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

marketman1956

knowlegable brummie
Some images from Cropwood - 1951/53. Can anyone be recognised?

Summer.

View attachment 152125

Miss Boothroyd (Miss Urquhart's predeccessor) and Miss Davis/Davies

View attachment 152136

Miss Taylor

View attachment 152127

Class 1 stirring the Christmas pudding

View attachment 152126

And the two smallest girls in the school....

View attachment 152128
Hi there..Great pics.
Was wondering if u had more of the same,and maybe even more from later periods..ie,late 60s/70s
 

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
marketman1956, thanks. Those photographs came from a friend who was at Cropwood for about two and a half years between 1951 and 1953. I have mentioned her before. I think that there may be one or two more from that period but these look about the best ones for the purposes of identification of pupils. Any others will appear in due course. In the meantime, is there any particular aspect of life there at that time which interests you ?

I'm still hoping that a memoir of this period at Cropwood will appear at some stage, as mentioned a long time ago.

The Christmas pud stirring group were the older girls and possibly represent about half the school. The photo was an official one, a copy of which the pupils could elect to have. This means that there was almost certainly an equivalent one for younger girls. Copies must survive, somewhere.

No, sorry, any photographs to which I have access are very much of the 1951/53 period and there's nothing for later years.

As has been mentioned by others, I thoroughly recommend the "A Breath of Fresh Air" book (Frances Wilmot/Pauline Saul) - if you can get hold of it and that's looking a bit difficult these days.

Another fragment of information: the Miss Boothroyd era ended some time in 1953 and Miss Urquhart took over then.

Chris
 

marketman1956

knowlegable brummie
marketman1956, thanks. Those photographs came from a friend who was at Cropwood for about two and a half years between 1951 and 1953. I have mentioned her before. I think that there may be one or two more from that period but these look about the best ones for the purposes of identification of pupils. Any others will appear in due course. In the meantime, is there any particular aspect of life there at that time which interests you ?

I'm still hoping that a memoir of this period at Cropwood will appear at some stage, as mentioned a long time ago.

The Christmas pud stirring group were the older girls and possibly represent about half the school. The photo was an official one, a copy of which the pupils could elect to have. This means that there was almost certainly an equivalent one for younger girls. Copies must survive, somewhere.

No, sorry, any photographs to which I have access are very much of the 1951/53 period and there's nothing for later years.

As has been mentioned by others, I thoroughly recommend the "A Breath of Fresh Air" book (Frances Wilmot/Pauline Saul) - if you can get hold of it and that's looking a bit difficult these days.

Another fragment of information: the Miss Boothroyd era ended some time in 1953 and Miss Urquhart took over then.

Chris
Thanks for the quick response Chris,very much appreciated..
I have noticed there seems 2 be an abundance of info relating to cropwood,but very little regarding hunters hill,why is this?
The period im most interested in is late 60s/early seventies..especially regarding to hunters hill.ie,ex pupils names and photos of the period.
And news of ex staff members,many of whom must have past on by now..but some must still survive?
I have so many great memories of hunters hill and cropwood,I still visit there quite regularly.
Once again Chris.. thankyou.and keep up the good work.
 

Trebor

master brummie

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
marketman1956
I understand that there were six Birmingham Open Air Schools opened after 1911 and dedicated to the care of sick Birmingham children: Cropwood, Haseley Hall, Hunter's Hill, Marsh Hill, Skilts and Uffculme.

Of these, the following have individual threads within this Forum:

Cropwood, including a bit about Hunter's Hill – (this thread)

Haseley Hall –
Uffculme –
I'm going to amend the title of this thread to include the four amongst the above which aren't properly represented on the Forum at present. Let's hope that it will ecourage members with experience of those places to contribute to this thread. (Not least you about Hunter' Hill!)

To everyone who reads this thread, I should just like to say, as someone who as a child suffered neither ill health nor being wrenched from my family at an early age to deal with it, that I find it difficult to imagine just how dreadful the experience must have been. It's probably not surprising that the memories I have read range from the very positive to the very negative. Anyone, but most especially those with unhappy memories, should really read the book on this subject which has been mentioned before. It might put their experiences into the context of what was going on, what had to be done to make the places work and be effective, what was achieved and how the memory of other pupils matched up (or didn't match up) with their own.

The book is "A Breath of Fresh Air" written by Frances Wilmot (née Headford, ex-Cropwood) and Pauline Saul (née Brueton) ex-Uffculme), published by Phillimore & Co. Ltd., 1998, ISBN 1 86077 075 4. Very well written and presented and full of memoirs (including one from Miss U. at Cropwood), names, extracts from the establishments' logbooks, photographs and so on. It's no doubt out of print now and it does appear to be difficult to pick up second hand. But it's sure to be available in the Central Library, at the very least. Worth the effort tracking it down

Chris
 

Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
There is a review of the book on the Amazon site...

“I have this book and it is a VERY interesting read, more so because my twin sister and I were pupils in these schools back in the 1960s. We were at Skilts together and later seperated to Cropwood (my sister) and Hunters Hill.
The writers give a very romantic view to these establishments, my memories are VERY different to theirs. My sister and I were forced to go to these resedntial schools, taken away from out parents and our home, seeing our Mom and Dad for a couple of hours once a month. These establishments were not the home from home "happy holidya" places they seem to project.
Boys, including myself, at times cried because they were so homesick and missed their families, some boys even ran away to try and get back to their parents.
There was never enough food and heating didn't seem to exist. To get warm we boys would hide in the cloakroom where the "best" jackets and coats were kept. It was against the rules but SO warm. At night when we were hungry we wood eat our toothpaste, THAT was hunger!
I see no mention of this in the book ..........
All in all the book is good as a record of Open Air Schools, their locations and their purpose but as I have said a very rosey picture is painted and I for one would have liked to see more reality and less rose tinted memory.”
 
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ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
The previous post has had certain unsubstantiated accusations against the School Management edited out.

Otherwise, who knows? Not surprised at the distress caused by homesickness and separation from family, nor the cold (this was part of "the cure" for some as the schools were acting in part as sanatoria - a few of the luckier(?) Birmingham children were sent to Switzerland). Food? The odd memoir talks about it in glowing terms and a personal memory I have heard that it was good at Cropwood. But all these things are snapshots of time and place. All the schools were active for decades and no doubt conditions fluctuated.

Chris
 

marketman1956

knowlegable brummie
There is a review of the book on the Amazon site...

“I have this book and it is a VERY interesting read, more so because my twin sister and I were pupils in these schools back in the 1960s. We were at Skilts together and later seperated to Cropwood (my sister) and Hunters Hill.
The writers give a very romantic view to these establishments, my memories are VERY different ......

Hi pedrocut..
Read your article with interest......
I remember well the headmaster who replaced them, Mr. Williams.
When exactly were you there? Just maybe we knew each other?
 
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ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
Sorry, we have to steer clear of unsubstantiated accusations of wrongdoing against individuals and of the naming of those concerned. So the above two posts #186 and 188 have been heavily edited.

Chris
 

Betty cannon

New Member
I did go dancing at hunters Hill, I was very shy and only remember Charles whom I danced with, I know he had a brother there too.

Cropwood I remember miss Fisher? Sewing teacher, miss Smith? Lady who watched us at night, I don't remember many girls names, Margaret Reynolds, Sara Laura, Susan Jones, josephine & Patricia Reid?
 

marketman1956

knowlegable brummie
I did go dancing at hunters Hill, I was very shy and only remember Charles whom I danced with, I know he had a brother there too.

Cropwood I remember miss Fisher? Sewing teacher, miss Smith? Lady who watched us at night, I don't remember many girls names, Margaret Reynolds, Sara Laura, Susan Jones, josephine & Patricia Reid?
Hi Betty.. ithink the person u used 2 dance wiv was charley tilly..he had brother at hhoas named Raymond tilly.
 

pauljon

knowlegable brummie
This was written by older sister, Cropwood to Switzerland.

In 1946 I was one of the children who for health reasons went to Switzerland. I was attending Cropwood Open Air School Blackwell and was one of the fortunate children to be chosen to go. All children were kitted out with the necessary clothing. We were taken by coach to London were we spent our first night in the underground stations. We were taken to the ferry and boarded it bound for Calais. When we arrived we were met by the families we were to spend time with. I was to stay with Mr and Mrs Casal near Zuric for six weeks then to Mr and Mrs Borrowman. I stayed there until 23rd December. My health greatly improved and I experienced many exciting things. I kept in touch with Mr and Mrs Borrowman until they both died in their 80's.( Published in the Brummagen Magazine)

My sister used to enthral us with her tales of her own room and nursery maid, travelling in big posh cars. She never boasted about these things, or complained when she returned home to living in a house with one room, one bedroom and an attic which was shared with our mom and five children, in a yard, our father was deceased.

My sister is no longer with us. Her memories of a different life for a short time are with me too, not envious at all just a story to me. Mom gave us a happy life and had three jobs to bring us all up to be good abiding citizens.
 

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
A wonderful memoir, thanks pauljon. It tells us something about her - and you too.

It also tells me something which I didn't know previously and that is that children sent from Birmingham to Switzerland for their health didn't necessarily go to a sanatorium. In your sister's case it was to private families. I wonder if you or anyone else knows anything about how that came about and how it all worked.

Chris

(pauljons post transferred from elsewhere to this, the Cropwood/general open air schools thread)
 

pauljon

knowlegable brummie
I can only remember that I was told by my sister the people she stayed with were childless and wanted to help look after
her and give her lots of love and attention helping her back to health. The Borrowmans wanted to keep her and adopt her
obviously mom wanted her back with the family. Jean struck up a long friendship by post with them, many years later they visited her whilst on a trip to England, making a big fuss of her and meeting her children. Although Jean would have liked to live in Switzerland she missed home and her family. Reading some of the comments about Cropwood, Jean would often say that she was miserable there, they used to push the beds outside in the cold to get fresh air, and she didn't like being there as it was an awful place to be in, often crying herself to sleep. One story she told was her friend and herself running away and getting back to Birmingham only to find a policeman talking to mom to see if she had got home. She escaped twice, and was sent back for her own good. She was pleased when her health improved and was able to return home. Remember also this was 1946 post war. I liked listening to Jeans escapades I adored my big sister, she being 10 years older than me had to help mom, she had to look after her younger siblings due to the fact that our father had died at the age of 38 and mom had to go out to work to clothe and feed us.
 

michaelwicks54

Aston bred & proud.
Hi susan,was at hhoas same time as you..
Will run some names past u to c if u rememba anyone..here goes,joy brown,Pauline denley,Janet,wheldon,winnie coleman,valerie cox,Marie Sutter,her brother went to hhoas also.
Hello John. Sorry I have not phoned you as yet. I have had a few problems with internet & lost your number. It will be great to have a catch up after all these years. Hope you are keeping well.
 

crimble

master brummie
Hi,
My stay at Hunters Hill, aged 9 to 11 (1950-52) I regard as the worst time of my life. Miss Buckley was headmistress and my teacher was Miss Ledger. I was there because of my anemia. Being away from family - who loved you warts and all - in a community open to bullying and favouritism by the staff, was a personal purgatory.
However, the mandatory participation in boxing (I actually won three contests in one evening) and wrestling bouts did work in my favour later in life. Bullies invariably backed down when challenged to sort things out 'with the gloves on'.

Blackwell did leave me with a love of the countryside. Tuck twice a week, summer calls by the icecream van and family visiting days were plusses in a horrible 'imprsionment'.

The attached photo is of my class in 1951View attachment 138498. I am sitting in the bottom row directy in front of Miss ledger and her dog
My brother was at Hunters Hill in the 50's. He and another boy ran away and were taken straight back after almost reaching home in Small Heath. I was only about 7 but I will always remember how sad he was when my parents and grandparents borrowed a car from a neighbour to go to Blackwell on that evening to see him.
 

batmadviv

master brummie
The previous post has had certain unsubstantiated accusations against the School Management edited out.

Otherwise, who knows? Not surprised at the distress caused by homesickness and separation from family, nor the cold (this was part of "the cure" for some as the schools were acting in part as sanatoria - a few of the luckier(?) Birmingham children were sent to Switzerland). Food? The odd memoir talks about it in glowing terms and a personal memory I have heard that it was good at Cropwood. But all these things are snapshots of time and place. All the schools were active for decades and no doubt conditions fluctuated.

Chris
Sorry, we have to steer clear of unsubstantiated accusations of wrongdoing against individuals and of the naming of those concerned. So the above two posts #186 and 188 have been heavily edited.

Chris
I do not recognise any of the bad reports about Cropwood. My time there was 1954 to 1956, age 6 to 8. Miss Urquhart was the head, Miss Williams the deputy. There were 2 other teachers which made 4 in all for 80 girls from age 5 to school leaving age. Their hands were full particularly as most of the pupils had fallen behind in their learning due to chronic illnesses. At no time was a pupil forced to eat and to my knowledge no one left the table hungry. I do remember extra plates of bread and butter coming out of the kitchen if there was a show of hands when asked.
Two of the teachers ran the Brownies and Guides. Several years later I returned to Cropwood and ‘helped out’ in some classrooms, a taster for a career that eventually lasted until retirement. Miss Urquhart was still there and made me very welcome. Batmadviv
 

crimble

master brummie
Hi,
My stay at Hunters Hill, aged 9 to 11 (1950-52) I regard as the worst time of my life. Miss Buckley was headmistress and my teacher was Miss Ledger. I was there because of my anemia. Being away from family - who loved you warts and all - in a community open to bullying and favouritism by the staff, was a personal purgatory.
However, the mandatory participation in boxing (I actually won three contests in one evening) and wrestling bouts did work in my favour later in life. Bullies invariably backed down when challenged to sort things out 'with the gloves on'.

Blackwell did leave me with a love of the countryside. Tuck twice a week, summer calls by the icecream van and family visiting days were plusses in a horrible 'imprsionment'.

The attached photo is of my class in 1951View attachment 138498. I am sitting in the bottom row directy in front of Miss ledger and her dog
I think that's my brother seated on the lefthand side
 

batmadviv

master brummie
I do not recognise any of the bad reports about Cropwood from my time there which was 1954 to 1956 age 6 to 8. Miss Urquhart was the head, Miss Williams the deputy. There were 2 other teachers making 4 in all for 80 girls from age 5 to school leaving age. Their hands were full particularly as most pupils had fallen behind in their learning due to chronic illnesses.

At no time were pupils forced to eat and to my knowledge no one left the table hungry. I do remember extra plates of bread and butter coming out of the kitchen if there was a show of hands when asked.

Two of the teachers ran the Brownies and Guides. Several years later I returned to Cropwood and ‘helped out’ in some classrooms, a taster for a career that lasted until retirement. Miss Urquhart was still there and made me very welcome.
Batmadviv
 
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