Friday, November 05, 2010

A Jolly Day Out in London

Today I have another example of something that was almost thrown into the skip at work. It's a project book, compiled by a group of Middlesborough schoolgirls in 1935, describing their day trip to London.

The book has no financial value, but I find it touching and enchanting:


They girls apear to have had a whistlestop tour of London, visiting St Paul's Cathedral, Westminsster Abbey, the House of Lords, the House of Commons, London Zoo and Trafalgar Square:


In spite of this exhausting itinerary, they also found time to visit Convent Garden:

But the highlight of their day appears to have been London Zoo:


After visiting one historic building after another, the zoo must have come as a huge relief to the girls, although one pupil had an unfortunate encounter with an elephant:

"One came up to me called Co-Coal and took a biscuit from me which I was about to eat. I was ever so frightened and I hid be hind my school teacher, Miss Bean because I thought that it was going to eat me, but my teacher said 'Don't worry Dorothy, you wouldn't make a mouthful.'"

I'm accustomed to school trips ending in the middle of the afternoon, but the girls from South Bank must have been made of stronger stuff:

In an age in which there was no television and only the privileged few travelled abroad, this day-trip to London must have very exciting. It is not the thing in itself that is important, but the anticipation, preparation and experience of being part of a group in a different environment.

I had a similar experience on a much smaller scale when I was 10 years old and living in a children's home. One day we received an invitation to visit the Post Office Tower as special guests and it was one of the most memorable days of my life. I will never forget the moment when we climbed into the back of a London taxi and Sister Davey turned to the driver and said "Post Office Tower, please - VIP entrance."

Our normal lives were humdrum and routine. The home was run with a military precision and we knew that each day would be like the one before. For one magical day, life felt like a big adventure. I don't remember much about the Post Office Tower, but the experience of seeing a world beyond our four walls was one I'll never forget.

If this project book was created in 1935, then it's possible that some of these pupils are still alive.

I wonder if any of them still remember a terrified Dorothy Williamson, cowering behind the reassuring figure of Miss Bean.

11 comments:

Levi Stahl said...

Oh, this is wonderful--especially the camel. I'm glad you saved it from the rubbish bin.

Martin H. said...

Absolutely superb. You have opened the door on another wonderful adventure. Wouldn't it be something, to hear from a member of that school party?

Anonymous said...

Oh the elegance of Miss Bean and her whip-thin frame! And the polished shoes, neat, buttoned-up coats and tidy panama hats of the girls. Unbelievable that it is possibly within living memory...

AC

christinelaennec said...

This is wonderful! I imagine that their day out was a very memorable one for those girls. Thanks for saving this and for sharing it.

Mark and Marianne Egan said...

Such lovely handwriting!

The Poet Laura-eate said...

What a charming find.

I am sorry to hear you experienced life in a children's home, though at least you got to be treated like a VIP for one day.

My school in Northern Ireland had a 3-day history trip to London which was the most memorable time of my schooling and also packed a hell of a lot in including a performance of 'The Mousetrap' one night. I go to London now and can't believe how much ground we covered, even with the help of a mini-bus at our disposal, including Hampton Court Palace and various war memorials although my mother had rather humiliatingly given my spending money to the teacher to look after while everyone else had theirs to spend on whatever they liked!

Brett said...

What penmanship!

Sam Jordison said...

Lovely.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely glimpse into the past. Since this was written in 1935, I hope all the girls survived the Blitz. I wonder if any of them were evacuated to the countryside for safety, or even to faraway places like Canada?

Thank you for sharing this interesting trip to the past. All the best, Canadian Chickadee

simoom said...

My great aunt's name was Dorothy Williamson - (Williamson is my maiden name) - but it's not the same one I think. She lived in Staffordshire and would have been a little older in 1935 (I'm guessing she was born around 1918). However, I will definitely refer the question to her nephew, my dad! Middlesborough is not too far from us after all...

queenofparks said...

What a gorgeous story and post. It reminds me of the Madeline books - maybe an older version with a dash more social realism ... adorable.