Memories of ‘Giffies’ The Chiltern School, Holloway Lane, Chesham Bois Amersham by Peter Healy

Bucks Examiner 23/1/61
Bucks Examiner, January 1961

During the 1950s and early 1960s there was a small, private ‘kindergarten’ school located at Blackwood, Bois Lane, at the corner of Holloway Lane, Stubbs Wood and Bois Lane. The school was called ‘The Chiltern School’ and catered for local girls and boys aged 3 to 8 years old from the Chesham Bois village area.  There were a number of this type of school around the Amersham area including one that was almost opposite the Beacon in Chesham Road and St. Nicholas, which was situated on the White Lion Road where St. Nicholas’ Close is now located.


Chiltern School late 1950s
Images courtesy of Anne Pepper (née Stanley) and Mary Card (née Smythe)

The school had been founded in 1935 by Mrs Griffin and she ran it with two teachers. We have memories of the Chiltern School (often called Giffies) from two former pupils, one who also went on to teach there for a short time before it closed. These are Anne Pepper (née Stanley) whose father Pat was a partner at Solicitors,  Francis & How in Amersham and Mary Card (née Smythe) whose mother taught at Dr Challoner’s Grammar School when it was a combined boys and girls school on the Amersham site and at Challoner’s Girls School when it moved to Little Chalfont.


Headmistress Mrs Griffin was born Barbara Talbot in Acton in 1893. She was the youngest of 7 children. Her father was a silk buyer (originally from Newton Blossomville near Milton Keynes) but he died before Barbara was born. She trained as a teacher and married widower, Gerard Featherstone Griffin in 1920 in High Wycombe. They do not appear to have had any children. In the 1939 Registry they are living at Brays Orchard, Brays Lane Hyde Heath. He was listed as a timber merchant and she was listed as the headmistress of a private school. Presumably the school was at Brays Orchard. Gerard died in 1950 and Giffie moved the school to Blackwood in 1951.  After her retirement in 1965, she lived at Whittenham, 90 Bois Lane until her death in 1983.


Anne Pepper takes up the story

I used to be Anne Stanley, Lindys sister! I am finding this quite hard although I had great links with ‘Giffies’. I went there between 5 and 8 years of age. When I was 17 I worked there teaching Art for the last year before it closed. I am guessing around 1963. I have very happy memories of ‘Giffies’ which was run by Mrs Griffin and Miss Sims. Miss Sims went on to work at Winterbourne, at The Beacon School.

On my first day I was given a beautiful white wood half of a double desk with lid. I shared it with Alison who also lived down Stubbs Wood. At 11 O’ clock we were told to go out, presumably to play in the lovely garden. However, I thought it was home time and walked home!! As you can gather there was no supervision!  Giffie and Miss Sims would go into the little dining room at the back for a cuppa.

There was a classroom downstairs and one upstairs with a third room which I think we used for play. I remember the homemade plasticine which was kept in used Roses chocolate boxes! I used to eat the plasticine! I don’t think it gave me any ill effects!

Chiltern School late 1950s
Images courtesy of Anne Pepper (née Stanley) and Mary Card (née Smythe)

Every summer we had Sports Day with potatoes in the egg and spoon etc and the parents would come to watch.  Every Christmas we had a Nativity Play in Long Hall (St Leonard’s Parish Hall) by the Vicarage in North Rd. Once we had it in a hall in Amersham High St and I had to sing ‘Chick, Chick, Chick, Chick, Chicken’ with a paper chicken hat on, much to my dismay!!

Giffie (Mrs Griffin) was a very kind, calm methodical person. Her husband had been killed in the war, I believe. I don’t remember any punishments. To me it seemed just like another home!  Lunch was in the little dining room at the back which led off the kitchen. I can see Giffie plonking a wooden spoon of mash on my plate now, to accompany the sausage and beans! 

Miss Sims was very tall and slim. She had a rather booming voice and seemed rather imposing to a small person. However, she was kind in formal teachery way.

I was very happy at The Chiltern and feel very privileged to have had a such a lovely start to my education.


Mary Card’s memories are very similar

I went first in Summer 1958. Entering the Kindergarten aged 5.  Of this I don’t remember any of my first term so I think I must have enjoyed it. I only spent two years there.  So, I suppose it was very much a nursery school.

I stayed for lunch on some days as my mother was a teacher; but on Tuesdays I had to come home for lunch.  This was very disappointing as there always was sausages and baked beans for school lunch and I missed it. We didn’t have sausages at home very often so that was a treat.  Some lunches I think we had ice cream for pudding.

Bucks Examiner, December 1955
Bucks Examiner, December 1955

In the afternoon we had to have a rest after lunch. In the summer we were allowed blankets outside in the gardens. There was a wooden climbing frame and a super big tree, I think we were allowed to climb the tree, but maybe I did and shouldn’t have! Also a lovely big wooden swing.

There was a Christmas entertainment for parents including a Nativity play. One year I was Mary. but was rather cross because I didn’t say anything, everyone else had lines. I was told I had the best doll for baby Jesus.  I also played Little Betty Blue ….  I have no idea! My mother made me a new blue dress. Note: Little Betty Blue was a traditional English nursery rhyme.

I remember Miss Sims; she was tall and had dark curly hair. She was very nice. The head or principal was Miss Griffin, always called Giffie.  The school never seemed to be called by its proper name, always “Giffies”.
I can’t remember which year we learnt our times tables, but when we could recite it through perfectly, we had a Bunnykins cup and saucer as a prize. I think one school room had high wooden desks incorporating the chair. It smelt nice but I cannot describe it.  Maybe a bit like home-made Play Dough.


Bucks Examiner, June 1955
Bucks Examiner, June 1965

The school seemed to be in an old rambling house with a large garden. It was at the top of Stubbs Wood road tucked between two houses before Holloway Lane.

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