Being a Volunteer

The move to the new museum buildings at The Tree is an exciting time for anyone interested in local history, and offers a good opportunity for people to get involved in researching and talking about the development of Crawley. This is especially so as it coincides with the 70th anniversary of the announcement of the post-war New Town in 1947.

Being a volunteer offers excellent opportunities to indulge an interest in local history. I started working with the Museum earlier this year, and have been mainly involved in identifying and numbering items in the collection, and packing them for the move to The Tree. This has included everything from the remains of early pottery found during excavation work around Crawley, to modern ceramic pieces produced as local souvenirs, to scale models of buildings that are no longer standing.

I have also been able to put some of my professional skills to use in writing brief comments to go with some of the permanent exhibits for the new museum – a real challenge to put someone’s life into one hundred words!

Working with curator Helen Poole and her team, even in this small way, has been a real education, not only in the history of Crawley, but also in what needs to go on behind the scenes in a museum.

There is still a lot to be done before the new museum can open, so new volunteers are always welcome. And why not join Crawley Museum Society, and find out more about the history of our town, going back many hundreds of years.

Graham Crozier, Museum Volunteer.

CSCMS WG153 CofE School viewed from Victoria Road

Memories of West Green School

West Green C of E School

1824-1955

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 By Rick Leigh, February 2017

Community stand

Volunteering at Community Events

I’m a Londoner. I lived in Horley for 25 years and moved to Crawley 10 years ago, but my roots are still in London therefore it was with apprehension that I turned up for my first event as a volunteer for Crawley museum. ‘Don’t worry’ said Andrea, ‘the people who turn up will tell you about Crawley’, and they certainly did.

The event was celebrating the 70th anniversary of Crawley New Town at Worth Park in May. Andrea had selected a hundred or so photos taken when the new town was being built to display on our stall. The photos were taken of the different ‘villages’ that now make up Crawley, as well as road networks, the airport and various events such as carnivals and parades. Those photos certainly brought back memories and provoked much conversation amongst the people who turned up – old and young alike!

A group of men in their seventies were the first to turn up and they certainly knew the history of Crawley! I imagined them in their wellies and grey school shorts playing all over the building sites after school! People recognised houses being built where friends had lived and the old shops in the various district parades. Andrea was hoping that someone would recognise one of people in the photos but sadly no-one did. The lack of cars on the roads was a talking point. No parking problems at Christmas in town in those days!

It will be interesting to have all these photos available in the new museum and to encourage people to record what they know about the places and scenes before this information is gone.

I certainly know more about the history of Crawley after my afternoon on the stall. My eight year old grandson also now knows a lot of local history after a visit to his school by Andrea and Helen. He is a bit of a history buff anyway, but was so full of interest after their talk he could recount practically word for word of what they had said without drawing breath. If the rest of his class were as fascinated by the talk as he was maybe we will have a band of junior volunteers when the museum eventually opens.

History is made by people and the legacy is carried on by people – never too young to learn! Or even too old?

Ann

12/08/2017

StellaMuseumVolunteeratCommunityEventBW

Volunteering at Crawley Museum

The door to local history opened wide for me when I joined Crawley Museum Society (CMS) 28 years ago – initially attending monthly meetings and trips to local museums.

Roger Bastable the late local historian, asked my husband Michael and I if we would use one of our lorries to help move the stored artefacts from The Tree to Goffs Park House Annexe. ( This is now in the process of a reverse move)

I then volunteered as a steward at Goffs Park, working with several different curators over time. Meeting many people, some local, some from overseas, even people who thought Crawley didn`t have any history. No two sessions were ever the same but always interesting.

I was asked about ten years ago by our then curator Janet Roskilly if I would be interested in audio history interviewing; I was very interested.

What evolved was a liaison between the WRVS and CMS to start a audio history course for volunteers. The course was run by Sussex University, who  sent tutors and equipment to our group learning sessions held at the Hawth. I worked with the WRVS on this project for several months then had to hand  back the recorder.

The museum was able to obtain our own Marantz recorders and I continue with interviewing to record our local history when requested.

After assisting with The Road to Crawley project and the Worth, Three Bridges and Pound Hill Exhibition held at the Hawth seven years ago I started with the support of our curator, Helen Poole to give talks on Worth and the surrounding area.

With Bill another volunteer we continue to give slide show and talks on Three Bridges and Worth to local groups and clubs to further local knowledge and raise funds for the museum.

Volunteering at Crawley Museum has certainly enhanced my local knowledge and brought Crawley’s history to more people in the community and given me a great deal of pleasure.

 

Stella Berrisford

16/8/17

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