It’s Playtime At Crawley Museum

Teddy Bear in doll's cot

On October 30th Crawley Museum will be opening their latest exhibition, and for it to be a success they need everybody’s help.

To make it work the museum is asking everybody who can to come along and share their memories of the toys they loved as children. If you still have that old teddy, a doll, or train that made you happy when you were small, Crawley Museum would dearly love to be able to borrow it for the duration of the exhibition.

The exhibition itself includes display boards, video, and toys which you can touch and play with. But what it’s really all about is your own memories of dolls, bears, Meccano, Hornby and Airfix.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the toys which you remember, they’d still love to hear your stories of the way you used to play, or indeed the way you still play today.

If you have an abiding memory of a much loved toy, or you have a toy which you are prepared to lend to Crawley Museum for other people to see and enjoy, then please get in touch. If you are in a position to make a loan of your cherished toy, don’t worry! The toys which you provide won’t be among those which will be used in the toy box and played with by other visitors, instead your loans will be carefully put in a cabinet where they can be seen, but not touched.

For more details on how you can get involved with the Toys exhibition, what it involves, times and dates simply ask at the museum reception, call 01293 539088, or send an email to office@crawleymuseums.org

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Education and Community Liaison

I have been carrying out the role of Learning and Liaison officer for Crawley Museum over the last 12 months. This involves working on learning activities as well as liaising with members of Crawley’s communities. As part of my work I have run outreach sessions for schools, and have also drawn up the education session summaries for the sessions at the new museum when it opens. I am now working on activity sheets and am developing plans for a range of learning opportunities in the new museum, including children’s craft activities, preschool sessions, and adult learning opportunities. I am fortunate to have a dedicated group of volunteers who are interested in helping with this, and we recently held a very interesting workshop on family learning. Some of the volunteers have also helped me with running stands at community events. These have included Armed Forces Day, the Crawley Big Seven-0 and the vintage picnics at Worth Park. We took along a selection of old photos of Crawley, and people really enjoyed looking at them and sharing their memories.

I have enjoyed getting to know a number of the local groups in Crawley and talking to them about ideas for temporary exhibitions and activities at the museum. This has included working with the Refugees Welcome Group on their community quilt project on happy memories, which will be displayed in the new museum. Other groups have included the Gurjar Hindu Union, the Polish Saturday School, the Crawley Campaign against Racism and the Crawley Inter-Faith Forum. I have represented the museum at events run by the CHAGOS (Cultural Heritage Across Generations) project which is led by social anthropologists from Edinburgh University, and have met with Raminder Kaur, who is planning to hold an exhibition based on her play Silent Sisters (about the partition of India) at the new museum. I have also worked with Southgate Forum, helping them to organise a community exhibition of photos of Southgate.

I’m very much looking forward to working more with people from all over Crawley in the coming year. If you know of any groups who would be interested in working with us please get in touch!

Andrea Dumbrell, Learning and Liaison Officer 

CSCMS WG153 CofE School viewed from Victoria Road

Memories of West Green School

West Green C of E School

1824-1955

The school was started for the poor of Crawley and Ifield for eighty boys and forty girls by Sarah Robinson but it very soon had more children as time went on. My mother attended this school from 1905 until leaving in 1912 along with Miss Parsons who later became a teacher at the school from 1920-1955 and retired in 1955 when the old school closed. After 35 years, she was well respected. In the 1930s 2 new class rooms were built facing Spencers Road for the infants, to take 96 children. The teachers were a Miss Greenwood and Mrs Jenkins.

I attended the school in September 1940 and I was in Mrs Jenkins’ class. The teachers when I joined were Mr Weston, Miss Davis, Miss Parsons, Miss Greenwood and Mrs Jenkins. I cannot remember any of the others.

1940 was a time of upheaval. Classes were regularly disrupted on the sound of the air raid warning night and day as the Battle of Britain was being fought above our heads. Also, we only went to school in the mornings because of the influx of evacuee children so the class times were split. The local children attended school from 9am until 12 and the evacuee children from 1.30 to 4.30pm until other rooms were found for them. We were issued with identity cards and the dreaded gas masks which we had to ear for 10 minutes or so after assembly. I can’t remember anyone who liked this.

Around this time milk was introduced. The bottles held a 1/3 of a pint cost ½ penny a bottle. Also, school dinners were available but I don’t know how much they cost. The canteen was held in the Scout hut which was next door to the school in Victoria Road. Both schools used this facility.

We were taught the 3 Rs plus History and Geography. Punishments were the usual lines, kept in after school to write them. Also, Miss Parsons was a dab hand with the ruler across the knuckles and Mr Winter was a crack shot with a piece of chalk. Miss Davis used to wear a thimble and she would rap you between the shoulders or on the head. It was like being attacked by a woodpecker. I don’t think it did us any harm. Probably a lot of good.

The date the 9th of February 1943, a date I shall never forget, at about 8.30am the sound of aero engines and machine gun fire was heard. The next thing was all our windows were blown in and all our ceilings came down and thick black smoke rolled through the house. An explosion was not heard. The infants’ classrooms were destroyed. The main school building had no roof, ceilings or windows. The Scout hut was badly damaged and the school bike shed was blown down trapping Mrs Rice underneath. She was the school caretaker. When she was found, she suffered from shock and bruises. What luck – half an hour later and I wouldn’t have been here talking to you now.

One afternoon on leaving school we were given a note to take home to our parents to say we would be late home the following day. The next day after leaving school army lorries were parked in Victoria Road and the Canadian soldiers took us up to Tilgate Forest to a party. I think we had more sweets given to us than the whole 5 years of rationing.

The 10th July 1944 when we got to school we were told it was closed because a V1 had landed in Malthouse Road allotments and did not explode and the people who lived in Malthouse Road had been evacuated to our school until the flying bomb had been disarmed. Later in the day the people who lived in Oak Road and West Street were not so lucky when a V1 dropped there killing seven and injuring 4 people. Local people who saw it like myself thought at the time the pilot tipped it. The pilot visited the crash and broke down in tears. The pilot was Polish.

A third V1 dropped in Ifield on land adjacent to Ifield School in the Rusper Road. It was never used again. The remains of the school are still there.

 By Rick Leigh, February 2017

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