The theme for #52Ancestors this week is Education and I thought I would tell you about the links I have with Punnetts Town Community Primary School in East Sussex.
Punnetts Town is the village where my brother and his family and my sister and her family live, my mum grew up and my grandparents and great grandparents lived. The school opened in May 1879 and at least 4 generations of my family have attended through the decades. The latest two are my two youngest nephews. During the 1940s to the 1960s one of the teachers and then Headmistress was Mrs Eva Pilbeam, my great Aunt, she was married to Sydney Pilbeam, my maternal grandad’s older brother.
I don’t know the exact dates of when she was at the school but past pupils put her time there between the 1940s and late 1960s. She was a well liked teacher and Headmistress from the early 50s it is believed, so much so, they had a memorial bench erected in her memory. I believe the bench was put into place when one of my nieces was at school there.
My mum remembers her as a strict but fair teacher who used to walk everyday from Rushford Farm in Three Cups to the school, which is the other end of Punnetts Town village and presumably walk home again at the end of the day. Not a huge distance but very different from these days where there is a scrum of cars outside the school twice a day, because nobody walks anywhere anymore.
She taught more than one generation of children from Punnetts Town and attended a school reunion held on 11 May 1985 at the school along with a number of past pupils who had been at the school between 1928 and 1940. I was sent a picture of her cutting the celebration cake along with other past teachers.
I put a call out on a Facebook group for memories of her and these are some of the comments I received back:
“She was there when I left 1967, she was a very good head although we might not have always appreciated it.”
“I was there from 1953 to 1959 and Mrs Pilbeam was the main teacher. Mrs Hewitt was the secretary and Mrs Smart was also a teacher. I loved my time there!”
“My 2 boys Malcolm and Steven had Mrs Pilbeam as head teacher till Miss Banner took over when Mrs Pilbeam retired, when she was older, I went to her as a home carer. She was so lovely. Mr Pilbeam gave me a big bunch of lilac from the tree by the gate. The scent was wonderful. She also taught my boys in the Rest Chapel Sunday school. So she was part of our life so much when my boys were young. Precious memories.”
Precious indeed. I think I have a memory of her teaching me in Sunday School on one of the many occasions that I stayed with my grandparents during school holidays and went to the Rest Chapel on a Sunday. I didn’t meet her often during my life but I remember her as a quite short, but very sweet old lady with a broad smile. I also have a memory of a school trip to the farm when I was about 8 years old and she showed us around the farm house, including a look at the wattle and daub on the stairs. That has stuck in my mind for years.
“Mrs Pilbeam’s grandson Andrew was the same age as my Steve. Andrew had to wear glasses. Mrs Pilbeam was highly amused when my gentle little Steve said to him ‘if the big boys laugh I will punch them up’, he was certainly not a fighter but Mrs Pilbeam often told me that little tale.”
“Mrs Pilbeam was Headmistress during my time at PT School 1952-58. I think she must have been made Head after Mr Booth moved to Maynards Green which was in the late 1940's! I enjoyed my time there and I remember Mrs Pilbeam reading last period on a Friday "The Travels of Marco Polo". It fired my imagination for travel and over the years have travelled parts of the Silk Route, mainly in Uzbekistan and Pakistan! The Court of Kubla Khan conjures up exotic locations!”
I love that last comment, how many of us can say we were inspired by a school teacher?
Village schools are an important part of a community and can be important to some of the families within the community. Punnetts Town School is important to our family that has lived in Punnetts Town for some generations and as some of my blogs have proved to me, some members of my Pilbeam family have been important members of the community in their day. Long may that continue and long may the school continue!
Lastly I would just like to say a big thank you to everyone who shared photos and comments on facebook. As a genealogist I feel it very important to keep the history of our families, and the places they lived in, alive by documenting our memories. Thank you!