Fond memories of St George’s

A class at St George's School from 1955.
A class at St George's School from 1955.

After Hull, Bridlington was the most bombed settlement in the East Riding during World War ll.

The worst period was between June 1940 and October 1941 when 27 people were killed and 40 seriously injured.

There were about 600 air raid warnings, 30 air raids, 100 houses destroyed and many more buildings damaged.

Flamborough Head was the obvious landmark for enemy planes both in and out. When they could not reach their target Bridlington would after as they returned.

On 15 November 1940, the assembly hall and science block at St George’s Boy’s School were both destroyed. The was particularly sad as this splendid school had only opened five years beforehand. The Girl’s School next door was even more recent, having beed opened on 5 May 1938.

The opening of the Boy’s School was a great event. The eleven acres of land had been purchased as early as 1911 but economic conditions in the country after the Great War did not allow a new school to be built until 24 years later.

Lord Halifax,”one of the outstanding statesmen of the age”, an ex Viceroy of India and “one of the most popular noblemen in the country”, performed the opening. He commented on how the Hadow Report had called for the creation of secondary schools and the rise in the school leaving age. St George’s was a response to this. The cost of the school was £16,553.

Mr S A Austin was appointed headmaster. Seven teachers were also appointed, two were from Bridlington schools while another five came from elsewhere.

I started at St George’s in September,1942, not long after the bombing. I remember some of the original staff: Mr Vasey (woodwork) , Mr Fenner (science), Mr K T O’Brien (geography) and Mr Ward.

Others had come by that time, including Miss Wheatley (history/English), Mr M E Ingram (geography),the famous author H L Gee, Mr R C Cundall and Johnny Walker, who seemed to do everything.

We had excellent report books which showed progress via graphs. In the front Mr Austin had included some wise words: “It should be said that there are qualifications other than a high percentage in an exam. We mean, of course, that character counts. Our aim should be to develop your personality as well as your ability. To have a reputation for regularity, industry, courtesy and eagerness to Please is as desirable, perhaps more desirable, than the list each term.”

He stressed from the start that teaching would be based on practical aspects relevant to vocations rather than preparation for professional jobs.

He said: “I don’t want you to think that when your boy is 14 at he must leave school. We want them to stay here until they have obtained a decent post. If they stay until they are 16 they will be able to specialise and have extra lessons if the so desire”.

This was advanced thinking for the 1930s. I know he meant it since he arranged for three pupils, including me, to take an exam to enter Bridlington School as late developers in 1946 when I was 15 years old. Two of us went through and on to significant careers.

I remember him as an impressive man often wearing a pin stripped suit and looking more like a business man than a headmaster. He was very decisive, firm and strong and, of course, he remained head for many years. He was very glad to see me when I returned on a visit after university.

I remember there were rough times with a big mixof pupils, mainly from the Old Town with families like the Stables and Gallaghers. We had very good playing fields, formerly the Priory Fields or Long River, once belonging to the monastery. The Archery Butts had been preserved.

I have a photograph of the football teams in 1944. Names I can remember are Swales, Canal, Redhead, Gilmore, Sedman, Dawson, Fairies, Watts, McCurdy, Bennett, Mossman, Daniels, Walton but I have lost the rest.

I shall always cherish my days at St George’s. It was there I learned how to succeed and was given a good foundation.

The boys and girls schools became St George’s County Secondary School in 1944, and Headlands Lower School in 1965. In 1985 the Boy’s School became part of the East Yorkshire College. Finally, in 2002 the girl’s school closed and in 2007 permission was granted to build houses on the site. So, what was a marvellous and successful concept ended after a short life of only 30 years.