Susan Brewer

Mural at Blackthorn School
Graham Warne
Mr Guinery plays guitar for the Blackthorn Calypso
Mr Guinery plays piano for the recorder group
School Concert prob. 1957


Blackthorn Road

Welwyn Garden City


The school opened in 1951 and the first headmaster was Mr A. G. Luck.

I began at the school in 1954; I believe the headmaster was Mr Edwards, or if it wasn’t  he must have started soon after as I don’t remember Mr Luck. Blackthorn was a low, modern building with plenty of windows. It had a large playing field fringed with bushes, a playground, its own small wood (though special permission had to be granted if you wanted to play there as it backed onto gardens and the neighbours weren’t to be disturbed), and, at the front, a ‘dell’, which was a grassy hollow occasionally used for lessons on warm summer days.

In the hall was a hand-painted mural which covered the back wall, called ‘Seaside and Harbour’ and it was painted by Julian Trevelyan and Mary Fedden in 1952. It was a lively work of art depicting a curvy harbour wall with a lighthouse, a fisherman with baskets of fish, a pony and cart, fishing boats, gulls and a café serving fish dinners with a black cat stretching up to a parrot in a cage outside. The mural’s flat, bold colouring was in the style of the railway posters around at the time.

My first teacher was Mr Kirkpatrick.  I can’t remember all the other teachers, but those I do recall include Mrs Squibb, Mr Morgan and Mrs Buckingham. Mr Ellery taught art – he had us making a couple of murals depicting Heaven and Hell, each child making one clay tile – and later he left the school and moved to the West Country where he founded the Tremaen Pottery in Marazion. My favourite teacher was Mr Guinery, my form teacher for the last two years that I was at Blackthorn. He was a very tall man with boundless enthusiasm and with the ability to think ‘outside the box’, making his lessons both exciting and informative. One of our topics was ‘The West Indies’ – we covered the classroom walls with adverts cut from newspapers of West Indian products, we went to the Imperial Institute to learn about coffee production and to see the instruments used in a steel band, and visited the Natural History museum to draw the birds that were seen in Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago. Mr Guinery had taught himself to play the guitar, and at the school concert we performed a song that he had written called ‘Blackthorn Calypso’, as well as ‘Island in the Sun’, a popular number at the time that was sung by Harry Belafonte. We accompanied the music with our own ‘steel band’, including genuine steel dustbin-lid drums loaned to us by the Imperial Institute. Later, he arranged for the class to record the songs onto a record, though typically, I was off ill at the time.

Our headmaster Mr Edwards was a kindly man, who was responsible for introducing us to classical music in a very clever way. Every morning as we entered the hall for assembly a piece of music would be playing from the gramophone, and on the stage would be a notice board bearing the name of the piece and the composer. So Grieg, Mozart, Beethoven, Bach and others were absorbed painlessly into our brain.

My name then was Susan Warne, and my school friends included Valerie Lutkin, Wendy Rogers, Joan Searle and Heather Hicks; it was a happy time and a happy school.



This page was added on 26/03/2016.

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  • Hello…just landed on this page and what fun to see the mural at Blackthorn school. I attended 1953-56 and remember the scaffolding while they painted (of course, in my 9 or 10 yr. old mind the room was so much bigger!). I, too, loved the classical music that Mr. Edwards would play each morning and fumbled through playing the recorder at one point in front of the school. I have such fond memories of friends, racing around the field, boys, sports, and of course deciding what size portion of food you wanted at lunch. At some point, we were honored in serving the staff and Mr. Edwards. After passing the 11+ exam I was thrilled to learn that our dad had accepted a job in California (no idea where that was, just glad to not have the pressure of school) and so we left, that summer of 1956. Happy spring!. Pat Cooper

    By Patricia Cooper (03/03/2022)
  • Does anyone remember Mrs Davies, Mrs Fishwick Mr Syks. Mr Thomas was my form teacher then Mrs Fishwick then Mrs Davis, maybe not 8n that order. I remember Mr Thomas’ big perspex ruler. He called ‘his persuader’ He never used it on anyone but it did keep us in line. Didn’t like Mr Jones – he used to punch people in the back.

    By Kevin Sands (13/03/2021)
  • I started at Blackthorn in 1952, and left in 1958, when I went to the new High School,in herns lane. I was there until 1963,when I left to find my way in the big wide world,very daunting !! I remember a few people from those days : Carolyn Ward,Harry Batchelor, also, I remember twin sisters whose names were Ann and Jean Buchan, I wonder what happened to them? Does anyone remember me ?

    By Rodney (Rod) Slade (24/10/2019)
  • I remember Mr Luck well but from his time at Harwood Hill School when it opened in 1959. Never knew he’d been head of Blackthorn school. Ran a tight ship, did Mr Luck, and a very happy school.

    By Laraine Frame (26/07/2019)
  • I have just come across this site with absolute joy. How wonderful to have these memories stir this 70 yr old’s grey matter.
    I attended Blackthorne for a yr in 1953 whilst Thumbswood infant School was being built. I think I have that right? Went there for a year then back to Blackthorne as my Primary School.
    I remember Blackthorne with so much affection as I do with Heronswood where I started in 59.
    I was there with my beloved late identical twin brother Clive. We were the Brewer twins. Sadly he died at the age of 40 in 1988.
    Our teacher in the first year was Mr Morgan (I think) .Iknow my last teacher was Mr Barcley who was also a games master and football referee. I do remember Mrs Squibb who was if my memory is right largish lady.? But we were tiny then! Seeing the photos bought back memories indeed. Mr Guinery I recall so well. The music classroom was more or less in the corridor on the left opposite the art area which led into the dining area and then the hall. I remember Mr Guinery telling us that as a child he was singing in front of the Queen at the palace when his voice started to break much to his embarrassment. Wonderful story.
    The mural on the back wall of the hall is indelibly printed on my brain. The above comments about having classical music playing before the morning assembly are so true. That gave me my enduring love of this music which I am so thankful for.
    Susan Brewer ( no relation) will recall that I have been in contact with her a few yrs ago and she kindly sent me a copy of one of her books “Classic Playground Games”.
    I also rember those little black and white smiley faces booklets which we had to sell.
    My friends at the time were Peter Williams, Michael Kay, Michael Gatford,Paul Marshall , Pat Stag and Barbara Mardell (who I secretly loved). However my first girl friend was the lovely Rosemary Watson. I recall so many names. Happy days indeed and what a start to life!
    This could go on forever and ever. Really lovely to reminisce. I must look up here to see if there is any response soon.
    PS. How devastated I was to see that Heronswood had been knocked down when I bought my wife to the Garden City in the 70s..such is life

    By Anthony Brewer (10/12/2018)
  • I attended blackthorn scool in the sixties leaving in 69.It was lovely. My teachers were ms Enland mr jones and mr Thomas. Mr edwards was head. My mum Suzzanne Rose taught French, I learned to play the Violin with the lovely mrs Hill as I was in love with Clare who went on to be a professional player. We learned sailing with mr Jolly and went to barton turf on the Broads. A majical time.

    By Richard ROSE (26/04/2018)
  • Just come across this page and brought back happy memories of my time at Blackthorn school. Approx 1952/3 until I went to Heronswood secondary. I remember Mrs Squibb and Mrs Buckingham. Mr Barker I remember very well. He took us swimming and also to Cuffley, camping. Lots more fond memories.

    By Jackie Braxton (14/09/2017)
  • I attended school from 1973-1977 and had the most wonderful memories from this school. Mr Edwards was the headmaster. Every morning he would play classical musical and this introduction has stuck with me ever since. He had a wonderful way of introducing you to the composer and explaining the days selection. Thank you for this for without this, l would have not been introduced to classical music! The deputy head was Mr Woods. Still remember in 1976 in the hot summer having some classes outside on the lawn. We used to go to Tewin water school for our swimming lessons. In 1977 we went to France for a weeks trip, a memory l will always carry with me. I can still remember school sports days and the four teams. I was in the red team. I only hope my own children had as a wonderful junior school experience as l did!

    By Shelly Sethi (22/07/2017)
  • Ah, but that was typical of Mr Edwards. He was a kind man, and I’ll always be grateful for the way that he introduced us – so painlessly to classical music in assembly each day.

    Lovely to hear from you!

    By Susan Brewer (02/02/2017)
  • I’m so pleased to read Susan Brewer’s description of her time at Blackthorn School .  Everyone has commented on Susan’s memory & I want to thank her for filling in some gaps as I try to remember my years at the school from 1954 . I was hoping to get more info on the wonderful mural in the school hall which has made such an impression on every pupil . The hall was not only used for the daily assembly & concerts , plays etc. but also for indoor physical exercise & country dancing . I was thrilled to see a photo of this mural by the acclaimed artists Julian Trevelyan & Mary Fedden ……… I have been an admirer of their work for many years as they lived by the Thames in West London , a short distance from my home .  Thank you . 

    By Linda Burtenshaw (01/10/2016)
  • How delighted I was to see a photograph of the mural in the hall.  I remember it well.  I attended Blackthorn School from 1956 – 61.  My favourite teacher was Mrs Rosevere (she was my first teacher there and left to have a baby) Mr Edwards was headmaster during my time there. 

    By Dawn Merry (28/08/2016)
  • Yes!  Good heavens, Susan, what a memory you have!  Are you in touch with anyone from then?

    By Carolyn Ward (04/06/2016)
  • Hello Carolyn, I remember you. And I remember the little books with the babies’ faces; I had forgotten all about those. That must have been a shock when Mr Edwards opened the door, but how kind of him to buy one. He was a lovely man.

    Was it you who loved dogs? There was someone who had a little book of dogs, maybe an I-Spy or Observers, who often carried it around.


    By Susan Brewer (19/05/2016)
  • Yes I think I also vaguely remember the mural as well come to think of it also I remember my class room use to be located in one of the far end class rooms on the western side of the school building and also I remember having a ’mid-morning milk break’ as well when each child in the class was given a carton of fresh milk and a straw to drink it with about an hour and a half before school lunch time. I attended Blackthorn school between 1967-1968 after my family had moved down from north London in late 1966 afterwhich at the start of the 1968 term time in September of that year I attended Heronswood secondary school off Heronswood Road between 1968-1972.

    Nearly 50 years on from when I attended Blackthorn school as a 10 & 11 year old child and after moving away from WGC in 1979 I still have one or two vague memories of sunlit class rooms and the school playground outside and of walking to and from the school and home all those years ago between 1967-1968.



    By Michael S (05/05/2016)
  • What a good memory you have, Susan.  I was thrilled to see the picture of the mural at the back of the hall again (with the door leading to the school kitchen under the ‘Fish Dinners’ sign!) and I enjoyed reading your account. It brought back some memories I had quite forgotten.  However I do remember you, and Valerie and Heather. 

    Another recollection of my time at Blackthorn – being given the little ‘Sunny Smile’ booklets – black and white photos of smiling babies and we were asked to ‘sell’ a photo from the booklet to our friends and family in order to raise money for the blind.  On a weekend trip to  the swimming pool at Lemsford Lane I decided to knock on doors and try and sell my photos that way.  Imagine my horror when who should open one of the doors but our headmaster – Mr Edwards!  He gently remonstrated with me as we had been expressly told only to approach family or friends of our parents – then bought a photo!  I hurried home red-faced!

    By Carolyn Ward (26/04/2016)