Cowbridge School under Edith Bradbeer, part 2

1930 - 1953

By Geoffrey Cordingley


A significant step forward in the health of the children was the beginning of a milk club which started on 3rd February, 1930 with 23 children.  This would obviously help the health of those children taking part in the club but what about the others?  (As a result of the 1906 Education Act, Local Education Authorities were empowered to provide free school meals. In 1921 this was extended to free milk. In 1937 an investigation by John Boyd Orr revealed that there was a link between low-income, malnutrition and under-achievement in schools!)

Since one of the teachers had moved to Port Vale School in January 1928 one classroom had been unused.  This was useful since on 17th September, 1930, luckily before the school started, part of the ceiling in one of the infant rooms fell in and the children and the furniture had to be moved into the spare classroom.

In mid September, the Local Education Authority decided that because of the small classrooms & difficult grouping throughout the school a new teacher could be appointed.  The new teacher started work on 26th November at which point the classrooms in the Upper Department were rearranged with Class I again taught with Class II.  All rooms were now being used.


In 1927 Sir William Haddow, Chairman of the Board of Education produced a Report including the recommendation that “all-through schools” be abolished and that separate junior and secondary schools be established. This re-organisation took place in Hertford in September 1931 when Cowbridge School changed from being a Girls and Infants School to become a Junior Mixed & Infants School.  The older girls were moved to Port Vale School which now became a girls’ secondary school.

Preparations for this change were made in July when books for the use of senior scholars were packed and, as well as 30 large desks, marked and placed ready for removal to Port Vale School.  There is no mention of books and desks coming in, although more small desks would clearly be required.

During the holiday the school building was painted inside & out.  The partition in the main room was moved & the room was now more equally divided.  A new doorway was made in the cloakroom & part of the cloakroom was partitioned off for junior boys.  The Boy’s Office and the coal shed were not yet finished.  It’s not clear what the boys used for a toilet in the absence of completed “Offices”.


In the early 30s Hertford was in the middle of the depression just like everywhere else and there is mention of many of the children coming from very poor homes (living in over crowded yards.)  In December, 1932 a jumble sale was held and made £34/14/4d which was used to pay for the children’s Christmas tea parties.


By the middle of January, 1933 the school was hit by an influenza epidemic.  Miss Bradbeer considered that the children who were at school were very far from well.  By the end of the month, the teachers although managing to attend school were not well.  The attendance was down to 66.7% and the Chairman of the Local Education Committee, Mr Graveson, in agreement with the Chief Education Officer, closed the school for the rest of the week on 1st February.  It did not re-open until 13th when the teachers were in better health and attendance was up to 94%, although some of the children still had bad coughs.

In the HM Inspector’s report of the visit on 8th March, 1933, Mr Bloom acknowledged the uneven attainments of the incoming children after the re-organisation.  Miss Bradbeer was praised for her methodical approach whilst the teachers were preparing the lessons carefully and conscientiously.  Although there were weaknesses in arithmetic and grammar and spelling, in the tests the children who had been promoted to senior schools had showed a much better level of attainment.  The children read and recited very well, an improvement throughout the school.  Also the infants were taught in a kindly manner and were making very fair progress in the fundamentals.

The Easter holiday was extended for two days as repairs to the ceiling had not been completed.

Margaret Goodall, Railway Queen, visits Hertford

Margaret Goodall, Railway Queen, visits Hertford

On 13th July a half holiday was given when the Railway Queen of Great Britain visited Hertford.  52 children had bought tickets for the Fête held at Hartham.  The Railway Queen was chosen from amongst the children of railway workers at a Carnival held annually at Belle Vue, Manchester.  The ceremony was begun in 1925 to celebrate the centenary of the railways.

Miss Bradbeer was away from school for four days in late September, 1933 after the death of her mother.

In October and into November attendance dropped steadily down to 68.3% in the week ending 3rd November, 1933.  This was due to epidemics of chicken pox, mumps, and influenza.  These problems continued through the spring term in 1934 and included teacher illness.  As a result there were no examinations at the end of the term.


Towards the end of the summer term in 1934 a jumble sale was held when £4.17s.3d was raised towards buying a new piano, the current one being quite worn and unsteady on its legs.


An attendance holiday was taken on the afternoon of 12th April, 1935 after exceptionally high attendance for the previous month, higher than any other school in Hertford! (Since September 1905 in an attempt to improve attendance a school with a high enough attendance, over 90%, was granted a half-day holiday in the following month.)

School was closed on 6th & 7th May, 1935 for King George V’s Silver Jubilee Celebrations.

From the autumn half term holiday until the year end the afternoon playtime was shortened by 5 minutes allowing the school to close 5 minutes early so the children who came from some distance could get home before dark.


On Thursday, 23rd January the children left school at 11.55 in order to hear the proclamation of the King (Edward VIII) read at the Shire Hall at 12 o’clock.  On Tuesday, 28th a short service was held in the morning, at 9 o’clock, after which special lessons on the life of King George V were given in all classes, the point stressed being King George’s love of children.  The school was closed that afternoon.

The year ended 31st March 1936 was obviously less affected by epidemics than many as the attendance averaged 93.1% for the year.  Unfortunately such a high percentage would not be sustained through the next year as immediately after this there was an epidemic of measles which continued to affect the children until June!  In the two weeks before the Whitsun holiday the infant department was particularly badly affected with the attendance only 48.5% on 29th May.  By 19th June Miss Bradbeer was able to report that the attendance had reached 90.9% the highest since 27th March!  However by October whooping cough was affecting the children especially those in the infant department.  The children continued to be affected by whooping cough throughout the term and towards its end chills and influence were recorded.


Influenza and whooping cough continued to rage into the new year and on 15th January, 1937 Miss Bradbeer wrote to the School Medical Officer how badly the school had been affected throughout the last ten or eleven months.  This resulted in early February in the Medical Officer and the Sanitary Inspector inspecting the classrooms, the drains and the offices, etc.

By now there was a free milk list as Dr Whitelaw added 12 children’s names to it although five of them had brought money in anyway.

In early May suitable talks on the Coronation of King George VI & Queen Elizabeth were given in all classes; the rooms were decorated and a message from Mr Oliver Stanley, President of the Board of Education was been read.  After the singing of national songs & the National Anthem the school closed on the afternoon for the Coronation & Whitsun Holidays and re-assembled on 24th May, Empire Day.

On 26th May, the children were presented with books as Souvenirs of the Coronation of King George VI & Queen Elizabeth by the Mayor of Hertford & the Deputy Mayor. The Mayor spoke to the infants first & gave them their books then went to the Junior Department.  Here he spoke for a longer time.  Then three cheers were given for the Mayor & again for the Deputy Mayor: the National Anthem was sung. Books were presented (each inscribed with the child’s name) as the children returned to their classrooms.

In July 1937, there is an entry in the log book with an unreadable signature stating that the condition of the school building which was now 75 years old was below the standard of modern requirements.  So the staff were battling against the conditions in which they worked as well as the health of the children.


The Christmas parties for 1937 were held in January 1938 because of poor attendance and illness in the previous December.

On 23rd June, 1938 an eleven years old girl having fallen and grazed her leg in the playground complained more of her arm hurting.  She had apparently hurt it when knocked down by a motor car (although not run over) the previous evening.  Miss Bradbeer sent her to the hospital accompanied by another eleven years old girl via her home in North Road.  The other girl did not re-appear until 3.45pm.  The arm was broken and had been given the proper treatment and the girl returned home.  The next day the mother came to the school wanting to know what had happened.  The girl confessed that she had been knocked down and her mother was then satisfied by Miss Bradbeer’s actions.  The girl had not previously told her mother about the motor accident because she thought her mother would be cross!

On 22nd July, 1938 the school was closed on account of the Police Sports held in Balls Park.

The school was finally given an electricity supply on 1st October, 1938.  Previously gas lamps had been used for lighting.


1939 started with influenza and a good many cases of chicken pox.  By May the school was being assailed by whooping cough and scarlet fever.  The school was still affected after the Whitsuntide holiday when only half of the five years old children were present and the percentage for the whole school was only 77.5%  This continued through to late June.

On 5th July, 1939 a slate fell from the roof of the chapel with great force into the school playground but no one was injured as all the children were inside the school building.  The slate was replaced and the roof was checked two days later.

One boy passed the entrance examination to Ware Central School, three boys and one girl had gained special places at the Grammar Schools.

The Second World War

The outbreak of the war caused the school to be closed as there was no room to dig trenches for shelters should there be an aerial attack.  The books and some cupboards were transferred to St. Andrew’s School and from 20th September the schools re-opened using St. Andrew’s building with St. Andrew’s children working from 9am to 1pm and Cowbridge from 1.15pm to 5.15pm.  The schools then alternated morning and afternoon shifts in succeeding weeks.

Eleven children were subsequently transferred to Bengeo School as their parents thought St Andrew’s too far for them to walk.  The same number of children from London having been sent to Hertford to stay with relatives were admitted to the school.  These were not official evacuees. Attendance for all children was voluntary but only three five years old children did not attend. Thus the percentage for the week was 95.5%.

Miss Bradbeer insisted that work went on quite happily but it must have been difficult since apart from only half a day’s teaching there were numerous interruptions, particularly in the first two weeks, with workmen coming to fix wire-netting inside the windows and black blinds and curtains.

From 7th September the Cowbridge building was being used by the military for classes for soldiers and officers.  The military vacated the school on Wednesday, 18th October.  Presumably initial fears of aerial attack had now subsided because Miss Bradbeer was advised by the clerk to the Governors that the school could be re-opened for teaching on Monday, 23rd October.  Unfortunately the military had taken 4 blackboards and 2 easels with them!  These were only returned on 22nd November!

At this time the infant furniture was sent to Bengeo Parish Hall for use by Belmont Road Infants School, Tottenham and replaced by new furniture so Cowbridge did well out of this loan!

In early December the School Medical Officer reported a case of scarlet fever in Class V (Infants) and since there had been such cases off and on in that class since May 1937, he excluded all the children and the teacher in that class for a week.  He also took throat swabs of the teacher and two children.  However presumably no infection was detected as the teacher and all except one girl returned after the exclusion period finished.  There was no indication why the one girl did not return – whether her swab had proved positive or for some other reason.

Due to the blackout and the difficulty in obtaining butter the usual Christmas parties were not held in December, 1939.  The parties were not held in 1940 either when the children were given a bun and a bottle of milk.  In 1942 they were given a toffee apple each.  By 1943 the Christmas Parties were planned and special permits obtained for rationed foodstuffs only for an epidemic of influenza to cause the cancellation yet again.  However 12 evacuees did attend a Tea Party held at the Corn Exchange on 7th January, 1944.  At the end of 1944 the treat was cakes and buns.

At the end of 1939 four children whose parents had sent them to Hertford and had attended Cowbridge School returned to London presumably since the initial panic about air-raids had subsided.


As if the privations caused by the war were not enough, in January 1940 attendance was affected by severe weather and on Wednesday, 24th a brief thaw caused burst pipes to flood the Private Room and on Friday water poured in through the cloakroom roof.  On Monday, 29th attendance was down to 41%, hardly surprising in the circumstances.  By the next day the absence of water, frozen offices and the school thermometers not rising above 40°F all morning caused Miss Bradbeer to close the school for the afternoon but, being the redoubtable lady that she was, she told the children she expected a large number of them in school to-morrow as the pavements would be somewhat cleared!  However the attendance was even lower at 38.5% the next day!  But since the rooms were warm and the offices could be flushed the school remained open.

It remained open even though the pipes under the ground froze.  In spite of the conditions men were working on mending the cloakroom roof and unfreezing the pipes. By 9th February water was again available in the school apart from the boys’ offices.  By the end of February there were now no problems with water pipes and the cisterns in the school offices were working properly.

However illness then took its toll of the children affecting them from early February into March.  Eventually Miss Bradbeer succumbed: she was absent through most of May and June suffering from the effects of a chill initially and then later tonsillitis.  During this period the MH Inspector paid a visit but as Miss Bradbeer was absent he postponed the examination of work.

The Whitsuntide holiday was cut from the usual five days to one day because of the war!

At the outbreak of the war the school had 17 members of its National Savings Group.  This crept up to 23 and as a result of a campaign week in late June 1940 reached 78.  £5.5.0d was raised during this week.

(The National Savings Committee was started in March 1916 supplemented by voluntary local groups and some paid civil servants.  The aim was to raise money for the Government with a low level of return but the guarantee of Government backing.  The movement raised much needed funds for the Government during World War II.  Its early symbol was the swastika but this was changed before the war to St George slaying the dragon,  for obvious reasons.  In 1976 the Government removed the civil servants from the movement and it finally closed down in 1978.)

The summer holiday was only three weeks and split into two with two weeks off from 26th July followed by two weeks of normal lessons in the morning and Handwork, story lessons and games in the afternoons and then one more week off at the end of August.

An entrance to an air-raid shelter probably similar to those at Port Vale School.

An entrance to an air-raid shelter probably similar to those at Port Vale School.

When school re-assembled 18 parents refused to send their children to the school until air raid shelters were provided.  Parents of three other children pointed out the risk to children who lived some distance from the school if there was an air-raid whilst they were going to or from school and wondered if local householders could show signs in their windows offering shelter in this eventuality.  Miss Bradbeer sent these comments along with a list of the parents’ names to the Local Education Authority.  One could see the parents point of view since the children carried on working when the siren went and if they heard bombs or aircraft they were to sit on the floor with their heads under the tables!  Not quite as silly as the advice given in the sixties should a nuclear bomb be dropped but rather worrying if you were a child or parent.

The parents protests seem to have an effect since Cowbridge School was closed on Friday, 11th October and re-opened on the 17th sharing the Port Vale building with the senior girls’ school.  During the first week Cowbridge children worked from 9am to 12noon and the senior girls worked in the afternoon from 1pm to 4pm.  This was then reversed the following week.

The young children settled very well and much appreciated having the Air Raid Shelters and on Monday, 21st October (Trafalgar Day!) when bombs were dropped on Hertford they spent the time from 11:03 to 1:18pm in them.

The two infant classes were together in one half of the hall at desks moved from the old building, the other half being used presumably for assemblies.  The infant classes would be separated once foot rests were supplied for the larger desks.  The junior children used the senior girls desks but had the problem of sitting at desks which were too high for them.  At least once in them the children would stay in them!

In the beginning of November the senior children of the Jewish Orphanage were using the Cowbridge School building.  The orphanage children had been sharing the Longmore Senior School but in September that had received a direct hit with a bomb.  Miss Bradbeer recorded a list of furniture lent to the Orphanage staff.

(The Jewish Orphanage was based in West Norwood in South London and in 1939 at the beginning of the war the children were moved to homes in Worthing.  After the fall of France it was considered that Worthing was too close to the action and so the children were moved to Hertford.)

As it was impossible to hold the usual Christmas tea parties each child was given a bun and a bottle of milk on the final morning of the Autumn Term.  The morning ended with games and the children left at 12.20pm.  For the last three days of the term the school was opened at 9.15am so that the children who came from some distance were not required to leave home during the blackout.


School re-assembled on the afternoon of 7th January but at 1:20pm they hurried to the shelters after the siren had sounded.  They stayed there for the rest of the afternoon.  Some brave parents collected their children at 4pm but the rest were collected at 4.55 when the All Clear was sounded.  Miss Bradbeer was keen to point out that the teachers did not leave until 5.35pm.

In early 1941 the usual illnesses this time including mumps allied to the bad weather affected the attendance.  On 7th March, 41 children from Cowbridge along with 14 from St Andrews’ and 2 from Port Vale and one child under 5 were inoculated against diphtheria.  Diphtheria was the first of the major programmes of vaccination.

On 11th March, 1941, the doctor advised that 4 more children receive free milk taking the total number to 28.  27 were recommended for free meals and another 58 professed interest in a school dinner club when it is formed.  When the club opened on 8th September, 1941 only 10 children had lunch!  By October, 34 children were eligible for free dinners.

The school closed for the usual five weeks during the summer but each teacher gave up two weeks holiday to help run a holiday camp.

In September two boys went on to Hertford Grammar School, one on a free scholarship and one as a Newton exhibition scholar.  Also one girl had passed the entrance examination to Ware Central School.

In September, 1941 there were 17 evacuees attending the school, 18 by the beginning of October.

On 30th November, 1941 a man from the Ministry of Information gave a talk on the salvage campaign.


By January, 1942 the Port Vale classrooms had been re-organised with Cowbridge now using 4 classrooms with the other two classrooms being used by Port Vale girls.  The staff gave up two days of their Christmas holiday to carry out the necessary work.  The juniors were now able to work full time whilst the infants were still doing a double shift but were able to take over a fifth classroom from 2nd February and work full-time again.

Two of the teachers attended an eight day refresher course in Physical Training held at Ware Central School so the classes had to be re-organised during that period.  The County Council had suggested that schools finish at 3pm but Cowbridge went on until 3.30pm as the children had been on double shift for so long.

Those having milk were allowed 2/3 pint from the middle of March, 1942.

16th March, 1942 was Warship Week when £50 was raised for the cause.

During the Easter holiday 1942, two classrooms were used for a newly formed play centre and the Jewish orphanage used the hall for the Feast of the Passover.

By the Whitsun holiday 1942 (restored to a full week) 75 children were having a school dinner, 35 of these free.  The dinner interval was from 12noon to 1.30pm and three teachers were willingly on duty throughout this period.

In the week beginning 25th June, 1942 Rev. J. Dakin gave a 20 minutes talk to classes I & II in connection with Religion & Life Week.

Further outbreaks of measles and whooping cough meant that from 1st May, 1942 until 17th July the percentage attendance did not reach 90%.

A play centre was operated in the school during the four week summer holiday in 1942.  It was not operated by the teachers although two teachers helped in the mornings of the last week.  The children were given milk in the first and last weeks only as the cook had two weeks holiday in the middle weeks.  A deferred week’s Summer holiday was given in the first week in October.

There were still 8 evacuees in the school in September, 1942.

In September 1942 two girls gained special places and two others paid places at Ware Grammar School.  A London boy gained a place at Battersea Grammar School which had been evacuated to Hertford and was sharing the Hertford Grammar School building.

The school closed on 9th & 10th November 1942 for a mid-term break.  For those two days the school was used as a play centre.  Unfortunately the infants’ chairs, bought in 1940, were roughly treated as larger boys used them to give smaller children sledge rides up & down the floor.  The piano which had been overhauled at Whitsun had a castor replaced in the overhaul ripped off.

At the end of the autumn term the children sang Christmas songs and carols as usual but did not have a party.  However the cook did give a special dinner in the canteen and managed to make each child a toffee apple which delighted the children.

The County Hospital Christmas appeal resulted in £3.8.7 being collected which was twice the amount raised the previous year.


By February, 1943 it was impossible to obtain milk straws and so the County Council supplied 13 dozen beakers which the caretaker generously agreed to wash.

On 9th February, 1943 all gas masks were checked by two Air Raid Wardens.

In late February an HMI came to see the children have lunch!

The last week in February was the first time during the spring term that the percentage attendance reached 90%.


Port Vale School

Port Vale JMI

In June 1943 it was decided for as long as Cowbridge School Staff & Scholars were using the building, the school would be known as Port Vale Junior Mixed & Infants School.  The note of instruction from County Education Officer was dated 12th June.

The school never returned to the Cowbridge building and remained as Port Vale JMI until the Hollybush JMI building was built in the1960s.  In 1968 Mill Mead School was opened on the Port Vale site.

Miss Bradbeer’s contract ended on 3rd June, 1953. However, as the week beginning 25th May was Whitsun Holiday week and the following three days were given as holiday to celebrate the coronation, 22nd May was her last day of teaching service.

Miss Bradbeer who had been a great servant of the school was obviously touched by her treatment in her last week which was made very pleasant by the staff & children and by the visits of friends.  Amongst these visitors were Major R.P.Woodhouse, Vice Chairman of the Herts County Education Committee; the Revd S Bradney, Chairman to the Managers & Governors; Miss K.M. Bedington District Education Officer (DEO); Miss J.V. Herklots former D.E.O; and Mr Harry Grey, now in his 89th Year, who had been a member of the Committee which appointed Miss Bradbeer in 1923. She fully appreciated all this kindness as well as the gifts from staff, children & friends, managers & governors & co-head teachers, and from former pupils.

This page was added on 26/07/2015.

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