Sunday, 8 June 2014

Starting nursery

Children attending a nursery group had always been a reality if parents could afford the fees.  But this was outside the remit of the county council which was responsible only for children of legal school age; 5 to 13, 5 to 14, 5 to 15, and so on, as the Government progressively raised the leaving age.

One major event changed all of that for a number of years: the Second World War.  The Government could not accept that women could simply stay at home and bring up their children.  There was huge pressure to encourage them to "do something for the war effort".  In Fleetville that included working at the Ballito factory, a hosiery mill where Morrison's supermarket is now.  Production of stockings gave way to manufacturing shell cases.

The car stands where once one of the ramps led below ground.  On top
the former wartime nursery building is now Fleetville
Community Centre.
However, that posed a problem: what to do with the employees' children.  The Government ordered hundreds of concrete section buildings from a firm in the county, and councils were able to claim a number of them for wartime nurseries.

Between 1938 and 1940 tunnels had been dug below ground at the recreation ground, both for the public and for the children at the school, all capped with a concrete "lid".  On top of this, in 1942, was placed one of these concrete buildings, which was fitted out as a nursery.  At each end the city council constructed brick surface shelters in case of an air raid.

All three buildings, incredibly, remain in use, in spite of the main building initially having a useful life expectancy of no more than a decade.  Since 1983 they have been the home of Fleetville Community Centre.  Before that time, the nursery continued in the period of postwar peace, and increasingly as an overflow for Fleetville JMI School.

One of the former surface air raid shelters is now
converted into useful storage space.
Unfortunately, we have no photographs of the building in use during those early years.  The author can remember walking along Royal Road from school and seeing the ramps disappear under the nursery building, and the locked metal doors preventing entry.  This scene we took for granted and did not question what was behind the steel.  My friends from other classes sometimes came from rooms within the building to join us in the playground.

But in the thirty years the nursery building was open for use did no-one take a photo or two?

If you were a young mum delivering a pre-school age child to the nursery do you have recollections you could tell?

As a pupil at Fleetville JMI school, did you have your class in one of the rooms at the nursery, and can recall what it was like to be part of the school, yet separate from it?

Do email any information, even if you think it is not terribly useful, to the author at

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