St. Mark’s School, in Little Common, opened in 1855 and was enlarged in 1890. It had an offshoot at Normans Bay. The original St Mark’s School building was closed in 1961, when the present Little Common School (not church-aided) was built. The old building next to St Mark’s Church was demolished and is now the car park.
An extract from the Bexhill-on-Sea Observer, dated 19th March 1910 (page 5) tells us something about the original St Mark’s School building.
“St. Mark’s School”
“Surroundings – Unpaved playground in front and one side. Paved at back.”
“Ventilation – Roof ventilators and windows. Ventilator has often to be closed as teacher cannot stand under it because of draught. In infants’ room there are two gratings in the wall as fresh air inlets, “but these are kept closed during the winter. Lighting.—Good. from back in annex and babies’ room, but only fair in main class.”
“Warming. – Open stove. Impossible to warm sufficiently as position is bad. Cloak Rooms – No arrangements for drying. Three lavatory basins, lock-up tap. Sanitary Conveniences – Good and clean.”
In the same newspaper, dated 19th March 1910, on page 11, we learn a little more about the school.
“In the absence of his Assistant through illness during January, Mr Card has had the whole of the work of the Mixed School, with 73 on the roll. It is more than a single teacher can manage. Apart from this the school seems to maintain a satisfactory position of the past three years. Some of the elder children are devoting special attention to subjects likely to be more particularly useful to them.”
“Satisfactory provision is made for the study of nature and the acquisition of general knowledge, and the timetable is suitably arranged there is, however, no hand and eye training beyond the Infants’ Class. This matter should receive attention. There is no library, and no dictionaries for the use of the senior scholars, but that is a sufficient supply of suitable reading books. The brushwork, done by many of the elder children, is very good. The infants are bright and interested in their work. They are well managed by Miss Honey set, who has been much helped by the substitution of little chairs and tables for the awkward old gallerys. The main reason is not very well lighted, and the annex is very small and inconvenient, and generally unsuitable for a class. The room is very full; there were 73 on the role and a good deal of the desk equipment is unfit for use and occupies space out of all proportion to the accommodation given. There are 16 medium dual desks in good condition; the replacement of the remainder by Jules suitable for the elder children is urgently necessary.”
In 1940, along with many of Bexhill schools, the pupils of St Marks, Little Common were evacuated to safety from the dangers of German bombing raids. St Mark’s School went to Willian, a small village in North Hertfordshire, surrounded by the town of Letchworth.
The following abstract comes from the Bexhill Observer, dated 3rd August 1940 and was written by the, then, headmaster of St Marks School, Little Common, Mr P. J. Denchfield – perhaps, in an effort to reassure the children’s’ parents.: –
“St Mark’s children are particularly fortunate in being billeted in Willian, an old-world village on the outskirts of Letchworth. The town is very new and suburban, lacking historical atmosphere, but the village, nestling among lofty elms, with its green ponds, farms in this, school and 13th century church is representative of everything English.”
“The people here have made the children are very happy, and speak well of the good manners, looks and bearing of their protégés. At church on Sunday no room could be found in the nave, so the whole school was packed into the choir stalls. It was lovely to hear the burst of hearty singing, and one felt the children, unknowingly, by their worship and praise, made contact with their loved ones at home.”
“One incident may interest. Two boys were billeted in a house where dressing for dinner was the custom. The following morning, they told me that they had three plates and numerous knives and forks, and they knew not what to do.”
“What did you do?”, I asked.
“We blew our noses while we watched what they did”, replied the boys of Little Common. How’s that for resourcefulness!
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