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.
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.
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.
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!