Hertford Schools in WW2

Geoff Cordingley

Note: Where amounts of money are mentioned, a figure in brackets indicates the approximate value in 2019.

The Longmore Centre

During the holidays, staff at Cowper School housed in the Longmore building blacked out the windows.  Mr. Stalley the head teacher was very grateful to the teachers who had given up their own time to perform this activity.

After the outbreak of war, schools did not re-open until 20th September. On 31st August schools were instructed (directive EC4517) not to open on 4th September owing to the London Evacuation Scheme. A meeting was held on 6th September  at Kingsmead School between Hertford and London County Council head teachers about when to reopen the schools.  This finally happened on the 20th.

On 14th September directive EC4534 stated that children privately evacuated were to be included on the Hertfordshire Schools’ register but marked with an ‘R’.

Port Vale School in the early 50s

Port Vale Girls’ School accepted 89 new girls in September 1939 with 25 coming from London – these were described as 12 attached (presumably school evacuees) and 13 unattached (presumably children sent by parents)- and one from Portsmouth.

When the schools did re-assemble Cowbridge children shared with St. Andrew’s School as there was no room at Cowbridge to dig trenches for shelters should there be an aerial attack.  In the first week, St. Andrew’s children worked 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 who had previously attended Cowbridge were subsequently transferred to Bengeo School as their parents thought St Andrew’s too far for them to walk.

Eleven London children staying with relatives in Hertford & not evacuated under the Government Scheme were admitted to Cowbridge as well as two children five years of age.   Thirty children had been transferred to secondary schools so all in all Cowbridge had 150 children on the books.

Attendance for all children during this period was voluntary but only three five years old children did not attend Cowbridge. Thus the percentage for the second week was 95.5%.

Miss Bradbeer , Mistress of Cowbridge, 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.

Cowbridge School from Dimsdale Sreet, 2013

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!

Evacuated Schools

Three schools were evacuated to Hertford.

Fire Watch

Churchfields 2019 originally Abel Smith Memorial Girls’ School

For the area covering All Saints Church, the Longmore School Building, All Saints Infants School and All Saints Junior Mixed School, rotas were drawn up for three persons to be on duty per night. The Jewish Orphanage Staff would not commence its duties until blankets were supplied for their separate use, and until this was done the schools would not be watched on one night per week.

Dr. Pankhurst who was at Hertford Grammar School during the war remembers – “Every evening a fire watch was mounted by one master and two prefects. At intervals along the corridors were buckets of sand and of water, with a small hand pump. We did not know how useless they would have been. The Germans dropped small bombs containing magnesium which split open on contact with a roof and rolled into the valley gutters. The magnesium ignited, melted the lead of the gutters, and the blazing material fell into the wooden rafters, which collapsed and fell to the floors below. We had no ladders and no idea of what to expect. The air raids concentrated on London, and all we could see was an orange glow in the sky to the South as the city burned. We spent our evenings in the Headmaster’s study playing records on his gramophone before going to sleep on the camp beds in the room.”

On 5th June 1940 Port Vale Girls’ School received a Stirrup Pump, Bucket, Hose, Shovel, etc. in case of Air Raid attack and on 14th two mistresses attended the instruction on the use of the Stirrup-Pump, at the Hertford Fire Station (then in Mill Road.)

At various times air raid wardens visited schools to test the children’s gas masks, e.g. April 23rd 1941 at Port Vale Girls.  Also  on Sept. 16th: “Two wardens came & tested & repaired gas masks of all those present.”

Bad Winter 1940

As if the privations caused by the war were not enough, the winter of 1940 was very bad including severe frost and heavy snow falls.  e.g. only 55% of girls at Port Vale attended school on 30th January ( heavy snow) and all that week there were severe frosts, the lavatory pans were frozen and water had to be turned off at the mains.  This also affected staff!

In late February, ” …. great difficulty has been experienced this week in keeping the fires going as it has been impossible to obtain a supply of coal.”

At Cowbridge School in January 1940 attendance was also affected by severe weather and on Wednesday, 24th a brief thaw caused burst pipes to flood the Private Room and on Friday (26th) water poured in through the cloakroom roof! Men had to take shovels & cut blocks of ice on the flat part of the roof because the ceiling began to give way.

Hardly surprising in the circumstances, on Monday, 29th attendance was down to 41%.   The next day the absence of water, frozen offices2 and the school thermometers not rising above 40°F (4.4°C) 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.

The school remained open even though the pipes under the ground were frozen. 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’ offices2.  By the end of February there were now no problems with water pipes and the cisterns in the school offices were working properly.

Even when the bad weather had abated, in March the attendance was down to  75.8% as influenza was “very prevalent”.

Lack of shelters at Cowbridge School

Cowbridge School Playground extension now used as a car park

In September 1940 Miss Bradbeer was told by 18 parents they were refusing to send their children to school until air raid shelters were provided.  This information along with the parents names and addresses was referred to the County Council.  It replied that it was not possible to construct trenches, and that owing to the shortage of materials it was impossible to provide any further shelters.  The Managers, however, considered that shelters could be constructed in the playground, and the Clerk was instructed to urge the County Council to provide such shelters, and that until they were erected the Managers felt that they must be relieved from any responsibility in the event of casualties occurring.  The Managers understood that materials for the construction of such shelters could be obtained from a number of firms in the district.  Mr. Bunt and Mrs. Addis (two of the managers) were authorised to see the Chief Education Officer on this matter.

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.

Port Vale School – now Mill Mead School

The parents protests seem to have had an effect since Cowbridge School was closed on Friday, 11th October and it re-opened on the 17th sharing the Port Vale building with the senior girls’ school where shelters had been constructed. This decision was probably also influenced by the bombs landing on the town in late September.

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, and so on.

Miss Bradbeer considered that the Cowbridge children had settled really well and they were very appreciative of the shelters.

This building was originally the CAWG Hall rebuilt in 1934 after being damaged when the Oaker’s buildings were demolished

In 1942 in an attempt to give more children full-time education  Port Vale Girls were split between three locations – Longmore School Hall, Christian Alliance of Women & Girls (C.A.W.G3) Hall in St. Andrew Street and Port Vale School.  From 1st Jan the staff had moved furniture and equipment to Longmore Hall & C.A.W.G. Hall.  First Year girls were taught at Longmore Hall with the Second  Year at Port Vale (using 2 Classrooms) and the third year at C.A.W.G. Hall.

This reorganisation allowed the Secondary and Junior children (now using four classrooms at Port Vale) to work all day with the Infants still working part-time.

There are 188 girls on roll, of whom 9 were official evacuees. All classes visited Port Vale once weekly for Needlework, Handwork & Art classes, & the Staff continued to specialise as formerly.  A school Assembly was held every Friday from 3.10 – 4 o’clock at Longmore Hall.  HMI was happy with the school being run over three sites.

From 28th June 1943 the entire senior school was housed at Longmore & from that date on, while occupying these premises, it was known as the Longmore Senior Girls’ School.  A week later six evacuees from Eastbourne were admitted.

From the same date, what had been Cowbridge School was now known as Port Vale JMI.


A circular letter from the County Council was presented to the School Managers, indicating that the question of closing schools in the event of severe air raids must be left to the discretion of the Chairman or some other Manager to whom the responsibility had been delegated.  It was agreed by the Hertford managers that the Chairman and Vice Chairman should be empowered to make such a decision if necessary.

The logbook of Port Vale School provides an insight into the number of times the air-raid sirens were sounded in Hertford during Second World War.

The first mention of the sirens being sounded was not until September 1940.  From then on they came so thick and fast there can have been little time for studying at least until the new year by which time schools usually continued as normal after the warning siren had been sounded.

On 2nd September the air-raid was sounded just on the close of the afternoon Session at Port Vale.  The girls took shelter in the one dug-out available.  As the bus did not arrive for the Hertingfordbury girls the Headmistress phoned to the car park centre to ask for one to be sent. The bus left at 6.20 p.m.  The Headmistress pointed out that she remained on duty until this time.

The following table shows how much time the children spent in the shelters each week at Port Vale over the succeeding three months.  It also compares the attendances for those weeks with the same week in 1939 where these are available. It should be noted that attendance in both years could also be affected by illness, e.g. influenza epidemics, and bad weather especially in winter.

1940 Wk endingNo of DisturbancesTotal LengthAttendance 1940Attendance same wk 1939
6th September68 hr 10 min90.40%
13th September11 hr 10 min84.40%
20th September54 hr 10 min82.90%
27th September54 hr 15 min74.80%93.70%
4th October53 hr 55 min79.20%
11th October149 hr 15 min84.60%
18th October85 hr 20 min79.50%88.40%
25th October44 hr71.10%89.90%
1st November32 hr 45 min84.84%89.10%
8th November54 hr 30 min77.40%92.3%
15th November0080.90%92.7%
22nd November145 min81.40%93%
29th November120 min85.20%89.30%
6th December0080%89.50%
13th December115 min80.70%89.50%
Total5849 hr 5 min

These air-raid warnings coincided with the Luftwaffe systematically bombing London which began on 7th September and continued for 56 out of the succeeding 57 days and nights.  The Luftwaffe gradually decreased daylight operations in favour of night attacks to evade the RAF fighters, and the Blitz became a night bombing campaign after October 1940.  Although this had an effect on children’s sleep which would have affected their ability to learn, it probably accounts for the reduction in the direct effect on schools.

The Headmistresses at both Cowbridge JMI and Port Vale Girls’ Schools attributed the low attendances from October to the year end to the air-raids.

Into 1941, seven warnings were sounded in January but at Port Vale Seniors, after the first one, the teachers did not take the children to the shelters but continued with their lessons.

On 31st January only 66 children were present out of a possible 196 in the afternoon as an air-raid was in progress during the whole of that session until 3.50 p.m. Children were not taken to the shelters and the Time Table was not adhered to.

There was one air raid alert on 21st February.  It lasted for 15 minutes and the children were not taken to the shelter.

After that the only mention of a warning was on 16th June, 1944.  “This morning we opened school without realising that there was still an “Alert”.  The “All Clear” went about 9.25.  During the morning session the warning sounded again & we spent  almost an hour in the Shelters.  It was our first Shelter “experience” since 9th February 1943.”

Air Raid Damage

On 24th September 1940 an air-raid on Hertford caused much damage to property and a number of deaths.  Girls from the neighbourhood did not attend school.

Longmore building after the bomb damage on the night of 10th October 1940

On the night of 10th October serious air raid damage occurred to Longmore School and All Saints Infants School.  Two HE bombs fell on the playground of Longmore and the new building was badly damaged with the science laboratory and ground floor classrooms being demolished.  In the new building the E room and staff room were destroyed, the stock room was badly damaged and serious damage occurred to every other part of the building including the hall.  Lavatories, sheds, stores, etc. were all badly ripped and scattered.

As a result Cowper boys returned to the Cowper building (after it had been cleaned and Red Cross departed) which was fully opened by 24th October.  All Saints Infants occupied the old Green Coat School Building (2 classes) and Longmore School Hall (2 classes).  Presumably the latter was not too seriously damaged and it had been quickly repaired.

Mr Stalley,9 Cowper School headmaster, his staff and boys managed to recover around 60% of the furniture and equipment from the Longmore building.

As some parents were apparently not aware of the arrangements made for accommodating the Infants it was suggested at a manager’s meeting that notices should be posted in the other schools and if possible a paragraph inserted in the Herts Mercury.

Four parents who had allowed small groups of Infants to receive instruction in private houses pending the completion of arrangements for accommodating the Infants School were paid 1/- (£2.78) per day per room.

The children from the Jewish Orphanage school who had been sharing the All Saints’ Infant and Longmore buildings were moved to Cowbridge School.

All Saints Infants School returned to its own, patched-up building by 22nd February 1941 although one class stayed in Green Coats until the summer, as a result of an HMI recommendation!

Cowper School stayed in its own building (until 1957) and when Longmore was fully available.

In 1943 senior girls from Port Vale moved into the Longmore building, see “No Shelters at Cowbridge School” above.

At the end of October 1940 there was some damage to the Oriel window in the top rooms of Cowper School caused by a controlled explosion of a bomb which had fallen in Park Road.


In 1940 the Whitsun Holiday was curtailed, one day’s holiday being taken instead of five as originally scheduled.  The reason given was the National Crisis.

Summer holidays during the war were given in different ways every year.  The following table shows when the holidays were taken.

YearSummer TimeDeferred holidayWeeksNotes
194029th July – 9th August26th – 30th August31 & 2
1941Friday 1st August – Monday, 8th September5 + 2 days3, 4
194210th August – 4th September5th – 9th October55, 6, 7
19432nd  – 13 August20th September – 1st October48
194431st July – 25th August49
194530th July – 7th September610


  1. At Cowbridge during the school time in August the ordinary timetable was worked in the morning. but in the afternoon the time was given to Handwork, Story Lessons & Games, & the session ended at 3.15 for Infants, 3.45 for Juniors.
  2. The usual two days were still given in October for half-term holiday.
  3. During the four weeks a play centre for evacuee children was held from 10am to 12noon at Port Vale.  Two of the teachers were on duty each day.
  4. The usual two days autumn half-term holiday was given on Friday, 31st October & Monday, 3rd November.
  5. During the Easter holiday (1st-14th April), the Port Vale Hall was used by the Jewish Orphanage for the Feast of the Passover (1st-10th). Two classrooms were used during the holiday for a Play Centre which had just formed.
  6. During the holiday the School Hall was used as a Play Centre.  Milk was            distributed in one of the classrooms in the 1st & 4th week of the holiday when the canteen was open.  (It was closed for the 2nd & 3rd week the cook having been granted leave of absence for a fortnight.)  Two of the Cowbridge Staff helped with the Play Centre in the mornings of the last week of the holiday.
  7. The Autumn mid-term holiday was 9th & 10th November    For those two days Port Vale Hall was used as a Play Centre.  Miss Bradbeer, headmistress  Cowbridge School, was not impressed with the treatment of the furniture: “The children who attended have handled the Infts chairs & the piano very roughly.  The chairs were put down on their backs, children sat on the front legs, & the big boys gave them “sledge rides” up & down the floor.  The result is that the polish is worn off the backs of the chairs & they are marred for all time.  They were bought in 1940.  The piano was overhauled at Whitsun.  One of the new castors put on then is ripped off.”  No doubt the children, especially the younger ones enjoyed the sledge rides!
  8. Mid-term holiday was two days, 8th & 9th March.
  9. Schools closed for a week (16th-20th October) for autumn half-term.
  10. Schools closed on 8th & 9th May for VE celebrations.

Christmas Parties

Until 1939 Junior children were used to having a Christmas tea party at the end of the autumn term.  These were curtailed for the duration of the war. In 1939 at Cowbridge “Owing to “Black-Out”, & the difficulty in obtaining butter, the usual tea party was not held on Breaking-Up Day.”  In 1940 the children were given a bottle of milk and a bun and the morning ended with party games, school closing at 12:20 pm.  In 1942 ” The children have sung Christmas Songs & Carols as usual, but there has been no party or celebration. The Cook gave a special dinner in the Canteen yesterday.  Today every child has had a “Toffee Apple” which Cook managed to make for them on Monday afternoon.  The children regarded them as quite a Christmas Treat.”  In 1943, “It was hoped that it would be possible to have a Christmas Tea Party this year, as was our custom before the war.  The necessary permits for rationed foodstuffs were obtained but all arrangements made had to be cancelled owing to the epidemic of influenza.”  In 1944, “Indoor Games were played in all classes this afternoon & at playtime the children enjoyed buns & cakes.”

At Port Vale there were no festivities at the end of the year in 1941, “Owing to serious dislocation, in preparation for moving part of the school.”  Some classes were being moved th CAWG Hall and Longmore building to allow the girls full-time education, see “Lack of Shelters at Cowbridge School” above. On 22nd December 1942, “A more or less impromptu entertainment was given this afternoon – each class contributing two items.  The variety of tunes, the standard of them & the presentation were most praiseworthy & much enjoyed.”  On the same date in 1943 an impromptu entertainment was again given in the afternoon after a “very well-arranged & well-conducted Prefects’ Assembly” in the morning.  In 1944 the prefects organised an end of term concert.

School Milk

A milk club was formed at Cowbridge in February, 1930 with 23 members. At this time the milk was supplied commercially and so presumably parents had to pay for it.

Amid worries about the general health of the population along with a projected milk lake, on 1st October 1934 the Government started its ‘Milk in Schools’ scheme.11 The milk was charged at a rate of a half-penny for a third of a pint although it would be supplied free if a medical need was identified.  In Hertford the first references to free milk are at the begiining of 1937.  In January four girls received free milk at Port Vale.  After a medical examination, Cowbridge had 12 names on its “free list” in February although five of the children had brought in money to pay for the milk.  By March 1941 there were 28 on this list whilst by March the following year children who wanted it were allowed 2/3rd pint per day.

School Meals

Children had always gone home for dinner, except in very special cases when children who lived too far for them to get home & back in the lunchtime were allowed to bring a packed lunch.  Many children were suffering from malnutrition and since 1906 legislation had been in place to allow local authorities to alleviate the worst excesses of malnutrition by providing food for children at the expense of rate payers. During the Second World War it was decided to provide children in Hertford who wished to do so with a cooked meal.

In 1940 a British Restaurant11 was opened in Fore Street in what was the Hertford Motor Company building. This canteen was available to the general public with 1,000 calory meals charged at a shilling (5p) each. In April 1941 the boys at Cowper, Belmont and HGS had meals in this restaurant.  94 boys from Cowper School ate a meal on the first day and by the end of July, 5,069 dinners had been served to Cowper boys.1

In September 1941 a canteen was opened at Port Vale using the school’s Domestic Science Centre.  Initially 24 secondary girls and 10 juniors availed themselves of the service.  By May 1942, 75 Cowbridge children (35 free) were staying to dinner.  When the school cook was away and whilst the secondary girls were still at the school, the Domestic Science teacher and girls from the class cooked the meals!  The staff of course were expected to supervise the dinner time.

When the senior girls moved to Longmore they ate at the school with the dinners provided from the HCC Cooking Depot in Hertingfordbury Road.

Beginnings of Inoculations

In 1941 children began to be inoculated against diphtheria.  In January sixty-nine senior girls received inoculations for the prevention of diphtheria, whilst on Friday afternoon, 7th March, 44 Cowbridge children, 14 children from St Andrew’s School, 2 from Port Vale & one child under five were inoculated.  In November 1942 12 boys from Cowper School were also inoculated against diphtheria.

Compassionate leave

Female teachers were given compassionate leave for a few days if their husbands were lucky enough to be on leave from the forces.

War Work

In 1941 Port Vale girls cut out & made 50 hessian bags for use in distributing seeds in the County.  Later that year they made large quantities of towelling into small towels for a nursery centre for evacuee children.

In November 1941 the boys from Cowper School collected over 2 cwt of horse chestnuts for which 18s 9d (£52) was received.1 Presumably these were used in some way in munitions production as happened when acorns were used in 1917 for making acetate.

On July 1st 1942 a plot of ground (5 rods)6 was taken over to be cultivated by the Port Vale Girls.  This plot had been handed over for use by Mr. Stalley, headmaster of Cowper School, from among his boys’ plots.7 Thus the girls joined the boys in cultivating crops.

During a week’s holiday in October some of the Cowper School boys helped with potato picking.1

For four days in the autumn of 1943  (19th to 22nd October) 57 girls from Longmore were potato-picking at Panshanger supervised by a teacher.

Cooking Demonstrations

Cookery demonstrations were given to girls on a number of occasions during 1942, e.g. on 2nd May 30, form III girls from Port Vale in charge of Miss Rutter and Miss Barker, went to the Gas Office in Fore Street, to watch a demonstration of Wartime Cooking from 3 p.m. to 4.30 p.m.  Was the aim that the girls go home and show their mothers?

Adopted Ship’s Fund

In the mid-1930s Cowper School joined the British Ship Adoption Society.  It’s adopted ship was ‘SS Hertford’,8  trading between Britain and New Zealand.  In January, 1937, the Captain of the ship  J. Burton Davies gave a talk to the school.  He presented a framed picture of the ship.  The Captain paid a second visit in July 1938.  On 8th February 1940 Mr W Jacobs, Chief Engineer of SS Cumberland gave  a talk on the Merchant Service and the perils of war service at sea.

On 18th September 1941 Mr SE Britten, MBE, Secretary, British Ship Adoption Society visited the school, with a further visit on 20th November 1942.

During WW2 Government departments encouraged people to give money to support the war effort.  A Warship Week was planned for early 1942.  Hertford’s Warship Week was held from 16th to 20th March.  This included an exhibition at the Corn Exchange.

During this week, Cowbridge School raised £50.5.0 (£2,350).  Unfortunately it was raining heavily on the Thursday so the top two classes were unable to visit the exhibition as planned.  The girls from Port Vale fared much better as the whole school visited the exhibition on the Wednesday.

Port Vale Girls’ School, however, was ahead of the game being one of the first in England to “adopt” a ship. and later one of the few schools to adopt two ships. The school setup a Ship’s Committee and held its own Ship week in October 1941 during which £8.8.5d (£423) was raised to provide comforts, books & reading matter for the crew of SS Manchester Division9 the first ship the school adopted.

On 27th March 1942, Port Vale Girls’ held a service for its adopted ship with specially selected Hymns, prayers, Psalm & readings. Further on Monday 18th May £3 (£140) was taken at a ship’s stall at Longmore where some of the girls were being taught.

They also had visits from Mr. S.E. Britton, Secretary of the Ship Adoption Society, who “told some thrilling yarns of Merchant seamen in Wartime & held the girls quite spell-bound”.  Mr. Britton awarded the school four special British Ship Adoption Badges, for outstanding work on any one ship’s behalf.  The girls gave him thirty or so new & specially selected books for a Ship’s Library for S.S. Manchester Division. The day was completed with a service for those at sea.

On 30th October Mr Britton visited again, this time to watch a concert given by the girls in the evening at a crowded Corn Exchange.  Two merchant navy captains were also present.  £60 (£2,800) was raised to be shared between B.S.A.S.4 & the Merchant Navy Comforts Service.

in December Christmas parcels were sent to the Manchester Division.  On the evening of 20th a section of the school choir along with the Miss Hodge and two teachers went carol singing and collected £1.7.4d (£77) for the adopted ship fund.

On January 30th 1943 the Port Vale School Ship Secretary & Miss Hodges, Headmistress, visited Ship Adolphin House & were shown all its interesting photos & souvenirs etc. They saw a consignment of school mail dispatched.  An account of this visit was given to the girls.

On 10th May Year 3 girls and friends gave a concert at Longmore which raised £2.4.6d (£100).

Another concert on 29th November 1944 with Mr Birkett, H.M.I. present, raised £128.10.0 (£5,650.)

On 23rd March 1945, “The school was unexpectedly visited this afternoon by Mr. Salmon, 3rd Engineer of the Fort Bourbon, one of our two adopted ships.  He had tea with the Staff & then spoke to the assembled school & answered sundry questions.”

And on 2nd May 1945 Miss Hodges records “Today was a great occasion for the school – we were visited by Capt. W.L.Cruickshank D.S.C5, Mrs. Cruickshank & Heather, together with Mr. S.E. Britten M.B.E. for the British Ship Adoption Society.  A press photographer from London took photographs in the morning  & after lunch a more formal programme was carried out.  Our visitors in the afternoon included The Mayor & Mayoress, Mr. W.S. Birkett H.M.I., Miss J.V. Henklots (Div. Education Officer) & Mrs Rudd & Mrs. Burgess, together with parents & old girls.  A most happy day was spent & the already strong link between the school & the ship was very appreciably strengthened by actual contact with her captain.”

Curiously Miss Hodge fails to mention that Captain Cruikshank gave the school a bronze and silver flag subscribed for by the crew of the SS Bourbon.  It was accepted by Audrey French, the Head Girl, according to the account in the Hertfordshire Mercury.

Support for Other Funds

In mid-March 1941 during ‘Hertford & District War Weapons Week’ Cowper School raised £146.14.6 (7,300).

In March 1942 in ‘War Ship’s Week’, Cowper school raised £213..15.6 (9,900); Cowbridge raised £50.5.0 (2,350).

In 1943 in  Wings for Victory Week’, Cowper school with a target of £250 raised £1,029 (£46,500). Port Vale Girls’ raised £250.15.6 (11,340) and its girls took part in Country Dance and P.T. demonstrations at the associated entertainment at the Corn Exchange.

On 22nd October 1943, a Bring-and-Buy sale and Money box contributions allowed Port Vale JMI (previously Cowbridge)  to send £11.13.6 (£540 in 2019) to the “Merchant Navy Fund.”  Cowper School raised £28 (£1260) for the same fund.


In the month of July the Jewish orphanage often gave performances of  ‘The Mikado’at the Corn Exchange.   Senior girls went to see it in 1941 & 1943 and the older children from Cowbridge went in 1943.

1942 saw the start of a Schools’ Music Festival for the secondary schools. This was held initially at Hertford Grammar School and later at the Corn Exchange.

The girls of Port Vale (later Longmore) began to give concerts other than those to raise money for the adopted ships during the war (see “Adopted Ship’s Fund” above.)  December 1943.  The following December the Prefects organised a concert at which those taking part could invite a friend.

On four occasions the choir also gave concerts along with the High Cross Ladies Choir at Thundridge in aid of Church Funds.

Students from RADA gave performances on several occasions including Julius Caesar & The Merchant of Venice in 1942 & Twelfth Night in 1943.

Cowper School played sporting events against Danesbury Home Office School in its grounds at Bengeo and Danesbury’s pool was used for RLSS13 Examinations, 17 bronze medals and 17 intermediate certificates were awarded as well as 46 HCC swimming certificates.1

Holidays at Home

On the afternoon of 17th July 1942, 30 girls from Port Vale, with Miss Bush & Miss Hodges (Headteacher), took part in a Country Dancing Display at the Corn Exchange as part of the town’s “Holidays at Home” Campaign.  Seaside resorts especially in the south were generally unavailable to holidaymakers as the beaches were barricaded and the hotels taken over by the military.  However people, especially Londoners, were keen to get away to the countryside and recharge their batteries even though fuel was in short supply.  Thus ‘Holidays at Home’ campaigns were held throughout the country in 1942 & 1943 with the aim of discouraging people from travelling “unnecessarily” around the country, with the local authorities organising events and games using local parks and sports facilities.

Heating Problems in 1945

In January 1945, disruption to schooling at Longmore Girls’ School was caused by problems with heating, boiler problems.  The temperatures in the rooms and hall were often around 40°F (4.4C) or lower.  Sometimes the girls were sent home and on some days asked to return after lunch to see if things had improved. On other occasions the girls were arranged into different groupings so they could use the warmest rooms.

Remembering those Killed

Hertford Grammar School War Memorial in front of Richard Hale School

Hertford Grammar School’s “Second World War Book of Remembrance” records 58 Old Boys killed in WW2.  They are also listed on the war memorial in front of the school.

Every year on 11th November or the nearest school day to it, the school holds a service in front of this memorial during which wreathes are laid.


VE Day

On Tuesday, May 8th and Wednesday & 9th May all schools were closed in celebration of the cessation of hostilities in Europe.

Post War

Abel Smith School

In December 1945 Abel Smith air raid shelters were levelled.

Abel Smith JMI came into being as a result of the merger of Abel Smith JM School and Faudel Phillips Infants School13.  In 1975 the school was housed in a new building which incorporated some of the old buildings.

Simon Balle School

The Education Act of 1944 was implemented after the war ended.  The original intention was to provide Grammar, Technical and Modern Schools.  Very few Technical schools were created so those children who passed the 11+ examination went to Grammar schools and the remaining children attended Secondary Modern schools.

Hertford already had its Boys’ Grammar School and Ware had a girls’ one, so the new secondary school building which was finally begun in the mid-50s would house the Secondary Modern school.  In the meantime Cowper and Longmore became Secondary Modern Schools.  Miss Margery Binks, headmistress of Longmore, left in July 1952 to spend a year teaching in Oslo.  At this point the two secondary modern schools were amalgamated under the headship of Cyril Stalley, with the senior mistress taking charge of the Longmore girls’ department.

In 1956 the new building in Balls Park had sufficient accommodation for the new intake from primary school to begin their secondary school life here.

The following year  after the Easter Holiday some classes from Longmore Girls were now attending the new building at Balls Park for domestic science, physical training & drama.

On May 23rd Longmore was given news that the girls were to remove to the new school at Balls Park after Whitsun.  This was followed by a visit on 28th by Miss Cameron to Balls Park to see Mr. Felts about the children to be transferred there after Whitsun.  On 30th the staff were having a very hot time packing up! By 3rd June stock & equipment was gradually being moved to the new building which was unfortunately not yet ready to receive it.

On the afternoon of 6th June the children and staff made  farewell gifts to Mr. C.G. Stalley10.  Mr. Len Green, the deputy head, presented him with an electric fire and standard lamp on behalf of the staff, some old staff & Canon Bradney, Chairman of the Governors.  Jacqueline Clay-Smith and Norton Bardell, Head Girl and Head Boy presented Mr. Stalley with an electric  plate warmer and coffee table and Formica kitchen table.  The staff had tea afterwards in the domestic science room.

On 17th June, after the Whitsuntide holiday, the secondary children all now attended Simon Balle School on the Balls Park site.


  1. The Cowper Testimonial School Hertford, A History of the School by Len Green, Hertford and Ware Local history Society Occasional Paper No. 3, 1992.
  2. A polite way of referring to lavatories!
  3. Christian Alliance of Women and Girls which was established by the more conservative element of YWCA to maintain the evangelic aspects of the movement. The association’s constitution was established in 1921.
  4. British Ship Adoption Society
  5. Captain of the SS Bourbon, the second ship that Port Vale girls adopted.
  6. Allotments were traditionally measured in rods (an old Anglo-Saxon word).  Ten rods was the size of an allotment so the girls were given half an allotment (5 rods.)
  7. In 1913 Cowper School had been given a plot of land behind the offices of County Medical Officer in Fore Street opposite Christ Hospital.  Presumably the area  handed to the girls was from this land.
  8. SS Hertford was originally a German steamship built in Bremen.  In 1917 she was launched as Rheinland but when completed in 1920 was given the name of Friesland.  The ship was transferred to Great Britain as war reparations and renamed SS Hertford.  Ironically, on 29th March 1942, she was sunk by German U-Boat U571 off the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts with the loss of four of her crew of 62.
  9. SS Manchester Division was a ship belonging to Manchester Lines which was formed in 1897 after the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894. As a partner to Furness Withy & Co. sailings were mainly to Canada particularly for the cattle trade, but Galveston and New Orleans sailings were also made for the cotton trade to the Lancashire mills. In 1901 a joint service with R. W. Leyland & Co to Philadelphia was inaugurated and in 1906 a service to the River Plate commenced, but these were not a success and regular sailings ceased. Services to the Great Lakes started in 1952 and in 1970 Manchester Lines became a subsidiary of Furness Withy & Co. The parent company was taken over by C. Y. Tung, Hong Kong in 1980 and Manchester Liners ceased trading as a separate entity in 1988. Although mainly a cargo company, many ships had accommodation for a limited number of passengers.
  10. Cyril Guy Stalley (6th June 1892 – 1978) was born in Ware, the son of George, a barge builder and Ellen. The family lived in High Oak Road. He attended St. Mary’s School and by 1911 he was a teacher. In 1924 he became master of Cowper Memorial School succeeding John Richard Strubell, living in the school house on the north side of the school. He remained head of Cowper in its two locations (Cowper Building and Longmore) until June 1957 when, after the opening of Simon Balle School, the schools were closed . On his retirement Mr. Len Green presented him with an electric fire and standard lamp on behalf of the staff, some old staff & Canon Bradney, Chairman of the Governors. Jacqueline Clay-Smith and Norton Bardell, Head Girl and Head Boy presented Mr. Stalley with an electric plate warmer and coffee table and Formica kitchen table. The staff had tea afterwards in the domestic science room. (Tea provided by the senior girls in the domestic science room often happened after notable events or visits.)
  11. British Restaurants were established by the Government in 1940 in order to provide basic meals, off ration, for those bombed out of their homes, short of rationing coupons or anyone in need of a basic meal.  The restaurants were self-service. They were staffed by volunteers, usually older women most of whom belonged to Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS), who considered this work as their contribution to the War effort.  The staff wore olive green uniforms.
  12. ‘The Milk in Schools Scheme, 1934 – 35: “nationalization” and resistance’, Peter Atkins, cf. http://dro.dur.ac.uk/10303/1/10303.pdf
  13. Children left school at 14 in those days. In 1927 “The Education of the Adolescent” report, commonly known as the Hadow report after the committees chairman, had recommended, along with the introduction of separate primary & secondary schools, that the leaving age be raised to 15.  This took sometime to implement since more teachers were required to be trained.  There then followed the financial crisis followed by WW2 so the school leaving age was not raised until the implementation of the 1944 Education Act.
  14. Royal Life Saving Society
This page was added on 11/12/2019.

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  • Since I attended the Jewish Orphanage, which was evacuated to Hertford, in April 1943, I was very interested to know how arrangements were made for local residents to house the evacuees from London during WWII. I stayed with three different families but in retrospect, I always wondered how the host family got reimbursed for providing domestic services, such as food and sleeping arrangements!! The children were given a bed, breakfast and dinner at the end of the day. Obviously, local families had to be reimbursed. For the most part, we had the run of the town and often got into mischief as you might suspect from youngsters that had virtually no supervision outside their housing facility. At the age of 7, I was in the chorus of Mikado/Gondoliers held at the Corn Exchange. As you can imagine, left to our own devices, after school, we managed to peform many mischevious acts. We moved back to Norwood, in London, at the end of WWII in 1945 – I think the local population were glad to see us leave!!

    By Philip J. Freed (20/08/2023)