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Grammar school memories that have held fast

News Archive > General > Grammar school memories that have held fast

By Rachel Spurgeon on 23/08/2006

FOLLOWING A successful Newquay County Grammar School reunion this summer, the Voice takes a two-part look at the school’s history, beginning with the years from its opening in 1910 until the end of World War Two. All information was provided by former head teacher J. A. Gerber.

Newquay County School opened at Edgcumbe Avenue in 1910, one of 13 new secondary schools in the county. At that time the building stood out among open fields.

In the first term the school took 24 boys and 18 girls, aged 11 to 16. About one quarter received free tuition, with most paying £2 4s each term. A preparatory department catered for pupils as young as nine.

The first headmaster was Mr H. Roseveare, supported by three full time and three part time staff members. The Rev W. Hodson-Smith became chairman of governors. The school motto, ‘Proba Tene’ – ‘Hold Fast’ was chosen in the early days.

In the early years teaching was disrupted because of the time it took pupils from the surrounding countryside to reach school by train. Some could not reach Newquay before 10.30am. Others had to leave early or late, or walk or cycle long distances.

But staff threw themselves into building an academic and social tradition at the new school. Houses were a feature of school organisation from the earliest days, with ‘Edgcumbe’ and ‘Treffry’houses for boys and the ‘Fates’ and the ‘Gorgons’ for girls. Later ‘Robartes’ house and the ‘Muses’ were added, and remained in existence until World War One.

In 1914 the outbreak of war meant improvisation became the norm, with no remaining male staff except head Mr Roseveare. During the war many old boys were injured in action, and four died, including a nephew of Mr Roseveare.

By the end of the war, numbers at the school had grown to more than 200. The building at Edgcumbe Avenue was seriously overcrowded, so Albany House on Truro Road was bought in 1919 to offer extra accommodation.

But it was soon decided to create two separate schools for different sexes, and the Albany House site became the County School for Girls, presided over by County School senior mistress Miss Bott. The school was still in need of much redecoration when it opened, and pupils lent a hand with cleaning and caretaking, but it soon became well-established.

In 1921, Miss Bott was replaced by Miss H. Beaumont. Meanwhile Mr Roseveare continued at the County School. Many new staff members were appointed between 1919 and 1922, including H.W. Chegwidden, who was to serve at the school for 38 years.

A small sixth form was established and the preparatory department, which had closed during the war, revived.

In 1928, after 18 years service, Mr Roseveare was replaced by Mr G.H. Widgery. Four years later Mr C.W. Greenwood and Dr R. Roberts joined the school, to remain for many years.

Although still rare, a larger number of pupils of both sexes began to continue to sixth form education and both schools suffered from a lack of space. Solutions included a wooden science classroom built behind Albany House in 1936.

Lack of space for sports hampered recreational activities, but good teams were developed, and the boys’ school benefited from a new playing field in 1934, and, two years later, a £1000 pavilion built with money from fundraising drives and donations. A strong source of revenue was found in the popular plays produced by boys and staff produced at Cosy Nook Theatre.

At both schools the houses continued their sporting and social activities, supporting local charities including the National Children’s Home, the Morfa boys home and Newquay Hospital, setting a tradition that was to continue for years.

But the schools’ organisation was transformed by the outbreak of World War Two. Many boys left the County School to join the forces, along with hundreds of old boys, with 24 losing their lives.

Large numbers of refugees and the development of RAF St Eval meant the schools also had to accommodate pupils from Plaistow Secondary School, St Angela’s Convent School, Benenden boarding school and Dartford College of Physical Education. Classroom space became so stretched teaching took place in the cafe at Trenance Gardens.

As men left to join the forces, women taught at the boys’ school for the first time.

Meanwhile at Albany House, under new head Margaret Wood, gardens became an allotment and air raid shelters were built.

Pupils threw themselves into raising money for the war effort. Iron railings from the boys’ school went to be turned into munitions. A branch of the Air Training Corps, 781 Flight, was formed at the school under Flight Lieutenant H.W. Chegwidden. RAF instructor Mr S.G. Sargent visited the school in his off-duty hours to help the boys, and came to teach maths at the school after he was demobilised.

With the end of the war came further changes in education with the introduction of the 11 plus exam, under which both the County School and Albany House became grammar schools.

Look out for more on the schools in next week’s NewquayVoice.

2 Comments

#1 11/05/2012 17:31Joan Timms commented...
This is interesting history. I have a photograph of all the pupils in the school taken in May 1939 and would like to donate it to any person who may be compiling a collection or history of the school.
They could contact me by email as above
#2 21/10/2013 14:07john michael beesley commented...
This article is first class and as an old pupil of the school brought back many pleasant memories for me. I well remember both Mr Chegwidden and Mr Widgery. I left the school and shortly joined The Army for a period of 5 years (RAPC). I had a pal from the sixth form named John Michael Harvey who I have completely lost touch with.Should any person reading this know of his present whereabouts do please let me know
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