Edwin Chisnell’s 17 years at North

By Abdullah, Astijus, Summer, Mathilda, Rand, Elijah

Headmaster Edwin Chisnell

Welcome to our CXXV research about the history of North Primary School and Nursery.  We are looking at when Edwin Chisnell was headteacher from 1932 until 1949.  This is when George VI and Edward VIII were king.  Prime ministers were James Ramsey MacDonald, Stanley Baldwin, Neville Chamberlain and then Clement Atlee. World War Two was 1939 to 1945.

In 1935 a class visited the remains of Roman-Celtic temple found on the school playing field.  These remains found presumably on the Sheepen Road site.

In 1931 the Prince of Wales came to Colchester and Liz Lilley (former pupil) and a group of children went to see him.  Liz recalled that a man came by with heavy gold chains that she thought must be the king. She went home and told here mum she had seen him and her mum said “that was the mayor of Colchester”. 

In 1937 six seniors boys  and six senior girls  won the swimming shield.


Teachers were Miss Ray, Miss Peachey, Miss Whiffen, Miss Stewart.  There were two headteachers, one for the juniors: Mr Chisnell and one for the infants: Miss Peachey.

The Book of Memories tells us that in 1937, pupil Leslie Staples was killed on the new by-pass.

We also learnt from the Book of Memories that in 1938 the headmaster wrote ‘it will be necessary to rebuild and the school will transfer to St Paul’s parish hall during rebuilding.’

The desks were not straight so you could lean your piece of paper on the dark oak.  The ink well was on the right so you had to reach out to get the ink which was a risk of dripping it on your work, especially if you were left handed.  You were allocated a place.  They were double desks.

Every teacher had a cane laying across the desks ready for smacking anyone who misbehaved.  Liz’s friend got hit with the cane and the pain went up her arm.

“You don’t eat in school, because there isn’t any school dinner.  One family that lived in Mile End so they ate in the shed.”  Liz told us about a family that lived too far from school to go home for dinners.   She wondered where they got a drink from because there was only one outside tap for all the children. Another contributor to the project told us about her relatives who brought sandwiches and a flask.  We wondered when they started bringing sandwiches to school?

The playgrounds were separate for boys and girls.  We wondered when they became one playground?  After one summer holiday Liz remembered being upset because some horses had got in and there was manure on the grass in the girls playground.

Girls playground

There were about 50 children in each class.  A test she had to do was to write a sentence with the word zenith in it.  She wrote “the lark rose singing to the zenith of its flight.”

Headteacher Mr Hinde

In 1950 Mr Sydney Hinde left Myland School to become headteacher at North.  What happened in January 1950 before Mr Hinde started and after Mr Chisnell had left?

In the playground they played skipping, hoops, handstands, clapping games and marbles.

Thanks to Liz Lilley who shared her memories of North Primary School with us.