A Brief History of the School 1926 - 1951

The Fourth Headteacher - Mr Cecil Harris

On the first day of February 1926, Mr. Cecil Harris took over the reins and in no time at all had "become integrated" and we have to wait until March 21st 1951, before we read
"This is the last entry I shall make in the log, as I retire on April 16th, the end of the Easter holiday."
In the intervening twenty-five years, Mr. Harris had become as much loved as Mr. Pincott. He was a fine man who lived for the school and the children. He was an expert gardener and naturalist, and one ex-pupil who became an authoress of note told me that he had the gift of opening children's eyes to the beauty of nature.

The older boys cultivated gardens, and walked off with innumerable prizes in shows in Faversham, Maidstone and Sittingbourne. One ex-pupil told me that the lane to school was bordered by cherry trees, but the children had so much respect for Mr. Harris's admonition that taking cherries was stealing, that no-one ever dreamed of 'scrumping'.

A letter about the school in 1931. reads:-
Mr. Harris was a most pleasant and fine-looking gentle-man. He ran a Young Farmers' Club at the school. It was a strong club with interests in poultry, goats, bees and ponies. On one occasion we attended the Agricultural Show at Mote Road, Maidstone, and won first prize in the poultry section, and were given a set of books for the school. Also on this occasion we met the then Prince of Wales.

About this time a temporary assistant came to the school. He was a Jamaican, a coloured man. The children liked him, he played the banjo and had a good singing voice. 'Tip Toe through the Tulips' was the rage at the time.
Of course, during the time of Mr. Harris, many changes took place.
Why, in 1938 the school and house were wired for electricity! What a boon that must have been. The school bought a radio, school dinners were introduced, and Mr. Harris presided over the school during that shattering event, the Second World War.

"Memories of happy school days, 1938 to 1945, came flooding back. At the tender age of 4 years, I cried to go to school so Mr Harris took pity on me and I started my education in Eastling before my fifth birthday. The early start must have given me some sort of advantage as I was one of the few who went on to QE Grammar School for Boys.

Ken Godden No school was more patriotic than Eastling. Waste paper was collected, sacks of chestnuts were collected, Balaclavas were knitted, and the Home Guard was even allowed to use the Infant Room, but not without an entry in the log:-
"Home Guard used Infant Room last night; one light bulb broken, they must be reprimanded".

The skies over Eastling brought the war right into the life of the school. The screaming engines of Spitfires and Messerschmitts shattered the peace of the little Kentish school, and local children, rubbing shoulders with 'foreigners' (evacuees from London), hid in the darkness of the shelters. To cap it all, poor Cecil Harris found himself on January 1st 1943 in hospital with scarlet fever. On June 11th 1943, the school was able to send off £50 after a "Wings for Victory Week".
There were sad days which cast a cloud over the school, such as May 7th 1945:-

"Fred White, pupil at this school (5.3.23 - 22.8.33), prisoner of war since Dunkirk, died in hospital."

Memories from Mr Harris's Days, by Mr Tony Piles

Having recently purchased a computer and joined the Internet, one of the first things I did was to go into the Eastling website. I was born in Eastling and attended your school until I went to secondary school.
I was so pleased to find that you had a website and I was prompted to contact you. I saw the picture of all the children waving at the front of the school, and in particular I noticed the railing fence, this brought back to me that there used to be a brick wall along there. I can remember there was an air raid shelter which was built at right angles to the school and backed on to the playing field.
Between the shelter and the field we used to have a garden, in the corner of the playing field nearest to the old village hall was a sand pit which was used for the long jump in sports lessons, above the entrance to the school was a bell that was used at the beginning and end of lessons and was rung by pulling on a long rope.
The toilets were up the back end of the playground next to a cherry orchard, and right in the middle of the playground was some sort of tree. Inside the school it was partitioned off by a concertina style door with the seniors on one side and the juniors on the other, and the infants were in a separate room, in which I remember there was a big open fireplace, and in the winter the crate of milk was placed in front of it to thaw out before we could drink it.
Our headmaster was a Mr Harris who used to ride to school from Lenham on his bicycle that was powered by a small engine attached to the front wheel(we thought he was very posh on this). When he retired his place was taken by Miss Hannah Day. The junior teacher was Miss Evans, and the infant teacher was Mrs Taylor who lived in the Village in the house that was attached to the Forge on the corner of Faversham Rd and Newnham Lane.

My mother was born in Eastling and lived there until her death in 2000, as far as I know there has always been a member of our family at Eastling School, this may not be the case now though.
I hope I haven't bored you too much with my memories, but I attended your School from 1945 to 1950 and it's thanks to modern technology that I am able to take part in it again. I still have the sweat shirt and mug that my Mother sent me in 1981 for the centenary (STEPS OF WISDOM). Wishing you all the best for the future.
Tony Piles


Memories of Eastling School, 1931

13th September 2000
Dear Mrs Sue Parry,

Last year whilst visiting my father's grave I picked up a copy of the 'Good News' magazine which has prompted me to write this letter to you.
We moved to Eastling in 1931 from a small village called Hoath near Herne Bay. My father was serving in the navy and was able to rent No.6 Prospect Place, Eastling for 7/6d a week. I finished my schooling at Eastling under Mr Cecil Harris the headmaster.

Over the years my mother, who was a very active person, took over the job of cleaning the school after Mrs Pettit died, and in turn took over cleaning the church and the Old Village Hall built in memory of those who fought in the First World War. I spent many evenings there.
We used to have a Young Farmers' Club at the school and kept bees. I remember one afternoon after a thunderstorm I was called from work to collect a swarm of bees, eventually taking six in all and some of them were in the orchard where the new village hall is now built.

I used to sing in the choir at the church, which is set in a beautiful countryside, and listen to the dog fights going on overhead during the second world war.
The Carpenters Arms pub landlord was Joe Cornfoot, who later came to a sad end after he moved out of the Public House. My sister, who now lives in Faversham, puts flowers on my father's grave from time to time. Many of the people I knew are now buried in the churchyard.

When war was declared I had just come out of church on the morning of September 3rd 1939 when I heard about it. I was later drafted into the Home Guard and finally was called up to the army in which I served for 3 and a half years, up to the end.
When I was demobbed, each of us who had served in the forces were given £5 each as a thank you from the people of Eastling.

One of the teachers from Eastling School came from Snodland and is very happy there.
I would still love to come back to Eastling and am glad that you have a new Village Hall which I attended the opening ceremony of. My best wishes to you all at Eastling.
Mr Albert Childs
Aged 81 years


Christmas 1949

What a grand occasion when the photographer came to call and all the children and their teachers had their Christmas photograph taken!

Hello
My name is Karen Collins (nee Piles). I was born in Faversham and my grandparents lived in Eastling, where I spent many a happy summer playing in the orchards. We emigrated to Australia in 1974 when I was not quite 12 and I have dreams of finishing a novel based on my dad's memories of growing up in idyllic Easting (I have started . . . ).

About 8 years ago, both my husband and I (from Manchester) had our first trip back where I proudly showed my children around, including Eastling, and the church with the scary tree that I used to hide in when I was little.

Anyway, the other night I asked dad which one he was in the school photo (knowing he would have been 9 at the time of the 1949 photograph on your website), and he hadn't even realised it was up there. He was overcome with emotion. We also noticed that you had published a letter he'd sent (Tony Piles). Anyway, he said he remembers most of the children in the photograph, if you would like help with identifying them.

My dad (Antony Alfred Piles), is 5th row from the front, 2nd from the right (the squirt) my uncle, his brother is front row, second from left (Rex Piles). They had an older brother Roy (not in this photo) and a much younger sister, Gay (also not in this photo).

I am coming back to England by myself next year for my grandmother's 90th, she lives in Faversham. Unfortunately, both my dad's parents (who lived their entire lives in Eastling), Ernest and May Piles, died around 2002, so there is no family left there.

Karen Collins
Coordinator, Administrative Services
Curriculum Branch, SSABSA



School photo, 1949



   

   Eastling School Staff, 1949


   

   Tony Piles, 1951