In the Nostalgia page on July 30 we considered the early history of secondary education in High Wycombe. That article also looked at the formation of Mill End Senior School, which was formally opened on May 25, 1937.

Before we continue with the history of Mill End, the first senior school to be established in Wycombe, I should like to tell readers about some of the feedback we received to the July 30 article. Amazingly we heard from two readers who attended the school in 1937. Both are now well into their 90s.

Betty Massey, nee Butterfield, was born in Wycombe in 1926 and lived in the long-gone Coronation Place. This was off White Hart St opposite Queen’s Sq and Betty lived at No.25. Her family later moved to Castlefield.

Betty was among the first intake to the school, starting in May 1937. A teacher she remembers with great fondness was Miss Ayres. She was a member of the Red Cross and had a big influence on Betty’s life, winning a prize in a First Aid competition whilst at Mill End. She later became a member of the Red Cross and the St John’s Ambulance Brigade. At Mill End twin boys named Johnson took a shine to her and would carry her bags home from school.

At the age of 13 Betty passed the examination to go to the High School, but her mother said to her “you’re not going, we can’t afford it, you’ll need to go out to work to earn some money”! During the war Betty joined the Land Army, then she took a paid job as a helper at the High School. She would sit in on lessons and learnt a lot that way.

Kenneth Pusey, who is in his 95th year, joined the school in September 1937 and has happy memories of his time there. He particularly remembers the school choir, which consisted of 40 boys conducted by Mr Saunders. Their biggest achievement was to be invited to sing on Uncle Mac’s children’s hour at BBC Broadcasting House London on Monday 10th July 1939.

Both Betty and Kenneth have lived all their life in Wycombe and are regular readers of the Bucks Free Press. Many other readers have been in touch regarding their memories of Mill End school in the 1940and 50s. We will share these with you after the history of those years has been described.

Children’s Protest March

Not surprisingly the new school, by far the largest secondary school in the district, experienced some initial teething problems. The most newsworthy attracted the headline in the Bucks Free Press “Protest March by High Wycombe Children”. Holding aloft a banner bearing the words “Mill End School. Bowerdean Protest. Free Transport for Children” a large group of schoolchildren had marched in an orderly fashion into the Town Council Chamber during a debate. All the seats in the visitors section had been taken by their parents so the children stood along the walls. After consulting with the Town Clerk the Mayor, Cllr R P Clarke ruled that all those standing should retire from the Chamber, despite some protests.

The children were then shepherded out of the room and the council meeting resumed.

The debate which had been interrupted was about the need to provide transport to Mill End School and on the provision of a hot midday meal for some children. These were those mostly from the Bowerdean Rd area, a distance of some two to three miles from the school. (In May 1936 the Borough Education Committee had decided that children west of a line drawn down Amersham Road and Hill, Crendon St, Queen Victoria Road and Marlow Hill should attend Mill End School, and those east of that line should go the Hatters Lane School).

The education authorities were now facing a new situation. Up until then children usually only travelled short distances by walking to school, which in the town would be within their district, elsewhere it would be the village school. Generally speaking school meals were not provided as the children could pop home for a meal. During the debate it was said that “The feeding of children had never been practised in the town before”. There were many examples at Mill End School of children living close to the school who remained there for their midday meal, meaning there was no availability for children from longer distances away

The chairman of the Education Committee assured the council meeting that remedies for both these situations were being put in place. For example a policy had been agreed whereby assistance to travelling would be provided where the distance from a child’s home to school was more than 2 miles.

A contract was being arranged with the Thames Valley Traction Company for them to operate two double-decker buses, making one outward and one inward return journey each between Duke St and the school. These buses were to pick- up children from the Bowerdean area at Duke St, from Terriers at Castle St, and from Hughenden Rd at Frogmoor. The cost would be £270 per school year.

Regarding school meals the committee had arranged for the kitchen equipment to be greatly extended so that hot meals for nearly 400 children could be provided. The cook Mrs Turner and her three assistants (soon increased to five) had organised the midday meal into two sittings. The children themselves acted as waiters/waitresses. When a Bucks Free Press reporter visited the school “there was an appetising meal of stewed steak with mixed vegetables, and banana trifle to follow.” The Headmistress Miss Young together with the Headmaster Mr Green had been responsible for much of this reorganisation. The cost of the meal was one shilling per week for each child, which was “scarcely a commercial proposition”.

The provisions for the school canteen and domestic science centre were provided by: Milk -Mr A Fleet, Groceries and Cleaning Materials - Mr B H Picton, Meat - Eastmans Ltd, Fish -Macfisheries Ltd, and Greengroceries - J. Aldridge & Son.

To be continued.