• Welcome to this forum . We are a worldwide group with a common interest in Birmingham and its history. While here, please follow a few simple rules. We ask that you respect other members, thank those who have helped you and please keep your contributions on-topic with the thread.

    We do hope you enjoy your visit. BHF Admin Team

Birmingham Open Air Schools - Cropwood, Hunter's Hill, Marsh Hill and Skilts (excl. Haseley Hall and Uffculme)

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
In a thread about Uffculme School, maggs wrote:

I went to Blackwell Open Air school, possibly for a couple of years. I was very young at the time and can't remember, but I hated the place and was so unhappy there. The food was dreadful, burned porridge, and milk straight from the cow, which I refused to drink. It was a beautiful place though, a big house in wonderful grounds. Owned by Cadburys. It was close to Bromgrove and the Lickey Hills. Does anyone remember this school?


Perhaps this subject deserves its own thread.

I know someone who was there for two-and-a-half years from 1950 to 1952 from the age of 11 and who has happier memories of the place (and was cured). Does anyone else have knowledge/memories of this school?

Chris
 

Phil

Gone, but not forgotten.
My Sister Catherine (Kate) spent some time at Cropwood in 63/64 and I believe she enjoyed her time there. I remember visiting her there one open day that they had on a Sunday and about 40 of us being stranded at the bus stop because there was no Sunday Afternoon service. It was left to me a callow 16 year old to ring the bus company and plead for a bus to be put on, which they eventually agreed to do.
 

Attachments

  • Rednal Cropwood Open Air School 1950.JPG
    Rednal Cropwood Open Air School 1950.JPG
    160.5 KB · Views: 103

maggs

master brummie
I was there at least 20 years before your sister Phil, but I am pleased to hear that she was happy enough there. Thank you for finding a photo of the place. I had a no close family at this time, and therefore there were no visitors on visitors day, which I think was alternate Saturdays. So this, added to the strict regime of the place, added to my unhappiness there. As far as I remember we had a uniform of brown gymslips in winter and flowery dresses in summer. We had indoor and outdoor shoes, which we had to change on entering the lobby of the house. On Sundays we were walked summer and winter to church in a place called Hollywood. There was a matron who bathed us once a week in round flat shallow baths, which I think were galvanised things. Our finger and toe nails were cut so short that we bled. The dentist visited every 6 months, and, thank God I never had to have any treatment, because I'm sure it would have been a pull em situation given the attitude of everything else there at that time. The older girls were given the job of overseeing the welfare of the very little one's, of which I was one. There was a row of basins in the lobby, where we washed and cleaned our teeth, using some white powder in a large tin, which we all dipped out toothbrushes in as we got to the end of the queue. Many of us suffered from chilblains and excema which was never dealt with. Well, these are some of my memories of Cropwood, and not happy one's at all. In some ways this still haunts me to this day.
 

Trebor

master brummie
Hello,
I was at Cropwood Open air school in the late fifties, Miss Urqhart was the headmistress at the time, there is a very interesting book you can get from the library called 'A Breath of Fresh Air' it was written by a girl that was there, I think her name is Frances Willmott.. The book is the history of all the open air schools, I think there were six run by Birmingham Council.
Regards trebor (Rita)
 

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
Sorry that you had an unhappy time, maggs. Perhaps the wartime regime there was harsher than it seems to have been 10 or so years later. My friend was happy enough but perhaps it helped that she was older. Much of what you describe coincides with her memory, including gym slips and flowery dresses, older girls (of whom she was one) being responsible for a number of younger ones, the tooth-cleaning routine, indoor and outdoor shoes, the chilblains and eczema (although those seemed to have received decent attention by then) and so on. I am hoping to persuade her to write a detailed memoir for the purpose of this thread.

There are also a number of photographs of pupils and staff which will be posted here in due course (might take a week or two). Staff included the headmistress, Miss Boothroyd (who was confined to a wheelchair), Miss Davis (who looked after Miss B), Miss Soar, Miss Whipp and Miss Taylor. Miss Urqhart, mentioned by Rita, took over from Miss Boothroyd during 1953.

Chris
 
Last edited:

ColinB

gone but not forgotten
The book Rita refers to has a great deal of information on Cropwood, staff and children and is well worth looking for, I was very lucky I paid £6.50 for a mint copy on ebay, there is a copy on sale on ebay £32 + P & P

Colin
 

maggs

master brummie
Chris I look forward to reading the memoir your friend will hopefully wrote regarding Cropwood Open Air school. I do think what you say about being an older girl there, may have made it more bearable. I also think that if I had been able to have a family visit, it may have not been such a lonely and frightening place for me. Certainly your remarks about being a war time attitude towards the regime of the place was probable. I don't remember the war myself, but it was a time of children being seen and not heard during my time at Cropwood. I remember we had to make our own beds, and stand beside them whilst they were inspected. Hospital corners had to be perfect, and for a child as young as I was it was cruel. 6pm was bedtime summer and winter for the tinies like me. I also remember being beaten with a stick by one of the teachers, and being made to stand behind the blackboard for a whole afternoon. Generally afternoons were spent on camp beds outside under a red blanket, where we were supposed to sleep, possible for an hour or more. One thing we did all look forward to though was tuck day, which was Thursdays. We were given a tin and again queued, one of the 'big girls' then put so many sweets into our tin. I find it amazing how clearly I remember it all, especially as I was so young, but my unhappiness there was so intense, that maybe it's hard to forget.
 

batmadviv

master brummie
I too was a pupil at Cropwood from 1954 to 1956. Miss Marjorie Urquhart was the head - a very fine head teacher - and Miss P.Z. Zoar taught the youngest age group. Miss Williams was deputy. It was at Cropwood where my interest in bats began.
I remember having chilblains. When any chilblains burst they were painted with gentian violet. 'A Breat of Fresh Air' has my contribution included together with a relative's contribution. Her stay at Cropwood was in the 1930s. Classroom lessons were only in the mornings, the afternoons being reserved for fresh air activities such as long country walks or playing outside. Bliss.
 

a s wood

master brummie
I went to Marsh Hill Open Air School in Erdington. It was a day school, and so lovely. I enjoyed every minute I spent there. We were all so well looked after, I always felt lucky to have those 2 years there. We used to have breakfast on arrival (the food was great,) wash and teeth clean after meals. A rest (on a camp bed with a blanket) in the afternoon, and plenty of fresh air!
My Mom also went there for her senior school years she loved it too.
 

Trebor

master brummie
I also went to Marsh Hill open air school, as well as Cropwood, Marsh Hill was a day school, where as Cropwood was a boarding school. I was much happier at Marsh Hill, the headmistress was Ms Hazel, and there was Mrs Browning and Mr Davies and Mr Wilson to name a few. The matron was called Sister Yelland.
Trebor (Rita)
 

Smjones

New Member
I went to Cropwood Open Air School from 1963 - 1967.

Miss urqhuart was head mistress. I remember the dorms, the potties, the grounds and the Licky hills. Going to church some Sundays and remedials. I remember other things as well. Brown tunics and blazers, pale yellow shirts and green stockings. Can't remember what colour the tie was.

My name was Susan Mary Jones.
 

littleemily

proper brummie kid
my sister and I were at cropwood from 1963 to about 1966/7 it was a horrible place very regemented, harsh for young children. I have lots of memories from cropwood. we also went to skilts another open-air-school from 1960/63.
 

littleemily

proper brummie kid
Hi gee-em,


I think it was called an open-air-school because a lot of the activities were taken outside, the schools were usually in the countryside i.e plenty of fields and trees and fresh air and in some cases children were expected to sleep on camp beds outside for their afternoon naps depending on age. for inner city kids you would think it would be heaven but it was the regimented cruel way in which they were run . children went there for all sorts of reasons mostly medical some because of family problems. my sister and I were sent there because we lived in slum housing and were always ill because of the conditions we had various reasons to be there. we hated it and tried to run away but I can tell you it was only tried once!. I cant tell you if its the same place as the Blackwell court it may be as it seems to mentioned in previous threads. did you have any connection with it yourself?.
 

gee-em

master brummie
Thanks for your reply littleemily. I had never heard of this type of school before. I know there was a sanitorium for recouperation in Blackwell and wondered if they were connected. My connection is to Blackwell Court. I was quite involved with the Scouting organisation there for about 10 years and am very interested in the history of the house and grounds. I have stayed in the house, camped in the grounds and spent many happy hours there in the beautiful grounds.
Its such a shame that what could have been a lovely experience was ruined for some of you.
 

pollypops

master brummie
Here is a picture of Cropwood, Blackwell early 1900's. My son who worked at Blackwell Court adventure centre a few years ago said it is the Manor House at Blackwell court*

*Please note since this post it has been confirmed that Blackwell Court was NOT Cropwood Open Air School
 

Attachments

  • cropwood_c1908_-_Copy.JPG
    cropwood_c1908_-_Copy.JPG
    36.7 KB · Views: 86
Last edited:

littleemily

proper brummie kid
omg! this is a blast from the past we slept in bedrooms with double glass doors leading to the verandah in the middle of the picture we all had to sleep facing the same way and if you turned over in the night the person on nightwatch would come and wake you up to turn back, the windows were open all year round regardless of weather the only time they were closed and locked was when the police insisted because there had been some escapees from a prison somewhere nearby!.
 
Top