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Pontefract Letters Page

CRESCENT SCHOOL, PONTEFRACT

ADDED 17 SEPTEMBER 2007

I was interested in the picture on page 19 of the September issue of the Digest Magazine. It is of the Crescent School, Pontefract, and must have been taken about 1937-38. The school was started by Principal Miss Nella M. Ebbutt in the upper floor of the Crescent Ballroom, in rooms used for suppers when there was a dance. I went there in about 1933 when I was five years old. Soon after that, it moved to rooms over Barclays Bank. We entered by the back from the gated driveway from Gillygate. There was a lawn with a central flagged path, but this was soon reduced to level soil by constant traffic. In the early days there was a grapevine on the east wall of the flagged area by the entrance.

Upstairs, the first floor had, at the south east corner, a large room where we assembled in the morning for a hymn, after which we marched out to stirring piano music, played by Miss Zoe Wordsworth. The room at the north east was a classroom and it was there that I learnt to write, doing first exercises in loops and curves, using a pen with a J nib and dip-in ink pot. Next to this was a small kitchen and then up a step or two was Miss Ebbutt’s private room. Over the stairs on the garden side was the only toilet I can recall which had a decorated pot. There were one or two rooms on the second floor, one of which was called the Art Room.

The school moved after I left, to St. Catherine’s, a large house on the corner of Mayor’s Walk and Mill Hill. The school rooms were used as the Food Office during the war. At Mill Hill it changed its name as I understood the new owners of the Crescent Cinema did not like it being associated with them. It remained there until Miss Ebbutt retired and closed the school.

To return to the picture, I can recall some of the names, but after seventy years could get some wrong! Starting on the back row from left to right, no. 1 was Jack Keighley who lived on Mayor’s Walk with his family, who had for many years, a large part of what is now the Valley Gardens. Next is Gerald Smith, second son of G.T. Smiths. Third is Neville Wilkinson who lived in the big house on Carleton Road next to the road to the RAFA. His father was at the furniture Works in Mill Dam. Fifth was, I think, Margaret Taylor who lived at The Beeches in Mill Hill. Her father was the Taylor of Pennington Hustler and Taylor and was architect for the alterations at The Alexandra when it became a cinema. I felt very important when he took me on a tour round the projection room etc. Seventh is Jimmy Claxton Smith and at the end of the row is John Hanson whose father was a Castleford accountant and John later opened an office in Ropergate.

On the second row forward, I think the first is Gordon Miles, whose father was manager of Exchange Furnishing, which is now Pontefract Travel. Third is Biddy Mackie, who lived on Carleton Road with her brother, Jimmy Mackie (tenth on the front row). Fourth was, I think, Sheila Burnett, daughter of the Doctors who lived in The Mount. Sixth, and I think, ‘head girl’, is Brenda Hudson, whose father managed the Gas Works. I stand next to her and on my left is Derek O’Connor who later became a solicitor at Clayton Smith’s in Ropergate House. On his left is Alistair Johnson who lived in ‘Brierlen’, a large house on the left, just before Carleton Green. I always admired the large monkey puzzle tree they had. Third from the end is Megan Spence who lived nearest the school in the house at the bottom of the lawn in Barclays Yard. On the end of this row is Peter Ewbank whose grandfather started Ewbank’s Liquorice. His father had the cycle shop on the corner of Mill Hill and Wakefield Road

On the row next to the front at no. 3 is Claire Ferris and in front of Brenda Hudson is Shirley Bullock of the South Yorkshire Buses family. In front of myself is Ann Burnett, youngest sister of Sheila, and next to the end is Anne Wilkinson, sister of Neville.

As they were not in my year, the only front row member I can recall is Jimmy Mackie, as mentioned earlier.

We were all very happy at the school and I was sorry when I left in 1938-39 for the King’s School.

Best wishes,

John O. E. Holmes


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