History of our school


Horace Wilkinson of Frankfield built our school in 1868 as a memorial to his daughter ‘with the earnest hope that the children of the district would receive such an education as he, a churchman would desire to be given to his own children’.

This old photograph shows Mrs and Mrs Stowe, the Headmaster and his wife standing outside the school at the turn of the century. The magnolia tree is still growing today!

Did you go to our school? Who was your favourite teacher? What did you like the best? And where are you now? Email us and we’ll put it on our site.

Thank you to everyone that has got in touch with us so far.

"I attended St Lawrence School from Spring 1947 when I was a few months over five years old until I went on to secondary school. When I started school Mrs Ventress was the infant teacher and Mrs Dunmall was Headmistress.

As I look back St Lawrence was a very good school, as were many other schools of that era, and gave us a really good grounding the three 'Rs' plus a lot of other knowledge of history, geography, scripture, nature study, poetry, art, general knowledge and also our moral outlook and attitude toward our contemporaries and those in authority.

When I think back to those times it was quite amazing how much was crammed into a day in school. Another abiding memory was dancing around the maypole on the lawn at Frankfield. No one knows but the teacher how hard it must have been to train us up for the day appointed for the performance.

St Lawrence was unique in being set among such beautiful surroundings with the playground that gave us so much to learn from and explore at break times. We used to walk to the village hall for our dinners which were cooked their by some of the local women one of whom was Mrs Harryman, the Vicar's wife.

When we were walking to school from Bitchet it seemed a long way for little legs to travel day after day!

Also in my first few years at the school there were a number of children attending from Rooks Hill. These children were orphans of RAF personnel killed in WWII. At that period in time we celebrated 'Empire Day' each year with flags flying from the building. On Ash Wednesday and Ascension Day we all went to church in the morning and then had a half day holiday. Another memorable experience was when Mrs Dunmall took the upper class to the Festival of Britain in 1951.

My younger brother Ian also attended St Lawrence as did a number of my cousins.

 For myself I have often reflected on my time at St Lawrence and still do, and am grateful for the sound grounding that as given to my education there. It has stood me in good stead through my life as I am sure it will have done so for many others who were fortunate to have attended St Lawrence.

 For an number of years, along with several of my contemporaries, I was a  member of the church choir at St Lawrence. Many years ago the school sold a number of the small chairs like the one I am sitting on in the photo  here. My aunt Sylvia purchased a couple of these and gave them to my mother who passed the on to me and they are still used by small children when they come to visit at our house!

The previous generation of my family also had their education at St Lawrence School. My father, Charles and my mother who was then Ada Hodges and my father's brother David and his sisters, Sylvia and Jean. My mother's brothers, George, Frederick and sisters Hilda and Dorothy, all in turn attended St Lawrence.

I remember my parents talking of Mr Stowe who was Headmaster and of Mrs Leftley, and also Polly Goodwin. I gathers from numerous conversations with my family that Polly was much loved and appreciated by the pupils in her care. After Mr Stow Miss Hampton came as the Headmistress and was the person who pushed to get flush toilets and a washroom installed in the school premises.

For a number of years in the 1940s my uncle George Hodges and his wife Mabel lived in the basement under the school. Aunt Mabel was at that time the school caretaker. (I think that basement is now part of the school.)

The photo above was taken at the time when my parents were at the school. My mother wrote the names underneath the pupils when she was in her late 80s. There were just two she couldn't remember."

Paul French

Maisie Chalklin attended the school with her sister, Edna. They lived at Bitchet Cottages with their mum and dad, Fred and Alice Chalklin. Edna was my mum and she had some wonderful memories of her school days, but sadly she died some while back. Her sister, Maisie is now aged 91 and is in good spirits with a good memory but sadly doesn’t walk too well these days.

Fred and Alice Chalkin are buried at the churchyard next to the school and Edna their daughter is buried with them. Mum was born at Plaxtol, as was her mum and Fred was born at Oldbury. Mum stayed in touch with many of her friends from school throughout her life, so the school was a very important part of her life.

Maisie said she recalled the head teacher being a Miss Hampton and when their cousin George Drury left the school at aged 14 they had a big party to celebrate his new job at a local farm. She thought this was a strange thing to do because he had hardly ever been at school anyway as he’d worked on the farm since he was 8 years old! It wasn’t particularly unusual for children to work on the farms from such a young age but their father Fred Chalklin who worked for the Mitchell farm on Stone Street refused to allow his two girls to work in the fields unless they were on their school holidays. Both Edna and Maisie thought this was very unfair as they believed that picking a few apples would be far better than being at school. It wasn’t until they left school they realised how wrong they were, that school was much better.

In fact the two girls went into service, Maisie went to London and worked very, very hard for many hours a day at the age of 13 and her sister Edna (my mum) went to a house at Rooks Hill where she was a parlourmaid and often went to sleep at work because of the long hours she was working. Edna left school at 14. When war broke out in 1939 she was 17 and became a Land Girl and worked on the farms anyway, so the farming life got her one way or the other. Edna then married a local farmer, her boss, James “Arb” Coleman who lived down the hill from the church at Larchwood Farm. They married in August 1945 and it was the first peacetime wedding in the church and the first time the bells had rung for a wedding since the outbreak of war.

Memories of Maisie Chalkin (as told to Paulene Green)

The school log book seems to start around 1916, my notes start from about 1926 as I knew my mum started the school just after that date. In 1926 a Lily Hampton took over the school and reported that there was no clean drinking water for either staff or pupils. That almost all the pupils stayed for dinner but there were no facilities for hand washing. School attendance was very bad and children stayed at home if it rained. She also asked parents to send their sandwiches in a cloth rather than eat like navvies from a paper bag. Some of the children in December 1926 had half an hours detention for wasting time, but they then came to school thirty minutes late the next day.


The new school piano arrived in January 1927 but that month the children were blue with cold and the head teacher wrote that she was so cold she could hardly hold her pen. But she had to wait for two weeks before 2 tons of coal were delivered to heat the schoolroom. May 1927 the teacher held the first open air lesson. On May 15th 1927 the photographer came (so in all probability this was when the photograph of May Alice, known as Maisie and Edna Chalklin was taken – 10 and 4 respectively)


1932, it was reported that the school was a very happy place, and well ordered. Later that term two girls were sent home because they were covered in fleas! In 1934 there was a measles outbreak and some children couldn’t attend for three weeks. In December 1935 everyone went home early because it was too dark to see properly.


1936, school is graded in three classes and the Diocesan syllabus is followed. November 6 1936 the school had the day off for the Royal wedding and on May 7 1937 they had another day off for the King’s Coronation. Royal occasions warranted a day off school, so they also had the day off for the old King’s funeral.


October 7 and 8th 1940. Air battle overhead and the air raid shelters were not finished, there were only fifteen minutes clear of raids all day and lessons were held under the school building. Children attended in shifts after that, every other day. By August it still wasn’t safe for children to attend school every day and 33% of the children were absent. When they were in attendance they had to hold daily fire and evacuation drills.

Paulene Green (daughter of Edna Chalkin)

After reading your letters from ex-pupils from St, Lawrence school, all my memories came flooding back, I too enjoyed my life at this school. I started in 1959. my first day was a bit daunting, having never had pre-school in those days, but I soon adapted. Mrs. Dunmall was headmistress,  I can remember  her driving her Morris Minor I and remember Mrs Sandoval too! Then Mr. Hornsby became head master, he was very good in his teachings. I enjoyed our trips to the vicarage to see Mrs Parks where we made  hassocks for the church, and I believe my one is still there. I loved our nature walks, playing across  the road in the wooded area and dancing around the maypole! I can remember playing a tennis match with (Jane Hartshorn) from your emails (and she won) a game we used to play all the time was  Mr. Crocodile may we cross the river and old English bulldog. when children had a birthday we would have a  real log with candles in but sadly my birthday was in the summer holiday however In my last year I was lucky to be head girl. I  would have loved my daughter to have come to St. Lawrence, but we live too far away but I visit the church quite regular.

Daphne Fowler  (West)

I’ve got lots of happy memories from my time at St Lawrence, even though I was only there for a short time. I vividly remember when I first started the bell ringing at breaktimes, as it was a really old fashioned handbell. The class sizes were so small compared to my previous school, I remember Calligraphy classes with Mrs Harris, and using those old fashioned desks which lift up. I remember lunch times with Mrs Bourne when we’d say one of the prayers off the wall before eating and she’d bang some cutlery on the table loudly to quiet everyone down! When I was in year 6, Mrs Bateson arranged orienteering for our leaving activity, but there was a massive storm so we hid in the shelter and sang songs and ate bananas with melted chocolate!

Other memories include making camps over in the field, and after school horse-riding on a Monday. I used to do country dancing in the hall with Mrs Bateson which was always jolly because she was always so full of energy! I vaguely remember the last nativity Iwas in which involved my friend Hannah Adamaszek being a Genie, and Richard Seabrook and I acting as American Tourists…! I also seem to remember rolling eggs down the hill at Easter, and making bonnets.

Jessica Tibber

I started at St Lawrence in 1958, in Mrs Alexander’s Infants’ Class. She came to school on a Vespa or Lambretta I believe, and taught 10 or 15 of us – the entire class. There was another teacher for a while, a redhead called Mrs Sandoval, who was American and whose son David attended school too. She seemed not to have a husband…but we weren’t too sure about that. At 7, I moved into the Juniors with Mrs Dunmall. It was the day that Yuri Gagarin orbited the earth and I remember Mrs Dunmall writing something on the blackboard and me being quite terrified that I would be asked a question about it.

Jane (ex Hartshorn) St John

I arrived at St. Lawrence as the 25th pupil in about 1988.  My first week was spent in absolute terror of the scary headmistress Mrs. Berry!  It didn’t help matters when I had an accident involving a magnet and a jar of iron filings….  You can imagine the rest!!  I soon settled down and witnessed the school blossoming under several changes in Headteachers.  It was when Mrs. Bateson arrived that the school really took off.  We had riding club on Mondays, country dancing on Tuesdays, Mrs. Dwinnell taught me recorder and guitar on Wednesdays and Peter Sham looked after the football team at the weekend.  He started the famous football tournament with Plaxtol, Shipbourne and Penshurst (which we always won) and brought his ex-pro mates along!!
I had a fantastic time at St. Lawrence and it definitely contributed enormously to my later schooling at Judd.  I’ve now just graduated from the university of Durham and am off to see the world later this year…  Never really did like science after those iron filings though…..

Tom Reynolds

I was a pupil at St Lawrence from 1965-1972.  At the time we lived on the Chart (Fernshaw Cottage) and I regularly walked the mile to school by myself.  In fact on the way home we would often dawdle, eating wild strawberries, whinberries (whortleberries), blackberries, damsons and in the late autumn sweet chestnuts. The term before I started the school had just 17 children, 5 in the infants, and 12 in the juniors.  I was part of the 1960’s baby boom and by the time I left the school was bursting at it’s seams with 52 children.  Geoffrey Hornsby was our headmaster and has become a life long friend and inspiration, giving me away on my marriage to Richard. Mrs James I remember as being a kind, firm lady, she taught the infants.  Mrs Tucker was the school secretary and Mrs Evans came once a week (on a Monday) to teach music.  Mr Parkes (the vicar) regularly visited.  Our dinner lady was Mrs Ayling and our food was brought in from Wilderness School, the driver always telling us that we were going to have ‘kippers and custard’ for lunch.  We also had 1/3 pint of milk every day. 


Events that really stand out are:

  • A day trip to Ightham Mote, we walked!  The route took us through Stone Street, into some woods where we drank from a fresh water spring and onwards to the Mote.
  • Finding old slate and pencils from the early days of the school.  In fact I have a small ‘thumb’ dictionary given by Mabel Wilkinson to her mother in 1905.  My mother worked as a housecleaner for some of the residents of Frankfield as a way of making ends meet.
  • Acting; I was the Angel Gabriel one year at Christmas, and also Herod’s daughter Salome in a short sketch illustrating John the Baptist’s death – because I went to ballet classes I was able to dance!  Talking of dance, one year we had a trip to see the Bolshoi Ballet perform Swan Lake in the cinema.  Although I was still in the infants and it was a junior trip I was allowed to go because I went to ballet classes.
  • Games; We regularly played Stoolball and Shinty and at the end of term if we were very good, British Bulldog.  Do you still play any of these?  We also practiced walking on stilts, exercising with a medicine ball, balancing on upturned benches and general exercises and country dancing down in the parish hall.  The only race I ever won on sports day was the egg and spoon because I walked and didn’t drop my egg, otherwise I was hopeless at sports. 


    In growing up I learnt more than just the national curriculum, I learnt all the wild flowers and plants that grew in the area, wildlife (we used to watch a spotted flycatcher while eating our lunch in the canteen), a faith that has grown over the years, a love of poetry and classical music (although we did listen to Cliff Richard’s first gospel album!) and although I am left handed, I learnt to write perfect italic writing with a fountain pen!  the influence of the school has been such that I was determined to find a similar school for my own children as they grew up here in Wales.  When we visited the area some time ago I took them to see the outside of the school and the playground, they were quite jealous of the wooded area.
    Friends of my mother must have been very early pupils, the Johnson’s were in their late 80’s in the 1960’s.  They still drew water from a pump in the garden, had a range and outside toilet.  Flo told me that in her time at St Lawrence she had to walk from the Chart to the well which was by the A25 to collect the day’s water, return home and then walk to school!  The well had gone by the time I was around, although I seem to remember a horse trough with a poem written on it.

    Fran Bellingham

I went to St Lawrence from 1971 to 1976. The teachers then were Mr Hornsby (juniors) and Mrs Gilbert (infants). Mrs Ayling was the dinner lady. I have very fond memories of my time at St Lawrence. Sports days. I loved the music lessons. The Christmas services in St Lawrence church were great. I remember singing Once in Royal David's City carrying a paper lantern and wrapped up in scarf and hat.

Tina Rose

My family and I lived in Seal Chart and I started at St Lawrence in 1952 at the age of 5.  Mrs Dunmall was the Head Teacher.  The school had three rooms – not open plan as it is now, we had gas mantle lighting as there was no electricity. The toilets were located outside the building and were very cold and creepy at times. Underneath the school was the caretakers flat but I know that it is now a classroom/canteen facility.  We did not have that luxury because we had to walk down the hill to the village hall to have our dinner which was brought by taxi from Seal every day. The nursery school building used to be the store rooms for all the P.E. equipment and gardening tools as we all had to help keep the garden tidy.


The playground across the road was not fenced off like it is now and looks a lot different since some the trees came down some years back. We used to hold the may queen ceremony on the main playing field and I was may queen in 1958 just before I moved on to senior school.  The most amusing thing I can remember about it was that the school had a wind up record player and the music Nymphs and Shepherds was always played for the procession and quite often the music would wind down so Mrs Dunmall had to run like hell to get to it before it wound down completely – It used to make us all laugh!


We used to hold all our harvest festival and nativity plays in the church next door.  Rev. Harriman (not sure if this is the right spelling) was the vicar.  For the nativity plays they used to put boards across some of the pews to make a stage. I remember being taken on nature walks regularly through the woods where we would pick up wild flowers, cones etc to bring back to the school.  I believe the little school museum is still there or it was last time I went there back in 1995. Frankfield used to hold a fete every year and us children were always asked to dance. There was a gate in the fence at the side of the school and a footpath which led to Frankfield through the woods but I believe it’s not there anymore.


My elder sister Pamela, my brother Timothy and all my cousins went there.  My best friend Brenda and I were in the church choir as was her Mother.  We all attended Sunday school and on Mothering Sunday were given a piece of cake – specially made by the vicars wife and a small bunch of primroses – although you are not allowed to do that anymore as they are a protected species.

Sylvia Crouch

I am writing to you after having just seen the website for the school. I left St. Lawrence in 1999, went on to Tonbridge Grammar School for Girls and left last year with 3 A-levels and a place at King’s College next year to study English. Even though I left a while ago, from the pictures it hasn’t changed at all – apart from the IT suite – we definitely didn’t have that when I was there! However, I see Mrs. Thompson’s riding club is still going strong!

Robyn Eastlake

We three sisters all went to St. Lawrence school and loved it there.  Mrs. Dunmall was the headmistress then.  My sister Jo is the oldest, then Pam and then me Paul (Pauline) but I hate it!  There are 2 years between us all.  Pam passed to go to the Grammar School, I also passed my 11 plus but couldn’t get into Walthamstow Hall so went to Hatton where I passed my 13 plus and eventually went to Tonbridge Technical High School.

Tinker was our big black very fluffy cat.  He was so lovely and would follow us to school every day.  We lived in Rosemary Cottages opposite the village hall.  He would then stay in the staffroom all morning asleep somewhere cosy.  At lunchtime he would follow us home, then back for his afternoon sleep. I can see him now running down the road behind us and if we called him he would shoot his tail up straight like a flag pole!  Such a very happy memory of early school life.  At the end of year he got a special award for Best Attendance.  Every Christmas Mrs. Dunmall would post a card addressed to Tinker & Shandy (our dog) Sutton which was really lovely.

I would have been 5 in 1953 and started the school then, we moved to Stone Street in 1952 I believe so Pam & Jo would have started school elsewhere but transferred to St. Lawrence when we arrived.  It all is such a long time ago now.  But thinking of Tinker brings some memories flooding back.

(Miss) Paul Sutton

I came from Larchwood Farm, was there from 1963 – 1969. I remember Mr. Hornsby, Mrs. James, Mrs. Tucker was the secretary, Mrs. Alying was the dinner lady. Remember in our last year, we was taken up to the Church Tower as a treat before we all left to go to senior school. Glad to see the school is still thriving. Any old friends that were there at the same year as me and remember? I am now currently living in Bexleyheath, Kent.

John Dawson

I was a pupil from 1969 to 1976. I grew up at St Julian's (it was a kind of commune, now a country club near Knole) and all the children at the time attended the school.

The building itself looked like a large Victorian house facing a tarmac playground. Opposite the school building was a world war two air raid shelter. I vaguely remember it being used for storage. Around the back of the building was a garden which we were expressly forbidden to enter. Across the road was some woodland and then the sports field. We were allowed to play in the woodland during the lunchtime break, it seemed huge to me as a small boy. I remember kicking large mounds of fallen leaves around and endless games of ‘it’. The playing fields had a football pitch with a running track around it and there were some apparatus on the far side including a frame with ropes, that I never managed to climb to the top of.


There were two teachers, Mr Hornsby was the the head master and taught the juniors. He’d been a soldier in Burma in WWII and sometimes liked to reminisce about the Burmese. I especially remember him describing the burmese houses which were built on stilts without walls. This made them very cool in the heat apparently. He was a very warm and engaging man and as well as working hard on our tables and writing, we also had a lot of fun. He had a record player and used to play, ‘My old man, said follow the van’, which we’d sing along with with gusto.


Mrs Gilbert, a kind and motherly lady, taught the infants. I remember her being especially smiling and reassuring during my early years at the school. At the time reading and writing was introduced using a very bizarre scheme called the Initial Teaching Alphabet; a 40 letter modified phonetic roman alphabet. My spelling has never recovered from it. Poor old Mrs Gilbert had to look up the correct spellings of the ITA words herself most of the time, and I always wondered what she really thought of it. A dark haired lady, who’s name I forget used to help with the juniors occasionally, and I think, later on, a young and pretty trainee teacher also helped out.


There were only about 40 pupils in the entire school so each year only had a handful of students. My year featured Myself, Colin Lusher, Stephen and Michael Tate, who all lived a short walk from the school in Stone Street, July Morgan, Russell Sherbourne and for a time Nick Mann. Russell was my closest friend towards the end of my time there. His father worked at a school for disruptive children near Seal and I often was taken there to play. I remember his dad was very fond of repairing his Land Rover and I was very impressed with his ability to manually tune the engine. They immigrated to New Zealand a year or so after we finished at St Lawrence and I lost touch with him.


Myself, my brother Sim and the Morgan children, Sadie, Kate and Mathew would all be ferried every day from St Julians to the school in our ‘school bus’, usually by John Maskell, our chef and bar man. He liked to pull our legs and had an on-going story about bath used as trough in a field near to the school, that we believed for years he would wash in every morning after dropping us off.


The Church of England was of course a major influence at the school. The vicar, who’s name I forget was a regular visitor. Mr Hornsby was a strong Christian and I remember him asking us to ignore the first few pages about evolution in our new science textbooks. We went for prayers and hymns at the church next door on a weekly basis. It was freezing in winter. I was enchanted with the frequent festivals, I distinctly remember the Harvest festival and the Christmas play we put on. Mr Hornsby was very proud of his 1000 watt bulb that he used to light up the angel Gabrielle.


We would have a small glass bottle of milk every morning, which I really enjoyed. Lunch was served downstairs in the dining room by the dinner lady Mrs Ayling.

Periodically we would be assembled for a ‘nature walk’. I think this was just an excuse for Mr Hornsby to indulge his favorite pastime of strolling in the countryside. There was never any school work associated with the nature walk, we would simply give up lessons for the day and spend the afternoon walking around the beautiful Kentish countryside with Mr Hornsby’s dog running alongside. I remember visiting Knole a couple of times and even Ightham Mote.


I was the only pupil in my year to pass the eleven-plus exam, I gained a place at Tunbridge Wells Technical High School and promptly lost touch with all my old friends from St Lawrence. I now live in Brighton with my Japanese wife Etsuko and our two children Leo and Yuna.

Mike Hadlow

I attended the school from September 1952 until July 1954, but I am sorry to say I have no significant memories of being there. Paul French, in his contribution, referred to children attending from Rooks Hill, which he described as a place for orphans of WWII personnel who died in the war. I was one of those children and, just to clarify, Rooks Hill House was a boarding ‘nursery’ for children aged between 2 and 7, whose fathers had died, either during the war or as a result of injuries or illness suffered during the war. In most or all cases, our mothers still lived, but the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund provided us with a safe ‘haven’, and thus financial relief for our mothers. From Rooks Hill House, and St Lawrence CE Primary School, the boys went on to board at the Vanbrugh Castle School (VCS) in Greenwich, South East London. I’m afraid I can’t tell you where the girls went, though I suspect they simply returned home, as I have never been informed of a similar school to VCS for girls. I also noted, from the contributions in your website, that Sylvia Crouch had attended St Lawrence from 1952, at the age of 5, and it is therefore very likely that she and I were in the same class.

David Gardiner