By Gwyn Drane


Until 1950 the school in Etwall took pupils from the age of five until they were fourteen when they were of able to leave school. In that year, under the provisions of the 1944 Education Act, the older pupils were transferred to the new Pastures Secondary Modern School in Littleover, Derby and Etwall became an infant and junior school under Derbyshire County Council. However after the war things were changing at great speed everywhere in the country and increasing population meant that a further Secondary School was needed to the south-west of Derby. The County Council had bought the vacant Etwall Hall site in 1952. The Hall was demolished and from behind the red brick wall surrounding the Hall grounds a new modern building of concrete and glass appeared. This new school was due to open in the Michaelmas term of 1955. However, nothing new, the builders were way behind schedule and one evening just two weeks before the start of term, a bright orange glow was seen in the sky in the vicinity. Fortunately the school buildings were unharmed as the fire came from some paint tins awaiting collection.

On the first day of term a large sparkling new school opened its doors to receive pupils from Etwall, Egginton, Willington, Repton, Burnaston, Hilton, and parts of Mickleover. Pupils living more than three miles away were transported by double decker buses. Cyclists were obliged to dismount at the entrance to the drive and to wheel their machines into the cycle stands as there was detention for those caught riding.

Students using the upper form rooms had an excellent view of the world outside, very different from the high Victorian windows of what had become the Primary School. Occasionally a teacher turning from writing on the blackboard found the children standing looking through the windows at some interesting activity below. The staff made sure the novelty soon wore off.

Mr B.Gledhill (B.A. Oxon) was Headmaster.  was a very quiet, strict Yorkshireman with a droll sense of humour and was married with one son and one daughter. It was learned later, much to the surprise of everyone, that he had been a dispatch rider in  France during wartime.

Other staff when the School opened were:

Mr J.Short (Senior Master)            Maths and Music

Miss A. Simpson (Senior Mistress)   Domestic Science, Cookery & Needlework

Mr D. Hinks                                   Woodwork

Mr E. Wheeldon                             Science

Mr R. Russell                                  Art

Mrs M. Limb                                   English

Miss Price                                       PE for girls

Mr T. Redfern                                PE for boys, an active young man who sadly died very suddenly during the first year of the school, whose position was taken by Mr R. Eckersley

Mrs G. Drane                                  Secretary

Mrs M. Scott                                   Cook

Mr. J. Gadsby                                 Caretaker


School meals were prepared in a large clean kitchen and served in the Assembly Hall on tables set with cutlery, cruets, water jugs and glasses. Each day a two course meal was provided at a cost of 9d. The money was collected on Monday morning, taken to the Secretary who counted it, bagged it then put it into a plaid bag on wheels and taken over to the Coop shop opposite the Church where Mr Holmes, the manager, would sign the paying in slip.

The Secretary had many tasks including taping BBC programmes on a very large tape recorder. The tapes would sometime snap and had to be quickly spliced. Exam papers had to be typed on a waxed sheet and then printed by hand on a Gestetner machine. If a pupil had an accident or fell sick the Secretary would act as nurse and look after them in the medical room and contact parents if necessary. Dr Crawshaw would make two visits each year for a general health check when pupils were examined and notes taken for future reference. His second visit would be a check for T.B. Visits from the District Nurse were regular. Teeth, heads and feet were carefully examined. It was not unusual to find nits in which case  a letter would be sent to parents while bottles of shampoo were kept in one of the cupboard’s in the secretary’s office.

Pupils soon became used to the new type of schooling and appeared to enjoy it : large rooms and corridors, indoor toilets and washrooms, large playgrounds with football pitches and tennis courts plus tasty meals served in pleasant surroundings.

The first year passed very quickly and the children watched the building of the John Port Grammar School on adjacent land which was to open in 1956. The uniform of the Secondary School was dark green and gold and the Grammar School blue and gold so everyone looked very smart but it was forbidden for anyone to leave school premises during school time.

The following ten years saw the growth of the school many more subjects were introduced and more staff joined the school. One of the new subjects was gardening and a large greenhouse was built and beehives arrived much to the excitement of pupils. An excellent library was gradually built up and a pottery kiln was installed in the art room. Metal work was added to the wood work area. Under the guidance of Mr J. Atkinson the music department grew quickly and was a great success and was eventually to give concerts and to develop an exchange with the Hauptschule in Melle in Germany. Mrs E. Robinson was in charge of the remedial class. She had most successful methods of teaching pupils who had problems in learning to read or write or found numbers difficult. Mr Eckersley and Miss Foster worked hard to arrange sports activities including football, badminton, tennis, cricket and cross-country. Each year they organised a week’s camping on the Isle of Man. An Attendance Officer was a regular visitor checking on regular absentees. Pupils ready to leave school were visited by a Careers Officer. They were interviewed individually and introduced to many employment avenues.

The Education Authority decided to adopt the Leicestershire Plan which involved the creation of Middle Schools. Accordingly a new building was constructed between the two schools complete with classrooms, workrooms, a canteen and  boiler house. However the plan never came into being so the Secondary School which was taking in more pupils and used both buildings, the original school became A block and the new building B block.

There was a thriving Adult Education Institute meeting five evenings a week from 7.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m. which was run by Mr D.Hinks and Mrs G. Drane. Classes included Art/Pottery, Woodwork, Metalwork, Cookery, Flower arranging, German, French, Music, Ballroom dancing, Badminton, Crafts and Hat making. The Etwall Youth Club met once a week in the Assembly Room and each Christmas it produced a pantomime.

For ten years the Etwall Secondary School played a great and important part in the life of the village. Pupils  were well schooled in many ways notably as to how to behave in the outside world with emphasis on manners and honesty and the need to continue their education. When the two schools were merged to become the John Port Comprehensive School in 1965, the Etwall Secondary School was eclipsed and is now largely forgotten by the majority of people now living in the area. It would be regrettable if it were to die without trace.


Gwyn Drane


                                            Poor image but its the best we have!









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