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Making History As Pewley School’s Class of ’54 Hold Their Final Reunion

Published on: 28 Sep, 2022
Updated on: 28 Sep, 2022

A little bit of history was made in Guildford on Tuesday this week (September 27) when the only group of pupils from the former Pewley School who hold reunions met again, but sadly this was their last one.

They are the class of ’54 and 14 of the former pupils met up with a visit to their former school, that today is the Guildford adult learning centre in Sydenham Road.

The class of ’54 from Pewley School pictured at the final reunion on September 27, 2022.

Ahead of their reunion, one of the group noted: “We know, from the correspondence and social media comments which followed the publicity generated by our last reunion at Guildford, that we are the only group from Pewley School which reunites.

“Because Pewley was the West Surrey catchment grammar school, pupils could live as far as 30 miles apart and, at a time still influenced by postwar austerity, it was not easy for individuals to keep in touch.

“It was truly surprising that, in 1984, 70% of the ‘B’ Class of 1954 came together with four former teachers to celebrate 25 years since they were last at school, as a complete group, in 1959. And, more surprisingly because they now live across the world, they continued to reunite at regular intervals up to the present.

“We, the class of ’54, now approach our final reunion and, because we are unique, it will also be the very last Pewley School reunion.”

On Tuesday, they enjoyed tea and cake at the centre’s cafe and had a look around, and were very pleased to see what a superb centre it is today with many courses offered including those that are offered to young adults with learning disabilities.

The group also enjoyed a stroll around the town with lunch at the Guildford Harbour Hotel.

One of the class of ’54, Brian Brown, has complied a history of Pewley School, 1945-61, which is as follows…..

A snowy picture of the former Pewley School, now the Guildford adult learning centre.

E.G. Raynham became headmaster of Pewley School in September 1954.

It appeared, to all who came under his wing, that his mission was to improve the status of the school by improving its curriculum. In reality his assignment was much wider.

In 1954 he would have been one of very few people at Pewley who knew that the school would begin its transfer to a brand-new educational establishment, to be built at Burpham [now George Abbot School], within three or four years.

The pupils pictured in 1957.

The pupils pictured in 1957. The girls dresses were blue and the ties the same as George Abbot School today – gold and navy.

The 11-Plus intake on September 6, 1954 would be the last pupils to spend their entire five or seven years of secondary school education at Pewley.

Later intakes, from 1955 onwards, would eventually migrate from one site to the other, depending on the subject being taught; and from 1958 new pupils were based permanently at Burpham.

Pewley finally closed in July 1961 when the last of the class of ’54 departed for pastures new.

A plaque on the building recording it originally opening as Charlotteville School.

The former Pewley School is a complex of arts and crafts buildings, erected at the end of the Victorian era, on three terraces between Sydenham Road and Harvey Road, on the northern slope of Pewley Down.

It became a state funded grammar school at the end of the Second World War, as a result of the 1944 Education Act, and less than a decade before Mr Raynham began his tenure.

Pewley was an overspill co-educational grammar school for 11-plus and 13-plus pupils from the West Surrey catchment, but that is not to imply a second-class establishment.

From the class of ‘54 alone emerged three head teachers of large secondary schools.

As well as being the last ‘true’ pupils of Pewley, a large number of the class of ‘54 have, uniquely, remained friends to the present and regularly hold reunions to celebrate their schooldays and enduring friendship.

They arrive from as far afield as USA, South Africa and Germany. 

And, within the UK, they come from Scotland, Wales and every corner of England, reflecting, perhaps, that grammar school education in the 1950s contributed to social mobility among ordinary people.

Members of the class of ‘54 were born in 1942 and 1943.

The reunion in 2013.

In October 2013 they held a reunion in Guildford to mark the start of a new school year and celebrate their recent 70th birthdays. The main event was a return visit to Pewley, their first in over 50 years.

During that visit a 1954 signboard, with E. G. Raynham newly named as headmaster, was unearthed in the old boiler store located under the central terrace which had previously been the girls’ playground.

How it had survived for five decades and not been broken up for firewood is something of a miracle but it was lovingly dusted down and proudly displayed in a group photograph taken close to the boiler store.

The Pewley School signboard now on display in the reception area of today’s Guildford adult learning centre.

The following year the sign was restored and is now displayed here in the reception of the adult learning centre.

The class of ’54 convened its last full reunion on September 26 and 27, 2022, to coincide with its members’ eightieth birthdays.

They returned to Pewley for one last time to view the signboard which, like them, had survived since arriving here as a tentative newcomer in 1954 but needed a full makeover to face the future!

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test 8 Responses to Making History As Pewley School’s Class of ’54 Hold Their Final Reunion

  1. Keith Francis Reply

    September 29, 2022 at 12:26 pm

    How intriguing.

    I’m a little younger and would have gone to Pewley School in 1956 but in the end, as a local, went to Woking County Grammar School for Boys which in my father’s days there as a pupil had a different name.

    I was in the fortunate position that I was able to walk or cycle to my schools. Only the other year did I have my first ever school dinner (fish & chips!) at the Westfield, Kingfield & Old Woking Schools’ Re-union, the latest of which was held last Saturday when over 50 former pupils attended.

  2. Sheila AtKinson Reply

    October 2, 2022 at 3:45 pm

    I joined Pewley School in 1956 and I organise our class reunions. On September 1 this year we met up for our 18th reunion.

    Unfortunately, we don’t always remember to take photos.

    The year we were all aged 50 we held our reunion at George Abbot School as we spent our final year there after Pewley closed.

    • Brian Brown Reply

      October 4, 2022 at 11:52 am

      A heartfelt ‘Hello’ from the Class of ’54 to the Class of ’56. We had no idea that another group of Pewley pupils was regularly reuniting.

      Almost certainly the opening of George Abbot in the fifties and the movement of classes between campuses muddled the historical waters.

      At our last reunion we were surprised to see the plaque commemorating the opening of Charlotteville School in 1885. Throughout our time at Pewley most of us had never been aware of the school’s origins.

      It appears that Pewley Grammar School was created, a little later than most, in 1948 and may have become (legally) the annexe of George Abbot in 1958 which means it could have been the shortest-lived state-funded grammar school.

      It would be interesting to learn more.

      • Sheila AtKinson Reply

        October 4, 2022 at 9:30 pm

        I have fond memories of my time at Pewley. Sadly we had to spend our last year at George Abbot and we didn’t really enjoy it.

  3. Brenda Preskett (nee Cobbett) Reply

    October 6, 2022 at 11:00 am

    I left Pewley in 1958. I have been unable to contact anyone of my fellow students of that leaving year.

    Can anyone help me with contacting anyone who left Pewley in that year?

    The headmaster at my time there was Mr Pritchard. Thank you.

    My email address is: brendapreskett@gmail.com

    • Mary French (nee Williams) Reply

      October 19, 2022 at 11:44 am

      Hello Brenda,

      I do remember your name, but having had a good look at the school photo taken in 1955, I can’t put your name on the correct face. I was a later arrival at Pewley – 13 plus.

      You may remember some of the girls in my class, Form 2B: Gill Christmas, Glenys Davis, Helga Williams, Yvonne Higgs etc.

      Because some of us were older than most in the class, we were pushed forward to take GCE exams a year early which is why we left in 1957. Perhaps you were in the A stream. I remember Barbara Grant, Faith Head, Pixie and Charlie Waldron. Ring any bells?

    • Ed Yellowley Reply

      October 23, 2022 at 6:21 am

      Hi Brenda. My name is Ed Yellowley (Digger).

      I was at the Burpham annex 1958 to late 1959 and am also having difficulty in contacting my old class mates.

      The closest I have come was with Barry Searle in Woking.*

      I don’t know if any of these other names ring a bell with you. Clive Halliwell, Anne Cotterill, Janet Deely, Max Eggert, David Maddox, Margaret Pearson, John Renbourn (famous guitarist), Ann Wedlock, Ivor Woods, Anne Elizabeth Lawrence (was going to study nursing).

      I have all their addresses at the time [they were at the school] and birthdays.

      I lived at Cobbett Hill [Normandy] (William Cobbett’s old house in the 1700s) for 12 months in 1958.

      Now in Australia. Hope to hear from you. eyellowl@bigpond.net.au

      * The Guildford Dragon NEWS says… the full Woking address the writer gave and also naming what the writer believes to be the current occupant has not been published.

  4. John Trask Reply

    October 13, 2022 at 8:58 pm

    Hi Brenda

    I left in 1958. I used to leave in South Hill.

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