Whenever I park my car at Chichester Gate to go swimming or to the cinema, I always look up at the neglected and dilapidated building that was once the proud Chichester High School for Girls.
I attended that school in the 1960s before it was merged with the Lancastrian Girls’ School and became a comprehensive. I always find it strange to be parking on what was the playing field, netball courts, and swimming pool! How we hated getting into that outdoor pool when it was cold!
Last week I noticed that part of the building was no longer there and there was a large crane doing some sort of work, so my reminiscences lasted longer than usual and I decided to record some of them in print.
When I attended the girls’ school we had emerald-green blazers with a pretty blue and yellow braid and the boys’ school had plain bright green. Both had badges showing the West Sussex martlets.
The Lancastrian girls had navy-blue blazers with a badge depicting Chichester Cathedral and the boys had dark-green blazers with the Chichester City crest for their badge.
When the schools merged, the Boys’ High School kept the bright-green blazers and the Girls’ took on the navy-blue of the Lancastrian Girls. I have noticed that recently the Boys’ High School blazers have turned dark-green, but I wonder how many people realise both high schools have now adopted the colour of the blazers originally worn by the Lancastrian schools?
When I started searching for photographs of all these school buildings, I discovered the Record Office is remarkably deficient in that area. We have a number of school photos showing the students posed in front of the buildings, for example this one of Chichester High School for Girls in 1921 (long before I attended, so I do not appear in it). And this 1940s one showing the Boys’ School.
The same situation pertains for the old Central Girls’ School in Chapel Street (no longer in existence) and the Central Boys’ School in New Park Road (now the New Park Centre).
We do have this 1930s photograph showing the girls in a classroom with a sliding partition (which I remember was still there when I attended the school).
We also have this one of the first Central Boys’ building, which had ‘For the education of the infant poor upon the plan of Revd Bell and in the principles of the Church of England’ emblazoned in bold lettering on the side.
This building was knocked down and the new one was built to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. Note that New Park Road is in flood.
The story of the various buildings occupied by all the Chichester schools is long and complicated and the subject of a much more detailed article, so I will not dwell too long on it.
But, I wonder, do any of you remember attending the old Central Girls’ School, as I do? It was a fascinating building with two separate staircases.
One led to the upstairs hall and the other to a classroom at the top of the building, which was complete with an ‘old-fashioned’ stove. We do have a plan of the school when it was built in 1884.
Note the outside loos and the covered way leading to them. An inspector’s report of 1878 had stated that the accommodation in the previous building used by the Girls School was ‘very insufficient’, so the new Chapel Street school must have been a vast improvement.
However, by the 1960s when there was no longer even a covered way to reach the loos, and we had to dash across in the rain, the accommodation could once again be described as ‘insufficient’! The building was demolished in 1973.
We do have some records of the Boys’ High School and the Boys’ Lancastrian that are yet to be catalogued and a volunteer and I are about to make a start on sorting these records. I look forward to discovering what they reveal. Perhaps the subject of another Down Memory Lane article?
If you have any photographs you would like to share with us, we can scan your copies so please contact me or my colleague, Nichola Court, at West Sussex Record Office, 01243 753602 or email firstname.lastname@example.org