GROWING UP IN OUTWOOD in the 1930s  Part One.

Part One.  School Days, By the late Norman Ellis

Whenever I see small white turnips in a greengrocery shop, I remember the old Council School on Ledger Lane at Outwood. During the 1939-45 War, similar turnips were grown from seed in the school gardens and sold to pupils, to be eaten raw.

Attending the school, I sometimes wielded my spade on the various plots, but never acquired a taste for the raw turnips. Perhaps I was too well fed at home.

The school, with its daunting Victorian buildings, seemed to dominate the lower part of Ledger Lane. It influenced the lives of countless numbers of children for over a century. Many former
pupils, myself included, must be grateful for the basic education they received there.

Erected as a board school in 1877, it was enlarged in 1894 and became a council school in 1902. The sturdily built establishment, on the north side of Ledger Lane, had three distinct sections 

Infants, boys and girls respectively, and was flanked by two school houses. After becoming somewhat dilapidated, it was demolished in 1991. 

The present Ledger Lane Junior & Infant School was built on the site. 


                                                       In the words of Norman

I was born on 18 September 1929 in a council house at 13 The Avenue, Outwood (later renumbered to 25). The house is still there. 

Nurse Harris and Dr McCleod, each widely known in the village, helped with my delivery. I was baptized at the Wesleyan Church (now Parkside) by Pastor E.A.Price. 

My Mother recorded details of my early development in an Allen & Hanbury booklet. 

I cut my first tooth when I was ‘six months and a fortnight old’ and first walked on 3 January 1931.

My mother sent me to school before the compulsory age of five. I only lasted a week, picked up a trifling illness and did not go again until the required age. 

At school, kind Miss Hollings, who looked after the ‘babies, fed me on Horlicks, allowed me occasional rides on the rocking horse and put me to sleep in the afternoons. 

Other infant teachers, whose hands I passed through, included tall Miss Robinson and young Miss Rayner. The latter shouted a lot and taught us to sing ‘Ten Green Bottles.’ Miss Bullock was a firm but good headmistress.


Moving into standard 1 of the boys‘ school when I was seven years old was a traumatic experience because of the stricter discipline. I was not badly behaved but tended to be nervous.

The sight of a cane swiftly descending onto a boy's hand for a small misdemeanour was something I had not witnessed in the infants‘ school. 

In the boys‘ department, Miss Clegg was my first regular teacher. She specialised in English and employed her cane frequently. I escaped her wrath because I wrote some good essays (we called them compositions).

My relationship with Mr Rowlands, who was nicknamed ‘Daddy Rowlands' or ‘Daddy Waffer' (presumably because of the noise which his cane made) was less successful. Mr Rowlands specialised in arithmetic and insisted we learnt up to our 12 times table.

One day he called me to the front of the class and asked me what eleven times twelve made. I had forgotten but said i would find out. "Not good enough", he retorted and asked me to hold out my hand. I was initiated into knowing what the cane felt like. 

After that, I was never quite so bothered. 

Mr Rowlands also liked punching boys on the upper arm with his clenched knuckles. 

For a time, Mr Smith taught me English and music. When scrutinising our essays, he used to say, “Some will and some won't", meaning that some pupils would be caned for their efforts. His cane was relatively short and had less impact, so nobody was unduly worried. 

We loved the boisterous songs which Mr Smith taught us, including one about Napoleon which began 'Boney was a warrior.‘ This was a novel way of teaching history!

Mr Sheard, who specialised in art and taught me how to do script lettering. He sometimes caned the whole class if a misdeed was committed in his absence and no one owned up. Did he really expect anybody to confess?

Another teacher I recall was Miss Easom, who was ahead of her time with novel ideas about handicrafts. She was interested in string puppets and, with the aid of pupils, presented an evening show. 

The hall was well filled with parents. I had a small speaking part. Miss Easom left the school before she was able to develop her talents there.

I gradually worked my way through school to standard 6, Mr Murray's class. Headmaster Murray was a keen disciplinarian. Contentious issues between boys and staff, which were not settled at class level, were at times resolved by him with four strokes of the cane, two on each hand.

Mr D.G.Murray lived in the house next to the boys‘ school. when he traversed the short distance between house and school, his pet dog usually followed a few yards behind. Mr Murray was a layreader at the local church. 

He did have a human side, because he sometimes read stories to us from the Boy's Own magazine.

Mr Baldry, the caretaker, lived in the other house, next to the girls‘ school, with his wife and two sons. When his term as caretaker finished, he refused to move out. The family was finally evicted and their furniture was removed and placed in the front garden.

When I attended the boys‘ school, it had six classrooms and a cloakroom. A timber and glass partition, which separated two of the rooms, could be slid back to make a hall. 

The playgrounds, one at the front and one at the rear, were hard on the knees.

The toilets were situated at the far end of the rear playground, so raising your hand to leave the room was frowned upon. 

With a fifteen minute morning and afternoon playtime, this was not usually a problem. 

The layout of the girls‘ school was similar but not identical to that of the boys. Miss E.M.Briggs was headmistress in the girls‘ school. The generally stern discipline administered by Miss Briggs and her mostly unmarried lady teachers sometimes involved corporal punishment. 

Teachers, whose names may be familiar to former pupils who attended in the 1930s/1940s period or earlier. Miss Backhouse (who became Mrs Sykes and lost her husband in a submarine disaster), Miss Bolton, Miss Duffy, Miss Ramsden and Miss Riley. Miss Shaw was a stickler for spelling. Miss Foster became Mrs Frost and, after her marriage, lived in a house opposite the school.

The school playgrounds were ideal for all kinds of games, depending on the child's age and gender.

A popular game with the boys was ‘Alive—O', which involved two teams and the rescue of lads from dens. 

The playground was perfect for any game which involved chalk marks, such as hopscotch. This, along with skipping, was always more popular with girls than boys. A particularly energetic form of skipping began with the words, "Pitch, patch, pepper."

Large gardens were situated at the rear of the boys‘ and girls’ schools. On the outbreak of war in 1939, concrete air raid shelters were constructed in part of the gardens behind the boys‘ department. 

At first, no proper lighting was installed. we rehearsed going down there in near darkness, gas masks on our faces, holding on to the pupil in front. The gas masks had to be carried everywhere. Their cardboard containers, with string to hang around the neck, soon became battered. A variety of alternative containers, some in tinplate, appeared in the shops.

Gardening, although not part of the school curriculum, was pursued by the older boys, particularly to help the war effort. Mr Rowlands and Mr Sheard were in charge. 

At the end of morning school, we were pleased when Mr Rowlands said, “Bring your tools this afternoon, boys.“ That meant no lessons! I usually took a spade, but sometimes a fork or hoe. Jobs were allocated to the boys in each of the two gardens. 

Most of the lads preferred being assigned to the one behind the girls‘ playground. The older girls usually came out for games during the last hour of the day. Watching them was better than digging.

Behind a high wall at the far end of the boys‘ rear playground was their sports field. It was approached by wooden steps which straddled the wall. The boys played football and a game similar to hockey called shinty. 

The field had lots of nettles which were disastrous for bare knees.

Having twice failed my County Minor Scholarship examination for Rothwell Grammar School, I finally passed a transfer examination for the same school when I was thirteen, along with Peter Jennings and Albert Sharp. 

Just before I left Outwood Council School, Mr Murray tested my ability in another way. He asked me to visit the girls‘ school and make a record of the broken panes of glass in the windows. “See Miss Briggs first and she will give you an idea where they are", he said.

Armed with a board, paper and pencil, I nervously set out. I didn't even know where Miss Briggs‘ classroom was. when I found it, I knocked on the door and was asked to enter. As I walked across the room, the eyes of three dozen very silent senior girls seemed to be upon me. 

I blurted out details of my mission. Miss Briggs explained where the damaged panes were. Most of the information went straight into one ear and out of the other.

I went outside, toured the exterior of the buildings, then made some sketches. Fortunately, Mr Moss, the latest school caretaker, who lived in Ledger Lane (but not actually in the school house) came to my rescue. He kindly helped me to list the broken panes. 

I returned to base, presented Mr Murray with the information and heard nothing further. Did he really have faith in me?

Norman Ellis.


Footnote, we lived opposite the school and local kids were jumping up and down on the Baldry’s furniture in the garden. 

My mam and dad took Mr Baldry and his family in for a few days until they found accommodation, which was at the junction of Rook’s Nest Road and Bread Baker Lane, Stanley. 

Mr Baldry never found another job, but sold the odd plants from his garden on Wakefield Market. 

Mike Hooley.

To be continued see Part Two

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