20th Century School

Mulbarton School in the 20th Century

ABOVE is an air view taken in 1975 with Mulbarton First & Middle Schools between the Common and houses, and the old school between the road across the Common and the industrial units.

BELOW are memories, some Log Book entries, and photos of the school for each decade from the 1920s until the 1970s, when the old Mulbarton Primary School became Mulbarton First School and Mulbarton Middle School, both on the same new site.


Class of Mulbarton School, early 1920s
Class of Mulbarton School, early 1920s


Rene Carlton (nee Hammond) was born in 1923, and remembered Mulbarton School through the 1930s until she joined the WAAF in World War II:
The teachers were Mrs Nichols (Infants) and Miss Larner (Juniors) who shared one of the Council houses in Long Lane. Mrs. Rowbottom, the Headmistress, lived in the School House. It wasn't just the "3Rs" - the girls did dressmaking at school, and we used to walk across the Common to the Wingfield Hall for cookery lessons. The boys played football on the common with Mr. Rowbottom and the girls played netball and also went onto the Common for games. There was a maypole on the playground, and we did lots of country dancing. There were no school lunches in those days - none of us lived far away so we went home.
There were occasional school outings. I will always remember the whole school (probably not the Infants) going on a trip to London by train. Mr. Lincoln took us to Swainsthorpe Station in the back of his van and picked us up again when we arrived home. That was very exciting for everyone, going on the steam train.

Boys of Mulbarton School, 1932 (front left, Claude Frost, aged 11)
Boys of Mulbarton School, 1932 (front left, Claude Frost, aged 11)

SCHOOL CONCERT AT MULBARTON - from press report of 6th Feb. 1935
A large audience enjoyed a concert given by Mulbarton school children at the World's End clubroom on Tuesday. The head teacher (Mrs. Rowbottom) and her staff had spared no pains in training the children and each item was warmly applauded. The infants gave a display and performed a little play. "The Princess of London". Juniors and seniors appeared in amusing items, including "The Travelling Doctor", "The Friendly Waiter" and "Darby and Joan". "Engaging a servant" was a sketch by the seniors. Well executed dances included "A Scottish Reel" by the seniors, and a skirt dance by one of the senior girls. The children were given hearty cheers at the close of their performance, which was in aid of the School Sports Fund. The accompanists at the piano were Mrs. Rowbottom and Mrs. Howard.

Memories of the Dentist's visit:
A little white caravan came and stood by the school. Children went in one at a time to see the dentist, and were given a piece of paper specifying the treatment needed. I remember taking home such a piece of paper for my mother to sign saying I needed several extractions - every time she took it from behind the clock I said 'no', but eventually I had to agree. It was a bit 'cissy' to have your mother go in the caravan with you. I did have the teeth out - all together. How I got home afterwards I shall never know....
(Bill Alborough, recorded on a tape at a School Reunion)

Children outside Mulbarton School – on common, c.1938
Children outside Mulbarton School – on common, c.1938

School dress:
Boys wore shorts to school and hobnail boots. Girls wore gymslips and knickers that covered all from navel to top of knee. Thick elastic held them in position. As the legs had elastic to hold them down, girls carried hankies, coins and sweets up there. That gave the toffees a strange flavour. These knickers were known as 'Harvest Festivals' - 'all is safely gathered in'! In the war, due to the quality of wartime elastic, safety pins were carried.                (Tony Kent)


I attended Mulbarton School in the 1940s. There were about 60 - 70 pupils, who walked to school as only Mulbarton children attended. [Bracon Ash, East Carleton and Swardeston had their own schools then.]
The Infant class was at the back of the school, and the teacher was Mrs Nichols. The larger room at the front was divided by a curtain, and there was a coke-burning stove which had pipes leading from it to heat the two classrooms. It wasn't very efficient, and on very cold winter days we were allowed to keep our coats on. I remember, too, the milk bottles thawing out around the stove. We could all have milk - I think it was 2½ d (just over 1p) a week. The cardboard tops were saved and we made raffia table mats, etc. with them. 
The teacher in the Junior class was Miss Larner. I was nervous of her as she was very strict. The Headmistress was Mrs Rowbottom. The lessons were Reading, Writing, Arithmetic (every morning we had to say one of the tables). Poetry, History, Geography, Needlework, Art and Religious Education.
At playtime we played ball games and hoops. The playground wasn't fenced in, and when you were in the Senior class you could play on the Common opposite. There was an annual Sports Day, with schools in the area competing.             (Contributed by Evelyn Smith)

I started school when I was 5 in 1941 and the Headmistress of the school on the Common was Mrs. Rowbottom. She was a lovely lady and a real teacher of the "old school". There were about 72 pupils and a green curtain divided the Juniors from the Seniors.... Mrs Nichols was the Infant teacher and I can remember her singing "All things bright and beautiful" whilst she dusted the classroom first thing in the morning. I can also remember the awful milk placed in front of the fire in the winter and the bottles nearest the fire were "cooked" whilst those on the other side were still frozen. In my later years at the school Mrs. Rowbottom retired and after a succession of "Temps" a Mrs. Rhodes was appointed - she had a bulldog, which is about all I can remember of her.
I left the school at 11 years old having passed the "scholarship" as it was then, but not before having to take my gas mask to school during the war and having experienced the awful "pail closets", and the coming of school dinners with dear Mrs. Mickleburgh in charge.
(Extract from information from Brenda Ford (nee Collins) of Claxton, Norfolk, written for the Radio Norfolk Lunchtime Show, June 1988.

Mrs Mickleburgh, school cook for 27 years
Mrs Mickleburgh, school cook for 27 years

During the war years everyone was air-raid conscious, and that included the school. There was a deep ditch running from the School House to Hall Farm barn and this was the school air-raid shelter. The children cut pieces of cardboard, covered them with the inevitable wallpaper, and sat on them in the ditch. Most were hoping to a bit of excitement. There was some - one afternoon a German aircraft running the defences of Norwich flew low over the school and one of the crew was seen to wave. The teachers were Mrs. Rowbottom, Head Teacher, who lived in the School House; Mrs. Nicholls, Infant teacher, and Miss Larner taught the middle class. She was a dead shot with a book.                (Tony Kent)

During the course of the war I became five years old and started school at Mulbarton.I can remember walking down Long Lane from the Woodlands (about a mile) to school and back each day and sometimes going home to dinner as well. It seemed a long way to a small child compared with other children who lived in the village itself, but there were several of us who walked together ‑ the Baker family, who I believe were evacuees from London, and Gerald Collins and later Myrtle Bullen - as we all lived close together on the lane. It was a pleasant walk as there was virtually no traffic. The bread delivery van was one of the most likely motorised vehicles to come along and sometimes an army lorry but we were quite safe.(Brenda Ford - nee Collins)

A key memory is the loos. "There was a trap door at the back where the buckets were taken out by the scavenger (cleaner) and the contents were buried in the School House garden.....One day some lads opened the trap door and put stinging nettles inside....!"
(From tape of conversations at School Reunion recorded by Bill Alborough

The '40s was also the decade when Mulbarton became a County Primary School in January 1947, as a direct result of the 1944 Education Act. More about that under SCHOOL.


There were 70 children on roll in January 1950, dropping to 46 in 1955 when all the Seniors finally moved. Mrs Rhodes left at the end of 1950 and Mr Hornsby came as the new Head Teacher in January 1951. The first thing he seems to have changed are the loos - during the summer holidays 'new type of lavatories installed' that flushed with water, and a wash basin was put in the porch. The number of pupils awarded Scholarship places rises, and the Log Book records the visit of Princess Elizabeth to Norwich (1951 - poor attendance at the school!); death of King George VI; the 1953 floods and Coronation; and an eclipse of the sun in 1954. Most entries are about deliveries of coke, faggots, endless problems with heating and overcrowding. 
4 June 1953: Word received by managers from NEC that owing to overcrowding it is proposed to reorganise the school as Junior-mixed-Infants and transfer Seniors to Wymondham Seondary Modern School in due course.' This happened in September 1954 - 10 years after the 1944 Act!
The Inspector's Report in 1956 speaks of improvements to the school, but 'even so, the conditions remain very poor nor could this building be made suitable for its present purpose'. The Report is scathing about the Infants class: 'The mistress in charge of the Infants appears unable to train children in the early stages of reading, writing and numbers.... There is a curious state of anxiety, especially about the beginnings of reading, shared alike by the children and their teacher and the Headmaster.' No wonder so few succeeded in Scholarship exams! 

Both the Infant teacher and the Head left very soon afterwards - Mr Hornsby to a teaching post in Canada. Mrs Batchelor moved from Hethersett Primary and the school took part in more activites. And - JOY! - mains water was connected in May 1957!

School photo 1956; Mr Hornsby (Head) back row, centre.
School photo 1956; Mr Hornsby (Head) back row, centre.

Pupils remember:
Mr. Hornsby [Head Teacher] had a Wolsey Hornet car, but as he was over 6 foot tall he couldn't see out of it properly, so he had a turret built on top for his head to fit in. He also had a bull mastiff dog which would go to the butcher's shop on the Common with a basket in its mouth, with a shopping list and money. The butcher would put meat in the basket and the dog would take it home, never touching it.        (Author not known - contributed at a school reunion)

Everyone seems to remember the green curtain that separated the classes in the main school room. "If you were in the back row, you could lean back and jab people through it with your compass point!".  


In the mid'60s the village school comprised two classrooms, one large, one small, a small kitchen for washing-up only, two sets of outside toilets with one staff toilet - also known as the 'Staff Room'. At one time the large classroom was divided by a curtain to make two small rooms (early open plan system?). [Jil Wheeler]

The Log Book records a number of improvements that would have been taken for granted in an urban school at that time. A clerical assistant started in 1959; a TV set and telephone installed in 1966 (Mulbarton 597); a School Welfare Assistant (Mrs Hindle) appointed 1967 and paper towels introduced after a problem with Impetiga; roller blackboards and new toilets installed in 1968; and a new outside boiler room completed in 1969 - after the old chimney cracked and fumes filled the classroom! Rising numbers sees lunch held in 2 sittings and a mobile classroom installed. By Jan 1968 there were 91 children on the roll; by Sept 1969 there were 108 pupils; and Derek Chamberlain had arrived as Head Teacher.

Christmas Concert in the old school, 1968-9 – cast of ‘The Queen of Hearts’, mainly Anne Barclay’s class
Christmas Concert in the old school, 1968-9 – cast of ‘The Queen of Hearts’, mainly Anne Barclay’s class

Writing in Mulbarton Parish News, Sprint 1994, Jill Wheeler, looked back to her time teaching in the 1960s (and supplied the above photo):
Meals were cooked at Swardeston School and transported to Mulbarton by car. The large classroom served as a dining room - the meals being served by two stalwart dinner ladies, Mrs (Nanny) Mickleburgh and Mrs Fish. By the time school began in the afternoon the washing-up had been done and Mrs Mick and Mrs Fish were eating their own school dinners in a corner of the classroom. Nothing escaped them. When the older children were eventually housed in two mobile classrooms, anything between forty and fifty infants occupied the two main building classrooms with one teacher and a welfare assistant - and Mrs Mick felt it her duty to loudly inform the staff of any misdemeanours committed by the children.
The School Secretary at the old school was Mrs Phyllis Lofty who doubled as a dinner supervisor for 3 days each week. Mrs Lofty worked in a corner of the classroom with no telephone to disturb her work - only the teacher and children in the background!
On one memorable day when the older children were away on an outing, a torrential downpour caused the roof to leak and all the infants had to be crammed into one room for safety!
PE was taken outside if the weather was fit. Dancing and movement activities were only possible indoors if the furniture was moved into the tiny cloakroom. Christmas concerts were sometimes performed on a 'tilt' covered platform of desks and the piano had to be played from the adjoining room to accompany the children singing.


September 1970 - 143 on roll; September 1971 - 99 (Infants) at new school, 69 at old Junior school; September 1979 - 304 on roll at Middle School; 133 at First School.

Starting work on the new school
Starting work on the new school

In 1970 the first part of what is now the First School was built. It comprised a large open area for two classes, children's cloakrooms, a kitchen/washup (later the school office), a staff room (later the Head Teacher's office) and staff cloakrooms. In February 1970 two infant classes moved into the new building while the junior children remained in the old school. Mr. Derek Chamberlain, who was appointed Head of the Primary School after the retirement of Mrs. Batchelor in the late 1960s, remained Head of both parts of the school. 
The day of the move was cold and very snowy. The new department was equipped with new furniture but books, toys, equipment, etc. had to be transferred from the old school. The children brought prams, carts, sledges, etc. and all the vehicles were 'loaded'. Those who had no 'vehicle' carried something or gave moral support! The precession set off with much excitement and local press photographers recorded the occasion. Upon arrival the children enjoyed a snowball session on the large new playground.
The older children were housed in the old school until 1973 when they gradually moved into extensions to the new building. The school hall (now the Lower School Hall) was included in this phase and this was much appreciated by staff and children. A kitchen was built, which meant meals were no longer sent from Swardeston School.
In 1977 further extensions resulted in two schools being established under two Head Teachers. Mr. Chamberlain continued as Head of the Middle School and Mrs. Linda Craig was appointed Head of the First School.
Older children were bussed from surrounding First Schools to the Middle School and when Bracon Ash and Swardeston Schools were closed, younger children were bussed to the First School. A caretaker's bungalow was built (on the site of a large pond!) but never lived in and was later converted into Mulbarton Surgery.
For some years fundraising events had been organised to provide a village hall. A two-day Village Festival in 1975 boosted funds already acquired and the old school was finally bought and converted to this end.
(By Jil Wheeler, retired Deputy Head Teacher of Mulbarton First School - writing in Mulbarton Parish News, Spring 1994)

Mulbarton First School being built - opened 1970
Mulbarton First School being built - opened 1970

The Big Move in 1970   Eastern Evening News Friday 13th February 1970:

Removal Day came to Mulbarton Primary School today, and swiftly and with a minimum of fuss a 100-strong workforce swept into action armed for the job with prams, sledges, home-made trolleys and even wheelbarrows (below). And a happier workforce it would be hard to find. For the pupils, spending the day moving equipment down the road to the new infants' school, with maybe a sneaky snowball fight here and there, was infinitely preferable to the complexities of maths and grammar.
Though it is only the infants who are moving into the new building, almost the whole school took part in the removal, their various methods of transport piled high with boxes of maps, instruments and other equipment. In this way, said Mr. Chamberlain [Head teacher], the juniors could also feel part of the move.
The move will continue over half-term on Monday and Tuesday when some of the older juniors will help the staff move yet move equipment from the mobile classroom in the courtyard of the old building. Classes will start in the new school on Wednesday.
This is only the first phase. Eventually, a new block to hold another 80 infants and another to take 320 juniors will be built.
Comments from the people who count: ....a 5-year-old boy finally admitted he was looking forward to working in his new home while a 10-year-old....did not seem too pleased that she and other juniors would still be working in the old building where local children have been taught for over 100 years!

Mulbarton C.P. School Notes 
From 'Parish News' Easter 1970, written by the Headmaster, Derek J Chamberlain

The excitement has died down a little now and 66 children are happily settling in their new schoolroom.
What a hectic and exciting half term we all had. Small children all carrying something of use for their new schoolroom, trudging through the snow...cold feet... but really warm hearts. I doubt if anyone has ever seen such a cavalcade of trolleys, prams, carts and sledges. We shall all remember our move for a very long while.
We who remained at the old building had the task of moving everything from the mobile classroom into the main building and said "Goodbye" quite happily to the mobile classroom. All of us, I am sure, are much happier in the brick building. We've gone "Open Plan".... [He then thanks the staff and four children who helped over half-term]
"Thank you" parents for helping us by providing the children with slippers to wear on our lovely carpeted floors and also for not bringing cars inside the school grounds...
PLEASE NOTE...All children are now able to commence one term earlier...that is...they come the term before they are five....'

[So there were many advantages to the move!]

From 'Parish News' Easter 1973, written by the Headmaster, Derek J Chamberlain 

'Our hopes of being able to use the 2nd phase of our new school after Easter have not materialised. We hope we shall be moving in in September. I am sure that my staff at the new school will welcome the time when all the banging, singing, music and mud etc. have all finished. I don't think the children will be so pleased though.'

The juniors finally moved in Sept. 1973 .... as reported in Eastern Daily Press - July 1973. 

Children of Mulbarton School left a lot behind them when they broke up on Friday. Not only will they never return to their old school which is more than 100 years old, but in future they will not have Mrs Lilian Mickleburgh to help them at lunchtime as she has for the last 27 years. Unlike the children, Mrs Mickleburgh will not be starting at the new school across the Common next term....

From 'Parish News' Christmas 1973, written by the Headmaster, Derek J Chamberlain 

'After three years of having a school in two parts it is very satisfying to be able to say that we are all once again together. Life has been very hectic for us all this term, what with new children from Swardeston and Tacolneston and also new teachers... What a change it all means. A lovely new hall for dining in and for P.E. and dancing - a lovely kitchen with a first class happy staff.... A very Happy Christmas from all of us at the school to everyone in the village and elsewhere, with a plea to all builders:- Don't build too many houses too quickly at Mulbarton.'

Mulbarton First & Middle School from the air, 1975 (very white roofs show up among the trees of the Common and Mulbarton Hall)
Mulbarton First & Middle School from the air, 1975 (very white roofs show up among the trees of the Common and Mulbarton Hall)

[That plea went unheeded - see Houses!]