The School through Two World Wars

The World War One period

In Kelly's Directory in 1914 the Weaver Navigation Company was still the chief landowner, but the community had expanded. It had its own Police Station at one time and a coaching inn, the Weaver Hotel was being rebuilt and the Castner Kellner works was expanding. There were engineering works here too, like Henry Branch's. Weston Point had a fried fish shop, a Co-op and a cab proprietor, until the outbreak of the First World War. Some of you may know Sylvia Littlemore. She was a Weston Point girl and was a friend of my Mum. She had been asked by her grandson to write her memories of Weston Point. Now, funnily enough, she doesn't record her schooldays, but she remembers all the social things that went on. Her first memory is of walking with her Dad along Cock and Hen Lane to the station to see him and his friends off when they were enlisting for the First World War. The memoirs are quite detailed, about how she went to dances and the social events that were sponsored by Castner's. The First World War was a time for expansion for Weston Point, mustard gas and other chemicals were produced at the factory, they were needed for the offensive.

the map of Weston Point 1912-18, drawn by Alfred Holloway for his book, you can see Sandy Lane and the white gate. The white gate is where Castner Avenue now is, you walked down it to Castner's works. There was a pond, Walkers Pond, going right the way down to Eaton Hall, which was a little cottage. Sandy Lane went to the Salt Works. Down at the Castner's end you can see the Weaver Canal and Lydiate Lane. You can still see the abutment to the drum road bridge; that is where the little railway ran, that brought all the slabs of sandstone down to the river. Also you've got South Parade, Leonard Street and Sidney Street, Star Cottages and the labs and offices of Castner's. A lot of these things have disappeared. Here are Castner Kellner's gates, how many lads have rushed through that before it was shut? Once it was shut that was it, if you were late, you were not allowed through, so you lost a day's pay. It wasn't a bad time for Castner Kellner's, it expanded, it needed workers, and workers came from all over the country. After the war it expanded even further, houses being built right the way up Sandy Lane, going towards Weston. The factory and the houses went all the way to the Salt Works. The Alkali Works are still down here and eventually they were all joined up to the main factory, expanding even more.

World War Two

In between the wars there was a time of consolidation, the community grew and then the Second World War began. We are lucky in that we found the school log book for that time. The head teacher had kept a detailed log book and it's very indicative of how they coped during the war. The first entry is on 1st September 1939, 61 years ago. It stated, "This school is closed from today until further notice. The teachers and the pupils are being evacuated to Blackpool. We travel from here at 2 o'clock.". The total number of pupils present on that last day was 65 children. So you can see, although the numbers expanded greatly round about the expansion of the factories, Castner's, the Salt Works and the canal, it was now decreasing; only 65 on roll. The next entry is 20th January 1940. "The school re-opened today, this morning, in extremely bad weather and under very bad conditions. Everything outside was frozen stiff, no water was available and the rooms were being cold through damp. Mrs. Dawson was absent; she is in bed with bronchitis. Seventeen children were present." And in February it said: "Attendance has been very low, with coughs and colds being very prevalent owing to severe winter weather." So, it wasn't good, the children had all gone to Blackpool, but didn't like it and wouldn't settle. In fact, there was notice of some children coming back before January, so much so that by the time January came, they said "Oh blow it, open the school again!". The school was expanding to some extent because children from other areas were being evacuated to Weston Point. How ridiculous is that? "Four new children over five were admitted today, this was in April, "making 84 on the registers", and on 16th April both sessions had a full attendance. There were no school dinners in these days. At 12 o'clock the school closed, home you go and it re-opened at 1.15 pm. Children used to go home and return in an hour and a quarter after their lunch. The trouble with this was, that if the children registered in the morning, and then if mother wanted to do something else in the afternoon, more often than not they did not return after lunch. Then disaster struck! Frank Clear had to be sent home. At 3 o'clock a rash had appeared on his face; Frank Clear has German measles!. The school dentist made his usual visit to examine the children's teeth on that day too. Eventually they had to shut the school because of the measles. Mrs. Brindley also arrived today; she was an HMI, Her Majesty's Inspector. She inquired about the evacuation and its effects on the evacuees. School closed on 10th May at 3.30 pm for the Whit holiday; they all were on holiday for a week.

From the log book we learn that on 4th September 1940, "The air raid warning sounded just before 10.00am this morning. We went to the shelter and remained there for over an hour. Registers were marked at 10 past 11 as there had also been an air raid lasting from 10 o'clock (pm) until 4.00 am in the morning. Only 17 attended on that morning. The air raid shelters were close by, the log book gives a list of the times in a day when the pupils and staff went back and to, to the air raid shelter. There must have been a shelter close by, but it's not marked on any maps. Some days in January they went into the shelter from 1.55 to 2.50, 1.35 to 2.05 and 9.25 to 10.05: they were in and out of the shelters all day. Really, I suppose, you wonder why. A German bombing map of Weston Point was found, I believe, in a German plane that was shot down in Kent. It shows you where they were going to drop the bombs, there's the target area. But the target area is not ICI; it's all along the waterfront. The Germans wanted to retain the ICI because they were going to use the superstructure, the industry, when they took over. The church and the school were also outside the target area, but they still had to go to the shelter; the bombing map shows it. I also have an aerial photograph of that area again from the German bombing raid.

The school still expanded. Before the Second World War, ICI had been doing well and they decided they wanted to do something for the area. They decided they were going to improve conditions, so they built houses. Before this time, a lot of workers had travelled from Runcorn or by train from further afield. The Company decided to build houses for the workers; we have plans of the houses. There's Cullen Road, Roscoe Crescent, Sandy Lane. They started to build them in the 1920s - houses with bathrooms, hot water systems. Although they had toilets in the back yard, yet they had bathrooms. Now this was well ahead of its time. Houses with bathrooms weren't in common use until after the Second World War when the new council houses were built. But here the ICI are putting in copper boilers, heating systems and bathrooms. They built 100 houses in 1924 and if you look at the aerial photograph you can see that the road plan is 'ICI'. Castner Avenue is one 'I', Roscoe Crescent is the 'C' and Mather Avenue is the other 'I'; it makes 'I C I'. The Company had its own fire brigade too, and their own doctor. Weston Point was a thriving community; they had their own recreation club and sports fields.

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