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Farnborough Grammar School

Prospect Avenue, Farnborough, Hampshire

Telephone : Farnborough 539

Bruce Main-Smith - Memories of Farnborough

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Dear Malcolm, of course you can post anything from me on your website.

What happened to me was this. In 1936 & newly arrived from Birmingham where I was born in 1929, I started on the opening day at F.G.S. in Prospect Avenue when I would have been in the lowest class being aged seven. At some date (1939?) I was sent to a private school above Kail’s, Clock House, (Wellingtonia in Church Avenue) but I later returned to F.G.S. and in 1941 or 1942 then sent to Farnham Boys’ Grammar School by which date we lived at 109 Farnborough Road next door to an R.A.F. out-station which stood where Sycamore Road almost emerged. The house was called Nyetimber as on its boundary were tall pine trees growing on the R.A.F. side of the fence.

At that date the houses in that part of Farnborough Road had long thin back gardens that extended all the way to Church Avenue. I believe the houses were renumbered when the dual-carriageway was created. Our house stood opposite the Tank Corps HQ, a fine gothic-style building. The rise here is called Star Hill & at the top is the alleyway at the side of the R.A.E. that cuts down to Rafborough.

From there, in Hampshire of course, I went by bus to Morley Road, Farnham which is in Surrey but this was WW2 so I guess county boundaries counted for little. There was a large tranche of Aldershot boy pupils (& thus from Hampshire) and at least some girls who went to Menin Way, Farnham Girls Grammar School. The Traco provided a free 6-day bus pass which could also be used on the Aldershot/Farnham train. The Aldershot & District Traction Company Ltd. was dubbed the Traco & the bus station was by Gale & Polden (printers of newspapers and glossy magazines) and the railway station, though some buses (like the No.10 double decker which I used; the No.10a timing was “NBG” for me) started elsewhere (The Queen Hotel near Short Street, Aldershot).

I stayed at Morley Road until 1946 when I did my School Cert.

I recall little of F.G.S. The facade’s clock was thought very avant garde in 1936. There was an interior quadrangle with semicircular in cross-section gutters on which us pupils had Dinky Toy races. In the main hall that doubled as a gym we had music classes that consisted mostly of singing from “The Red Song Book” e.g. John Peel, Hearts of Oak. I do not recall morning prayers but they may have been held. I do remember a tricycle ice-cream vendor who pedalled through from probably Cove. The brand was Eldorado and a triangular wrap containing fruity water-ice was rated the best buy for our meagre money.

Of masters, classes, subjects, fellow pupils, I have almost no memories except for a woodwork class which I hated. Only the name Spink or Spinks surfaces; a classmate.

F.G.S. was sideways-on to the rear of Farnborough Grange, taken over by the Army during WW2. The Grange had an access point opposite Bradford’s Garage or The Ship Inn. It was a decent manor house I believe.

You ask about the miniature railway. This was about 12-inch gauge and serious stuff. It ran a timetable service to Blackwater (9d return) that was used as a good place for housewives to shop as there was almost nothing in North Farnborough. At first it originated at Attwood’s Dairy which was (then) an unmade road alongside the school on F.G.S.’s western edge; I think the road led to a gravel pit of which there were lots in the area across to Hawley. There were two flooded pits between Leopold and Prospect Avenues and on which some of us F.G.S. boys floated a ramshackle raft made from empty oil drums and bits of wood, highly dangerous & I could not (then) swim. These pits have been filled in & houses built thereon.

The Farnborough terminus of the railway was later relocated to a triangle of land between the two full-size lines & on the west side of the main road from Bradford’s Garage to The White Hart. It closed for some reason not known to me and that extensive site became Farnborough Car Auctions. I have no memory of what was at the Blackwater end.

The engines were serious steam stuff. One 4-6-0 tender went to operate the passenger-carrying holiday line on Littlehampton seafront. Us after-school pupils would go to the house opposite F.G.S. and polish whatever beast was in the garage-workshop. The man’s name may have been Mr. Smith. Later he moved to another house on the same opposite side of Prospect Avenue but closer to Farnborough Road so a new access spur was laid through the F.G.S. sports field and across the road to his garage. (I have an idea that a brick built extension may have been created at the rear of F.G.S. perhaps during my second period at F.G.S.). This spur would have been lifted when the Attwood’s Dairy terminus was closed.

Locomotive Gordon at Littlehampton

The steam locomotive at Littlehampton - 1975. Long since replaced by a smelly diesel engine unfortunately.

I cycled from Pierrefondes Avenue to F.G.S. but cannot recall any cycle racks there. Bikes never got meddled with or nicked in those halcyon pre-war days; also good during WW2; women were safe despite the huge numbers of troops. We had a Canadian Provost-Sergeant Jack Kavanagh compulsorily billeted with us until he vanished in the run-up to D-day; we all knew it was coming, and approximately when, because the whole area suddenly emptied. Jack, after demob, returned to England and secured the tenancy of The Tumble Down Dick between Farnborough’s other Post Office and The Clock House, maybe the pub still stands.

My present wife Moira (born 1928, née Brunton) had at one time lived at the rear of Lynchford Road police station where her late first husband Peter Holloway was auniformed Sergeant.

Sergeant Holloway, Aldershot Police Station

During the years 1958 to 1964, Sgt. Peter Holloway was only briefly in the uniformed branch.
In this photograph taken at Aldershot Police Station he is the tallest standing.
Sgt. Holloway at Farnborough Police Station

They later moved to Cripley Road, Cove. When he died in 1991 and my first wife died in 1993, Moira and I re-met & promptly married. We had been 12-year-old sweethearts meeting on the top deck of No.10 bus by a matchmaking Farnham Girls G.S. pupil, Christine Wallace from Cranmore Lane, Aldershot, Hants. (Christine was also an out of county attendee at Farnham Girls G.S.). My first wife (born 1934 née Margaret Harries Scarff) from Seale was also a pupil at Farnham Girls G.S.

John Fouracre, Cripley Road

Cripley Road, Cove. On the bike is John Fouracre a little before he attended F.G.S.

Military service was then still compulsory in 1949 when Peter went into the Fleet Air Arm and I into the R.A.F. and as a result of this Moira & I drifted apart and when Peter popped the question she said yes.

Bruce presented with his RAF veteran's badge

Veteran’s Badge Parade. Bruce Main-Smith at the Royal British Legion, Totton, 30th January 2010.
Colonel Terry Scriven officiating on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen.

Her father was the senior civil servant at the R.A.F. School of Photography opposite the Queen’s Hotel, Farnborough. My Dad worked in the Chemistry Department at the R.A.E. Both Moira and Peter had also worked at the R.A.E. briefly.

We are both now 81 & find things have much changed in Farnborough. Pinehurst Corner, the huge Rex Cinema (& what of the Scala in Camp Road?), all gone. Queensmead came. The Command Baths are very sad now. North Camp Station to Ash Vale is unrecognisable. Whatever happened to Frimley? The motorway, that’s what happened! I got lost trying to find where The Blue Lagoon outdoor baths were located twixt Camberley and Bagshot. The R.A.E. is so changed. When the wind tunnel was running the whole district thrummed. Moira & I drove up to the South Gate and saw so much had been demolished.

Aldershot Lido was popular with Farnborough G.S. lads, Moira & I swam there a lot together as did many pupils from the two Farnham G.S. The in-joke of the times was the Lido was close to Badshot Lea Docks and Tongham Treacle Mines (former true, latter a leg-pull).

Aldershot Lido

Aldershot Lido - 1980.
More Lido pictures

Many of the buses still carry the same numbers. I caught the No.3c at the top of Star Hill (Belmont House was the actual stop, once the public library, then a Technical College, this the stop just north of Boundary Road). Alexandra Road was the first road in the UK to have mercury-vapour street lighting. I used to hang out at Netley Street rec. & was very thick with a lovely Brenda Laye from Somerset Road, I think her mother ran a haberdashery from her front room; but our association did not flourish.

Farnborough G.S. was Cadet Corps orientated, no surprise there, but some pupils joined No.457 Farnborough Squadron A.T.C. It met at Rectory Road school which is at the Highgate Lane end of Rectory Road alongside the railway bridge.

Farnborough ATC Squadron 457

No. 457 Squadron, A.T.C. Farnborough, Hants, circa 1944.
Bruce Main-Smith, ATC Corporal

My parents later moved to Farnham; they went to Fishguard when Dad (1887-1959) retired in 1950. I went into the R.A.F. After I was demobbed from the R.A.F. my life was spent in digs in Farnham & Guildford until I married my first wife in 1955 and we lived in London.

Bruce Main-Smith : July 2010

The photographs are copyright Bruce Smith apart from ‘Cripley Road’ which belongs to Philip Fouracre. The Lido and Littlehampton photos are by me, Malcolm Knight.