Manor Memories by Sara Organ
I came to The Manor Preparatory School in 1972, when I was 9 years old. I have some very fond memories of my time here and, hopefully, my memory will serve me right as I recall some of them now…
My memories of how The Manor looked back then …
My very first classroom at The Manor was a pale yellow painted terrapin positioned in front of the present library. We had no lovely playground equipment like today and amused ourselves by playing elastic, cat’s cradle and skipping or clapping games at playtime. One of our favourite games was playing on the stones situated around the tree outside the Caretaker’s cottage (now Learning Support). In my first year I made a sewing kit, sewing bag and apron which I still use today. I also remember using the easels in art class which was held in what is now The Bursar’s office.
In my last year, The Head’s office was my classroom (Form V1). A large, rolling blackboard was positioned where the fireplace is now. Fountain pens were always used for handwriting (I used to spend hours practising italic writing but being left handed invariably smudged most of my work!). Some pupils found other uses for their fountain pens and the bare wooden floor boards in our classroom frequently became the target for a game of darts with various nibs being broken and fountain pens oozing their contents all over the floor. Mrs Kilgour, a fervent and enthusiastic teacher of mathematics would frequently hammer the chalk on the board saying “It’s a common denominator!”.
I can also remember the little bottles of milk for morning break (frozen in winter, warm in summer) were placed in a crate outside the door in the courtyard by The Barn, this space is still referred to as the Milk Yard today.
The Library was our Main Hall where we had assemblies and sang our hymns. At one end was a black upright piano and at the other end, a little stage where we sat at trestle tables for lunch. Some of the girls used to delight in collapsing the legs on one side of the table to create a slope, so if you forgot to hang on to your pudding it would often run away from you! School dinners were brought over from St Helen’s and St Katherine’s as there was only a small kitchen where the visitor toilets are now.
The doors to The Barn used to bring you straight into Sister Christina’s garden, Sister Christina was the nun who taught us Divinity. You can still see the wall running around the perimeter of the garden where the Dining Room and Nursery are now. The Nursery gate closest to the Main Hall was where we would walk through to get to the newly opened Abingdon bypass, A34 Bridge which was opening in 1973. All the present playing fields were farmer’s fields back then.
For all our PE lessons we had to walk over the A34 bridge to the playing fields, courts and gym at St Helen’s. The PE uniform was a heavy, grey woollen shawl-collared jumper, pale green Aertex shirt, green socks and not forgetting the green knickers!
Miss Mary Welch was the Headmistress, her office was where the School Office is now. She always brought her two Bassett Hound dogs to school with her in her yellow Volvo estate car. She adored them and they slept in their baskets in front of her desk. She also kept donkeys but luckily she kept these at home! She was an astute lady, very strict but kind with, at times, a dry but fair sense of humour.
Purchased from the second hand shop or from ‘Elliston’s’ (now ‘Debenhams’ in Oxford), the winter uniform consisted of a bottle green pinafore, pale pink checked blouse, bottle green cardigan, blazer, tweed coat, grey felt hat, beige socks, green knickers and brown shoes. Summer uniform was a straw boater, green blazer and a cotton dress, which had to be made up at home from green or pink checked material.
My favourite teacher in my first year was my lovely, smiley French teacher, Mrs Tranter whose daughter Jane was in my class. I remember her being extremely amused when I chose to draw ‘mon visage’ with my compass to get the perfect circle and she told me that it would be fine to just draw it free hand. To me, the compass had seemed just the right tool for the job!
Mrs Sara Organ
Early Years Administrator and Teaching Assistant
Manor Mummies Re-Unite! – March 2016
On Friday I was delighted to be invited to a convivial chat in the Dining Room, the other guests were very special – Manor mummies and members of staff who were also pupils here. Over coffee and biscuits, out came some old whole school photographs so there was much chatter over “name that teacher” and “look at that haircut!”. There were some common stories surrounding the concrete mushrooms that used to be in the playground, tales regaled of sitting on them and jumping over them – sadly they are long since gone. Another common thread was everyone’s dislike for quiche – it must have been really bad in earlier times to manage to put everyone off it for life! The Manor’s history book was well-thumbed as pieces of The Manor’s history were unravelled around the table. It was a privilege to be included in such a special morning and we hope that we can do it more often; we are sure there are more mummies out there who were once pupils – please do join us next time.
Mrs Karen Copson