has been a lot of interesting speculation about
this picture. Evidence from the book where it
appeared suggests that it was taken in 1938. However,
why weren't they using the subway? Ron Jeffries
who says that the subway was definitely open pre-war
since it was used as an air-raid shelter with
bunks. Another correspondent suggests that, although
it may have been used as a shelter, the original
purpose of subway was not completed until after
the war and that maybe the children had a regular
police escort while the subway was being constructed.
There is (or was) a plaque with the details so
if anyone sees it then email in the details! [NOTE:
THIS MYSTERY IS NOW SOLVED - SEE PICTURES OF SUBWAY
OPENING ABOVE - THANKS TO DAVID GOODLIFF]
The other suggestion
is that the children were all being let out of school for a royal
visit so a "mass" crossing was organised (it was nearly
lunchtime according to the school clock). Does anyone know of
a royal visit around 1938?
One of our contacts recalls using the subway with his big brother when he went to school. There was a plaque under there once - long since gone. He was frightened of going under the subway for it seemed dark. During the war it was used as an air raid shelter. There were two-tier bunks down each side. Sacking hung at each end to keep out the draught. His brother would run on ahead of him - and through the subway, leaving him to run the gauntlet of the bunks alone. There were people sleeping in the bunks some mornings.
Further info: 12/04/02 - Brenda
Graisgour (and others) phoned the The Ilford Library Local Studies/History
Department and they said that the subway must have been built
after the war, between 1945 and 1948. They had found this
info from looking up the minutes of council meetings but are going
to try to see if they can find anything more definite.
[but now see all the further info below!]
info: 01/05/02 - While Geoff Gillon was doing some
"Torbitt Research" in Oaks Lane he came across a gentleman
who said that his wife was one of the very first pupils at the
school - Iris McCarthy. At the time she lived over Bill Bailey's
greengrocery on Silverdale parade. It turns out she was in Ron
Jeffries' class and, wait for it.............. she was one of
the occupants of the subway on the bunks during the air raids!
Geoff didn't actually get to talk to Iris, so we are no nearer
to discovering when it was actually completed and opened to public
use for the purpose for which it was designed.
info from Ruth Davey (now Bartlett): 04/06/02 -
I do remember the subway. I am quite sure that when we commenced
in September 1937 it had not been built because I can remember
being escorted across each carriageway of the Eastern Avenue.
It must have been completed during that first year because there
was a very bad accident when a child went down it on his bike,
lost control and I believe also lost his life. There would probably
have been something in the Ilford Recorder at the time. Copies
are kept at Ilford Library I believe. Wiggings and serious talks
from Mr. Train were given in Assembly. I think I also remember
wiggings about our behaviour with the crossing keeper. The subway
had bunk beds in during the war and folk slept down there at night
to shelter from the bombs as they did in tube tunnels also.
from Frank Mooney: 17/06/02 -
I do remember the subway being flooded, and I seem to think that
I saw a picture of the flooding in a local paper. Also I now recall
how we used to go down the slope on our roller skates, two of
us would go down together on what we used to call a boat, a boat
is two people facing each other, sitting on one of the other persons
foot and holding arms round each others shoulders, the other leg
was used for balance, we used to see who could start off highest
up the slope without coming a cropper when you had to turn into
the tunnel at the bottom, I limped home many a time, and I still
have the scars.
from Barbara Rawden: 04/07/02 -
I can remember having to run the gauntlet of the bunks
in the subway when men lying in the bunks would reach out and
try to lift up your skirt. Also, when it was flooded, we used
to go down and float off the rail at the side of the slope, very
unhygienic I would have thought. I used to get a real ticking
off when I got home with full wellies and wet skirt.
from Billy Dodds - 17/10/02 - The subway was in use
for pupils pre-war, but his recollection is that it wasn't actually
ready for when the school opened in 1937 - hence policeman were
provided to control the crossing. He seems to recall them being
there twice each day though. He believes the subway came into
use in 1938 so the photo, thought to be 1938 may have been taken
to 'celebrate' the end of the need for police there. During the
war the bunks for air raid purposes were three high; there was
a chemical toilet at each end. He himself sheltered there. The
entrances were enclosed by sacking curtains. He thinks the mirrors
were always there- certainly he was one of the children who would
squeeze down and hide behide them and frighten users when they
approached! At the top of the slopes, there were concertina gates
and he says the pintle cast into the foundation for these can
still be seen at one entrance.
Bowl (later Shirley Headley, Mayoress 1954/55) - The
subway opened in 1938 and she was the first pupil to walk through
it. She presented the then Lady Mayoress with flowers in the school
Picture with thanks
to London Borough of Redbridge Libraries Service Photographic
Collection and Geoff Gillon