Great Yarmouth Technical High School

The old and the new

By Raymond Brown

Following on from the Alan Ellis article ref. Great Yarmouth High school, I thought that comparing the time I went to the Great Yarmouth Technical High School (as it was known then) with that of Alan Ellis may make interesting reading.

The conditions of the ‘Old’ were nothing to write home about but they turned out some good students.

What was the Old School like? It was co-educational with strict rules. There were two playgrounds – one for the girls and one for the boys separated by a high brick wall. There was, however, a gate to get from one side to the other and if caught lingering, particularly the boys, it was immediate detention.

The overall facilities were not too great. For example, the toilets were outside and very cold during inclement weather.

There was no gymnasium and during the summer months, we were allowed to go into a large field frequented by cows. Also a series of ‘dykes’ or streams causing many a mishap, particularly to the boys, of going back to class with wet feet. I went one better – I fell in and got soaking wet.

To make way for an increase in the number of pupils, extra prefabricated classrooms were built next to the main building. Four of these were ‘workshops’ to be used for teaching Carpentry, Brickwork, Plumbing and Engineering. These workshops were primarily for the boys. The girls used the main building to learn typing and office skills – no such things as computers. The boys spent their third year in each of these workshops to help them to decide what ‘craft’ they would like to pursue. There were, however, two or three boys who preferred to learn office skills.

As I said before we did not have a gymnasium but the boys would be taken to a local playing field for Football or Cricket lessons. During inclement weather, the sports teacher  Mr Baker would assemble us in the canteen and read us a story. He was very good at it and I remember the first book was ‘Three Men in a Boat’.

After a snowfall he would take us to the ‘field’ for a game of snowballs – he usually got the worst of it. For Health and Safety reasons, this is definitely not allowed now.

At the end of the five years, most of us sat for the GCSE exams and then went our separate ways.

Returning to the teachers, I am sure most of you would remember – Taffy Evens who taught French, Mr Whitehead who taught music, Mr ‘Chip’ Roll who taught Maths. He was aware his nickname was ‘Chip’ and he asked  us Why? We replied that he was a heavy smoker and his fingers were discoloured and indeed, they looked like a cooked chip. He saw the funny side of it and accepted his nickname.  Then there was Wally Harmer who taught History and R.I. He also acted as a Careers Master and helped pupils to find work. In fact, he wrote a very nice letter  for myself  and a friend of mine with the same surname as me which I am sure helped us to secure a five-year apprenticeship with BOAC (now called British Airways). Frank Hindes taught Biology and Mr Green was our General Science teacher. For the practical subjects, we had Mr Chauner for Engineering, Mr Porter for Brickwork, Mr Knott for Woodwork and finally Mr Mace for Plumbing.

65 years is a long time ago and I hope I have their names spelt correctly.

Adjacent to the school was a large orchard and every lunch time Mr Mace would warn us not to steal the apples but if we did we were asked to bring him some. Another one of his favourite tricks was that if we were caught eating sweets in class he would confiscate them and pass them around the whole class so the owner ended up with none.  The trick worked  - no one ate sweets in class.

The 5 year apprenticeship was first class not only learning the practical skills but attending college where I studied Maths, Theory of Machines, Strength of Materials and Thermodynamics.

My thanks to, not only the ‘Tech’ but also to Mr Harmer who pointed me in the right direction.

Raymond Brown

This page was added by Raymond Brown on 30/09/2016.
Comments about this page

I started at the Technical High School Class 1A in 1953 at the old building until the following year when we all moved to the new Technical High School in Gorleston the following year.   I was there till 1958.  It was fabulous with a modern gym with ropes, bars (not the drinking kind!), sports field, tennis courts both hard and grass, long jump pit, running track - I thought I was in heaven!  Brilliant classes, brilliant teachers apart from one, who shall remain nameless.  

Lovely form masters/mistresses, a technical department of course and a two year secretarial course built into the curriculum for those who wanted it.  I took it and am still grateful regarding the typing and accounts, especially too that computers are the rage and I can still type!  It has changed over the years and a lot has been lost, especially regarding the playing field, and the building itself - not for the good either.

So for those who were lucky enough to have been there when it was GREAT - we were the lucky ones.

By Valerie Jordan (nee Bowles)
On 08/01/2022

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.