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Newton Church Room Renovation Project


Memories of my School Days by Sylvia James

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A blue exercise book that I still possess informs me that cookery classes that I was fortunate enough to attend began on 11 June 1937.

They were held in the Cottage Room (since demolished) at Michaelchurch Eskley, also called The Old School, having been used for paying pupils before a school was built on its present site.

Previous to the cookery classes the girls made green gingham aprons and head bandeaus during sewing lessons.

On arrival in the morning of the first day of lessons, we all descended the steps into the Cottage room, my first glimpse of its contents was of work tables, benches and oil stoves, each with 3 burners with short chimneys under a support for pots, pans or a light oven which covered 2 burners. Later we would learn to take care that stoves did not become subject to draughts. Consequences of which most of us knew of from experiences at home. I think the first lesson was an introduction to the equipment. The creamy yellow bowls where the magic happend, where one placed measures of food ingredients together, stirring it up before placing it into various receptacles to cook by various methods of baking, boiling, roasting, steaming or frying.

Mornings were occupied in preparation of a really useful range of food dishes, including our lunch each day. Scotch eggs, fish cakes, scones, cakes, milk puddings, invalid cookery, pastry for savoury as well as sweet dishes, jams and lemon curd a recipe that I still use. Our teacher would go to Michaelchurch Mill, where she lodged, for her lunch hour. The one day she returned early was the day we had " roast" beef. She had placed one joint of meat on a trivet in a roasting tin in the oven to cook. Some time later she decided it was cooked, Portions had been placed on our plates before she left, It was too rare for our liking so when she had gone we put the meat into frying pans and placed them on the open fire at the end of room, which was there to keep the room warm. I don't think anyone replied when she asked us why we did it. Frying made the meat quite tough, that was the only disappointment of the whole course.

Bread making became exciting, the dough had been set by the fire to prove while we ate our lunch with tea cloths covering the bowls someone shouted " Fire" tea cloths were alight. We rushed from the table to stamp on the flames. Health and safety people would have a fit nowadays in similar circumstances, we survived.

Each day after our lunch came the washing-up, and writing notes about our activities. Time did not permit of good writing, my scribble did not go down well when it was checked over by the head when we returned to our usual schooling." Gone wild" was her opinion of us. The wild part being our playtime activities. We had climbed the lower branches of a yew tree close to The Room. Slid down the handrail at back door. Some mothers must have wondered at the sudden increase of wear and tear of nether garments, and in the time remaining of our lunch hour going down to the Eskley brook to paddle and look for sticklebacks.

Newton school children attended the Cottage Room after we left for the same course of lessons. I wonder did they enjoy them as much as I had? Did they go wild? For my part it was the best of my school days.


This contribution from Sylvia James was given to Joan Davies and Mary Powell, January 2003


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