Memories Of Sunday School

Two of our members have contributed their memories of life in the Sunday School. Mrs. Doris Willson (nee Newcombe), whose family has made such a significant contribution to our history, writes:-

I attended the Wesleyan Methodist Sunday School many years ago. On Sunday afternoon I remember the big schoolroom as practically full, the long forms with backs were in rows on each side, with girls on one side, boys on the other. For prayer we turned around and knelt on the forms.

Two or three classes were held in the same room. The infants (as they were called) met in one of the bigger rooms on their own for lessons.

We had star cards which were stamped with a star for attendance. The little room with the pigeon hole was the secretary’s office, where the cards were stamped.

In our class we were given a text to learn and to say the following week, and we had a mark for doing so. Prize-giving was held early in the year, a secular concert was given by the children, after much practice, and much patience from the teachers. Every child had a prize and special prizes were given for full attendance and most marks.

Sunday School Anniversary was another big day. A platform was erected at the front of the church, all the children sitting there, with the little ones in front.

A special set of hymns was used which were very tuneful, and items were given by different age groups. Most of the children came again to the evening service.

Miss Maggie Cann was the JMA Secretary and money was taken to her each week or month collected. I remember Saturday morning was my Job collecting from the Green to Fordton. It would be a penny a week from some, twopence a month from others, and woe betide me if I missed a week. It was not easy to get the £5 a year!

Another big event was the Sunday School outing in July. Two special trains were run to Exmouth for all the Sunday Schools in the town, one for the Church of England, one for all the Nonconformist Sunday Schools. I think tea was often provided and a happy day was spent.

After a few years the Primary Department was run separately with its own Superintendent and staff. Once or twice a year the School was inspected by a local preacher.

When older I taught in the Primary Department and later became Primary Superintendent.

Mr. Cyril Wollacott has given us his memories, from a slightly later period. This is probably the place at which to include a tribute to Cyril. It would be impossible to estimate the practical service he has given us, but if ever something needs to be done with saw, screwdriver or paintbrush Cyril is never far away.

He writes:- My earliest memory would be about 1933 when the Primary Teacher was Miss Newcombe (now Mrs. Willson), who used to play a pedal type harmonium and the class was held in what is now called the Brown room. Miss F. Discombe was also a teacher. The small chairs and tables were used, the tables about the size of card tables, about 14” high with green top. Sunday School was then held in the morning and again in the afternoon at 2.30 p.m.

There was little in the way of motor traffic then, mainly horse drawn cabs, so before Sunday School the children were kept outside the gates of the church by (in the 1930’s) Mr. John Shipman.

In the Senior School the Superintendent was Mr. S. Mogridge (who died only a few months before these notes were written). In the early days his sisters were in the school, also the two Misses Goss, one of whom became Mrs. Mogridge and the other Mrs. Hurst. At first Mrs. Hurst used to see to the attendance books but was pianist in the post-war years.

Until the war years the main school was held in the schoolroom (or Hall) with two rows of forms (one of which is still in the schoolroom). Girls sat on the right, boys on the left. The office in which Mrs. Hurst sat was under the stairs. The heat in winter was provided by a Tortoise stove.

During the war the main schoolroom was taken over by the YMCA and the Sunday School was conducted in what was then called the Church Room (now used by the Playgroup).

Sunday School Anniversaries were special occasions and each scholar was expected to say a poem, or sing. Special hymns and demonstrations were the order of the day. There were two other Methodist Churches then (High Street and Fordton) and with the Congregationalists each would visit the others for Anniversaries. Another united venture was the annual Sunday School outing, usually to Exmouth, when a special train ran from Crediton with all the Sunday Schools (except the Brethren). Tea in the years before the war was usually at Clapp’s Cafe, behind the lifeboat station.

During the war Mr. Mogridge and all the other young men at church were called up, and a Mr. J. Steer of the Brethren took over. No outing to the sea could be taken so on some occasions we joined with Newton St. Cyres and had games in a field there.

After the war there were many changes of Superintendent. Mr. Wright served for a time, then when High Street closed in 1954 the Superintendent there, Mr. Ball, was asked to take over, but this was overruled by the minister, the Rev. L. Fanner.

For most of the time from 1948-70 I was in the Sunday School as Superintendent apart from a brief period when Mr. King was in office. Mrs. Hurst was for many years the pianist and Mrs. A. Phillips was treasurer.

Times were changing and children were more difficult to handle under the old methods of teaching. But the introduction of drawing was frowned on by the older members.

The number of scholars declined and the day outing to the sea by train had to stop as British Rail altered its set up, and not enough children were going on these outings to warrant a day off from school.

The Sunday School had an annual prize giving and concert, held in the Schoolroom. Boys’ Brigade and Life Boys were run by some Sunday School teachers (mainly Mr. F. Summerwell).

Mr W. Elston, who with Mr F. Summerwell, worked to establish a Boys Brigade company in Crediton, also remembers a very active Young Men’s Bible Class, which made regular Sunday afternoon visits to Hookway, where an open air service was held. Mr Elston has a newspaper cutting of a meeting of this class in 1928.