Memories of Blackham School
Sue Roe, nee Lewin, recalls life at Pitfields and attending Blackham School
We moved to Blackham in 1957,
when I was 8 eight years old.
We lived at Pitfields, the first house
down Oak Lane (I never heard it
called that) from The Sussex Oak
My parents, Terry and Jane Lewin,
rented it from Colonel and Mrs
Haig (Ronald and Cecily) who lived
at Park Gate.
My father was in the Navy and had
just been appointed to a job at the
Admiralty. He caught the train to
London everyday from Ashurst
I definitely felt a bit of an outsider
when I started at the school.
You could see the school across the
field from Pitfields but because of
the lie of the land, it wasn’t possible
to walk across the field and get into
Walk to school
I had to walk along the main road
from the Sussex Oak, at first, with
my mother but later on, by myself,
with my mother watching me
through a pair of binoculars to make
sure I got there safely.
The school was small with only two
classes. Mrs Forbes was
headmistress and she lived, with her
husband, in the schoolhouse
adjoining the school. She was had a
There were two classrooms and a
kitchen where our lunch was
The smaller children were in the
smaller classroom on the left as you
came in the front doors, after the
cloakrooms (pegs and lavatories)
The kitchen was straight ahead.
I was in the larger classroom on the
right, which had a folding screen
that could be pulled across dividing
We ate lunch at long tables at the
end nearest the kitchen. The room
was heated by a coke stove that was
set against the long far wall and it
had a big guard round it. On wet
days we dried our coats on it.
I distinctly remember listening to
Music and Movement on a big
wooden wireless and leaping round
Mrs Forbes was elderly and kind
but she retired not long after I
started at the school.
Her replacement was Mr. Dawes,
who lived in the schoolhouse with
his wife and children, four, I think.
He was a good teacher and we did a
lot of interesting project work -
something new to me.
I was very keen on farming and I
remember this was the subject of a
project that had us researching the
history of farming, modern farming
methods and food production.
I wrote to the makers of Hovis, who
sent back a booklet including little
sachets of wheat and flour. It was
exciting, as a child, to receive letters
and packages from the grown up
Mr. Dawes also encouraged us to
use the grassy garden behind the
school and we had individual
flowerbeds, which we looked after.
I credit Mr. Dawes for encouraging
my lifetime interest in nature, the
countryside and in horticulture
The lunches were good and as I
didn’t eat meat (I didn’t like it) the
kind dinner ladies gave me grated
The vicar The Rev Peter Scott was a
regular visitor to our assemblies.
He usually wore a fawn duffle coat
and rode a Vespa scooter.
We mostly played in the tarmac
play ground which had steep
concrete banks up to the main road
at the front and a view across the
field to my home at the back.
I spent a lot of time playing horses
with my friends. I learned to ride at
this time, catching the bus every
Saturday morning into Langton
Green where there were riding
I remember being told that the start
of the new school year in September
was arranged to allow children to
help with hop picking.
In 1959 we all sat the 11+ and
although I was offered a place at
Tunbridge Wells Girls Grammar
School, I was sent to boarding
school in St Leonards on Sea.
My younger brother was born in
1959 and soon after he started
school at Blackham, it closed and
he went by bus to Hartfield School,
going on to Sackville School in East
Grinstead which was then a new
Pitfields remained our family home
I loved Blackham School and
although I was already a veteran of
several schools, it was my favourite.
I loved village life and enjoyed
being in a small, happy school.
I particularly remember Richard
Gasson, the late Stephen Crowhurst,
Margaret and Rosemary Theobald,
Barbara Tester, Michael Tollhurst,
John Hammond and the Rakov
Richard Gasson’s parents sold their
car, PJ 9797, a 1932 Austin 10, to
my parents in the early 1960s. My
brother Tim restored it and still
sometimes drives it.
I recognize myself in the 1958
school photo. I pretty sure I am the
last girl on the right in the front row.
I am wearing a yashmak so hard to