Memories of school are set in stone
The sculpture marking the site of the former Mangotsfield C of E School
A PERMANENT memorial to the school where generations of Mangotsfield children were educated has been officially unveiled.
Four former pupils of Mangotsfield Church of England Primary School pulled the cover from a sculpture of a boy and girl reading on a bench, which stands at the gateway used by pupils for more than a century to enter the school from St James Street.
The £15,000 cost of the project has been paid for by Cotswold Homes, the developer which built new homes on the site of the school after it was demolished in 2018.
Staple Hill and Mangotsfield ward councillor Michael Bell and the Mangotsfield Residents Association pushed for a permanent memorial to the school, which was open from 1876 until 1999, when staff and children moved to a new school in Emersons Green.
At a socially-distanced ceremony to unveil the statue on October 12, Michael thanked Cotswold Homes director Liam Rinn, who worked with him to ensure the school received a fitting memorial after the development of 21 homes was finished in March.
Liam said the firm felt it was important to ensure the school was remembered in the community and said: "Hopefully it's something which will be there for generations to come."
Residents association chair and community pastor Clive Heath dedicated the memorial and highlighted the school's importance, not only as a seat of learning but also in teaching Christian beliefs after it replaced the nearby Dame School, and as "a big part of Mangotsfield history".
The sculpture was created by Tom Whitehead, who grew up in South Gloucestershire but is now based in Yorkshire. He was unable to attend due to having a child self-isolating under Covid-19 rules. Clive paid tribute to his "fantastic" work.
Former pupil Malcolm Coles, of Downend, was involved in the sculpture project from an early stage and has many good memories of his school days, which started during the Second World War, when the school was still lit by gaslight, had outdoor toilets with no hot water, and received deliveries of 1/3-pint milk bottles for pupils by Co-op lorry every morning.
Malcolm said: "Three of my grandparents attended Mangotsfield Church of England School, as did my parents.
"I began in the infants school in 1942, when it was important to carry out drills going into the air-raid shelters which were in the playground.
"The playground was unmade; it was compacted earth with many protruding stones (there were many scratches and bruises, but that was life!).
"There was also a stone wall stretching from the St. James’ Street boundary towards the school building. The boys played on one side and the girls the other.
"The only time we saw grass was on sports day, when we would be walked up Elmleigh Road to the Hut Field in Cossham Street."
During Malcolm's school days the headmaster was Mr Lindsay Farmiloe and the other teachers he remembers were Miss Savary and Miss Goddard in the infants and Miss Mills, Mrs Jones and Mrs Bullock in the juniors, before Mr Thomas arrived in 1947, having been demobbed from the RAF.
He said the arrival of a canteen for school dinners costing 5 pence per day, in 1945, was welcomed by parents, as they did not have to use ration coupons for them.
Carol Lucas (nee Thompson) and Jan Peters (nee Garland) started their lifelong friendship at the school, which they attended from 1955-61.
Carol remembered class teacher Mr Higgins, who was rumoured to have been a commando during the war, and often wore a blue beret.
She said: "He used to be very strict but was a very good teacher and a lot of us in his class passed the 11 plus."
Carol also had fond memories of lollipop man Mr Stiddard, Mr Gregory, Mr Gill and the owner of nearby sweet shop, Mrs Lane.
She said: "If you fell down in the playground and got a scraze (a cross between a graze and a scratch), you went to the headmasters’ office where you had iodine painted on it – it was really yellow but it was a badge of honour!
"Mr Farmiloe lived opposite Carson’s chocolate factory and all the pupils would receive a small bag of chocolates when we broke up for the Christmas holidays. We thought this was wonderful.
"I and many many others, including our own children, have wonderful memories of our carefree days at the school and we were devastated when the decision was made to pull it down. We even thought of chaining ourselves to the digger but we must say the developers have kept the houses in keeping with Mangotsfield village.
"The statue is a great reminder of our younger days."
A call has been made for anyone with information about the old school bell, which has disappeared since the centenary celebrations in 1976, to come forward.
• Did you attend the old Mangotsfield Co f E Primary School? If our article has brought back memories, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.