Looking back at the Jubilee School

I first went through the front door of the Jubilee School in 1922 or 1923 ‑ up the stairs and into the room at the top on the right. This was my first Sunday School class and my teacher was Mrs. Margaret Howarth. Twenty years later she was to become my mother-in-law!

There was a large fireplace at the back of the room, but no fire! As children we sat on forms, with backs so that we would keep facing the front. In the corner, near the window stood a wooden easel on which was placed large, calendar-like drawings depicting stories from the Bible. Mrs. Howarth would tell us stories using different pictures each week. ‘Jesus bids us shine’ or ‘Jesus loves me this I know’ are hymns, which take me back to that lovely introduction to my long relationship with Jubilee School.

Then it was time to move up! Only next-door, but into the larger room which was for the Older Girls and Ladies Sunday School Class. Five classes down each side of the room with at least ten girls in each class. It really was a flourishing Sunday School with an age range from nine to those who were referred to as ‘young ladies’. A sliding partition separated us from the ‘older’ ladies.

The superintendent was Mr. Edwin Wigley; his wife was the teacher for the older ladies. He was succeeded by Mr. Will Horrobin and then by Mrs. Annie Hall and later by Mrs. Winnie Bracken. Some of the teachers I remember too. May Ashworth was my favourite in those younger days. She later became Mrs. Thompson, but she was young, blonde and pretty (isn’t it funny how you remember impressions?). Other names come into my head as I write, Marjorie Tyrer (she was Arthur Nightingale’s Auntie), Amelia Shone (became Mrs. Kennedy). Dora Hughes (she became Mrs. Pooley and is still living in Abbeyfield in Harper’s Lane). Gladys Horrobin, Hilda Riley, Elsie Holloway (she became Mrs. Morris), Annie Owen and Annie Lythgoe. Faithful teachers who faithfully taught week-by-week in the Jubilee School. I shall never forget those days; in fact, I’m still a member and the pianist of the Ladies Class, which still meets in the Church Lounge. We really were given a good grounding of commitment and service.

But, going back to my Sunday School days. Winning a ‘prize’ was something very special! To win a prize we had to win marks each Sunday. One for attending, one for learning a verse from the Bible chosen the previous week by the teacher, one for answering questions during class, and one for good behaviour! If you came to the morning Sunday School as well, where Kitty Martin was the superintendent, you could get four more marks and that would help you win a Special Prize. The prizes were given out at the prize giving after the annual Sunday School Tea-Party. The party was downstairs in what was the Boys’ Sunday School room and afterwards we were entertained to a Magic Lantern Show worked by a Mr. John Wood from the Vallet’s Mission. The pictures were all hand painted on glass slides and very brightly burning carbon rods provided the light. It was all very exciting.

In addition to the morning and afternoon Sunday School, there was also a children’s Service at 6.15 p.m. in the upstairs room. This was taken by a faithful group of Christian workers who willingly gave their time week-by-week on a Sunday evening. I recall Will Horrobin, his daughter Gladys and nephew Fred. Later Fred Horrobin teamed up with Bill Stewart. It wasn’t an easy task because, even in those far off days, there was a disruptive element among some of the local youths, who came in just to be a nuisance. I can’t remember how, but somehow I became the pianist for those services and kept at it until I was eighteen and went off to Training College.

Golden Bells was our favourite hymnbook. Sometimes we’d sing from the National Young Life Campaign hymnbook, but mostly we enjoyed singing choruses from the CSSM Chorus books. Old habits die hard, but we still sing some of those choruses in the Ladies Class today, because they are so scripturally sound and understandable. We had Sword Drill, where we held our Bibles in our right hand under our left arm, drew it out, held it aloft and said together ‘The Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God’. Then we would sing ‘Open thou my eyes that I may behold, wondrous, wondrous things out of Thy Law.

We learned to find our way around our Bibles. We were thrilled to read our Bibles. We certainly learned some wondrous things from our Bibles. Not just stories, but Truths. I recall Will Horrobin teaching us the meaning of the words ‘omnipotent’ and omniscient’. I can see him now, writing words on a blackboard, which he would then explain in such a way that you never forgot. What has happened to chalkboard teaching?

Every summer was a Field Day, held on a field, which belonged to John Halstead, the farmer who gave the land in Tattersall Avenue where St. Andrew’s now stands. We played games, we ran races and there were prizes for the winner. We sat in groups for a picnic tea; I suppose it looked a bit like the Feeding of the Five Thousand really. We went home tired, but very happy and very thankful for all those who had given us such a memorable day.

So really, Jubilee School has been part of my life over many years. I have lived through six vicariates (if there is such a word!), Percy Stott, who was vicar until 1930. Then Percy Marr Davies (1930 – 1947), Richard Higginson (1947 – 1956), Harold Hacking (1956 – 1963), Cecil Butlin (1963 – 1979) and our present vicar, Roger Oldfield from 1980.

It was sad to see the Jubilee go but we now have our new Centre and I look forward to the refurbished building taking its place.

By Marjorie Howarth