Bethams School - Greenford
Edward Betham Church of England School
Edward Betham’s house was used as the school until the Victorian building was completed.         Edward Betham’s house then     Edward’s house now School Memories I started my education at Edward Betham infant school in September 1954 aged 4 years and 3 months. In those days we did not go to nursery school as most mothers stayed at home, so it was quite a shock to suddenly leave the protection of home and to be left for the day with all these other children.  My brother had also attended Bethams, but as he was 4 years older he had now left to attend Costons Junior Boys school just across the road. The school was a typical Victorian building, originally of course built as a village school, so there were a limited number of the high ceiling classrooms with large windows. The population of Greenford was growing and particularly the number of children due to the post war baby boom.  There was a separate annexe which housed 2 additional classrooms, but this sometimes used to flood after heavy rains as the building was set lower than the adjoining street. The first year’s classroom was a room that housed various toys as well as desks.  These included a sandpit and a beautiful rocking horse that I fell in love with.  As you can imagine this was a favourite with all the children and you had to wait your turn.  Eventually my turn came and I was so pleased, but then the teacher came along with a new starter, who was obviously upset, and asked me whether I would let the new arrival have a turn. I (reluctantly!) agreed.  I was delighted when visiting Beamish Open Air Museum in Durham recently to spot a similar rocking horse in the Pit Village School and I couldn’t resist, despite my advancing years, of having at last ‘my turn’. In fact the school at Beamish is very reminiscent of Betham, particularly of the school hall which had large folding doors, that could be pulled across to make two separate classrooms, especially useful when the annexe flooded. In the first year, remembering that some rationing was still in force and some foods were still scarce, we were all given at break time a spoonful of cod liver oil and an orange juice (as well as milk). I can still remember the smell of the oilcloth on the table where this was laid out. Miss Barrett was the Head Teacher and Mrs Gilham, who taught the final year students, was a lovely lady and we were encouraged to learn through play for example learning the intricacies of pounds shillings and pence (today’s kids have it easy with decimals!) by pretending to shop and learning weights and measures by making cakes. Our playground activities were slightly different – What’s the Time Mr Wolf’ and ‘Kiss Chase’ being some of the favourites. Being a mixed school, even then we had our ‘special’ boyfriends. Being a church school we were closely linked with Holy Cross Church which was just down the road and on special occasions we would all troop in file down the road to attend services in the church. I particularly recall when we would all come back to school with ash crossed on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday and receiving palm crosses at Easter. The church’s St Nicholas Towns Womens Guild, to which my mum and many of my friends mums belonged, often used the school hall for meetings, jumble sales and parties. This hall was also the scene of my starring role as a Holly Fairy and my debut on stage singing ‘We Three Ships’ at Christmas with two friends. Pagan celebrations too were not forgotten – May Day always being celebrated.  My best friend was May Queen and I regret not telling the teacher I had a long bridesmaids dress so that I could be a maid of honour, instead I had to learn the intricacies of the Maypole ribbon dance! As I lived towards Perivale Park, the walk to school was quite a long one for little legs.  It involved walking along the Western Avenue (not so busy in those days and separated from the pavement by a grass verge and service road), past the Roundabout Garage (sometimes going through it to cut off the corner or to buy Penny Blackjacks in the shop there), crossing the Greenford Road (luckily with the help of a school patrol crossing lady), then the best bit – The Firestation Path or its ’official’ name of Cow Lane. The Firestation Path (so called because on one side was the Firestation complete with accommodation flats), was a paved walkway with grass and trees either side, that linked Greenford Road with Oldfield Lane.  There was a small stream which ran underneath – always a source of attraction for us kids. The path always gave a sense of the seasons – spring blossom, kicking your feet through the fallen autumn leaves, playing snowballs in winter, the coolness and shade in the  summer. The opposite side of the path to the fire station there was open wasteland at this time, where my brothers and his friends used to go and explore (unbeknown to my mum I suspect!).                       Cow Lane aka The Firestation Path (Google Map) Then the last bit, along Oldfield Lane South, past the British Legion building, crossing Wordsworth Avenue, then following the lane past the stone wall surrounding the original school house and garden, then belonging to Mr Blount, finally to the school gates on the left. But my time at Bethams all too soon came to an end and then it was the move across the road to the junior schools, where sadly boys and girls were separated and a new school life began.