead in the 50s

By Derek Jarrett

Only those well over fifty will have any recollection of Bury Mill End School which stood proudly at the corner of Astley Road and Leighton Buzzard Road. It closed as a primary school in 1964 and was finally demolished in 1972. But of all the schools in which I taught, none were better. 

It was at the beginning of the new school year, September 1956, that I was introduced to this small school in its Victorian buildings. There were high ceilings, a coke-fuelled heating system and three classrooms, which were generally made in to four when a partition was drawn across. There was a small playground, just a hard surface on three sides of the school. Whilst cricket, football and netball were all practised in this playground, the children had to walk down to South Hill School to play any matches. The school served families in the local area who were, in the main, well-established Hemel Hempstead families…at least until some children appeared from the newly emerging Gadebridge area.  

Newly qualified

I’d qualified as a teacher, survived my initial interview at County Hall, and then heard about a vacancy at Bury Mill End School. It had quite an appeal, for I had met the Headteacher, the elderly (at least to me in my early twenties!) Mr R J Holliday in quite a different capacity. Dick was hugely into supporting sport and I had first met him when he had presented our youthful Bekhamsted Methodist team with its medals at a soccer club dinner in 1953. We shared a love of cricket.  

I was happy to be on playground duty every day and to take the children down to South Hill School for lunch; Bury Mill End had no such facilities. I had started as a very nervous teacher, but soon came to love the job. There were four classes: Mrs Dean with the Babies (as Dick called the class), the indomitable Mrs Johnson, my class and then the top class taken by Dick himself. A while later I took the children in the top class.  

Sporting triumphs

Whilst my career in education took me to schools in another part of Hemel Hempstead, to Stevenage, Malaya, Letchworth Garden City and Luton, the memories of Bury Mill End are among my happiest. The school was small, so finding cricket and football teams was hardly a selection problem. I remember taking the boys on the public bus to other schools for cricket and football matches. Due largely to the exploits of John Pike, Jeffrey Richardson and Jimmy Joyce we rarely lost at cricket. Our great triumph on the football field was in the inter-schools seven-a-side football competition when we beat Broadfield School in the final in either 1958 or 1959. Dick Holliday, our Head, was thrilled. On school visits I can remember taking the children to see the American flying fortress which was still at Bovingdon airfield, to Ashridge Woods and Bekonscot model village.  

Moving on

After three years I felt I must move on to another school in order to widen my experience. It was one of my saddest moments in education when I left Bury Mill End and moved on to another Hemel Hempstead school in 1959. Hemel Hempstead was fast growing in to a ‘new town’ and Bury Mill End, built in 1877, closed in 1964. There was a special presentation to Dick Holliday who had been at the school since 1953. I well remember attending that presentation – he had been a great friend and inspiration in my life as a young teacher.  

Should any of the school’s pupils who remember me at the school read this, I would be delighted to hear from them: Like Mr Chips I can recall many of their names!

This page was added on 01/04/2010.

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  • Both my two brothers and I attended Bury Mill End and lived across the road in Astley Road.

    I can remember sometimes being late for school although it was only 25 yards to the gate, so had to jump over the wall.

    Being dragged into performing country dancing in the playground to keep the girls happy was only improved by being able to explore he old air raid shelter.

    My parents being reportedly told by Doc Holiday that as my elder brother was already at Corner Hall, (aka Prison on the hill), we did not need to take our 11 plus exam. Still this decision did not hold us back, and I believe we all made,a success of our lives.

    By John O'Dell (27/03/2022)
  • I also attended Bury Road School in the 1950’s
    I remember Peter Collett,Andrew Robinson,Paul Smith and also Jennifer Payne . Still keep in touch with her.
    Remember Jeff Richardson left my details at his home address some years ago but no contact ever made.
    The Boggis brothers lived just up Astley Hill,along with Marilyn Sykes and Alison Roberts.
    Would like to meet up again before we get to old.

    By Graham Bird (25/07/2018)
  • I’ve only just discovered this page! I was at Bury Mill End between 1959-1963. I was one of the Mrs Dean infants and progressed up the school with Mrs Meakin (Anyone remember the viking helmet she brought in from the Shetlands?). The formidable Mrs Johnson and of course Mr Holiday who had a collection of smoking pipes I recall. The boys outside toilets had a set of steps that nobody used, but instead took a running leap at the railings with a foot on the wall to swing on to the higher surface. The wall had a huge dent in it from being ground down by boys feet over the years. I lived in Alma road around the corner from the school but moved to Gadebridge where we caught the black and yellow coach to get to and from school. A lovely school where we walked daily to and from Southill School for our dinners and not for us the gentle landing on soft turf when we fell over. Most of us had yellow patches on grazed knees from the asphalt playgrounds, deftly applied by whoever was in the staff room at the time. I recall being once sent up on to the roof via a ladder to recover tennis balls hit up there during cricket sessions. Some of my fellow pupils at the time were Linda Fuller, Mary Ellen Fennymore, Stephen Forfar, Leslie Oliver, David French (Bailey).

    By Ian Hobbs (17/09/2017)
  • excellent article and brought back so many memories. Does anyone remember the holiday to Guernsey in about 1957? My friends were Linda Chowns, Mary Bass, Rowland Smith, Jennifer Payne, Barbara Wilson, Pat Scott etc only in touch with Mary. Happy days!   Jennifer Haywood

    By Jennifer Haywood (15/03/2015)
  • Many, many happy memories of Bury Road School. I was a pupil from 1954 – 1960 and remember ‘Pop’ Holliday making us girls play cricket on the concrete playground to !

    By Pam (23/02/2015)
  • Many happy memories of Bury Road School and especially of ‘Pop’ Holliday and being chased through the air raid shelters by the boys !!

    By Pam (21/02/2015)
  • Excellent article Sir! — or after all these years may I call you Derek?!! I remember you very well indeed. I recall your first day at Bury Road School.Your first thing for us all to do was to write our names on a card (you wrote yours too)and display them on our desks for familiarisation of names.It worked!

    I started in Mrs.Dean’s class and moved up later to join Mrs.Johnson,a lady of fearsome reputation.After your class it was onwards to be taught by’Pop’ Holliday who was a real gentleman and a fine piano player.If my memory serves me right he had strong connections with Hemel Hempstead Cricket Club and was also to be seen mowing the wicket and outfield at Heath Park.

    I believe, Derek, that you were a good cricketer too as I am sure I used to see your name in the Hemel ‘Gazette’. I also remember getting a fearsome and deserved rocket from you for fielding with hands in pockets during a tedious cricket match down on the moor at Heath Park and also remember travelling by bus to play football at Hobbs Hill??? Jimmy Joyce, Melvyn Dean and John Pike were good players at both football and cricket and were all good lads.

    It was a trip to London Zoo with you that I still recall and I have a photo somewhere, but all I really remember is myself and John Pike trying hard but with no joy to buy bottled lager from a refreshment kiosk!

    The names of Martin Parr, Roger Walker and Peter Collett are still fresh to me and Pete was the son of boxer Charlie Collett — a man-mountain and not a bloke to take liberties with!! The Collett’s lived in Bury Road near to the ‘Ash Path’ and I believe next door to Graham Rush, another pupil later to be known around town as ‘Fred the Rocker’

    After leaving primary school I was press-ganged into attending Corner Hall Secondary, or Crabtree as it was commonly known, days that I mostly detested and I could not wait to get out of the place.

    I went into the meat trade on leaving and after getting married in 1969,my wife and I moved to the village of Moulton near Northampton where we still live and I ended my working days as a Fork Lift instructor.

    I still hold many good memories of Bury Mill End and wonder what happened to all of the class of ’56. If you or any of the lads(or lasses) are up for it, I would love to meet up for a pint one day and compare bruises!!


    By Richard KEEN (28/01/2015)
  • I was one of the children from Gadebridge that attended Bury Mill End School mid 50’s. I remember Mr Holliday, and Mrs Johnson, who wore a red raincoat and red hat. I remember walking crocodile style to South Hill School for lunch. We used to play in the air raid shelters, although it was not allowed And doing handstands against the wall. They were my happiest school years.

    By Janice Herbert (04/11/2014)
  • I’m thrilled that my original article helped raise memories of the school and feel that it is time I acknowledged some of the comments. Barbara Daniels and Brian Platt were clearly just before I joined the school in 1954, but thank you for sharing memories. Further to Brian’s comment, I remember meeting Mrs Meakin, whose husband was the local Methodist minister, and I believe was replaced by Mrs Dean. Good to hear you are still about Paul (Dean), I remember you well & your comment appreciated. Regarding Nicola Steinberg’s search for information about her mother, I think it unlikely that she attended Bury Mill End; Abbots Langley was a distance away. Martin Parr’s memory of a class outing to London has fallen or rich soil. It was a most happy occasion recently when Martin and his wife Wendy lunched with my wife, Jennie, and I. I have also been thrilled to be in contact with Peter Collett and Roger Walker (class of ‘56’) and we hope to have a get-together in the not too distant future. Anyone else of the same period who would like to make contact would be most welcome.

    By Derek Jarrett (06/02/2014)
  • I went to Bury Mill End School in the mid 50’s. Remember Mr Holliday, Mrs Johnson and a Mrs Meakin who I think hailed from the Shetland Islands? Also Harvest Festival assembly, playing in the old air raid shelters and buying jamboree bags, sherbet dips and Flying Saucers from sweet shop over the road. David Bulmore, Linda Batchelor, Jackie Richardson were all in my year I think. I live in Auckland NZ now but still recall a happy time growing up in 50’s Hemel.

    By Brian Pratt (10/12/2013)
  • Hello. Paul, youngest son of Mrs Dean the infants teacher. My brothers are/were Adrian and Roger. Mr Jarret taught me twice in (modern speak) years 4 and 5. He was great. I was rubbish at sport but now am a keen cyclist.

    By Paul Dean (02/12/2013)
  • Hi. i was really interested to read your info. I’m trying to find out some more information about my mum. She played for Hertfordshire County netball Team in the fifties. her name is Joan Mitchinson, she lived in Abbots Langely. Thanks, Nicola

    By nicola steinberg (09/11/2013)
  • I too was a pupil at the school from 1952. I have a picture of the school, but more interestingly, I have a picture of an outing to london with “Sir” – pity I cannot upload them here.

    By Martin Parr (04/07/2013)
  • I was a pupil at this school….from 1948…Barbara Herring…my sister Grace had her name twice on the honours board at the school, and went on to Hemel Grammer…but only with help from “Gaffer” Elliot…who from his own pocket supplied the hat and blazer, which was essential for entrance into that school…….

    By Barbara Daniels (01/04/2013)